There are six other wonderful individuals that are also serving in Cambodia with YAGM this year. Each person is thoughtful, resilient, and passionate. We have quickly become a close bunch, like a family. In honor of our first retreat approaching quickly, where we will spend time reflecting and sharing about our service so far, I asked each person to respond to a few questions to share about themselves and life here. Below are their responses.
Before YAGM: Was coaching girls high school soccer and substitute teaching after my studies at Malone (Canton, Ohio) and Muskingum University (New Cocord, Ohio). Was also working with a mission organization called Praying Pelican Missions; traveling across the U.S. Beyond that I just got done venturing to London, Scotland, and Iceland.
Where are you working/doing on most days: Most days I am waiting patiently. But soon I hope to say that changes, occasionally I go into the villages and teach at the high school across the street.
One joy you’ve experienced in your host community: Being welcomed. Laughing.
Favorite Khmer food: From the garden here, it’s more or less leaves and stems cooked in oil, flowers from another plant (cooked, but sometimes we eat them raw), and chipped pork. Of course with rice.
After Cambodia: I’m a ‘wing it’ kind of person. I have ideas, but I don’t hold on to them too closely. What I do hold on to is always advancing and bettering myself. So I look for those opportunities within other opportunities that carry out my heart — missions.
Before YAGM: I am originally from Moorhead, Minnesota where I grew up with my Mom, Dad, and older brother, Aaron. I attended college in Sioux Falls, South Dakota at Augustana University, majoring in Political Science and Secondary Education. My college years really helped me learn about people who are different from me – different cultures, different religions, etc. I chose to apply to YAGM because… honestly, I had dreamed about it for nearly 5 years. I love learning, being challenged, and being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. I am living my dream!
Where are you working/doing on most days: In a typical week, I spend 12 hours teaching English at the local middle school. I teach nearly 400 students in grades 8 and 9. My other time is spent working alongside Life With Dignity (LWD), serving in whatever way is needed. I help the staff with their English skills and assist in editing English reports. I spend my free time cross stitching, reading, and drinking too much coffee!
One joy you’ve experienced in your host community: A joy I’ve experience daily is being able to teach both kids and adults. Because I am an education major, I love teaching. It gives me energy. It is challenging, but I love getting to know my students and laughter we share while learning.
Favorite Khmer food: My favorite Khmer food is beef lok lak. This dish includes lettuce, onion, tomatoes, and beef with a delicious sauce on the side.
After Cambodia: When I return to America after Cambodia, I anticipate a year of living in my hometown and working as a substitute teacher. I will then pursue a full-time social studies teaching job. I also want to go back to school to obtain a license to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). And maybe someday I will be a school administrator or something!
Before YAGM: Graduated from UW Madison with a degree in Nonprofit Leadership
Where are you working/doing on most days: I split my time between working with LWD’s Agriculture Cooporative (this can mean correcting reports or going into the field to talk with AC members about new business ventures) and Teaching english to 4th, 5th, and 6th graders as well as their teachers and LWD staff
One joy you’ve experienced in your host community: Dance parties.
Favorite Khmer food: Khmer cheese. lol definitely not, either curry or their version of potato skins
After Cambodia: I want to go to grad school for development work, but probably not for 3 or so years, likely joining the working world next September
Before YAGM: I graduated in 2014 from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, with a degree in English, media and Middle Eastern studies. At St. Olaf I developed a passion for global communications and relations, but got a job after school managing all marketing and operations for a Minneapolis-based executive search firm. I heard about YAGM from a friend in the program and it felt much more in line with my passions.
Where are you working/doing on most days: In the mornings, I teach 8th and 9th grade introductory English at a neighboring village school, and I teach two advanced English courses at the church in the afternoon. I also help as needed with many of the church’s other ministry programs, which includes a sustainable agricultural development program; a daily meal program for village youth and elderly; coursework in mathematics, music, and computers; bible studies for a various age groups; outreach ministries to neighboring villages; and three weekend church services.
One joy you’ve experienced in your host community: My greatest joy has been the relationships I have formed with community youth and children, who often invite me on bike rides or ask me to play with them. My two host sisters, Suzan (10) and Susanna (5) have especially been a bright light in my life.
Favorite Khmer food: My favorite Khmer food… is hard to pick! I love SaoMaos (which have an English name I can’t remember… rambatans?) And sweet potatoes cooked in palm sugar. But I think I have really fallen in love with Kampot Pepper. I put it on EVERYTHING.
After Cambodia: As for the future, it’s pretty open. I’m using this year to discern whether I want to work in the development field, return to communications, or perhaps try something different. One thing I know is that l want to make reflective, meaningful and intentional travel a continued part of my life and I hope to continue to keep myself open to all there is to learn in the world.
Location: Bavel District, Battambang Province, Cambodia
Before YAGM: I was born and raised in Louisville, Colorado. However, I decided to leave my beautiful state to go to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. There I triple majored in history, German, and global studies while filling all my free time with varsity rowing. During the summers, I worked at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp in Hillside, Colorado.
Where are you working/doing on most days: I spend about half of the day at Bavel High school where I co-teach English to 8th graders. For the rest of the day I am at the Life With Dignity office in Bavel. At LWD I teach a few one-on-one English lessons and one group lesson to the staff.
One joy you’ve experienced in your host community: My staff is very concerned with making sure I experience all the Khmer traditions and pretty much anything remotely Khmer. As a result, I quite often find out I am doing something only just before it is going to happen. I love that my day can change in an instant and I literally have no idea what to expect from one day to the next.
Favorite Khmer food: Banana Khmer Cakes. SO YUMMY! I could eat them all day. They are pretty much a banana wrapped in rice wrapped in banana leaves and cooked to mushy, hot, perfection.
After Cambodia: Right now, I don’t totally know. For now I have adopted the YAGM Cambodia 2015-2016 tag line of, “we’ll see” and applied it to my future after this year as well. All I know for certain, is that I will (and already have) learn so much about myself and the world and I hope I am able to use that knowledge in my future.
Before YAGM: Gradutated with Communications degree in 2013 from U of Minnesota. After that worked as a Playworks Coach running recess at a school in North Minneapolis making recess a positive and influential part of every kids day.
Where are you working/doing on most days: I split time between doing English Communications for LWD in Phnom Penh. I manage the Facebook page and correct English documents that get sent out. I also take pictures for them when they take me along to various training’s. In the afternoon I spend time working with the Lutheran Church in Cambodia at their City Church location. I help with English and also any other random tasks that need to be done. At night I teach English classes to University students that live at the Church and some from the community.
One joy you’ve experienced in your host community: I really love that they have accepted me as a brother into their family. Most people either call me brother or teacher and both terms come with a great deal of respect.
Favorite Khmer food: Beef Lok Lak.
After Cambodia: Trying to take some time this year to figure that out.
These six YAGMs challenge, support, and inspire me. We accompany our host communities, but we also accompany one another. And for that I am grateful.