Khaled Elhajj ASA has volunteered his accounting knowledge and skills across continents, and looks forward to his next experience of giving back.
By Katie Langmore
If one of the advantages of accounting is that you can take your skills anywhere in the world, then Khaled Elhajj ASA is living proof. The Lebanese- born accountant has lived in Turkey, Malawi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and now Canada.
“There is a recession in the Gulf, and many companies are letting go of people,” he says of his most recent move.
“I left CCC [Consolidated Contractors Company], where I’d worked for 17 years, and recently arrived in Calgary [Canada]. I’ve just received my work permit, and will look for work in the oil and gas field again.”
During the past few years at CCC, Elhajj began his CPA Program studies, which he has nearly completed. As if that were not busy enough, he was also a volunteering member of the Red Crescent in UAE, and recently spent his holidays volunteering in Cambodia.
“I like to help people,” he explains, simply.
“I was searching on the internet for ways of helping people with my skills, in my field, and I found AfID [Accounting for International Development] in the UK.”
After he provided two references and gained acceptance into the program, Elhajj participated in a workshop in London, and was asked where he would like to volunteer.
“When I read about this organisation in Cambodia that was working with people with disabilities, I decided to go there.”
Elhajj says he was deeply shocked by the realities of living with a disability in Cambodia, a country that struggles to support this vulnerable minority.
“It was terrible. What this organisation is providing for people is outstanding,” he says.
He spent two weeks doing accounting and administrative work for the Disability Development Services Program, which provides support services through centres and hospitals for people living with a disability.
CPA Australia resource:
Tools, templates and resources to support you when performing voluntary or pro bono accounting services
“They are one of the few organisations providing care for disabled people in Cambodia. They cook for people, do physiotherapy, games, social events, they teach English and computer studies, provide wheelchairs and medications,” lists Elhajj.
“They also have a ‘pass on a gift’ program, which gives the families of people with a disability a cow, a chicken or a goat so they can earn some money. They have the animal for a year, and then they give the animal back to the organisation so that they can help another family.” Full of admiration for the organisation’s mission, Elhajj says he worked long days for the two weeks.
“I taught them how to do everything according to international accounting standards,” he says. “As they are a charity, it’s important they report correctly, so I gave them new formats for reporting to donors. We looked at monthly reporting, and how to benefit from funds when they have excess.
“I didn’t waste any time because I knew they needed my help.”
Elhajj was so impressed by the whole experience, he is hoping to do another assignment for AfID in the future.
“In Cambodia, they held a party for me on my last day – they had become friends in just two weeks. I felt so happy that accounting was so helpful to them, that my skills could help them.”