Work, Play, Give
This is a guest post from Rebecca Morgan, CSP, CMC
For many of us, our heart is tugged when we hear of impoverished people’s plight. We send money to organizations helping these folks and it relieves our concern somewhat.
Yet some of us decide to do more. We’re drawn to go to the country to visit the organizations and their constituents to see how we can help.
Such is the case with the non-profit on whose board I serve, Together We Can Change the World (www.twcctw.org). Begun in 2010 by two professional speakers, Scott Friedman and Jana Stanfield, TWCCTW focuses on seven Southeast Asian countries. Scott and Jana invited other globally based colleagues to join their visits.
Twice a year we visit some of our projects in Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. We work with groups focused on assisting women and children in improving their education and health.
In Siem Reap, Cambodia, we focus on the Future for Khmer Children (FKC) (http://khmerchild.co) This privately operated school provides approximately 235 impoverished children from the surrounding local villages with education to augment what which they receive in the local government schools. FKC focuses on language skills, math, computer technology, music, and employable job skills including sewing.
TWCCTW funded the newly constructed Art Berg Technology Center and recently built a second state-of-the-art technology classroom and is funding an advanced computer instructor. Autodesk sponsored one of their US-based instructors to train the instructor and advanced students so they can start a social business by selling their services to local businesses.
Additionally, we fund wells in the villages where the FKC students live. If the families don’t have a well, they have to buy and transport water for bathing, cooking and drinking. For $400, we can fund a well that serves 1-4 families. This enables them not only to have clean water steps from their home, but they can grow a garden and have chickens to augment their meals. Some sell extra eggs and vegetables to supplement their income. With each well, we provide a water filter and an Iron Fish which the villager uses when boiling water to combat anemia, thus giving them more energy and better quality life.
TWCCTW is different in that we don’t only visit and support projects. We also bring our unique skills and talents to the area. Since the majority of our travelers are professional speakers, trainers, consultants and authors, we produce a public seminar in the major cities we visit. We all speak for no compensation. The proceeds go to the projects we serve in that country. We also provide speeches and seminars for sponsor hotels – they get a word-class presenter for their staff and/or customers, we get our lodging covered in that city. The hotel staff can also accompany us on our project visits and stay involved in between our visits.
In addition to our travelers paying their own airfare and expenses, they are required to raise $1500 in donations which goes to the groups we serve.
Why do we do it? Why take two weeks from busy schedules, plus raise funds and pay one’s own expenses?
Because we want to give back at a higher level –- contributing our professional gifts. While most of us are involved in charity work in our own countries, the experiences we have with the groups we serve are like no other. We see how the people live. We see how the kids are educated. We see their struggles that aren’t a concern at home. We appreciate their appreciation for our contributions. We play with the kids. We laugh. We sing. We dance.
In fact, I’ve had to relearn childhood activities I hadn’t thought about in decades. On my first trip, Scott led a group of kids in a rousing rendition of Hokey Pokey. On our next stop, we were at a large school and each of our volunteers was assigned a different classroom to play with the kids. Upon entering the classroom of 50 First Graders, I realized I had no idea how to lead the Hokey Pokey. I thought I would always be a follower so didn’t pay that close attention to what Scott did. Luckily, even though the kids didn’t speak any English, they figured out what I was trying to do and we had a great time.
I have many, many touching stories of the kids, their parents, the teachers and school leaders. The business people who come to our public workshops have shared wise insights. The hotel staff go out of their way to give us experiences we cherish – including going to a Cambodian wedding, a private dinner with the hotel management on the beach, an in-room foot massage at check in, and cookies customized with each of our book covers.
But sometimes the most memorable experiences are hearing the stories of the women and children at the group homes or schools. There are the three little girls, age 6-9, rescued after their fathers sold them as house girls. They now live in a loving group home where the 70 teenaged girls have taught them enough they can go to school.
Or the battered women’s shelter where abused pregnant women and new mothers escape being beaten by their partners. They can live there with their children for up to two years and receive free childcare while they go to school to learn to be economically independent.
Or the HIV center which cares for those infected, gives them jobs, and in-patient medical care for those too sick to work.
We’ve been fortunate to connect groups that can benefit from each other. We introduced an anti-trafficking group in Laos to a caring organization in Northern Thailand so now women and children who escape trafficking have a safe house until their passports and papers are reinstated, enabling them to then go home.
I call these trips my Work, Play, Give adventures. The lesson is you can contribute to others’ live with a simple click of a donate button or by giving two weeks of your best self. You’ll probably discover, as I have, that you get back more than you give.
About Rebecca Morgan:
Rebecca Morgan, CSP, CMC, specializes in creating innovative solutions for workplace effectiveness challenges. She’s appeared on 60 Minutes, Oprah, the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, Forbes.com and USA Today. Rebecca is the bestselling author of 26 books. For information on her services, books, and resources: http://www.RebeccaMorgan.com/.