I have been living and working in Siem Reap, Cambodia for almost a year. I fly home soon. Throughout my year here I have faced many challenges in my working role and then, on April 3, Mamamia posted an article ‘How much do you give?’ that captured my thoughts perfectly. You see, I have spent a lot of my year trying to figure out how to increase the frequency and generosity of donations from individuals and private companies. I still haven’t found the answer and, as a team, we are continuously fighting to ensure the needs of the 110 students we work with are met.
The organisation that I work for is Anjali House. We aim to provide each child with free health care, food, clean drinking water and education. We believe that no child should be forced to beg or work. We believe that they have the right to enjoy their childhood – to learn, play, make friends and grow in a safe and happy environment. These are basic rights that no child should be denied.
The students that we work with are ex-street children. By this we mean that they used to work on the streets; begging, selling roses/postcards/bracelets or sometimes collecting and selling rubbish. The children were either actively participating in these activities or were at risk of doing so without someone providing them the opportunity to just be children.
Whilst at Anjali House, we forget the circumstances of how the students end up at the organisation because when they are here they are joyful, energetic and craving knowledge. We forget that their families earn between USD1.25 and USD2.50 per day, and that some of them have to cope with the added stresses of domestic violence, alcoholism and parents with disability or chronic illness on a daily basis. The students thoroughly enjoy attending Anjali House and we are glad they get to enjoy their childhoods whilst they are here.
It costs approximately USD900 per student to run the basic program each year. My role has been to provide support to the management team. This has allowed me the opportunity to see the daily struggle of making ends meet, deciding whose needs are greater and feel the pressures of expenditure exceeding income. Work at Anjali House has been very interesting.
From time to time in my own life, I have suffered from donor fatigue, and I most definitely related to the lady in the article that was asked for money whilst walking down the street and responded with ‘sorry I only have $50 on me’. There are many organisations located in all parts of the world, most of which are doing amazing work, and all of them need money in order to continue their operations. In essence, if someone had already developed a perfect blue print for fundraising and combating donor fatigue, every organisation would be trying to get their hands on it!
All I wish for is that the students at Anjali House follow their dreams and become doctors, mechanics, nurses, hotel managers, electricians; anything they wish to be. Mostly though I want them to be outstanding members of their communities, helping others and making a difference where they can. If they can become a part of the emerging middle class and join the fight for better health care, education, sanitation, human rights and the like, hopefully they can help move their country into a brighter future.
To find out more about Anjali House, you can go here.
Elysse Goddard has just returned to Australia after living and working in Siem Reap, Cambodia for one year. She is a PR professional with a love of travel, food and AFL (amongst other things!).