26 April 2015

Why collaboration works

We’ve been asking some of the members who have joined our coalition over the last decade to share their thoughts on collaborating with Chab Dai. This week, Dale Edmonds of Riverkids Foundation describes her journey and how Chab Dai has helped this once-small NGO to grow…

“When we started our small charity, Riverkids Foundation, in Cambodia nearly a decade ago,
we had a handful of staff, big ideas and dreams and a tiny budget for about fifty children. Now we reach over six hundred children directly each month, and we've worked with more than a thousand families at risk of abusing and trafficking their children, including families where children were sold to factories, forced marriages, paedophile rings by foreigners, gang rapes, incest, infant deaths and worse.

The families we work with are among the most difficult and heartbreaking, with complex multi-generational dysfunction and complications of addiction, deep poverty and discrimination. And yet we've managed to bring the rate of trafficking in our families to less than 1%. Next month we will formally graduate over twenty of our families as 'Jasmine Elephant' families with a community celebration - this means that they have become so stable and supportive of their children that they can now leave our programme and flourish on their own.

Chab Dai helped us do that. While Chab Dai doesn't work directly with families, they took a tiny new organisation and made us far stronger by introducing us to other partner organisations with a shared vision to protect children, providing free or very heavily subsidised training for our social workers and staff, giving our managers and team leaders support and encouragement that could only come from a trusted local partner, and even funding very technical and specific programme gaps that were too difficult for most donors to understand the need for.

Chab Dai has created a community that cares for children in Cambodia and supported us so
well - I think we would have closed at several points if it hadn't been for the advice and help
you gave us. Without Chab Dai, there is no way we would be capable of reaching so many

On a personal note, in my own journey to build a Cambodian child protection charity that truly helps the children and families first, some of the key lessons I've learned have been from Chab Dai. From the importance of building a team of staff who respect and value children's rights, to understanding how child safety and privacy matters when fundraising - it's easy to exploit the vulnerable children's stories for funding but we would lose their trust in us. I've also found the value of gauging the real needs of the community through first-hand research and using Chab Dai's wonderful in-house library of resources before rolling out a programme.

And even more personally: when we first met, I hadn't been to church since I was a child. Part
of my disillusionment was from the message that Christian organisations cared more about converting than helping, and children going hungry on the streets outside big brand-new church buildings in Cambodia didn't help. But Helen and two other missionaries I met in Cambodia - women who worked in the field building up communities and showing love and true charity to everyone, not just the people who went to their church - spoke to me more loudly than any sermon could.” 

Dale Edmonds

*Photographs used with the permission of Riverkids.