The hardest part of kicking off the first week of #give10 year two has been deciding which of our 366 amazing year one causes to pick first.
Last year when I had the same starter’s dilemma, I followed the age old advice that “Charity begins at home.” Since this worked before I’m going with that mantra again and giving our first #give10x10 donation to a cause that is working right in the neighborhood where I live.
This week I met up with Alli Mellon, Founder and Director of The Hard Places Community in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We ate mango crepes and I asked her to give 10 answers about her perspectives on giving and a report back on what difference they made with the 10$ we contributed donated last March on our 25th day of giving to Traffick Jam Asia. Grab a cup of tea and check out what she said:
1. Tell us about your project. What is it doing to make the world better?
We started the Pun Lok Thmey Prevention and Restoration Center this year so young boys who have been victims of abuse and sexual exploitation have a safe space to find support within their own community.
We live in the hub of one of the world’s worst places for the trafficking and exploitation of young children. While there are many services available in Cambodia to reach out to girls who’ve been exploited, the issue of abused boys has been often overlooked or misunderstood. We want to make the world better for these boys to help get them established in a life where they can be safe from further exploitation.
The drop-in center offers education, counseling and social work for boys close to home without removing them for their families and the people they love. We try to do everything we can to address the issues of sexual abuse within a day center setting through counseling and therapy.
In the Khmer language, the center’s name means “new growth.” It symbolizes that moment when a seed is planted in the ground and begins to sprout. This dream of a new life for these boys is what motivates us.
2. Last year we gave $10 to Traffick Jam Asia. What difference has this made?
Traffick Jam is our annual fund raising event which mobilizes supporters to locally organize 10 mile walks. In the event you supported last year we raised enough money in one day to fund the opening the opening of the boys center and its operating costs for 11 months. Prior to this event, our project operated as a “club” in a local park, but the kind of work we want to do required us to have a permanent safe space for the boys. This center now provides a safe space for more than 70 children.
3. What project accomplished are you most proud of this year?
I’m proud that we now have over 70 boys in the program and the kids love it. They want to be there from the time the doors open until the doors close.
Even more than this, I’m so grateful that I’ve finally been able to see the very first two young boys we started working with two years ago finally being able to live a life where they are safe from exploitation and abuse. This wouldn’t have been possible without the perseverance and commitment of our staff and donors to this work.
4. How can a small 10$ donation make a difference in achieving your mission?
Everyday the kids come to our kids clubs hungry and malnourished. They all look about three years younger then the age they report to be. Our organization isn’t big enough to do a full feeding program, but what we can do with 10$ is buy enough fruit to make sure all of the kids have eaten a healthy snack before they go home.
The Traffick Jam movement is also built on a belief in a 10$ model. Each participant recruits 10 sponsors to pledge 10$ (1$ per miles of the 10 mile walk). The 10$ add up quickly. Last year we raised $72,000 through these 10$ pledges. This year our biggest walk raised $15,000 (although some people did give more than 10$, and some people paid NOT to walk!)
5. What is one thing you wish that your donors knew or understood better?
I wish the donors to our project could actually feel for themselves the immense relief that you feel when you know that a child is finally safe. If they could feel this even just one time they would give a million trillion dollars.
Since I know most will never be able to feel this, I also wish they’d be able to hear the laughter of the kids in the playroom coming into a safe place. If we can’t take them out of these dangerous and difficult places, we can ensure they at least have a safe place during the day
6. What do you think stops people from giving to a charity?
Fear and economic times. Many people are scared to give because they don’t know what is coming in their own lives tomorrow. In my own life there have been times when I’ve been terrified to give, but I’ve wound up being given back even more than I imagined- not always monetarily, but with a different kind of joy.
7. What do you think motivates people who donate to give again?
When people can see and understand our work for themselves and really partner with us they will continue to give. Donors must realize they are a partner in the outreach not just people who give and forget about it. We don’t take any of our donors lightly because we know what we can’t do what we do without them. The ones who understand this and stay engaged and take ownership to share the stories with others- these are the people who give more.
8. Doing world changing work isn’t free. Can you explain the model that your project uses to cover its operating costs?
Hard Places and all its projects are funded through private donations and the growing Traffick Jam movement. All of our international staff raise funds to cover their own costs, and funding from Traffick James pays the salaries of local staff and all of our day to day operation and program expenses.
9. What do you think is the role of the individual who can only make a small donation?
Small donors can encourage others to give small amounts. They are so important to us because giving doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Small donations add up to big donations. In this day and time people may say I can’t give 100 dollars or 200 dollars, but I can give 10. This is the perfect time for the small donor.
10. What are three projects would want other donors to learn about and support?
- World Hope’s trafficking assessment center in Cambodia
- Agape International- they also work in anti-trafficking and set an example for our work in our project’s formative years
- Back to the Roots / Asha House is a children’s care center in India for children who have come out of horrific situations