Cambodia Reflective Journal

3/1/15 – 4/1/15

After over 24hrs of travel due to booking my flights late I finally arrived in Phnom Penh! Upon driving out of the airport my first impression of Cambodia are its crazy roads! Almost the first motorbike I saw had a mother, father and two young children on it. What was most surprising was that the parents were wearing helmets but the children were not. The rest of my first day consisted of visiting the Central market to get a phone charger and adapter. This involved riding my first Tuk Tuk which is so much fun and so affordable! Later that day our team leader, Zoe, arrived as well as one of my other team members Adam. That night we went to a restaurant on the river front called ‘The FCC’ which Zoe said is a bit of an establishment here in Phnom Penh. We also visited the night markets before walking back to the hostel and going to bed exhausted!

Having a proper night’s sleep meant we were all ready to start the day with some more exploring. After a quick breakfast at the hostel, two more team mates arrived. Guided by Zoe, we decided to all visit Phnom Wat, a temple in the city. We were lucky enough to experience traditional music and see the local people make offerings to Budda and pray. After this we walked to the national gallery to view some of the ancient Cambodia sculptures from places such as Angkor Wat. After our busy morning it was time to eat again. We settled on having lunch at the restaurant of a local organisation which trains street youth in cooking and hospitality. Hopefully we can find inspiration from places such as this when devising our own business plan in Kampot.

5/1/15 – 6/1/15

Before we departed Phnom Penh to travel to Kampot, Zoe suggested that it might be a meaningful experience for us to visit the genocide museum in Phnom Penh- the high school that was used as a prison during the civil war. The prison has been left exactly as it was found when it was liberated, creating a ghostly feeling about the place. This was a valuable and moving experience as it helped communicate the magnitude of the death and injustice that happened during that period in Cambodia. We then hopped in another Tuk Tuk and had the privilege of vising the iconic ‘White Building’ (that is now grey) in the centre of the city. It was built in the 1960s as public housing and now is an entire community within itself. We were specifically visiting a social enterprise that is based in the White Building called ‘Sa Sa Art Projects’ who aim to create community engagement and support contemporary Cambodian art. That day we had lunch at yet another social enterprise called ‘Daughters’ which trains and gives jobs to former women sex workers. We finished the day with a 2.5 hour bus trip to Kampot then a welcome dinner and drinks with other Lightbox and Mayibuye volunteers.

The 6th was our first serious day of work. The day started with splitting our project into two parts (marketing and strategic) then brainstorming our objectives for the week. This brought us to lunch at the local social enterprise called ‘Epic Arts’ which employs and trains disabled people in Kampot. We also checked out the space we will be working with at Lightbox for the arts space and bar we are going to make the business model for. The final activity of the day was a team building exercise before making the schedule for the rest of the week.

7/1/15 – 8/1/15

Wednesday the 7th was a day used to gather background information about what is currently in Kampot as well the viability of our idea of a gallery/bar. We started off this research by conducting SWOT analysis’s of businesses and social enterprises in the region. This was useful in starting the critical thinking process. We then decided that gathering primary information would also be useful. We wrote a number of questions to ask business owners and tourists/expats in the Kampot area. I went to other guesthouses in Kampot to speak to guests about whether they would be interested in an art gallery/bar. The response was mostly positive and also gave us some really valuable feedback and inspiration. From that we were able to construct a customer profile which will help shape the development of the business further.

The next day we had the privilege of vising the local state school where Mayibuye (partner organisation to Lightbox) runs arts and culture programs for its students. We provided some craft activities for the kids to do and they performed a few of the dances they had been learning through Mayibuye. It was great to see the impact that Mayibuye is having as well as seeing first why the success of Lightbox is vital for the funding of the Mayibuye program.

9/1/15 – 11/1/15

I spent the last working day of our first week developing our crowd funding campaign. We decided to go with the crowd funding platform Indiegogo due to the fact that their fee structure seems the most desirable. We set a goal of raising $8000 in 30 days, it might be a stretch by I think we can do it! That afternoon we filmed some interviews with Zoe and me to include in the video for our fund raising page. Looking back on the week I can see we have come so far already and are really gelling as a team. I can’t wait for next week. But first a relaxing weekend that involved a trip to the women’s spa and 21st birthday celebrations for one of the girls in our group.

12/1/15 – 18/1/15

This week was all about beginning to make our ideas a reality! We knew on the Friday, Lightbox was having an event which would give the Mayibuye kids a chance to perform as well as giving us a chance to test our initial vision for Lightbox. The week started off researching where we might source the materials such as furniture as well as deciding on a food and drinks menu. However, as the event was on Friday we had to pretty much get straight into it. I had developed a mood board on Pinterest which guided how we decorated the interiors. This included painting the cane furniture white, buying indoor plants and getting a local woman to make us cushions from fabric I bought at the Kampot markets. We also had to do a lot of promotion for the event, mostly in the form of handing out flyers around Kampot. Our biggest challenge was probably the budget as the only money available was the $600 people raised before we came to Cambodia.

The Friday of the event was an intense day as everything had to be put together at the last minute but it was a great night! A decent crowd turned out for the dance performances and most people bought at least one cocktail although the tapas weren’t as popular (despite being delicious!). Holding the event was a really valuable experience as it indicated what worked, what didn’t, and what we could do differently.

As it is about half way through the program, myself and 4 others took a mini break to Kep, a beach village about 30 minutes from Kampot. It is very quiet but it’s great to chill out in preparation for next week!

19/1/15 -23/1/15

This has been the most challenging week of the project so far. The number one aim for this week was to work on and complete the business plan. Whilst we are not yet done, I am so impressed by how hard everyone has worked and what we have been able to achieve. We already had a half completed business plan which the co-founder of Lightbox wrote which has been a useful source of information but otherwise we had to start again! This really highlighted how great it is to be on a trip with people who are from all different University faculties. We were able to utilise the skills of everyone in one way or another. For example, the person who is majoring in accounting did the finances while the girl who is doing design has done all the design work.

Next week is the pitch to investors, so I imagine we are going to be working very hard in preparation for it. But first, we have another three day week which we are using to go up Bokor Mountain and have two nights in beach town Sihonoukville.

24/1/15 – 30/1/15

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more hectic we have managed to move things up a notch! Everyone is adding the final touches to the business plan which we planned to have finished at the beginning of the week however it is continually being proof read and edited. Thankfully, the line was drawn on Thursday afternoon. It was a great feeling compiling all our hard work together and sending it off to be read by investors! That night and the following morning focus turned to the pitch which was scheduled to take place over an internet meeting on Friday afternoon. Three of the most confident speakers in our group were chosen to lead the pitch with everyone else stepping in during question time. Overall the pitch was a success and went very smoothly. Everyone was knowledgeable during their speeches and in answering questions. It was also obvious how attached and passionate we had become about the whole project.
After the pitch we celebrated by having a night out at our favourite bar, listening to live music. This was a great way to round of an incredible experience with incredible and passionate people. It is something I will never forget and continuously look back upon when informing my own life.

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