Mike & Hilary Griffiths, from the UK, are returning volunteers who have been involved with CCF since 2016. Hilary gives an insight into the volunteer experience and why they keep coming back

We are a retired couple from the UK and we’ve been working with CCF since February 2016. Mike is an accountant who spent most of his career working in a University finance department and I am a children’s social worker and spent my career as a social worker, social work manager and social care inspector.

When we retired in 2014 we wanted to volunteer in developing countries as we were interested in travelling and living in different communities for longer than the usual holiday trip, as well as hoping we could offer something useful to local NGOs. We were keen to use our professional experience to “give something back” (as the cliché goes).

We first got involved with CCF when, while we were volunteering with another NGO in Phnom Penh, Mike came across CCF’s call for a volunteer to work with the finance team to support the procurement and installation of a new finance system. CCF were looking for someone who could spend two stints in Phnom Penh as well as work on the project remotely for a period of around one year. This seemed like a sufficiently meaty project to get his teeth into and was a good fit with his experience and skills. He met with the Chief Operations Officer (International) and the Head of Finance on our last day in Phnom Penh and agreed we would come back in February 2016 to start on the project.

I thought there would probably be something useful I could contribute to a children’s organisation and initially volunteered as a buddy teacher. However, when we arrived, by serendipity it turned out that CCF were starting to think about developing a foster care program as an alternative to residential care for those children who for reasons of neglect or abuse are unable to live with their own parents. This coincided with my experience and interests and it was agreed I would support the development of, and subsequently review, a pilot foster care program alongside being a part time buddy teacher.

We spent three months here from February 2016 and another two months in Oct/Nov 2016. Mike returned for three weeks in early 2017 to be around for the launch of the system and did a short trip to the Los Angeles office later that year to bring them on board with the system.

Now we are back again – Mike is working on procuring and implementing a school management system and I am reviewing the foster care program and working on a five-year strategy.

It has been great to see how things have developed since we were last here. The finance system is well bedded in and has simplified and sped up the budgeting and management reporting processes. There are 56 children (and counting) in foster placements or kinship care placements (with an extended family member) in a well-run foster care program and I was delighted to hear directly from a group of children how positive they are about being fostered.

So why do we keep coming back?

  • We really value and appreciate the professionalism, enthusiasm and commitment of all the CCF staff we have worked with.
  • We can see directly that CCF is making a difference to the lives of children and their families in Steung Meanchey and are pleased to make a small contribution to this.
  • We are impressed that CCF is so open to external review of their services and processes and we feel they have made good use of the expertise we have been able to offer
  • It has been really interesting to explore with CCF staff the opportunities and challenges of developing services within Cambodian culture and socioeconomic circumstances and we have learnt a lot from their knowledge and experience.
  • CCF supports volunteers well – with special thanks to Hem Len who sorts out arrangements, provides Khmer language lessons and is always available to provide help and advice.

Mike and I have had very different careers in very different organisations so it’s been fun to work in the same place and see each other’s work personas, as well as having an opportunity to travel and see more of the country together on some of Cambodia’s many public holidays.

We are already starting to discuss what we could usefully do next for this open, innovative, life-transforming organisation.

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