Sally Hetherington, the 366th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, has already made herself redundant once and plans to do so for a second time.
Sally is a former staff member of Human and Hope Association, a Cambodian not-for-profit organisation that provides education, vocational training and community support. Sally believes these kinds of organisations should be run by local people – partly to support local communities and partly because locals have much greater cultural awareness than outsiders – so once local staff were able to manage the community centre without her, she returned to Australia.
Sally then became CEO of Human and Hope Association Incorporated, which raises funds to support the community centre. However, this role will become redundant in 2029, when the centre is scheduled to close. That’s because the long-term vision has always been to train and empower local people to control their own destiny, rather than rely on outside support.
The reason Human and Hope’s structure is so different from that of most charities is that Sally concluded the traditional model didn’t work.
In 2010, Sally went to Cambodia for a month of voluntourism; and, soon after, returned for a one-year stint. Slowly, though, she became disillusioned. She noticed well-meaning Westerners were taking the jobs of locals and creating a culture of dependency. She also saw how traumatised local children could become when Western tourists befriended them – and then, one day, said goodbye, never to return.
One of Sally’s hard-learned lessons from the past 14 years is that serious problems are solved not by good intentions but meaningful actions.