A day in the life: Matt Brodie, ChildFund Australia, International Programs Team Advisor
Meet Matt Brodie. Matt is part of ChildFund Australia’s International Programs Team, specialising in Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). He recently travelled to ChildFund Cambodia to visit six different education programs across rural and remote parts of the country. This was his first time visiting these programs in over two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, Matt was able to learn more about how each program is progressing and how we can strive to better support children and young people to access an education.
We caught up with Matt to learn more about his experience in the field. Read what he had to say:
How do your days usually start? Tell us a bit about how you get ready for a day in the field and how you get there.
I’m an early riser, and every second or third morning I went for a run, both to beat the heat but to watch a town or city rouse itself and come to life.
Travelling with ChildFund Cambodia project staff, we would go for breakfast at one of the many small family-run restaurants in the town and talk about our itinerary for the day.
Then there would be a one-to-two-hour drive to a remote location, usually to visit a school where a training was being conducted, or a student or youth group was meeting.
These long drives gave me the opportunity to review recent project reports, draft the questions I wanted to ask, and problem-solve with project staff travelling with me.
Where in Cambodia did you visit on this trip?
I did a lot of travel this trip, more than I usually would in a pre-COVID world. However, since this was my first trip to Cambodia since international travel resumed, I visited six projects whereas I normally would only visit one or two. I visited in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Kratie and Svay Rieng. I estimate that I travelled around 1,200 kilometres by car over two weeks.
What’s on the itinerary for the day?
Wednesday 23 March
After two days working with our staff in the Kratie Office developing a new project proposal, I was driven to the Svay Rieng Office approximately 200 kilometres away to visit three projects. While on the road, I used the back seat as an office, using my phone and the somewhat patchy internet connection to dial into an interview panel with Australia and Papua New Guinea staff for a new role in the team. At one point, I had to stop the car and dash into a roadside store to buy more phone credit.
Two interviews later, I arrived at the Svay Rieng Office, meet the Provincial Manager, Phearun, and had a tour of the office to meet the staff. We then drove to a nearby office in the grounds of a monastery to meet with the staff of our local implementing partner, Santi Sena. The organisation implements a range of locally based poverty alleviation initiatives in Svay Rieng Province, and with ChildFund’s support they are improving the wellbeing and leadership potential of vulnerable young people in the area.
Following the meeting with Santi Sena, we travelled out into the community to meet with a group of young people whom ChildFund and Santi Sena have been supporting. Gathering outside in the late afternoon, appropriately socially distanced and grateful for the cool breeze, eight of the youth group members gave a presentation on the life skills, leadership and consultation training they have received and the subsequent action they have taken leading peer education sessions in their villages. After the presentation, I had the opportunity to ask youth group members about their experiences and the challenges they face in their community.
What challenges are these communities facing and how will these activities help address those?
The long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are still unfolding. For marginalised young people this can mean school dropout, early marriage, travelling to other parts of Cambodia or abroad for work, increased drug use, diminished hope for the future. Our projects support young people to provide meaningful opportunities for them to participate in community decision-making processes.
What was your favourite part of the day and why?
My favourite part was interviewing the youth group members. I find their energy and enthusiasm invigorating. It’s a good feeling seeing the impact of a project I helped design, how these young people, with a bit of support from us, are bettering their communities.
How do you wind down at the end of your day?
Following project visits we would return to town, and I would have dinner with project staff, a further opportunity to speak informally, reflect and problem-solve. It’s these aspects of field travel that I most value and were hardest to replicate during COVID-19 – they are relationship building moments that establish and consolidate trust between staff, a shared understanding of challenges to identify and address and a clearer plan of action in response.
At the end of my day, I’d go back through my green notebook and write up a formal summary on my computer. Usually there would also be some emails to answer too. Then to bed as early as possible.