Finishing Up Projects

2 06 2013

June is a month of transition for us, as we will need to finish all of our project work, pack up our things, and say goodbye. We leave our site later this month, and will formally close out our service in Phnom Penh on July 3rd. The transition has already begun for me and Tim. We’ve both finished up most of our major project activities and will now switch our focus to writing completion reports and filling out paperwork.

Last week, Tim’s hospitality students traveled to Siem Reap. Some of the students visited employers, utilizing both their newly-typed resumes and their newly-developed knowledge of the hospitality industry to meet professional contacts, promote their skills, and, in one case, land a job. The other students took the admissions exam for an NGO hospitality school in Siem Reap. This was the culminating event of the project, after nearly a year of studying English and hospitality skills. They will travel to Siem Reap one more time for interviews.

Tim treated the students to frozen yogurt after the exam

Tim treated the students to frozen yogurt after the exam

One of Tim’s hospitality students has also been selected to receive a visa to the United States so Tim has been busy helping him navigate the bureaucracy and fill out his paperwork. Last week, he met with his student’s family to explain the realities of emigrating to the States, touching on finances, mental health, cultural barriers and more. The family seemed to have a realistic idea of the challenges ahead, and, ultimately, decided that it was best to continue with the visa process. If all goes according to plan, this young man will move early next year to Philadelphia, where we will be able to help connect him with social service organizations, other Cambodian immigrants, and more general support.

This week, we also hosted two Canadian couchsurfers. Tim and I really enjoy hosting others, particularly here in rural Cambodia where we can offer a way for tourists to get off the beaten path and learn about the parts of Cambodia that can’t be seen in the tourist centers. We don’t host very often because we want to respect the fact that we share a house with our host family, but when a well-timed invitation comes from people we’d be excited to meet, we accept. The Canadians stayed with us for two days, and it was fun to show them around, introduce them to new foods, and put them in touch with some English-speaking Cambodians. They got the true Cambodia experience, with monsoon rains, no electricity, a bat in the house, and mice squeaking in every direction. They were completely flexible and good-natured about it all though, so thankful to experience something different.

Our new couchsurfing friends

Our new couchsurfing friends

The night after the couchsurfers left, there was a big party at the pagoda, put on by the NGO I work with on the domestic violence project. Several months ago, right as we made the plan for the project, the NGO started to form youth groups in the surrounding villages, including the three target villages for the project. The first thing they did was train these groups to put on role plays about domestic violence. So last night was a big party, where all of the youth groups presented their role plays for the community. There were hundreds and hundreds of people in attendance, and I was excited that such a big audience had shown up to hear the very important message that domestic violence is never okay. It was great to see volunteers from my project working with the youth group members, some of whom had studied about domestic violence with me in my health club. It felt like all of the projects were working together in synergy, reinforcing the same messages in a number of different ways.

The opening act at the party: traditional Apsara dancing

The opening act at the party: traditional Apsara dancing

We’ve finally made it to the weekend, and it’s the first free one we’ve had in quite some time. I’m excited to lay around, eat tacos, watch bad TV, and just relax. Next week will be the very last of all of our project activities, meaning that we’ll no longer be able to deny how close to the end we really are.

Katie





A Cruise, A Cremated King and a Couple of Projects

9 02 2013

After more than two weeks of lying in bed nearly all day due to dengue, Tim and I were back at it this week. We’ve got a lot of small updates, none of which seemed to warrant their own post, but collectively seem worth sharing now.

First of all, not too long ago the Acting Director of Peace Corps – the person who manages the program across 68 countries – came to visit Cambodia. Tim and I got to meet her on a sunset cruise in Phnom Penh, which was a wonderful time. We even found out that she briefly attended Central Michigan, which is where Tim and I met. The morning following the cruise, another volunteer and I were invited to take her and her staff shopping for souvenirs. It was such a great opportunity to get to meet such inspiring and down to earth women – not to mention that marveling at beautiful clothes and jewelry is always a good way to spend a Sunday morning.

Tim and another PCV on their way to meet the Acting Director

Tim and another PCV on their way to meet the Acting Director

Shortly after the staff from DC got on a plane to head to their next stop, the former king of Cambodia, who passed away in October, was cremated. There was a procession in Phnom Penh that was attended by tens of thousands of people. The flags were at half-staff, many Cambodians wore black ribbons, and there was a 2-day holiday marking the occasion. Luckily for us, the holidays created a four day weekend that gave us some extra time to rest up before diving back into work.

It was quite a transition too since this week was a busy one. After having Monday off, I helped facilitate a 4-day training session for PD Hearth. Since the project results in the first two villages were promising and I still had money in my budget, I decided to involve two more villages. So another PCV, who did the majority of the training, and I spent four days teaching about childhood nutrition, how to properly determine the nutritional status of a child, how to support mothers with malnourished children, and how to make a healthy weaning porridge. During the training, we spent two mornings in the villages doing field work. On the first trip, we weighed more than 150 children under the age of five. On the second, we interviewed eight families who have limited resources but whose children are still healthy and at an appropriate weight. All in all, the training was a big success. The volunteers for the project are enthusiastic, willing to learn, and happy to help. I’m really excited to start the feeding sessions in these villages next week.

Feeding Session in Poom Trach

Weighing Session in Poom Trach

In addition to the PD Hearth training, I was also busy this week with my regular classes and planning for my upcoming domestic violence project. A huge thank you to everyone who has donated so far. For those who haven’t, please go here and consider contributing. I still need about $750 to make this project a reality. If it doesn’t get fully funded in the next few weeks, I’m not sure if I’ll have time to carry it out…

…and that’s because we have less than five more months in Cambodia! We recently found out that our last day as PCVs will be July 5th. Knowing that we don’t have much more time here definitely has me feeling extra motivated to make the most of this experience. It will be over faster than we realize.

Katie