WHO IS ERIN BOURGOIS?
Erin Bourgois is Project Manager of Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity (CASC), a non-profit based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia that provides medical, legal, and psychosocial support to survivors of acid attacks, as well as working to eliminate acid violence through raising awareness, research, education and advocating for strict regulatory action at the national level.
Previously, she served as Programmes Manager for Acid Survivors Trust International in the U.K., and worked as Senior Financial Manager, Foreign Policy Program, and Project Administrator, Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement, at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. She studied Political Science at Shepherd University in West Virginia, USA.
You can connect with Erin here:
IN TOR 022 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- Erin’s career path and her commitment for Acid victims, mostly but not exclusively in the South East Asia region.
- How Erin and CASC strides to bring light to the issue, their advocacy efforts, and their success in pushing the legal agenda in protection of acid burn victims.
- Project management from a financial perspective. How understanding budgets and spreadsheets can be highly valuable, and how sometimes a downsizing just means an organization is becoming more effective.
- Erin’s personal life, her management style, her basic tools and flexible view of the future.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity (CASC)
- Acid burn victims and survivors
- Medical, psychosocial and legal treatment
- Advocacy, awareness and prevention
- Law reform and sentencing
- Acid in manufacturing chains
- Crime statistics and underreporting
- Financial skills
- Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- Hong Kong
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
Project manager for CASC, Cambodian NGO.
Offer health, legal services psychosocial support and services to acid victims.
Advocacy, awareness and prevention.
Started on the financial side of things, slowly moved to Project Management.
Became interested while looking for work in London. Met survivors, other organizations. “I became instantly committed.“
Advocacy in Cambodia
First attack in 2014 took fast CASC response, locating all key workers, responders, installations. Then, the legal status of the attacker. “We hope it is the first and last of the year.“
Acid victims face hard emotional issues. CASC pushes for policy reform.
Focus in Cambodia is recent, it used to be broader. CASC provided an opportunity for ground experience. Finally moved here.
Recently downsized by 75 percent. Legal, health, psychological roles, and some survivors.
Downsize can be a result of successful work, in this case of advocacy. CASC helped pass a law in 2012 for harsher sentences and restrictions on acid.
They are the only one. The government first saw them as contender, but CASC only wanted to bring more light to the problem. They ended up being welcome even to the point of involvement in the writing of the law.
Bangladesh and beyond
The country where acid attacks were born, probably. Cotton industry requires heavy use of acid for manufacturing. First anti acid attack organization was there, as were legal actions.
Erin would like to keep working on the subject. Countries like Indonesia and Colombia face similar issues but general response has not been so good.
She keeps working with survivors.
Colombia: 100 attacks a year, and evidence of under reporting. Use of battery acid which is harder to control and can be more damaging.
2012: UK reported over 100 chemical assaults including acid.
Russia: Bolshoi director case.
Erin, financier then PM
Financial background helped. Her major was political science, though. The former was more useful.
She understand requirements, term sheets, budgets. She can quantify the cost of impact and access, which is appreciated.
Mapping things out financially for proposals is also a leg up.
Moved away from it, people saw her motivations. She started doing coordination duties until the PM role was offered. Her financial background proved useful again.
She could build spreadsheets that stopped the problem from overwhelming everyone.
Erin’s hat closet
Notified of the attack on a Friday, 9:30pm, she thought about the feeling, the attacker, it was taxing. But she had to overcome it so she could be helpful.
She notified the field officer. First time next day they were reaching authorities, get status on the victim’s health and the attacker’s whereabouts. From real time follow-up to enduring critical action in every direction.
Her focus after the call is being as helpful as possible for the victim and the families. Of course every new case is daunting. But it is comforting to know that action will follow.
She knows pretty much every person working on the issue. A lot of support, even from abroad. She keeps in touch with people and offers her support as well.
Acid in her personal life
“I encourage all my family and friends to like our Facebook page.” It’s not easy to understand or deal with, particularly for people in the US.
They are supportive though. Her family understands it must be a difficult issue to deal with on a daily basis
Donors give broadly even though in general they refrain from giving for medical aid because of the cost and impact. Foundations overseas provide general funding, other organization fund specific parts, like advocacy.
They secure yearly funding. “We’re in a comfortable place now.” Medical costs are the largest, fortunately the medical partnership is strong, it’s effective and frees funds
“Basic.” Google Calendar. Excel for database, tracking care and counseling.
iPad to travel, Skype, and to interact with physician on real cases, she sends pictures.
“It’s good to have a sense of where to go, but leave room for unexpected opportunities or paths.” Some skills can be learned on the job, if you show the right attitude.
“Surprise yourself about where you can end up.“
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