Management accountant and a psychology graduate Stuart Westcott chose to volunteer in part to, in his words,
"push his own boundaries, to experience new things, places and people whilst being of service to others less fortunate".
AEC’s financial records and reporting were mainly dealt with by the Director, a doctor and audiologist who had no financial training and used a ‘paper and calculator‘ method of bookkeeping.
What was achieved?
They were growing quickly and required a higher quality of financial reporting to donors (a donor had recently requested audited accounts as a condition of a grant), as well as more useful management information and a more efficient method of bookkeeping. Previous volunteers had developed a computer-based method of bookkeeping and prepared detailed annual financial statements, but AEC was not able to maintain the books in the suggested format or prepare the financial statements independently, so the initial objective of Stuart's placement was to help equip AEC to carry out these tasks themselves.
The Director was trained in an electronic method of bookkeeping, allowing him to produce management information and providing an efficient basis for the preparation of annual financial statements. General training was also provided with a view to eventual handover of the preparation of annual financial statements, which also improved the Director's understanding of financial management. A method of tracking the use of restricted donor funding was developed. AEC was then able to have a better view of how costs were being expended and how restricted and unrestricted funding was being used, informing decisions on what activities the NGO had the financial resources to undertake and the priorities for further fundraising. This work contributed to the on-going viability of AEC and hence the security of staff employment, helping to ensure that AEC can continue to provide training and continue expanding its medical care.
Stuart: "Although apparently a bit of a ‘Wild West’ until not too long ago, I found Phnom Penh to provide a comfortable existence; decent accommodation & food, relative safety and populated by a welcoming people with infectious smiles."