Volunteering in Cambodia – Three Takeaways
By: Mark Stanley, VP, Web Marketing & Marketing Operations EMEA, Salesforce
As a long tenured Salesforce employee (I’ve just celebrated my 14 year anniversary), the Foundation and our company’s 1-1-1 model has always played an important role in keeping me motivated and focused on giving back. It was one of the reasons I was attracted to join Salesforce, and it remains one of my big motivations to stay.
I’ve done my bit throughout the years, volunteering locally in my home town of Dublin, Ireland with organisations such as Citywise Education, the YMCA, Habitat for Humanity, Camara among others. However, until recently, for a variety of reasons I had never volunteered overseas.
In June I received an invitation to spend a week volunteering in Cambodia with Salesforce.org and Room to Read, a non-profit organization that aims to improve literacy and gender equality in education in the developing world. I had been selected as one of about twenty volunteers from across the company to help Room to Read in their mission to educate the world’s children.
Needless to say, I jumped at the chance!
My Cambodia Experience
During our short time in Cambodia we experienced a great deal and contributed to local communities in a small but impactful way by participating in three core activities:
We spent a morning volunteering with Room to Read in their Phnom Penh office where we heard about the 1,700 libraries they’ve built in their 13 years operating in the country. The impact this organization is having is astounding, so it was with great humility that our Salesforce team spent some time hosting workshops with their staff on PR & Social Media, Change Management and Negotiation & Interpersonal Communication.
After a long and bumpy road trip to Kampong Thom province, we had the privilege to visit two local communities where we participated in some house building projects, funded by Salesforce.org. We heard from village leaders and families about their humble and traditional way of life, we shared locally produced sticky rice with families and we played with the children. We were told firsthand how our work and the associated funding were helping elevate the status of some of the poorest families in these communities.
We also visited two schools in the area and worked directly with staff and children. We learnt how the programs run by Room to Read help with literacy – particularly for girls in the community who often don’t have an opportunity for education. We played games to help encourage reading and to create some fun around it, and we helped to paint murals of world landmarks on their library wall to encourage learning and broaden the children’s thinking outside their province and country.
To round out the week we spent two days visiting the Temples of Siem Reap – Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Bayon Temple – all amazing places filled with history and beauty.
Overall it was an incredibly rewarding trip with an amazing team of Salesforce employees and Room to Read staff. I made new friends and experienced a part of the world that has a potentially very bright future.
Having experienced an incredible week in a wonderful country, I have reflected on my time and can summarize my takeaways as follows:
1). There is no better feeling than giving back.
This trip was much like a holiday in many ways – we took flights, stayed in hotels, had nice meals with great people. The key difference was that we were able to contribute to the communities we were visiting, and this feel good factor from the small things we did really made it a very special experience. This reinforces in me why volunteering, at home or abroad is such a great thing to do and why the 1-1-1 model is something every company should incorporate on day one.
2). We have so much to be grateful for
In the developed countries, we all instinctively know that we are privileged, but when you see first-hand people living in shacks with car batteries as the only source of power for their one light bulb or the lack of sanitation, and the children not having access to anything but the very basics; it’s a reminder of just how wealthy and privileged we are. Our world is an inequitable place and we should remember that every day and be grateful for what we have. See point 1.
3). Cambodia is a wonderful country.
When I hear people speak of visiting South East Asia, I more often than not hear about Thailand, Vietnam and others. Cambodia rarely makes the list. Having been there I can tell you that it is a wonderful country with beautiful landscapes, incredibly welcoming and warm people, and also one with a tragic but wonderfully rich history. The temples of Siem Reap are astounding in their beauty and scale and should be on everyone’s bucket list to visit. This is an economy that relies on western dollars flowing in and I’d like to encourage anyone considering Asia as a place to visit, to include Cambodia in your plans. By spending time here, you’re helping its people. See point 1.
In conclusion, I’d like to say thank you to Salesforce.org for all it does to support so many important initiatives around the world and for giving me the opportunity to give back in a small way in Cambodia. Thank you also to Marc Benioff for having the vision to create an amazingly powerful force for good in the Foundation, on the day he founded Salesforce in 1999.
Mark Stanley runs Digital Marketing for Salesforce in Europe and joined the company in the year 2000 as European employee #14. He lives in Dublin, Ireland and is married with a wife and four children. He has an interest in gaelic sports, snowboarding and likes to spend his time volunteering with Salesforce.org.
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