How to create an NGO that changes the lives of hundreds of families, with Alejandra Borrell

We all have a super marked plan: you just studied, the uni, then the degree, the master’s degree… all super scheduled. And you also have to give opportunities to other things and take advantage of all the moments and options you have, but it is not necessary to always follow the same paths.

Do what you really want and that society does not set the pattern that you have to follow.

— Alejandra Borrell

Alejandra Borrell (@camboyasonrie) is the co-founder and director of Cambodia Smile, an NGO that, as its name indicates, operates in Cambodia, in a village 20 km from Siem Reap called Prey Thlock Village.

Cambodia Smile was born with 3 objectives:

  1. Teaching children English so that in the future they can find a job in the city
  2. Reduce truancy
  3. Help children with few resources so that they can go to public school

Today, Cambodia Smile has a team of 7 people, it has its own school in which more than 300 kids are enrolled this year, and it also supports the mothers of the village through the Sabaï project for the manufacture and sale of straws. bamboo crafts.

In this interview, Alejandra and I cover her entire career, from her beginnings as a journalism student to her current life as director of an NGO, and we talk about topics as interesting as…

  • What did Alejandra do when she finished her degree and realized that she didn’t know what to do with her life?
  • How Alejandra came up with the idea of ​​creating her own NGO
  • What were the biggest challenges Alejandra had to face when she moved to Cambodia?
  • Why Alejandra entered into a crisis 2 years after starting to work on her project
  • Or what Alejandra recommends to people who want to help change the world

In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful and endearing interviews I’ve recorded, so I think you’re going to love it.

But hey, I prefer not to anticipate anything and that you listen to it yourself, so without further ado I leave you with the great Alejandra Borrell.

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Episode Links

Where to find Alejandra:

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Mentioned books:

quick index

0:54 – Presentation of the guest

2:23 – Start of the interview

2:27 – How I met Alejandra

4:16 – Why Alejandra had passed through English in her student days

7:37 Why did you study Journalism?

9:02 – How was the experience of working as an intern writing in a magazine?

10:49 – How he lived the part of writing and finding ideas for articles

12:03 – Why once you finished your degree you did not want to study a master’s degree or another degree or look for a job

2:09 p.m. How did you feel about not knowing what to do with your life?

15:04 – What made you decide to go backpacking in Southeast Asia?

4:20 p.m. – What did you hope to get out of that trip on a personal level?

17:30 – How long were you traveling and what route did you take

18:48 – How was your trip and would you recommend it to other people?

20:57 – Why Alejandra and Ángel recommend traveling alone

11:15 p.m. – How Alejandra covered the expenses of her trip to Southeast Asia

25:50 – How much did the 6 months of travel cost in total?

26:33 – What were your first impressions of Cambodia?

29:07 – How was the experience of knowing the Cambodian school that your classmate Chamnan took you to

30:57 – How did Alejandra help concretely at school?

31:57 – What did you like about going to help at that school?

33:06 – What happened the day you went with Chamnan to bring powdered milk to an orphan child

36:12 – How was the delivery of the bicycles to the children of the village

40:26 – How he continued helping Cambodian families from Spain

42:58 – What do they decide that the NGO they start up is going to do?

45:36 – Where does the name “Cambodia Smile” come from?

46:40 – How Alejandra knew what to do and where to start to create an NGO

48:42 – How much does it cost to create a foundation

50:18 – Where did you get the money from?

51:36 – What are the first projects you carry out with the NGO?

54:05 – What did Alejandra live on, since an NGO does not generate money

55:20 – How were the first months living in the Cambodian village

57:54 – What did Alejandra do in the village in her free time?

58:56 – What was the most important thing you learned from that time and how it changed you as a person

1:03:05 – How Camboya Sonríe and the school evolved in its first two years of existence

1:12:10 – Why there comes a time when Alejandra enters a crisis

1:15:08 – How the Sabai Straws project came about

1:18:50 – Where can you buy bamboo straws

1:19:28 – How did you get those outlets?

1:21:03 – Where do the profits from the sale of the straws go?

1:23:14 – What has this project meant for Alejandra on a personal level?

1:24:19– What conclusions did Alejandra draw from her personal crisis?

1:27:22 – How has your relationship and your way of working with the NGO changed now?

1:31:39 – How many months does Alejandra spend a year in Cambodia now?

1:32:11 – What has been your focus in Cambodia Smile in recent times

1:33:03 – Where would Alejandra advise a person who feels the need to help others to start?

1:37:25 – What does Alejandra think about paid volunteering?

1:41:01 – What is the best way to help as a volunteer?

1:42:32 – What is the best way to create a solidarity project?

1:46:07 – How an NGO is financed and what methods have worked best for Alejandra with hers

1:50:25 – How to approach family and friends to ask for money for your social project

1:52:46 – What has been the hardest thing about having your own project?

1:57:57 – Alejandra summarizes how Cambodia Smiles is going today

2:01:20 – How Alejandra is organized between Spain and Cambodia

2:02:07 – What a normal day in your life looks like when you are in Cambodia

2:03:07 – How is a normal day in your life when you are in Spain

2:04:24 – Alejandra tells if she is happy with the life she has created

2:05:31 – How does Alejandra think her life would be now if she had not met Chamnan and gone with him to bring powdered milk to an orphaned child in a remote village in Siem Reap

2:09:19 – What have been the 3 books that have changed your life the most?

2:11:54 – What are Alejandra’s plans for the coming months?

2:13:22 – Advice, recommendation or final message from Alejandra

2:14:20 – Where to find Alejandra

2:14:34 – How you can collaborate with Cambodia Smile

(9 ratings, average: 3.8)






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