“For the last four weeks, my wife Mal and I have taken part in the Cambodian NGO Management Internship through the Cambodian Community Dream Organisation (CCDO). We spent our first week in East Asia in Indonesia on holiday before we flew into Siem Reap. After reporting our missing bags to the agent at Siem Reap International Airport, we met the CCDO tuk-tuk driver, Mr. Say, outside.
Mr. Say brought us from the airport to the office for introductions and a brief orientation. We each had a short interview with Luisa Gentile, the executive director, to determine what our first assignments would be in the CCDO. The Director alluded to a desperately needed inventory of all project contributions to the CCDO’s schools for me to handle, and a series of employee certificates and graphic projects for Mal. This reminded me of my first work assignment in the Army, and I brought a similar construct I built back then to the table. Upon completion of the inventory, I also built memorandums in English and Khmer to outline the official hand-over of all infrastructure and equipment to the local rural school administrations. What started as a simple accountability and inventory project blossomed into a huge step towards making the schools fully self-sufficient.
Since the end of that project, I have been given the mantle of volunteer management and policy/procedure writer. These are not things I expected but that is a tenant of life. You think you will do just that one thing and that you can handle that distinct responsibility. Then reality happens. In small organisations such as the CCDO, every member of the staff possesses numerous responsibilities as the needs arise. Sometimes your own limitations are responsible for your unexpected shift of responsibility before you even step into the office. Because of my lack-of ability to ride a motorbike (for now) my originally planned responsibility or surveying well sites has been curtailed. Sometimes seemingly trifle or unimportant skills make a significant difference depending where you are in the world. Other times, something insignificant can put you vastly ahead of your peers.
In my life, I have learned that you cannot “expect the unexpected”. It’s easier said than done like “give 110%”. It’s naïve at best and patronizing at worst. What you can do is ride the wave of unexpected events to situations where you would not expect to thrive. If you fail, then it’s always a learning point. Personnel management wasn’t at all what I joined for, nor is it what I want to do with my life, but I have learned I am good at it. Why else do we do these things if not to find out such information about ourselves? In just under a month, this internship has shown me that. I am not, however, as out of my comfort zone as advertised (which I will say is only a bit disappointing) given my previous experiences, but so far, so good.”