Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Our Volunteers

Greetings from the Senhoa Head Office!

I wanted to start my entry this week with an explanation about the writers of this blog. The Senhoa Blog is shared between our Head Office in California and our field office in Cambodia. Each week, our respective offices will take turns to share with our readers the work of Senhoa, our adventures and the ins and outs of running this small organization.

A lot of people think that Senhoa is much bigger than we actually are. But in fact, we are a small non-profit, blessed with wonderful volunteers, whose passion and compassion have made this organization seem larger than life. And it is to this topic of “volunteers” that we want to turn our focus today.

We first met Quynh Anh in the Philippines in 2007. She was then 22 years old, fresh out of college, with very little work experience behind her. She quickly stepped in to become the Office Manager for an organization that was helping to resettle the last remaining Vietnamese in the Philippines. Below is my favorite photo of Anh in Manila, still hard at work at the office, at midnight.

(Anh in Manila at the office at midnight)

After nearly a year in the Philippines, and with all refugees newly resettled to Canada, we asked Anh to come to Cambodia to become Senhoa’s Country Director. That was one and a half years ago.

Many questioned our decision to appoint Anh in this pivotal decision. She was so young. And she lacked the experience needed to lead the team and the project. But we knew with unwavering faith that she was the perfect person for the job.

There are no doubts that we have had our ups and downs in Cambodia. As a team, we have developed, pioneered and executed programs that we knew were beyond our capabilities, but that we had to because the need was so great. We have faced challenges, some beyond our wildest dreams. During this time, Anh was under an extraordinary amount of pressure to respond to the challenges and support the team in Cambodia. Her patience and compassion with the girls (our service users) have been awe-inspiring. Her quiet determination in building relationships with government officials and other stakeholders has been incredible. In the words of one of our Board of Directors, “Anh deserves a medal for the number of times she has had to endure the terrible seven hour bus ride from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh!” (Imagine a monotonous drone of off-pitch Cambodian karaoke for seven bumpy hours each way.)

(Anh (under umbrella) with service users from our community center.)

Recently, Anh completed her tenure as Country Director in Cambodia and returned to the US to study for her GRE and apply for grad school. Upon her return, she visited Senhoa’s Head Office where we did our media round. At Senhoa, we want other young people to hear about Anh’s amazing journey. We hope that through her stories, Anh will inspire others to become agents of change themselves.

(Anh (left), Lisa T.D. Nguyen (center) and Victoria To Uyen on the Victoria To Uyen show for SBTN)

Sometimes, people need to be given an opportunity to realize what they are truly capable of. This is the self-discovering journey of the young women, our service users, that we work with in Cambodia. Wonderfully, it is also the same journey shared by our staff and volunteers.

On behalf of the Board, we want to take this opportunity to thank Quynh Anh for her handwork and relentless commitment. Without you, Senhoa will not be where we are today.

Until next time!

Senhoa Head Office