Today we woke up to a humid 35-degree morning. This morning began with a rich debriefing of our first day after we landed in Cambodia. Specifically, yesterday after we arrived at the airport we went straight to one of the organizations tenth partners with, Precious Women. We were greeted cheerfully by Solida, who founded the organization, and then met and had lunch with many of the women who are working with their program. This program enables women to step out of nightlife jobs and into new jobs as it trains them in professions, such as cooking, beauty, education, sewing, and more. Precious Women is a pivotal step as it provides training and empowerment for the creation of a new future. I definitely saw God entwined in it all.
In our debriefing, we continued to reflect on the sights, sounds and moments we were feeling while travelling from place to place in our bus the day before. Someone from the group noted their surprise in seeing the streets of Phnom Phen, with little to no sidewalks and families who sat on the ground for lunch. Another recalled the discrete smell of concrete when we visited the new building of Precious Women- a big step as they have moved 5 times and seek a permanent home. In reflecting on our time at Precious Women, many noted how inspiring it was to meet women focused on enhancing their independence and self-worth. It was cool to see how close many of the girls were, laughing and giggling with each other, as well as to hear about the ways in which the organization has positively impacted their lives.
We then spent the day with another amazing organization tenth partners with, the Alongsiders, who aims to equip compassionate, local leaders in poor nations to walk alongside and support vulnerable children and orphans in their own community. We were welcomed into their home base in Cambodia (which was literally a home) and listened to Chenda, a young woman from Cambodia, talk about how her life was deeply impacted by her Alongisder, later becoming an Alongsider herself, and today, how she works in a communications role, overseeing Alongsiders all over the country. It was incredible to witness many of the artists, creators, and people who dedicate their time and passions to what Alongsiders is doing at work.
The Alongsider's comics are fun, visual story-books that teach about God's unconditional love, forgiveness, and acceptance as well as provide education on challenges such as drugs, gangs, and violence while equipping children with essential life skills such as goal-setting and leadership. Alongsiders walk their "little sister" or "little brother" through these monthly comic book curriculums. We were lucky to see the comic making at work, and Craig showed us one that educates readers on healthy emotional release, such as crying, drawing or talking as alternatives to harmful coping strategies, such as drugs or violence.
Then, Millet from World Hope came to speak to us about what is happening within the borders of Cambodia and hardships of Cambodian people. She noted Cambodia's need for more educational resources, as the government spends little on education, and for more awareness and advocated around these issues in Cambodia. It was a day of learning and truly absorbing some of the many things that make Cambodia the country that it is.
I've been so in awe of how every country is so different and yet how the common thread of God works in the heart of so many different people. This enables one to see from a place where we aren't all that different, all humans who are searching for love and acceptance.
God is moving through the organizations we visited in Cambodia and still, there is so much more to see throughout these 2 weeks.
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