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.


Hospitality Training for Low Income Youth: Please Donate!

3 08 2012

Some of our loyal readers might remember the post I wrote about my upcoming summer project. If not, see it here. Well, it’s summer and the intensive English for hospitality class has started. We’ll start the hospitality portion of the class soon, but in the meantime there is a way you can help! Peace Corps allows us to write a Peace Corps Partnership Proposal in order to connect projects in our community with people in the states that want to help.

Money donated to this project would help create a mock kitchen for students to receive hands-on experience in preparation for work in Siem Reap. Students will learn food safety and teamwork in the kitchen. We will prepare Western and Khmer dishes and focus on preparing safe, delicious, restaurant-quality food.

In addition, this project will provide transportation to a hospitality school entrance exam in Siem Reap. The end goal for all of our students is further education at hospitality school. With this additional year of education, students can receive high paying jobs in management positions throughout the country.

So, what does your hard-earned money get you? $30 will supply one of four complete sets of cooking supplies for our mock kitchen. $80 will purchase all the food needed for our demonstrations. $170 will allow students to travel to Siem Reap and take the Sala Bai entrance exam, including accommodations, food, and transportation.

Overall, four hundred dollars will go a long way to help teach the underserved youth in our community. These kids have been forced to drop out of school because of the financial situation of their families. Most have never left the area where they grew up. With these donations, we’ll be able to better prepare them to not only study hospitality further, but also to become successful professionals.

If you want to donate or learn more about the project, please click here.

Feel free to email me any questions you may have about this project or Peace Corps at

Thanks in advance for your generosity!