Soraya’s story of supporting small businesses in Cambodia

Posted on the 29th May 2019

The Jack Petchey Foundation was set up by Sir Jack Petchey CBE to inspire and celebrate young people. Since 2000, they’ve invested over £118 million in programmes to benefit young people aged 11-25 across London and Essex.

I volunteered with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) as part of the International Citizen Service. This was made possible as I got a £400 Individual Grant for Volunteering (IGfV) from the Jack Petchey Foundation. They offer IGfV grants to young people from London and Essex who want to volunteer abroad and need help with the travel costs.

During my placement I was part of the business team which aimed to support small developing businesses within the community. As a team we successfully strategised alongside our Cambodian partners and businesses to ensure environmental sustainability and progress within the community. We collaborated with three different projects: Eco-tourism, Green Café & Restaurant and Tailoring Centre and successfully managed a $300 budget, ensuring all projects involved got appropriate funding.

Soraya (far right) had wanted to volunteer with ICS since she found out about it at college but first she pursued university.

We also worked alongside the heads of villages and schools within the community to highlight the importance of climate change and social responsibility. During weekends we ran a youth club in which we played games with children, worked on their English-speaking skills and managed to keep them away from the streets on their days off school.

The projects benefited from our different perspective, the new products we introduced and the connections we enabled. For example, we arranged for a fabric company to donate excess fabric to the tailor in the community.

We also produced a market research report for the Women’s cooperative who run the Green Cafe and Restaurant. This included reasons for customers using the cafe, what products customers would like to see and how much they are willing to spend. Both of these projects will have long-term benefits as they can apply the suggested changes and see a difference.

For me this experience has been really eye opening. Being in an international context and working with people from a different background with different styles of working as well as a different language has ensured that I have expanded my social adaptability skills and it taught me how to deal with a language barrier.

The ever-changing Cambodian context and the frustrations that come when work doesn’t go smoothly have also taught me how to remain positive and persevere. Time management and administration skills also proved key in this placement as we had to keep track of our calendar and be aware of deadlines.

Soraya Soliman

During my final year at university I heard that one of my friends was going volunteering with an NGO and when I found out it was ICS I applied straight away. Volunteering matters to me because it’s a way people can share their skills with others for the benefit of the community.

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