Augustin Jusot is the assistant director Asia and Safe Mobility project coordinator for Children of the Mekong
How did you become a volunteer for Children of the Mekong?
I had known about the association for a long time via its managing director, Yves Meaudre, who is a family friend. Furthermore, my brother moved to Thailand 15 years ago to work as a volunteer, which contributed to making me want to discover Southeast Asia. I nevertheless finished my studies in history and political sciences, and I had begun my professional career when I decided to go. As I was telling myself it was too late to start, a young Children of the Mekong volunteer told me he enrolled within the framework of Volontariat de Solidarité Internationale (VSI). This kind of contract was perfect for me since it allowed me to take time off work with the help of the State while being financially independent. It is also perceived as a proof of seriousness in the professional world upon returning to France, more so than a conventional volunteering mission for a NGO. All these aspects overcame my last hesitations and I applied. After an online application and four interviews, I left for Cambodia earlier than I expected to, because the association needed a volunteer in the middle of the year. I have now worked for Children of the Mekong in Southeast Asia for two and a half years.
What has been your experience in the field in Asia?
It is not easy at first: one is a little lost and wonders what he/she is doing here. But reality and daily life quickly give meaning to your presence in the field! As Children of the Mekong often tells its volunteers, we are links in a long chain. Although the work we do is of the utmost importance, it is our everyday presence close to the children which, often despite us, makes the difference by giving them self-confidence and helping them trust in their potential.
I had been volunteering for a year and a half in Cambodia, and I had also led two month-long missions in Myanmar, when the Asia director, Damien Verny, asked me to become his deputy. So I left for Bangkok, in Thailand. At the moment, I split my work time evenly between the field and the office. I, for example, manage programmes for development, health, and nutrition.
Today, I coordinate the “Safe Mobility” project with the Michelin Corporate Foundation in Thailand and Cambodia. I go around the Children of the Mekong centres to understand their needs: estimate the number of bicycles to provide to the children, the number of motorbikes the staff needs, etc. I also coordinate actions with the Michelin Asia team, who are involved in road safety trainings.
Next year, this project will be deployed to the Philippines. I will be doing the same work there. Thanks to this project, we are going to have a real impact on the safety and access to education of the children who are taken care of by Children of the Mekong.