So that each morning 17 camps receive the food, material, children and monitors they need to carry out the day, there is a logistics department working hard behind-the-scenes. This year Antonio and Nico bear the burden of this huge responsibility. Antonio has been collaborating with PSE for the last three years and, having worked in a bank his whole life, is now the treasurer for the NGO in Spain. “An NGO has the same requirements as a company in terms of accounting, and it’s all the more important that the money donated by sponsors is spent in the right places”, says Antonio. Nico is a student at ADE in Spain, and was a monitor last year. Since then he became part of the projects team in PSE Spain and this year came to the camps with a new role.
The logistics team has different functions which together aim to accomplish one general objective: manage the camp’s budget and make sure that the money is spent in the children’s best interest. For this, Antonio explains that “the first step is to assign a budget to each camp, provide the coordinators with cash for small expenses and finally, at the end of the month, review each camp’s expenditures. Furthermore, we have to negotiate the prices of expenses within PSE: cleaning of the buildings, laundry and food for the monitors.” To understand how money is invested in the summer camp throughout the month, they count the total number of children who come to the camps and how much is spent overall, and calculate the medium price per child. “The average varies from camp to camp: some camps like Pensionnaires or Special Camp spend more because they often have outings”, notes Antonio.
Another responsibility of the logistics team is buying the necessary material for the camps, one example being the wood, nails and corrugated iron for the Construction Project. Their most important role, however, lies in the distribution of the food. “Each camp has a reference for how many meals they will need but in reality they’re never really sure how many children will show up. Sometimes it’s necessary to run out and buy more rice at the last minute…”
The rice compensation that is distributed to every child on Fridays is managed by the logistics team: “Every week we make sure there are over 2000 bags of 2.5kg of rice ready for the distribution. This year we had the priceless collaboration of PSE families who would come on Wednesdays and Thursdays to help pack the rice bags and each person received 5$ for their work. On Friday mornings we help each coordinator to count now many bags they need for the day”, explains Antonio.
Finally, this department manages the welfare of the monitors, by safe-guarding their valuables, managing their visa extensions, buying their bus tickets for weekend trips, and organizing the Khmer monitors’ salaries.
In Sihanoukville and Siem Reap there are logistics coordinators who hold similar roles. Alison, in Sihanoukville, and Benjamin in Siem Reap, adapt their own logistics organization to each of their camps, and contact Central Camp in Phnom Penh if they need to adjust their budgets.
To put the summer camp in numbers, “the budget for all the camps is about 120.000$ and last year the average price per child was 2,17$ a day, which includes food, transport, entertainment and travel for the camps that have outings”, says Antonio. The money comes from the long fund-raising process that is conducted all year long all over Europe. “This year 55.000 € came from Spain, 25.000 € came from France, there were 40.000 € remaining from previous years of fund-raising, and the rest came from London”.
“Every year the summer camp budget starts from zero: on Tuesday 1st of September we’ll start all our fund-raising from scratch for 2016.” In Spain there are different groups that fund-raise in different ways. “There is an events team that sells products at markets, organizes paddle tennis championships and fund-raising galas. Another team organizes presentations about the summer camps for sponsorship competitions by big companies. Finally there is a communications team that networks and recruits sponsors for the children”, explains Nico.
Regarding the challenges encountered in this department, the biggest one is in accommodating more children than were originally planned. Last year, there were approximately 2800 children a day in the summer camps, and although this year many less were expected because of the last-minute change in summer holidays, about the same number ended up attending. With the two-shift organization that was set up to welcome as many children as possible, all the numbers were multiplied by two, for food, for transport, and for rice compensation. Besides, this year there are six new camps: Choeung Ek, Smile Village, Construction Project, Kindergarten, the Siem Reap paillote, and OBK. With new camps it is difficult to plan their budget in advance. “For example, with the construction project, we had planned on spending 1600$ but now we are coming closer to 3000$.”
There are many other difficulties that the logistics team takes care of during the day-to-day life of the camp. “The hardest is making sure all the coordinators are satisfied – everybody wants the best opportunities for their camp, and the most attention. We need to be constantly available in case a coordinator has a problem at the last minute, like needing more food or material. What is essential is that each coordinator understands that their budget is crucial, and that they need to adjust to it however they can.” Nico adds that the essential requirement is to stay very organized and weary of all the small details to keep in mind at all times.
Despite this department’s enormous amount of work, and responsibility in the camp’s everyday flow, it often goes unnoticed because it operates so discretely. “Everything we do is fundamental for the camp, our functions need to be fulfilled or the camps could not take place. Somebody needs to take on this responsibility”, says Nico. Furthermore, he reflects: “I miss being in constant contact with the children like I was last year as a monitor. Being a monitor is immediately fulfilling because you see the children smile and play every day. When you’re working with numbers all day, you miss out a little but I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to understand PSE’s work from a completely new perspective.” The logistics team, despite acting behind-the-scenes, truly is the engine that helps us put a smile on every child’s face.