How 10 Box Volunteers Enabled and Found Impact In Cambodia
This spring, a group of dedicated Box volunteers joined together in Siem Reap, Cambodia to implement a special project with a powerful mission: provide 800 students and 45 teachers and staff of the Cambodian nonprofit Journeys Within Our Communities (JWOC) with digital resources to strengthen the quality of their education programs aimed at the underserved.
Box was tapped by longstanding Box.org partner and project facilitator, Team4Tech, to collaborate with JWOC and implement an impactful solution that ultimately helped reimagine Box's approach to international service learning. Here, the 10 intrepid Box volunteers -- Alan Leung, Alana Venos, Alex Reynolds, Jasmin Pamukcu, Kelly Halamek, Lauren Swartz, Matt Jones, Nate Schlein, Solenne Thomas, and Sumat Lam, who raised a staggering $30,000 to support the project -- share their experiences as lived through Box's values.
Take risks, fail fast, GSD! is a mantra inculcated into Silicon Valley culture. Working closely with Team4Tech facilitators and JWOC to strategize plans, the volunteers ambitiously sought to implement an improved student information management system, configure dozens of new tablets and laptops, and create fresh curricula for technology, design thinking, English Language Learning, and more -- all in the 10 days they had together in-country. Unfazed, the volunteers applied their technological expertise and seasoned GSD skills to successfully deploy a solution that will continue to benefit JWOC's mission longterm.
Armed with an iterative approach and a flexible mentality, Alana quickly adjusted to the language barrier she found in her design thinking workshop. She worked with the JWOC staff to modify her vocabulary and cadence and went on to deliver a series of engaging presentations that were very well-received. Similarly, Lauren learned to be creative with limited resources during the implementation and reflected that the fast-paced world of Sales Operations prepared her well, saying "We get last-minute requests all the time. Having spent so many hours observing the students' behaviors as they adopted the new technology and adjusting our lesson plans accordingly, I returned to Box with a greater appreciation for the end user and design methodology."
Make Mom Proud. For Sumat and Jasmin, the trip to Cambodia was highly personal. Sumat's interest in the project stemmed from his desire to serve his shared American and Khmer heritage. He studied the role of nonprofits on the cultural, economic, social, and political realms of society as an undergrad and sought to understand Cambodia's current challenges in education. For Jasmin, the opportunity to use her background to empower others particularly resonated because her parents immigrated to the U.S. and created successful lives through careers in technology. Jasmin shared, "Technology has the power to create opportunity, and everyone deserves a shot at that. I have learned this lesson first-hand." Sumat and Jasmin were essential to helping the team navigate cultural and linguistic barriers that helped ensure the overall success of the implementation.
Be candid and assume good intent. At Box, success is achieved by working as a team and trusting one another. This core value naturally extended beyond Box's walls into the relationships the team built with JWOC. Alan brought 20 years of experience setting up IT services and quickly earned the trust of the team by translating the usage of technology into human terms. He reflected on the meaning of empowerment, concluding "We started a conversation they are going to have to finish themselves."
Alex arrived in Cambodia with a rare worldly sense that allowed her to appreciate the current state of affairs. "Having spent my childhood scattered across the U.S., China, and Thailand, I fully recognize how access to technology in education has drastically improved my chances of succeeding in a rapidly changing world." Informed by her experiences, Alex aimed to empower JWOC' students as catalysts for sustainable development through education.
Be an owner. The volunteers were inspired to find that the JWOC students and teachers seemed to best capture this Box value. One teacher, Dany Pem, epitomized the younger generations' ownership over the next era of Cambodia's development, saying "I want to help improve education by making teachers higher quality, sharing teaching methodologies, and re-building curricula." Solenne shared Dany's perspective, saying "I believe education to be the most important and fundamental thing in life, as it helps children improve their circumstances and shapes what society will be tomorrow." Solenne encouraged the teachers to become early adopters of their new technology and incorporate more growth mindset into everyday lessons.
In a former life, Matt was a member of the U.S. Air Force and arrived well-prepared to lead. Undeterred by the teachers and students' low digital literacy, he devised a hands-on science project that engaged local interest in environmental issues and skillfully balanced online and offline learning. Matt said, "Showing presentations in a classroom can be useful, but they don’t compare to the wonder and excitement children get when they hold a tablet. I showed them an app that displays the constellations, a sight that may be the first for many who can't see how beautiful stars can be due to heavy smog."
10X It! At Box, we're challenged to think 10 times bigger and better. The volunteers were deeply concerned with making sure their deployment would sustain the needs of JWOC and continue to have a positive impact for students into the future. Nate reflected, "As a Sales Engineer with a focus on Box.org customers, I find joy in helping others understand how technology can solve their greatest challenges. This project makes an immediate impact on JWOC and a long-lasting influence on community development."
Like Nate, the project encouraged Kelly to move beyond herself. Summing up her experience, Kelly echoed the groups' sentiments, saying "As cheesy as it sounds, this was one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had. It was the first time in my travels that I saw how an entire community of incredible people lived and worked. The project was challenging yet rewarding, uncomfortable yet familiar, frustrating (at times) yet motivating. Overall, it was life changing and eye opening."