ROAR: Meeting you at university, hearing your inspirational public speaking and seeing the positive impact you had on people's lives, it was easy to see your were heading in a direction that was exciting and bound to have an impact on this world. What events or people were a part of that, shaping your life and playing a role in giving you the focus of making positive difference
TROY: With my local youth group I decided to do this thing called STORM Co - mostly for the good looking girls on the team! It stands for Service To Others Really Matters and we were basically running a kids club for an Aboriginal community in Katherine, NT. I was thrown a clown suit and this one kid (Jonny actually) kept pulling my clown nose which hurt my ears. Anyway, I wanted to throttle him until his Mum came to pick him up - she yelled at him to get in the car and then 20 metres down the road kicked him out and made him walk home. That day changed my perspective and I realised many kids in the world need one simple thing - to be loved.
I spent a year in Zimbabwe in 2000, teaching accounting to year 9 and 11 students at an all-black school. While there, some of the teachers were racist against me and it rocked me big time. But it also taught me a hell of a lot about what to expect and what not to expect when it comes to people. We're all flawed but that doesn't stop us getting back up from our failures and trying again. Africa changed my life and made me grow up and see the world differently.
I went and spent 18 months in America after finishing law school, working with youth, mentoring, teaching, hanging out and volunteering in this cafe-style improv (drama) university church. It was an incredible time and it gave me a real passion to keep working with young people longer term - initially, it was just a gap year before kicking off my corporate law career - but it turned into pursing this type of work full time.
ROAR: Tell us about RAW Impact. What is the mission and purpose of this organisation and how did it come to life?
TROY: Nicole and I had the vision for RAW on our honeymoon two years ago. We dreamt of a non-profit organisation that was edgy and willing to try new things and especially utilise the internet and social media to give the poorest people in the world (particularly kids) an amplified voice and enable them to share their own story. At the time, we both worked for other non-profits and lived full time in Cambodia so we'd seen some shocking and confronting things. I was doing some volunteer undercover work in Phnom Penh and saw first hand a five year old girl being sold for sex - this hit me for six and made me seriously question how we could make a difference long term for kids like her. But not just that, young children in villages lacking decent primary education, no clean water to drink, not enough food to eat. Dads and Mums with no ability to provide, no job, no safe sturdy house, no toilet and it goes on. It's very messy in some of these villages.
We chatted about the concept on a beach in Thailand - we both believe it's not just about trying to raise heaps of money to help the poor, but more about raising the right kind of awareness, sharing their inspiring stories and engaging the right people (with spare time, talent and treasure) for great causes they are passionate about. A lot of people had been sharing with us their willingness and desire to get involved but they didn't know how to go about it. We wanted to provide a bridge to connect the dots between the First and Developing Worlds. Hence, our mission became Raising Awareness Worldwide (RAW) for lasting social Impact. We are bringing a movement of like-minded people together to create powerful change in the fight against some of the greatest injustices in the world today!
ROAR: On your Facebook page it states that you are trying to do something different and unique with aid. Tell us how you are aiming to achieve this and give us some practical examples of this taking place?
TROY: We've structured our projects under three pillars: Sustain, Educate and Protect. Innovation is one of our core values. We're not afraid to fail and learn from it, and we're willing to try out-of-the-box solutions to some huge issues. For example, everyone we ran into (including us at times!) were criticising the Cambodian Police Force for being corrupt, under-trained, inexperienced, a joke! etc. Until we met one of our good mates and leading Sex Trafficking Investigators here in Cambodia, Eric. He saw it differently and wanted to see more people get behind the Police and provide them with the right training and equipment. At the time, we met our now Senior Instructors, Robert from the USA and shortly after Karl from Australia, and started a Tactical Operations Training program for Anti-Human Trafficking Police - the first of it's kind in Cambodia. We believe if we're going to have a long-term impact on child sex trafficking we need to empower the Cambodian people to protect their own kids!
We are engaging professionals and skilled people from Australia and abroad to bring their strategic thinking to the table to develop solutions. For example we've been working with some high end corporate consultants from Perth together with Ag experts to build business models for our Agricultural livelihoods projects. Our goat project, whereby we loan three goats to a family and then share the progeny (goats always have twins so it's one to the family and one back to RAW) is working really well. By Christmas we'll have 50 goats in one of our villages and an estimated 200 by the end of next year.
Our SEAL (Speech, English And Literacy) teacher training project is working with specialists from The Language Tree in Sydney who are bringing an amazing customised literacy program to our village teachers. This is a very exciting initiative which we believe has the potential to be a game-changer English in this country is your ticket out of poverty.
The overarching strategy is to build a first-class media production team so we can share the story with the world. We have a production studio set up with a Cambodian manager (Darath) as well as three local interns he trains in all things digital media. We're also working with Billy Blue College of Design in Sydney to further develop communication and design, particularly around new project initiatives and awareness campaigns.
ROAR: Your university studies were leading you in the direction of a high paying corporate career, what made you follow your true passions and listen to yourself rather than what other people think you should be doing?
TROY: It's been a real journey and there's many times I've wondered if I should be "living the corporate dream" - especially in terms of my financial position. But I guess I'm learning there's more to life than my position or what I have. I still get it wrong in my head but it only takes spending one night in the village (which we do with every team) to recalibrate what I want my life to be about and to have been about at the end of this journey.
There's a great pearl of wisdom I keep coming back to. It says: "If you spend yourself on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday". I've seen so much evidence of this counter-cultural truth in my own life which has been hugely enriched by this work. I've gained much more than I've given.
ROAR: What have been the biggest highlights on this adventure so far?
TROY: Definitely the people we're meeting and getting to know along the way!! The awesome school/uni students, families, corporates, churches and others who come on our team trips; the amazing volunteers on the ground with us who make huge sacrifices to come and get hands-on full time - sometimes for six months or more; the incredibly humble and inspiring village families and kids we get the privilege of working with week in week out; those awesome people who are believing in and supporting us financially and emotionally to do this - we're so thankful and couldn't do this without them.
ROAR: A big part of RAW Impact involves projects that requires volunteers. How can people get involved and support what you are doing?
TROY: Nicole and I have been volunteers for the last two years of RAW and we just love joining with like-minded people who have the same heart and passion to get amongst it and make a difference!
To get involved, check out our website for volunteer opportunities: we have Internships, Impact Volunteers and RAW Staff (volunteer) positions, both in Cambodia and Australia/globally. There are also team trips you can join. Whether you have four hours a month from home or you want to come up to Cambodia for 12 months (or anything in between) we'd love to hear from you! Express your interest on our website and we'll be in touch! We'd also love you to join us in raising awareness through sharing the story on social media with your friends and those in your world.
A huge thanks to Jonny, Jess and ROAR for partnering with us to make a bigger impact!
Troy (and Nic)
You can follow RAW Impact and be a part of the amazing things they are doing by clicking these links:
RAISING. AWARENESS. WORLDWIDE.