Investing in a New Role Abroad
The world of philanthropic travel comes with its own unique set of challenges. Language barriers, time zones, cultural gaps and thousands of miles of ocean often separate a team from its goals. With this in mind, A&K Philanthropy (AKP) created a brand new role, the Program Coordinator.
American-based philanthropic organizations tend to coordinate their field workers remotely from stateside offices, visiting sites only on occasion. “This approach makes it hard to track what’s happening on the ground,” explains Emily. “Communication is sluggish, and opportunities are missed. This new Program Coordinator role invests in a dedicated person on the ground in the region, bringing with it a slew of advantages.” Emily is one of six Program Coordinators now working overseas for AKP.
Bringing Clean Water to Families Farther Afield
Emily brings a wealth of enthusiasm to her first AKP effort, the Cambodia Clean Water Project. Since 2008, the project has installed over 1,000 bio-sand filtered wells throughout the Cambodian town of Siem Reap, bringing clean drinking water to more than 14,000 people. “The most rewarding part of the work is hearing the stories of the families impacted by these wells,” she says. “I met a woman who was completely overjoyed that her painful bladder infections had subsided. Witnessing her heartfelt relief was one of the most moving encounters of my life.”
In addition to a significant decline in water-borne illness, the wells are contributing to more abundant crops and greater income for local farmers. “It’s truly empowering to see the benefits filtering so deeply into the fabric of the community,” Emily adds.
With a winning formula in place, AKP is expanding the Cambodia Clean Water Project to remote communities farther afield. “Being based in the region, I’ve had the opportunity to venture away from tourist meccas like Angkor Wat,” she says. “We would have never found these communities working remotely stateside.”
Listening More, Prescribing Less
Emily has also been working on AKP’s Myanmar Sin Kyun Village Project, an initiative that has provided an impoverished community of 1,000 inhabitants with a library, teacher’s living quarters and two classrooms. Emily’s local presence lets her delve deeper into conversations with community leaders. “The village chief is passionate about education. He sees it as the long-term solution to the village’s poverty, and we’re behind him one-hundred percent,” says Emily.
Over the coming months, Emily and local leaders will shape a long-term plan for the village, one tailored to their own vision. “We’re moving toward a less prescriptive model of philanthropy,” she says. “These are resourceful communities, and we’re well served to listen before we offer solutions.”
Looking to the Future
Emily is broadening AKP’s reach throughout Southeast Asia with expanded projects in Cambodia and Myanmar, as well as new projects in Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. With Emily and her peers leading the way, the new Program Coordinator role will continue to play a key part in AKP’s long-term, global strategy.
Join Emily in Southeast Asia
If you’d like to see firsthand how Emily and AKP are changing lives in Myanmar, Cambodia and beyond, please contact A&K or your travel professional to arrange a site visit on your next A&K journey. You can also learn more or make a tax-free donation by visiting akphilanthropy.org.