Development is intrinsically human, so much so that every aspect of development involves human lives. “It’s Not About Me” is a book that itself is wholly about being human, and one that highlights the humanity that is right at the centre of development work. This book is the self-authored memoirs of Sally Hetherington, HHA Inc’s CEO, squeezed into 322 pages of informative, emotional and inspiring reflections of Sally’s personal journey to discovering that “voluntourism is a problem, not a solution”.
For Sally this journey started at the age of 25, when she purchased a one-way ticket to Cambodia, determined to make a difference. The first few chapters of “It’s Not About Me” introduces us to the struggles Sally faced as the came to grips with the disconnect between her and the reality of her actions. Sally writes about the history of Cambodia, including the traumatic events of the Khmer Rouge, and reflects on what she had to learn to be able to begin down the path of true sustainable development.
As Sally writes of her efforts to close the gap between good intentions and good development practice, readers are introduced to a grass-roots Cambodian community organisation named Human and Hope Association. Sally’s introduction to HHA sparks a challenging yet rewarding journey for her, one that contrasts the positive power of locally-led development with the dangers of the global ‘voluntourism’ trend. Chapter nine for example details how Sally worked alongside HHA to end the organisations foreign volunteering program, with the last foreign volunteer coming to HHA in 2014. The chapter goes on to discuss orphanages in Cambodia, the ethics of dark tourism and the stances taken by HHA to protect their communities and young people. Here, and throughout the whole book, Sally’s unrelenting challenge is that good intentions are simply not enough.
“It’s Not About Me” highlights Sally’s thorough working knowledge of how to progress human rights from theoretical concepts to tangible, real-life outcomes. She discusses the challenges involved in reaching her goal of making herself redundant from HHA, something she proudly achieved on 6 July 2016. HHA Inc is proud to see our CEO’s story available for everyone to learn from in this 21-chapter journey, and we consider it a major achievement for Sally to author such inspiring and high-quality work. This is a simply written and easy to read book, which adds to how difficult it is to put down once you get started. It is highly recommended for anyone who wants to travel, anyone who is interested in helping others, and those who want to be a part of positive changes in this world through true sustainable development practices.