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Name Amy and Rory, ACAs
Employer Grant Thornton and Asia Pacific
Day job Audit Senior and Finance Manager
Assignment Two months with SHE Investments, Cambodia

Amy and Rory, ACAs

ACA qualified accountants Amy and Rory combined their love of travel with an urge to have a break from the corporate world by volunteering together for two months in Cambodia.


They provided accounting support to SHE Investments, who support women in scaling their businesses to create social and economic impact.


We caught up with Amy and Rory to find out what their volunteer assignment was like for them as a couple and whether they would do it all again…


What inspired you both to volunteer - are you normally the type of people that do this sort of thing?


Amy: We had never done anything like this before! We were lucky in that we were able to both take time off work to travel and we wanted to do something worthwhile with some of our time, as well as just being on holiday! We ended up travelling for four and a half months, with eight weeks of that time spent with SHE Investments.


Rory: Our main motivation was to do something more meaningful after a number of years working in the corporate world.


Which one of you initially had the idea to volunteer? Did the other one take some convincing?


Amy: I think Rory first had the idea, and I wasn’t totally sure at first as it is hard to imagine what it would be like, but I was soon convinced! As well as the prime reason being the opportunity to make a real difference to a good cause, it also looks great on the CV, so no real downside! Having said that, I don’t think this is the sort of thing I would have done on my own, so being able to travel and volunteer together was really important to me.


Did you have any major concerns before setting off?


Amy: I didn’t have any major concerns, but was mainly worried about whether I would actually be useful to the partner. I also felt a bit apprehensive about signing up to two months of the unknown, especially as I had not visited Cambodia before. However, AfID were really open to having conversations and made it clear that they were there to help if anything went wrong, and had some really helpful advice.


Rory: Safety was the main concern for me, though speaking with AfID prior to setting off made it clear we would be supported throughout the placement.


What were your roles within SHE Investments, and were they a good match to your backgrounds?


Amy: There were two main focus areas set out for us, the first being to train up the finance officer within SHE and the second to produce a finance curriculum and teach it to the facilitators at SHE for them to teach. Broadly the plan started out being that I would focus primarily on working with the finance officer and Rory would focus on the curriculum, but we quickly realised that working together and sharing ideas was the most efficient way and produced more effective results.


Rory has a few years of experience in industry while I was still in audit, so we had some different perspectives on how to approach problems. We ended up covering a wide range of areas including a review of the accounting system and recommendations for future software, controls review, budgeting (both short term and long term), reconciling the cash book with the accounting system, training on double entry and prepayments, accruals and more!


What do you think was your biggest achievement during your time volunteering?


Amy: We were able to implement a month end checklist for the finance officer to follow, including things like bank and cash reconciliations which meant that the accounting system would actually reflect the current financial situation. We were also able to introduce the idea of budgeting and forecasting to the finance officer, which we believe will make a big difference to them.


Rory: I think our biggest success was enabling Celia and James, the founders, to understand the financial performance of the organisation, which in turn helped them focus on how much income they needed to raise in the next year to achieve their targets.


When you weren’t working what were your favourite moments of the trip?


Amy: There is a great ex-pat “scene” in the area we were living in in Phnom Penh, with a number of cool bars and restaurants that we loved going to, including the Lot 369 café downstairs from SHE, also run by Celia and James. We also loved our weekend visit to Kampot which had some wonderful scenery.


How did it compare to holidays you’ve shared together?


Amy: Very different! I wouldn’t necessarily call it a “holiday” as we were working pretty much full time and still using a laptop all day, but it was certainly a fantastic experience and a refreshing change from a normal day at work!


Rory: It was very different to previous trips we’ve been on together. Our placement was book-ended by five weeks on each side of travelling through South East Asia so the whole trip was unique.


Did you enjoy the experience and would you do it again?


Amy: Absolutely I enjoyed the experience, and if we were fortunate enough to be able to travel for any length of time again I would definitely consider volunteering with AfiD as I felt it was such a good use of our skillset (compared to any other volunteering organisation that we looked at) and we were really able to make a difference to the partner.


Rory: The placement was enjoyable and meeting the team was great - we have kept in contact over the last few months to see how they are getting on. We would consider another placement in the future though we were very lucky to be able to have that much time off work so not sure when that might be...


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