Chab Dai staff 2015


I’m now into my second full week as a Marketing/Communications Volunteer at Chab Dai, a coalition of charities fighting human trafficking in Cambodia. Contrary to popular belief, this song does not sum up my time here (you know who you are!), so here’s a little bit more about what the  organisation does, and what I’m getting up to, day-to-day.

Why Chab Dai?

My first week started out with what was a fairly nice, easy introduction but ended up with a great insight, shadowing international director Helen Sworn as she met with partner organisations like Liberty Asia, who have been lending their tech and database expertise to CD. I heard Helen speak with boundless enthusiasm, about the power of collaboration, of capacity-building, of making sure that the battle to stop human trafficking starts in the communities out here, starts with changing attitudes towards human rights, starts with the Cambodian people themselves.

I picked this volunteer project for this reason exactly. Chab Dai is focusing on the roots of the issue, not just on one part of the picture. In the early 2000s, rehabilition – ie. shelters for trafficked children – got a lot of media attention, but because of that, aftercare was often overserviced and not enough were people working on things like prevention and training for social workers. That’s where Chab Dai vision started: creating a network of member charities so that (to paraphrase Helen) the anti-trafficking movement could be as organised as the traffickers themselves.

Chab Dai also runs its own projects, including training ‘Community Heroes’ to raise awareness about human trafficking in communities, and accompanying clients to the police station, in the courtroom and following up with their families.

Training communities, human trafficking prevention in Poipet, Cambodia

What does a Communications Volunteer in Cambodia actually do?

Day-to-day, my work is something like a resident storyteller. This is basically because everyone here is so busy changing people’s lives and other modest deeds, that they don’t have time to shout about it.

Communicating stories from Chab Dai’s work for reports, brochures and the blog, I seem to have landed at the right time, as the organisation is preparing for its 10-year anniversary in May. There’ll be a huge member meeting, with a presentation and possibly a wall installation describing the events, projects and people which have shaped the organisation over the years.

I’m gathering material for this by interviewing staff from different teams, trying to get a handle on their successes, challenges and how traditional – sometimes harmful – attitudes are shifting. Knowing almost nothing about this issue, I’ve had to do a lot of reading, as well as some more familiar research into keywords and upcoming Cambodia events for a blog schedule leading up to the 10 year landmark.

I’m also brainstorming about how the anniversary communications are going to look, so it feels like a massive, slightly scary project at the moment!

Chab Dai office, Cambodia

If I’m honest, the language barrier can be a challenge – as a natural waffler, I struggle to make my questions clear sometimes and my paltry knowledge of Khmer is not enough to help me form intelligent sentences.

But I think it’s a good thing that my job is so interactive; I can get to know the staff quicker, who are welcoming, kind and at the same time, completely driven and allied with the ethos of Chab Dai.

Almost as soon as I started, I felt lucky. To be able to contribute my skills to a good cause like this is brilliant. I have both hopes and fears for the next three months, but I’m pretty sure it’s not going to seem long enough.