A Venturing Volunteer

It was an odd experience, jumping into a world like anti-human trafficking with so little previous knowledge. I’d seen the sensationalized version of the issue, peddled by a gregarious media, but never really understood what it meant and what it looked like in real life. It was a lot, to say the least, it was overwhelming and eye-opening. There was so much I didn’t know – and so much I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

When I graduated from university at the tail end of 2017, I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. I love school, love research, but I also recognized that I had spent my life thus far in the “ivory tower” of academia. With all of my theoretical knowledge of people and how they work, it was not lost on me that I’d spent little time out in the thick of it. If I was going to make a career out of understanding people, I felt like, maybe, meeting some would be helpful.

So, I sat down with my university’s Gap Year program coordinator and began reviewing some options. Low-and-behold, an NGO named ‘Chab Dai,’ based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia was interested in a communications volunteer for the following year. After countless emails, a Skype chat, and a background check, I was on a plane in early 2018.

I started off as any good volunteer does – with the basics. Expecting that I would stick to the solid office tasks like filing and taking notes, I was more than a little baffled when Chab Dai pulled me into bigger projects. And then, with absolute bang-on timing, a research project popped up.

With the two leads for the project heading out of the country, the proposed and briefly begun joint research piece between Emerging Markets Consulting and Chab Dai was left without an in-country point of contact. I love research, so when it was proposed that I help out, the nerd in me jumped for joy.

It was such a learning experience, figuring out how to incorporate so much information into one report. I interviewed anyone working in the business and vocational training sectors that would talk to me, read all the resources I could, and tried to the best of my ability to collate the knowledge that soon took over my brain. It taught me a lot – about research, yes – but also about the larger anti-trafficking movement, economic empowerment and opportunity, the cycle of poverty, the need for data, and a million other things.

While it did get a lot of my attention, it wasn’t my only project. Towards the end of the year I took a more hands-on role with social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), which had me busting out my rusty InDesign graphic design knowledge. I got to help overhaul our website, write blogs (like this one!), and help our Butterfly Project craft their Top Ten booklet. I even got to help coordinate our Asia Region Anti-Trafficking Conference in Bangkok, Thailand. It was a wild year; one I could never have predicted.

As my year drew to a close, I had to sit back and wonder – what do I do now? Once again the unexpected happened – Chab Dai’s Founder, Helen Sworn, announced that with her move back to the UK after 19 years in Cambodia. She would be opening Chab Dai’s first international office. So, with false nonchalance, I asked if there was any chance she needed some help out there. To my utter shock, she said “yes.”

More than one year after my arrival in Cambodia, I have since returned to US, preparing for the move I’ll be making to the UK in the next few months. It will be another wild ride for sure, but I am honored that Chab Dai has allowed me to stay on it.

Amanda Daly volunteered at Chab Dai as the Communications & Operations Intern for a year in Cambodia, and is now the International Communications & Operations Coordinator at Chab Dai UK.

Amanda DalyComment