The youth volunteers of eMpowering Youths Across ASEAN programme have shown us that it is entirely possible to contribute for the wellbeing of the community, even from behind the screen of our laptop.
In the “Silk-Weaving Gallery” project initiated by Color Silk – a social enterprise from Cambodia, eight aspiring youths from different ASEAN countries volunteered to advance the revival of traditional weaving practices and support women’s economic empowerment.
You come from different countries, never met before, and were given the mission to work on this project as a team. Tell us how your first virtual meeting was like.
“Tap tap tap,” all it took with a few many taps on each of our Whatsapp screens to virtually gather – all 8 of us born from ASEAN nations of diverse backgrounds – to work on this project called “Silk-Weaving Gallery” of a social enterprise namely Color Silk in Cambodia.
Unfortunately, we have seen 1 of us leaving the project prior to the capacity-building workshop for some personal reasons. Still picking up our leftover unity, we kicked off to collaboratively attend the Capacity-Building Workshop arranged by ASEAN Foundation to perk up the still rather icey atmosphere among the teammates via brainstorming sessions and follow-up calls to get assignments done. Having our project management skills honed by specialists, we came down to planning and submission of our project proposal to ASEAN Foundation before November 2021.
After your proposal was finalised, how did you manage to implement the project from home?
With the proposal approved by start of November 2021, these folks began with their volunteering journey by delegating the job tasks into 5 areas on the basis of each member’s area of expertise – Gallery Design & Set-up, Virtual Gallery Building, Business Development, Marketing & Finance teams. Things were running as smooth until mid-November with the team mates having weekly meetings and implementing actions needed to reach the main objective of empowering vulnerable and jobless Cambodian women and girls by the promotion of silk-weaving culture.
Nevertheless, just as the majority of projects’ fortune of unanticipated twists and turns, our project inevitably faced a few enormous ones. As easier as it sounded, the design of the gallery-building in practice was a hard deal, considering that it has to be functional and presentable simultaneously, not to mention that the whole process had to be conducted virtually.
Online volunteering is still quite a new concept, and we can only imagine the challenges and barriers of coordinating everything online. What was the biggest challenge you faced and how did you approach it?
Communication issues were prominent in receiving updates from the documentary-maker and the tourist agencies who had to be contacted via local phone lines. Additionally, internal communication amongst teammates cannot also be dismissed. The language barrier was another bitter point of the project, considering how the team did not receive any response from any embassies, schools, and tourist agencies outreached to achieve an official collaboration agreement.
On top of these nerve-wrecking obstacles, time management was the biggest issue to deteriorate the pre-existing circumstances. Making time out of a fully occupied schedule was headache-inducing for some of the members.
As depressing as it already sounds, some results by the end line of our project deserve to be appreciated!
Kudos to the team! Any last word you wish to share to wrap this up?
The gallery building was put to a final touch by the 1st week of January 2022. Most importantly, we have learned about the culture of silk-weaving as well as the nature of Cambodian people.
In a nutshell, despite everything being virtual and challenging unfolding at every twist, it was satisfying, rewarding and altruistic with the memories going to be mesmerizing, team spirit unfailingly united, and lessons remarkably learned out of this experience.