“I realised that for organisations to be sustainable, they needed to be run by local staff. And for local staff to run organisations, they needed to be empowered.”

When Sally Hetherington was 25, she packed up all her belongings and bought a one-way ticket to Cambodia, determined to make a difference.  But when she got there, the situation on the ground was grave. Sally had been told that role she came to play in managing short-term volunteers was crucial to sustainable development. However, what she saw was disempowered staff, children with detachment issues, and an unhealthy ‘white saviour’ syndrome. Sally knew she had to make a big change.

So she started at the core, the community. Sally set about to develop a community centre with a team of Cambodians, with the end goal of making herself redundant. Sticking to her belief of local empowerment in a country filled with voluntourists was tough. Despite the countless obstacles she faced living in a community with a culture significantly different to hers, she was able to form insurmountable relationships and learn first-hand of the struggles of poverty faced by community members in the outskirts of rural Siem Reap.

This manifesto has five years of stories that will make you laugh, cry and challenge your preconceived beliefs about the best way to help people in developing countries. It is a must-read for those who want to make a positive change through ethical and sustainable development.

‘It’s Not About Me’ is published by Elephant House Press. All proceeds support Human and Hope Association.


What people are saying

“I couldn’t put this book down, captivating and thought-provoking, it provided me with a deeper understanding of how to reduce poverty and why voluntourism needs to be stamped out. Recommend for any person wanting a more ethical and sustainable approach to supporting low income countries.” – Melissa Abu-Gazaleh, 2016 NSW Young Australian of the Year

“‘It’s not about me’ is an excellent book that not only informs the reader of the negative impact and outcomes of volunteerism. It also shares great advice on ethical and sustainable travel, and the beauty, charm and wonder of Cambodia.” – Amanda Webb, CEO Xplore for Success

“It was clear to me that Sally has a thorough working knowledge of how to progress human rights from being theoretical concepts to tangible, real life outcomes. Sally also explores the ethics of international travel, specifically tackling the hot topic of ‘voluntourism’ from both a personal perspective and from the perspective of everyday Cambodians. While I was often challenged by what I read in ‘It’s Not About Me’, I never felt harshly dealt with. I think this was because Sally is so open and honest about her own voluntourism journey throughout the book, I felt that I was simply going along on this journey with her.” – Simon Matuzelski, Non-Executive Director, Human and Hope Association Inc.