We are proud to be finalists in the 2018 Moral Fairground Ethical Enterprise Awards.
The President of our Australian fundraising board, Sally Hetherington, recently sat down to talk about her journey building up our organisation, and the importance of local empowerment in developing countries.
Our ethical enterprise has been alleviating poverty through a strategy focused on a local approach to development. Whilst voluntourism, a 2-billion-dollar a year industry, is increasing, having seen the controversy surrounding foreign-led organisations in poverty-stricken Cambodia, HHA does not allow foreign volunteers. This is particularly important from a child protection perspective, to ensure that the children’s lives at the community centre are not interrupted by frequent comings and goings of foreign volunteers.
Our President, Sally, knew that for organisations in Cambodia to be sustainable, they needed to be run by Cambodians. With an incredibly low staff turnover (only one staff member has departed since 2016), the team are able to build trust with the community and build up the reputation of the Sewing Program. This is particularly important during our community outreach, when we recruit new students ahead of each new term. During this process, we ensure we engage with vulnerable community members who are either living in poverty, or are at a high-risk of falling back into poverty. We conduct an individual assessment to determine student’s suitability for the program, and ensure we have a proper understanding of their expectations from the program, as well as their career goals.
A critical aspect in achieving the outcomes noted in the Sewing Program, is to ensure students commit to the 10-month program for its entirety. To discourage students from dropping out of the program for example, we provide students with a contract whereby they agree to pay back 50% of the program costs if they drop out. This has increased our retention rate from 50% to 92%. Upon graduation, there are also instances where students are unable to find suitable jobs immediately, and/or give up their newly acquired skill as a result. Overall, these challenges place students at risk of falling back into poverty. To mitigate this, we often partner with reputable, ethical workplaces to ensure that students can apply for jobs through them. We also invite students into our sewing collaboration, whereby alumni seamstresses complete bulk orders to earn a part-time income.