Building Our Shared Future with Tiny Toones

After nine years of running programs, Operation Groundswell has worked with some incredible organizations on projects that have shaped, changed, and motivated everyone involved. 2015 was no exception; this past year we saw more projects that inspired participants, encouraged partners, and positively impacted communities around the world. We’re excited to highlight partners that truly capture the spirit of OG and show the scope and scale of our projects, while also thinking critically about our impact on the ground.

Tiny Toones Cambodia’s mission is to provide a safe, positive environment for at‐risk youth in Phnom Penh to channel their energy and creativity into the arts and education, specifically through hip-hop dance. They seek to empower these children to build self‐confidence in their daily lives, aim for better employment possibilities, and feel supported pursuing their dreams.

For the past few years, Operation Groundswell has been working in partnership with Tiny Toones to organize annual retreats for both students and staff.  2015 was no exception. Last year, our early summer team’s goal was to plan a retreat for 15 of Tiny Toones’ students as a reward for good grades and hard work. Due to financial restrictions, these students have very little opportunity to travel or experience their own home country. This student retreat was an extraordinary opportunity for these youth to connect much more deeply with their culture and history while also seeing parts of the country they haven’t yet explored.

Annual Tiny Toones Leadership Retreat

Our late summer team, meanwhile, wanted to plan a retreat for 11 staff members. Through educational and creative opportunities, Tiny Toones give at-risk youth the opportunity to pursue their dreams and become positive leaders of tomorrow. However, their staff and volunteers spend all year working with little time to rest, reflect, and celebrate the work they do. Organizing this retreat for Tiny Toones gave them the necessary time off to refresh and rejuvenate while also reflecting on their hopes and plans for the organization.

Year after year, our partnership with Tiny Toones is the number one highlight for our teams. Seeing the inspirational work this small but mighty organization does, along with our own direct impact in supporting the work that they do, is truly a unique reward. Witnessing the amazing dance abilities of the students, their confidence, their humility, and their leadership potential was an inspiration particularly to our early summer team.

Last year, our Southeast Asia: Cities & Sanctuaries teams took a step further, critically assessing our relationship with Tiny Toones. Recognizing that the nature of our relationship is beginning to change, our teams thought deeply about our shared future. As the children from Tiny Toones age and more of them go on retreats, we have to ask if these retreats are still having the same positive impact or if they are becoming repetitive. If so, we will have to assess how best to move forward with our partnership and what shape that relationship will take.

Working with Tiny Toones has reinforced that we must be willing to change along with the needs of our partners in order to maintain strong relationships and continue to build solidarity. Tiny Toones is working tirelessly so that youth in Cambodia can lead healthy lifestyles and realize their full potential. At OG, we’re excited to support them in that mission in any way that we can, even if it means change.