Study Visit on NGO Communication

By Tauri Tampuu

Angkor Wat – the iconic symbol of Cambodia

What am I doing in Cambodia?

Cambodian Youth Action (CYA) is one of the 7 partners in a European project COMnGO – Communication for NGOs. Part of the project is to a host a study visitor from another organisation in the sake of mutual learning and coaching – sharing the experience in communication, whether internal, external, social media or something else. I am the study visitor on the behalf of NGO LINK from Estonia hosted by CYA in Cambodia.

CYA Learning Center in Ruseydom village

What does the hosting organisation do?

Cambodian Youth Action (CYA) is a volunteering based organisation which possesses 5 project sites around the country which are run in cooperation with local community. CYA’s projects are concerned with child education (mainly teaching English) in rural areas and nature conservation. The success of the activities performed relays on the devotion of the volunteers – both Cambodian and international. There are two types of volunteers hosted by CYA:

  1. Project volunteers who pay for their participation in a project; they could be seen as customers
  2. Permanent local volunteers who perform as CYA stuff, just instead of money they receive work experience, chance to interact with youngsters from other countries and the sense they can actually do something to improve their community

The scope of CYA is impressive. Organisation is part of International Voluntary Service (IVS) network and is receiving hundreds of short term Cambodian and international volunteers for work camps every year and a few long term international volunteers for individual projects. Fees paid by volunteers constitutes the only source of income for CYA and the only means to cover expenses of ongoing projects. Therein communication becomes very important for CYA.

Boddishattva is working in the benefit of all sentient beings

How am I helping?

Mainly, I was supposed to work on the existing but inactive web page – to update it, produce new content, organise the page and pass my knowledge to a local volunteer who will manage the page afterwards. Before accomplishing that task, I was supposed to have a tour around CYA project sites to familiarise with the activities of the organisation in order to become able to convey the very spirit of CYA to the webpage.

The reality became different. I was bewildered to discovered that in the address of the office of CYA appeared wrong both in Google Maps and in Facebook; the telephone number was wrong as well. Facebook page was incomplete and missing crucial information. Mission and vision of the organisation did not display consistency through different sources (web page, Facebook, info packs), plus English grammar was badly erroneous. The web page which no-one had touched since its creation had security holes and had become infected by malware.

Thus while travelling around the country form a project site to another I was simultaneously working on concluding CYA Facebook page and advising local CYA project site managers in doing the same on their Facebook pages. In this process I wrote a brief guideline of keeping FB page up do date. As weekly posting is organised in an excellent manner in CYA, the guideline does not concern with posting.

At the same time, I tried to understand and solve the CYA web page security issues by introducing security plugins, I was also in constant communication with the owner of the web server provider in order to find a solution to clean up the infected page. Later on, I will create a guideline of how to manage a webpage daily and how to keep it secure (in WordPress environment), for the sake of preventing future trouble for CYA.

A royal dancer

Which skills am I using?

First of all, adaptability as the hot weather in Cambodia is hard for me to handle.

I am using my analytical and logical mind as far as the task to build up a web page and fill with content in English which is not my mother tongue is a challenge, especially as I am just a self-taught at communication.

Past eight months I worked as a web page content manager for an organisation in Estonia. That experience of web page development I intend to put in the best use for CYA now.

My English which I learnt at school and improved while travelling in Australia, is of rather good level, thus I can help CYA with language correction.

COMnGO trainings in Italy and France on internal and external communication and social media concentrating on Facebook, have given me theoretical base to critically evaluate social media and some aspects of communication in CYA and suggest ways to improve.

CYA Global Education Center in Siem Riep

What have I learnt?

Most importantly, I have learned a lot about Cambodian cuisine, county’s history, culture, natural environment and environmental issues; also how daily lives of my local hosts look like. I am an anthropologist by soul thus such experiences I consider as great learning.

With CYA I stuff I have learnt how to post in Facebook.

In the process of tuning CYA’s Facebook pages I have gained good understanding of creating a professionally perceived Facebook page.

I have learned a lot about web page security and securing the page.

Demons on the wall

Obstacles I have met?

I have met two kind of obstacles to being efficient at my tasks. Firstly, local hosts (at the CYA office and project sites) do not have enough time to work with me, thus sometimes passing all my good ideas gets delayed and for that reason I decided for preparing guidelines and brief reports, to be able to be sure of successful knowledge transmission.

Secondly, the bad situation with the web page security – web page been hacked – accompanied by the fact the owner of the server has not had time to truly concentrate on the current issue; thus instead of content creation and design I have spent my time on researching in web page security.

Drinking a little bit is part of going fishing in every country

The funniest moment?

The level of written English (apart from spoken English which is sufficient) is not the best among the CYA’s local permanent volunteers who take care of many aspects of communication. Thereby, it was extremely amusing to find above presented rows in the info pack of work camp for the participants:

– You need to bring your own medicine though we will provide general medicine (itchy powder or allergic drugs…).

– If you are allergies or have any special food problems please let us know in advance so we can find the way to help but don’t expect something very good from our host family.

Les trois mousquetaires

The most touching moment?

Actually I felt I have been doing not much and have not managed to offer CYA the value which I expected to do. Thought, my colleges in regional project sites have been very enthusiastic and very grateful to me for the help with setting up a professional looking Facebook page, saying they have seen the other CYA FB pages being improved enormously with me and they wanted to work with me to achieve the same in their page.

In this context, Rachana told one day after asking when I was going to leave, that I should instead of leaving for the office (in the capital Phnom Penh) stay in Siem Riep at the education center, as I could work for the CYA office (mainly work to be done at the web page) form a distance as well… and stay for company!

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