“Work made me somebody. Now, I want to empower people to help themselves,”
says 42-year-old Boon Thom, who is currently a program officer with the Community Action Group (CAG) under HSF.
For Boon, his work is his life. Even his dreams are often about work. It is what helped him make friends, provided him an income to take care of his family, and empowered him to make a difference in the community.
Perhaps another reason why his work means so much to him is because it deals with matters close to his heart. Growing up with a mother who is an individual with disability, Boon had to take on a caregiver role from a young age. From meal prep, to bathing her, to house chores, his daily duties meant that Boon had to forgo the simple joys of childhood––even such as playing with friends. His family was exactly the type of demographic the program sought to help.
After having held several odd jobs, from construction worker to security guard, Boon eventually chanced upon the HSF Youth Leadership Program where he became a youth volunteer and developed a range of new skills.
Now 18 years on, Boon conducts activities, facilitates workshops, and conducts training in 13 villages in the Phalan sub-district.
What he likes most about his job is seeing the change in people’s lives. At the start, people are typically unmotivated to participate in the activities. But as they learn new skills and are gradually molded into facilitators, they become more willing to help each other. This is what ultimately leads to transformation in the community.
Sometimes, he looks back and thinks about what his life would look like today if he hadn’t taken part in the youth leadership program. He probably would’ve become a farmer or factory worker like most of his friends, married with a big family to care for. But “I wouldn’t be as useful as I am now,” he says.
As Boon reflects on his involvement with HSF, he muses that the role of the NGO is to coach and provide the initial funding, training, and support to people until they are capable to pursue the future they want. Governmental organizations (GO) are then expected to step in thereafter, providing the support to sustain and scale the initiative.
While the challenges of getting support and resources from the government are real, he believes that this vision is possible and will succeed one day.