Monday 29 April 2013

Introducing Chris Connelly – the new Manager for AFAO International

Chris has just joined the International team at our Bangkok office.

He was recently visiting the Sydney office and we thought AFAO's friends and partners might like to know a bit more about him, so we asked him a few questions about how he came to be working for AFAO and what the International team is up to this year.

Chris, what have you been doing for the past few years before you came to AFAO?

Before joining AFAO I was working in Cambodia with KHANA, which is a large national non-government organisation working with HIV, sexual and reproductive health, TB, livelihoods programs, supporting people with HIV, men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender (TG) people, drug users and sex workers.

I was there as an advisor, mainly working with the senior management team across different departments.  I had a flexible role that included program design, input to strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation, proposal writing, report writing, a little bit of budget stuff, policy work, a bit of everything really, which made my job interesting.

Before joining KHANA, I worked within the Asia and Eastern European team at the International HIV/AIDS Alliance Secretariat based in the UK, providing remote support to their programs in Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Indonesia and Malaysia.

How did you get into International work?

I started out doing volunteer work, ten or more years ago with the Victorian AIDS Council as a peer facilitator with their 'Young and Gay' program. I also did a bit of volunteering, with an MSM organisation in Chennai in India called Sahodaran. I guess those experiences added up and then I got the job with the Alliance and went from there.

What interested you in applying for the job at AFAO?

I'd heard a lot about AFAO before joining, it's got a strong reputation for supporting civil society and community leadership and ownership. This aligned with my previous experiences with KHANA and the Alliance and I think this should be a key aspect of development work - to ensure it is locally led and owned.

What's going to be happening with AFAO International over the coming year with you at the helm?

We have three current projects, focused on: building MSM and transgender networks and advocacy with the Asia Pacific Coalition of Male Sexual health (APCOM); working with the Asia Pacific Council of AIDS Service Organisations (APCASO) and their country level partners to strengthen community advocacy around the Investment Framework; and supporting the Papua New Guinea national MSM and TG network, Kapul Champions.

Our short term focus will be on consolidating these programs, while also looking at AFAO's International Program Strategy, around how AFAO can support civil society advocacy and engagement in the Asia and Pacific over the longer term.

What have you been up to in Australia over the past few weeks?

Well I came over to get an induction and learn more about the Australian response, as an important aspect of the AFAO International Program is sharing that expertise and experience with our partners.

I also travelled to Papua New Guinea to visit AFAO partner there, Kapul Champions, the national MSM and TG network.

You've been in Cambodia for a while and now you're in Bangkok, so we were interested in hearing what you liked about being in Cambodia, and what are you excited about and looking forward to in Bangkok?

Cambodia is an amazing place in terms of its history, with the ancient Angkor temples, more recent French colonisation, the burst of national development in the 50s and 60s following independence, the Khmer Rouge period, and the rebuilding following the many years of civil war. Despite its complicated history Khmer people approach life with a sense of humour and were very open and welcoming.

In Bangkok I’ll try and learn the language while I’m there, see how that goes. My partner lives there too, so it is nice to be living together after being long distance for a while…! 

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