In September, Molly MacGraw arrived in Phnom Penh for a three-month, IE3 Global Internship with Pathways to Development – Holt’s partner organization in Cambodia. A human development and family sciences major at Oregon State University, Molly will over the coming months assist Pathways with child sponsorship reporting, grant writing and other tasks that will benefit from her native English skills. In turn, she will have the opportunity to immerse herself in the work of a small nonprofit serving children and families overseas. Here, Molly describes her first trip to Takeo province, a rural region where Pathways helps struggling families to care for their children. Click here to learn more about Holt’s work in Cambodia.
by Molly MacGraw, Holt and IE3 Global Intern in Cambodia
This past weekend, I traveled to Takeo province for my first work trip with Pathways to Development. Takeo is a province 2-3-4 hours southwest of Phnom Penh and is among the poorest provinces in Cambodia. (I say 2-3-4 hours of travel because depending on how you get there – bus, motorbike, van – transportation in Cambodia can be quite the challenge and you never know what you could get.)
There are several communes within Takeo made up of many villages, but Pathways focuses on and serves two communes. This work trip was important to me because it allowed me to see what my organization does and how they help and who they serve. Now that I am back in the city, I have a much better understanding of what I can do to help after seeing the faces of those who need our assistance.
Lauren Fletcher has just returned from her 3-month internship working with Holt’s partner organization in Cambodia, Pathways to Development. A human services major at Oregon State University, Lauren applied for the IE3 global internship with in interest in learning about working for an international NGO. Working alongside Pathways staff and observing their commitment to the children and families they serve, she learned — as she shares here in her final blog from Cambodia — much more than she expected.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
My time in Cambodia is coming to a close and I feel rather sentimental. During my other travels, I have always felt that my time in each country was long enough, and I felt ready to move on. As a college student, I am used to thinking about the future and what lies ahead: what classes will I sign up for, when are my projects due, where will I work next summer, where will I live next year, what kind of career do I want, should I go to graduate school right away, etc.
This is the first time I am not ready to part with a country. Interestingly enough, this has been my longest time abroad as well.
I want to plan my next adventure through Cambodia! Not plan my class schedule. I want to keep working for this amazing little NGO that no one’s ever heard of. Not be bogged down with homework assignments.
I can think of a couple reasons why I don’t want to move on. First, the organization I work for is whole-heartedly committed to their projects and to the people we serve. The mission statement isn’t just some words written beneath a logo. My coworkers truly want to see Cambodia’s rural poor have a better quality of life. My boss is especially committed; he works hard at the office, at home, on the weekends and wakes up early to get extra work done. In a country where 2-hour lunches are common, his work ethic is uncommonly strong. My co-workers work very hard as well – striving to make our program as successful as possible. Each month, my boss finds new ways to improve our work, including planning several trainings and seminars for our office and provincial staff in 2012. I can’t believe I won’t be here to see all the changes to come in the new year!
Over a year ago, Corrine Cook attended a concert on the Christian music tour Winter Jam. Between performances, members of the band NewSong shared a moving presentation about Holt’s child sponsorship program. Corrine chose to sponsor a girl in Cambodia. Earlier this month, she had the exceptional opportunity to meet her! A Holt intern already wrote a blog about their meeting. Here, Corrine tells her own story…
One-and-a-half years ago, I sat in a full stadium with music blaring, people singing, and lights shining. All of the sudden, a quiet hush flowed in from the front to the back as all the lights went down to a single spotlight. As the strong voice echoed in the stillness, I sat forward in my seat, my eyes riveted to the stage. The testimony of one man brought tears down my cheeks and a whisper to my ear. “Go and sponsor a child.” Now, I made hardly any money with which to support myself, much less someone else. However, I knew I could not resist that still, small voice of the Almighty’s because of the power behind it. So it was there at a concert that God challenged me to give His money that He had bequeathed to me to a child who was way less fortunate than I.
Six months later, I strode on the high ground of a railroad track on the last leg of my journey. As I stepped onto the trail which entered the small village, I was greeted by many people from a small village in the heart of Cambodia. One of the first people I saw was the little girl whom God had called me to support. A great smile crept onto her face as her inquisitive eyes stared up at me. Even with the language barrier, non-verbal communication radiated between us. Thankfully though, we were able to carry on a short spoken conversation through an interpreter who also read to me the letter she had written.
It was amazing and heart-wrenching to have the privilege of seeing Srey Lam*, my sponsor child. To see the small hut they called home with a single mat surrounded by mosquito netting was saddening when I think of the luscious bedroom I am blessed to have. I have always heard that we are spoiled here in America, but now I know it to be true. What struck me is how we have so much and are still unhappy and want more. In Cambodia, they have next to nothing. They are doing well to get enough food to eat for their next meal, and still, they smile. They are so willing to give and share their best with us regardless of the fact that they have so little. Oh, that we could learn from their example. Although not wealthy by American standards, I am a millionaire to them. I know that I have been moved to share the abundance that God has given me.
In Cambodia, Holt International works with their local partner organization, Pathways to Development, to provide food and necessities for vulnerable families — such as building restrooms or getting the family animals so they can make money. They have worked hard and have built and are now running a rice bank from which needy families can borrow until they have their own harvests, and then pay back with a little interest on what they borrowed. This keeps the families alive until their own harvests come.
It was so amazing to see the work that Holt International and Pathways were doing with these families to make a difference in their lives. I went there to see what was being done with the monetary gift I was giving Holt, but discovered something much better. The gift was not the money I send to support Srey Lam and her family, but the knowledge that God is using me to further His kingdom. She was precious, a gift of God to me, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to meet her. God is so good!
A Holt sponsor meets her sponsored child. A Holt intern meets the children and families she set out to serve.
In the coming months, Oregon State University student Lauren Fletcher will shine the spotlight on our work in Cambodia, as she completes a three-month IE3 global internship with Holt partner organization Pathways to Development. Lauren, a human services major, just arrived in Phnom Penh. And already, within her first few days, she accompanied Pathways staff on a journey to visit sponsored children in rural Takeo province. Here, she also witnessed a truly extraordinary event — the meeting between a young woman named Corrine and the 12-year-old girl she helps support through Holt’s sponsorship program.
Yesterday was a big day for me. Mr. Born, Mr. Chenda, a sponsor named Corrine and her sister and friend gathered at 7am for a journey to visit the child Corrine sponsors through Holt International. Corrine’s sister has been working in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for the last seven months. When Corrine decided to travel from her home in Kentucky for a 10-day visit with her sister, she made sure to dedicate a full day to visit the child she began sponsoring this past summer.
The drive to the child’s home lasted about two hours, and concluded on a rough, hard-to-access road through rural Treng district. Along the way, I saw many people planting rice. Born explained that local farmers will help one another to plant and harvest each other’s rice. To sell their produce, farmers keep bamboo stands alongside the road, where sellers sit and wait for customers in hammocks tied between the poles of the stands.
Once we arrived at our destination, Srey Lam* — the sponsored child — and her family walked up to greet us with hands traditionally placed palm-to-palm before their faces. Because of the language barrier, we walked towards Srey Lam’s home in silence, but this did not inhibit communication between us. Everyone wore smiles on their faces, especially Srey Lam’s mother and father, while the younger siblings looked on with curiosity. Sitting in the shade of their home – an elevated hut – the thick, sweltering air of Takeo province almost felt bearable. A couple dozen people gathered around us, with gentle smiles gracing their faces. We sat in the shade, happily sipping raw coconut juice directly from the coconut – through bendy straws inserted into their centers! Continue reading “A Heartfelt Encounter in Cambodia”