Release Date : August 05, 2011
During the summer of 2011, the Hanlon Centre for International Business Studies sponsored U of S students Kasie Kelln and Andrew Davidson to spend two weeks in the Prey Veng province of Cambodia.
“It was great that the Hanlon Centre was able to provide us with funding,” says Davidson. “And not only funding, but also mentorship from Nick to help us adjust to the international aspect and learn a little bit more about Asian culture.”
“When we got there, we had to learn a lot of the history of Cambodia,” Kelln says. “We visited the killing fields and the prisons and learned about the genocide. That really set a good backdrop to what we were doing. It was really intense but it was really good to know who you’re providing services to.”
“The genocide in the ‘70s took out many educated people, so you see really basic structures, really basic aspects of life,” Davidson explains. And so, with the non-profit organization Samaritan’s Purse, he and Kelln worked on a variety of projects ranging from manual labour to public health education.
One project involved installing water filtration systems in rural villages, where they worked alongside Cambodian families. “The whole family has to take these educational classes,” Kelln says. “They’re involved in every step of the process: the building of filters, the installation and the maintenance.” She adds that when Samaritan’s Purse returns to previous job sites, they find 88% of filtration systems still running after 10 years.
“One of the biggest things we did is work with NGOs,” says Davidson.
Kelln explains how the organizations work to rescue women and girls from the sex trade. “They start up a business and train these young women to work so they can leave the sex trade and support themselves in another way,” she says. “We really learned that lots of NGOs are lacking in the business side of things. They have really good intentions but they’re struggling financially because they don’t have the background or the education.”
“You can see how a business background can really benefit these organizations,” Davidson agrees. “Lots of them are run with a lot of heart, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to run efficiently.”
He and Kelln remember the struggles of one organization in particular. “They made these beautiful, organic, dyed, hand-woven scarves and clothes similar to those you can buy in the Better Good on Broadway for $40,” says Kelln. “But they’re selling them for $12. If they knew how to market it or set up a partnership to sell it, that would solve their financial problems. An extra $20 in Cambodia goes a long way.”The two plan to spend another six to eight weeks in Cambodia during the summer of 2012, working on longer-term projects.