Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Volunteer Journey to Cambodia: Prelude

As I was waiting at the gate of San Francisco international  airport, en route to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the sequence of events in the first phase of this journey crossed my mind...

It all began early this summer when I saw an exciting and intriguing note in our Adobe internal news about a volunteer opportunity sponsored by Adobe Corporate Responsibility team to work with an organization called Team4Tech in collaboration with CARE Cambodia to teach 21st century skills to secondary school teachers and teacher trainers in Cambodia. Having allready been inspired by the amazing volunteer opportunities and rewards provided Adobe for its employees for volunteering, I applied with much interest and anticipation!

A big part of the application process involved writing a couple of short essays describing our experience and service motivation. After a quick couple of weeks, I was excited to hear that I was selected for an interview by Team4Tech and was thrilled to hear pretty soon that I was one of the six Adobe employees selected for the final team from a pool of close to a hundred applicants! I felt privileged  and honored to have been given this opportunity by Adobe and Team4Tech! The support and encouragement from coworkers and leaders at Adobe has been quite invaluable all along.

This post wouldn't be complete without writing about the amazing and motivating opportunities for employees at Adobe for volunteering at local communities, non-profits, pro-bono initiatives organized by Adobe or with our own favorite non-profits on our personal time, not to mention larger scale Adobe sponsored initiatives with non-profits and NGOs abroad such as this, all empowering change agents in our communities for solving social problems and creating positive change (#CreateChange). In addition to the opportunities, Adobe also sweetens the deal further by rewarding employees with a grant of $250 to a cause of employee's choice for every 10 hours of volunteer work at a registered non-profit!

Our Adobe team for this project comprised of six Adobe employees across the globe in four different time-zones! 

In initial kick-off meetings, we learned more about our collaborators, Team4Tech, whose mission is to advance 21st century education in underserved communities through technology volunteers by connecting technology industry professionals and solutions with high impact NGO projects such as the one in our current project, with CARE Cambodia, an international development organization fighting global poverty with a special focus on working with women and girls to bring sustainable changes to their communities.

The mission of our project was an exciting one...  to further  21st century skills like digital literacy, internet communications and education technology in secondary schools in Cambodia.

So what exactly did we set out to teach, and what are 21st Century skills?

After regrouping our team into three sub-teams, we focused on basics of computer and tablet Operating System; file storage and organization with introduction to cloud sharing; Internet security and communications;  digital literacy, productivity tools such as MS Office suite, education technology that would be helpful in classrooms for teachers, and more... We were working to empower teachers and teacher trainers in Cambodia with these skills and also motivating and enabling them to include this in their curriculum to teach their students. 

Set up with this mission, we got to work very quickly in our weekly meetings, individual and sub-team preparation and collaboration to plan for our in-country training sessions.

In addition to our project work, Team4Tech also facilitated discussions around articles and concepts that enable the team to cultivate leadership, empathy and skills critical for the success of the project such as
  • Global mindset 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Extreme collaboration 
  • Creative problem solving
  • Effective communication with cross functional, global collaboration>
Some of the themes we discussed and experienced during this process were, synthesis of divergent ideas, dealing with ambiguity, prototyping and experimentation, taking risks and encouraging action, anticipating and managing change, inspiring others, strong self awareness, story telling, developing vision for systems, giving and taking objective feedback. 

We collaborated each week to create lesson plans and workshop presentations based on our objectives to deliver in-country.

We based our process on human centric design thinking involving, empathizing with the user, defining each of our objectives, ideating and prototype and our testing phase would be in-country and might involve further adaptations. 

Having converged in Phnom Penh from different parts of the globe, this is where we're at now, looking forward to meeting with our CARE Cambodia partners in Phnom Penh and traveling to several schools in Cambodia with our base in Ban Lung. 

Our team will be sharing our journey through this exciting  project over the next two weeks.

Related links: Destination Ban Lung: Vignettes of a Volunteer Journey

More to come!!

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