Discover Raffaella’s Solidarity Leave Story

Raffaella Loncao is currently overseeing the Human Resources department at Saint Laurent Asia Pacific in her role of Human Resources Director. She previously covered various positions at Gucci between 2010 and 2015. Raffaella recently took time off her work schedule to undertake a one-week Solidarity Leave mission in Cambodia with African Clean Energy (ACE), a company which aims to enable clean cooking and sustainable energy solutions for people without access to modern energy sources. The negative impacts of utilising open fires or using dirty and dangerous fuels affect women and children in particular.


What inspired you to get involved as a volunteer?

I was inspired by a colleague at Kering who went on Solidarity Leave in India last year and spoke very highly of her experience. I then decided to get in contact with the Kering Foundation and with the support of one of their partners, Moving Worlds, I was introduced to various organisations in different geographical locations. I chose to volunteer with African Clean Energy as I felt their mission resonated with my interests in environmental sustainability and empowering women and I wanted to participate in something which had a direct positive impact on local communities.


What was your role during your mission?

During the mission, I supported the Country Director with the design of a basic HR structure to support ACE’s business growth in Cambodia by establishing a recruitment plan as well as creating of a mid-term target organisation to include development opportunities for employees with the overall aim of maintaining business effectiveness. The creation of job descriptions for key roles within the organization and preparation of a compensation scheme proposal aimed at enhancing sales recognition, in line with various career progression steps were also some of the key activities. Due to the short period of time we only managed to partially complete our target objectives, in particular in regards to the overall recruitment process of their sales team, a process which would usually take a few weeks between job posting and offer stage.


What are your best memories of this adventure?

Through the week I spent a full day on the field in rural villages in the outskirts of Phnom Penh with the local Sales team to witness their operational work and sales dynamics first-hand. During the field day I had the opportunity to meet with people from the local communities and the best memory I took away with me was from the time I spent trying to communicate with the children that were following us around the villages and wanting to play and interact with us. By visiting existing ACE customers, I was also able to see the impact of their product on the local communities and in particular the women of these communities who, in Cambodian society, are generally in charge of running the household and responsible for its finances. The overall experience, albeit brief, was extremely inspiring and it definitely helped to put things back into perspective.


What advice would you give to future volunteers or to people who are hesitating to take a solidarity leave?

I would give three pieces of advice to future volunteers: time frame, clear objectives and pre-planning. Unfortunately I was only able to take a week off my work schedule, however I feel that the ideal time frame would be a minimum of two weeks. In terms of pre-planning, it is important to not only to set and agree on clear objectives together with the host organization, but also to do your “homework” on the history and culture of the Country where you will be carrying out your solidarity leave and be mindful of and open to the cultural differences you may encounter. Apart from that, just keep an open mind and embrace the experience!