World Habitat Day has really struck at my heart and moral obligation. 7th October is a day the United Nations designated for us to reflect on the state of our towns and cities and, the basic right of all to adequate shelter. The day is also intended to remind the world that we all have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our environment and transform waste into wealth.
For many years I have been travelling to all four corners of our globe in search of inspiring, aspirational destinations that would be suitable for incentive destinations which we then propose to our clients.
For me, the past 2 years have become ever more poignant, demonstrating how important World Habitat Day is and, how proactive we must be in ensuring the work we do has a positive impact on the local communities we visit.
I was fortunate enough to visit Vietnam, Cambodia, India, South Africa, Columbia and Ecuador all within 12 months, I was thrilled at the experience and I embraced the opportunity and soaked in everything; including the good, the bad and the ugly.
I saw the beauty of the emerald waters and the thousands of towering limestone islands of Halong Bay, the extraordinary history of the temples in Angkor Wat & the romance and elegance of the Taj Mahal. I witnessed the grand stature of Table Mountain, then across the continents, I was inspired by the enormity of Cotopaxi in the Andes Mountain & the natural beauty of the Galapagos and Rosario Islands in the South Pacific Ocean.
The diversity this world has to offer is overwhelming. However, just moments away from all these global treasures are vast areas of poverty. There are thousands upon thousands of people struggling to even find a permanent shelter that they can call home and, in many circumstances, access to electricity, clean water, medicine, and education. This is far from acceptable.
During the last two years, I have travelled to destinations with extremely opulent living including Qatar, UAE and Monte Carlo. It is places like this which remind us that we do have the power and the wealth in the world to ensure that less fortunate people can have safe, durable housing, with access to clean water, medicine, and education.
Our team was delighted to play a key role in helping one of our clients make a massive contribution to four fabulous charities working to support vulnerable children in their local communities.
During the client’s Annual Kick-Off Conference in Monte Carlo during the first quarter of the year we fund-raised a sum of $20.000 USD, In the second quarter of the year, the senior leaders and their top sales people travelled to Indo-China for a once in a life-time incentive trip.
During the programme, our guests visited four, specially chosen charities, each of which was working hard to meet needs and improve the lives of people in their local communities.
The funds raised during the company conference were then distributed to these four charities to purchase necessary materials and infrastructure to support their work as well as provide opportunities for education and employment for local people.
Our programme also included charitable event and performances, such as a show from the Phare Circus, a trip to a silk farm and blessing & donation to the Benedictine monks in Angkor.
Cambodia has undoubtedly come a very long way since the dark days of the Khmer Rouge, and the battles and torture that raged through the country for decades. The smiling faces that welcomed our group throughout the trip display the optimism and contentment of a people grateful for what they have. But the scars remain – with physical, (unexploded landmines continue to injure or kill over 200 people each year), intellectual, (the genocide centred on the most highly educated Cambodians, leaving a gaping “knowledge gap”) and financial wounds.
This has left many Cambodians without access to education or healthcare, leading to poverty-stricken families seeking insalubrious “solutions” – including the sex trade, human trafficking, and child abuse.
As visitors to Cambodia, we were inextricably part of this complex equation, and our actions here can never be neutral. In Cambodia even the most well-meaning intentions can have disastrous consequences, so we ensured our trip delivered a positive impact and made life even just a tiny bit better for those who have made our stay so memorable.
Founded in 1994, after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, and now attended by 1,700 pupils, Phare, (the Cambodian Circus performers) use theatre, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely strong Cambodian stories; historical, folk and contemporary which instil healing and promote integration.
After graduating from business school in 1988, Sophea Oum became a volunteer in the Cambodian refugee camps at the border of Thailand, where there were thousands of children desiring to attend school and hundreds of orphans in need.
In 2002, Sophea established her own “Golden Silk” company which specialises in planting mulberry trees, and providing training in essential local trades including weaving, raising silkworms, spinning, dyeing, knotting…and in doing so creates many employment opportunities for local people.
More than 500 children see the Outpatients Department each day, where Nurses with advanced training care for 40% of patients, allowing doctors to focus on more severe illnesses.
The hospital also has a surgical department which has undertaken over 8,000 major surgeries with their dental clinic seeing roughly 60 children per day. Their eye clinic performs over 200 surgeries per month whilst also servicing schools and orphanages, where they are able to provide free eyeglasses for children who may need them.
They also have a home care department, an HIV/AIDS programme, physiotherapy, radiology, a pharmacy, satellite clinics, and social workers, they believe that offering holistic play therapy and education are important both to patients and families while they wait for treatment.
Smiling Hearts Association for Children (SHAC) is an NGO in Siem Reap, Cambodia. They are an entirely charity-supported school with the goal of providing Cambodian students a good education.
The school was created for orphans & poor children who have not been as lucky in life. The aim is to improve the lives of children as much as possible. Thanks to the efforts of the team of volunteers and the generous, ongoing support of our international volunteers & contributors, SHAC now has over 230 students studying in 8 classes which are organized from kindergarten to 8th grade, making a significant impact making on the lives of these children.
With the objective to help marginalized children to reintegrate within their families and society, through emotional, educational and material support, the children arrive at Krousar Thmey’s special schools for deaf or blind children where they spend 3 to 5 years studying full-time in the school in order to learn Sign Language or Braille according to their disability.
These are just a few examples from one particular project that we delivered for one client. However, they demonstrate the power that we all have – as agencies and corporate clients to use our intellect, capability and financial resources to benefit local people in those parts of the world which we visit as a tourist or on a business event, but where we have the ability to make a huge, positive impact on the lives of local people and the environment in which they live – both today and for the future.