Meet our Founder, Sally Hetherington OAM

In 2011, at the age of 25, Sally Hetherington bought a one-way ticket to Cambodia, with the goal of helping people living in poverty. She soon discovered that voluntourism (short-term foreign volunteers from high income countries like Australia) was causing more harm than good on the local level and that in fact, local communities were becoming more entrenched in poverty. For true sustainable development to happen, initiatives need to employ local Cambodians instead of relying on unskilled and short-term foreign volunteers. Locals are subject matter experts,  know the community and culture well, and are there to grow the project long term.

In 2012, Sally made the move from working as a volunteer coordinator at a school for disadvantaged children, to supporting a team of Cambodians to develop a locally registered organisation - Human and Hope Association Cambodia (HHA).  They built their own community centre in rural Siem Reap, and developed the locally-run organisation with the goal of helping locals lift themselves out of poverty.

With the ultimate vision to make herself redundant on the ground in Cambodia by 2016,  Sally achieved her goal and is extremely proud to say that HHA is one of Cambodia’s first NGOs to become entirely run by local Cambodian staff, with no foreign staff members, volunteers or board members.

In order to continue to financially support local communities in Cambodia, in 2013 Sally founded Human and Hope Australia, a registered charity, to raise funds for HHA so they could run their own projects with their local expertise. Over six years, Sally volunteered thousands of hours before she transitioned to a part-time CEO role in 2019. Sally is a passionate advocate for the reduction and elimination of voluntourism on a local and global scale. This led her to write her first book ‘It’s Not About Me’, which was published by Elephant House Press, and highlights the negative impact voluntourism has on local communities in Cambodia and the world at large.  Sally is a passionate keynote speaker who is regularly asked to share her story with the hope of educating well-meaning people about the importance of treating people with dignity and not going down the ‘poverty porn’ route, by which vulnerable communities are misrepresented and mistreated.

“I have worked with Sally for more than five years. She is one of the great person who I met in my life who is passionate about helping/empowering Cambodians. HHA is run entirely by our local staff thanks to her concepts of empowerment and sustainability. She also inspired us; our staff are empowered and understand their values of helping their community. Although she left Cambodia in 2016, she still doing a great job and hard work to support us through Human and Hope Australia, especially doing fundraising and making awareness,”Thai San, Managing Director, HHA 

At age 33, Sally was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for her service to international communities through charitable initiatives.