Well, we aren’t quite caught up in blog world with all that I’ve done, but I’ve wronged you as my loyal readers. I came to Cambodia to adventure, but my “higher purpose”, and real reason for being here is for internship opportunities. It was brought to my attention that I have been here almost 3 months, I’m coming home soon, and I have yet to mention my internships. I feel that I owe at least one post, especially to those of you who donated to me so that I could be here. So, bear with me, I’ll get you caught up on my adventures after I take some time to talk about the work I’m doing here in Cambodia.
The main NGO (non-government agency) that I’m working for is the Reproductive and Child Health Alliance (RACHA). It’s a local NGO, but is funded primarily by USAID (United States Agency for International Development). That means that the whole operation is run by Cambodians, but ththey report to a U.S. agency to make sure they’re doing what they’re suppose to. Even though they’re an NGO they still work hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Health. Martina is working here with me too. It’s more along the lines of her major and career path as a Public Health major, but as a Poli Sci guy it has been interesting to see the way this NGO helps the government.
For the most part (and one of the reasons I don’t write too much about it) I don’t do much other that research. I do a ton of reading, thinking, and drawing conclusions. Recently I went with another BYU intern, Jake, out to several different provinces to interview several health employees involved with drug inventory. I learned a great deal about just how essential RACHA is to the Ministry of Health here in Cambodia.
Overall, it has been a wonderful experience, though at times it has been a little bit of a struggle to stay productive. For anyone who has done research, you know what I mean. It was especially hard during World Cup time, but I’m sure that productivity levels around the globe all go down during that time anyway. I’ve been grateful for the chance to work at my own pace and on my own topic; it has made the time here better to go to such a relaxed work environment.
When I first got to Cambodia I didn’t feel I was doing “enough” and didn’t feel that I was doing what I wanted with RACHA, so Martina had the insight to ask our facilitator to find me another gig. He found me a part-time teaching job for another organization teaching English in the slums. By the way, we’re talking real slums; the poorest of the poor here in Cambodia. They live in conditions that are unacceptable and most people grow up to sell/be addicted to drugs, sell themselves, steal, and continue to live in these horrible holes they have to call home. Teaching there has been extremely rewarding and humbling.
The kids are all slum dwellers and range from 14 to 25 years of age. The basic idea is that by having evening classes it gives them an opportunity to get off the streets and learn skills that can help better their lives. Not only does the school offer English, but computer classes as well. It’s been crazy to teach English, because no matter how well I speak English, teaching it is a whole other story. The students have been warm and patient. I would highly recommend this for anyone; its safe too despite it being in a slum.
Another initial reason for me being out here in Cambodia is to volunteer with an organization called Pillows for Peace. This has been one of the best experiences of my whole adventure. Let me tell you why … it is a house building project; more correctly it is a micro-savings program. People join the program and rather than getting into debt through micro-lending they start saving little by little and through various methods. We only helped with the house building aspect, but it was amazing.
We got to help build (floors and siding) 10 homes. We had two days set aside to do it, but we did in one!!! By the end, we were hot, sweaty, and tired. It was worth it though. I just can’t say that enough. We worked side by side with men of the families we were building for and at the end we had a small ceremony. We (Pillows for Peace) gave them some house warming gifts and we got to take pictures with them. It was so beautiful. It felt so good to do something so special for people; it was an honor that they let us. I loved it.
I’ll probably do more in depth posts on these later, but for now, this is a little taste of what I really do here in Cambodia. I don’t just play all the time, I do in fact work. I’m just happy to have time to adventure on here in Cambodia.