Dai Khmer – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I learned about Dai Khmer from a co-worker of mine who blessed me with some soap in honor of International Women’s Day.  As we all know, I love soap so I was excited to learn more about this social enterprise.  Focused on empowering women in Cambodia through handmade health and wellbeing products using 100% natural  materials.  Dai Khmer stands for ‘Khmer Hands’ and represents the care and compassion of the people who envision a happier and abundant world.         

Dai Khmer strongly believes that we all have the capability to change someone’s world though small acts of care and love. Dai Khmer started with a mission to create a a tribe of change makers who can support each other by sharing the skills and resources to start a ripple effect of social change in rural Cambodia.  It is all about connecting the passionate people who want to create the happier and sustainable communities, with the resources they need to build a social business that can accelerate the economic development at the grassroots level.

The idea was inspired by the discussion amongst few friends about the social issues and what they could do to address it during Vichka’s visit to the Cambodian Weaving Village (CWV) in Takeo, Cambodia. They decided to replicate that CWV business model to create employment for the rural women by producing hand made natural health and beauty products using age old techniques that have been disappearing. Vichka wanted to inspire Khmer women by becoming the role model of change and breaking through the barriers that the women in rural Cambodia have been facing for decades.

According to a study by the World Bank, the growing body of evidence proves the linkages between empowerment and effectiveness of the development on the society and personal grassroots level.  Personal empowerment is  “…a process in which a person who lacks power sets a personally meaningful goal oriented toward increasing power, takes action toward that goal, and observes and reflects on the impact of this action, drawing on his or her evolving self-efficacy, knowledge, and competence related to the goal.”

How Dai Khmer does it:

  1. The Dai Khmer team who work on the ground, find the women living in poverty who want to become financially independent.
  2. They train and equip the women with the skills they need. They become artisans!
  3. They connect them to the resources.
  4. They connect them to the market (you)!
  5. The women begin to generate income to support their everyday living.
  6. They inspire others in their community, causing a multiplier effect.
  7. Remaining profits are reinvested back into the business to scale the impact.

Ever been to Cambodia?  What is your favorite social good business?

Penh Lenh – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Women are Gold T-Shirt from Penh Lenh

There is a saying here in Cambodia. “Boys are like gold and girls are like white cloth.” Meaning a brick of gold can get dirty and you can wipe it off and it still retains it value. Where white cloth, once stained is ruined. There are a few great NGOs here trying to change that mindset with the saying “women are gold”.   Penh Lenh, is one of those organizations.

I first heard about Penh Lenh, while exploring a pop-up shop during Beckie’s visit to Cambodia.  A few girls sitting next to use had on these beautiful necklaces and were talking about the work their friend was doing with female Khmer artisans.  I was instantly attracted to the mission and the beauty and quality of the mission.

Penh Lenh means “whole,” sets out to empower marginalized and at-risk women in Cambodia to pursue their life goals through quality education and sustaining employment.

Their products (like their “Women are gold” t-shirt I’m rocking above) are handcrafted in Phnom Penh, Cambodia by female artisans working to build new lives for themselves and their families. Each piece represents the strength and beauty of the women creating them and also the women wearing them.

100% of Penh Lenh’s product sales are reinvested in the social mission of Penh Lenh, to provide education, vocational training, and advanced career opportunities for their artisans.

From their  artisans to the community, they believe they can make a difference in Cambodia and around the world.

Today, Cambodia ranks as one of Southeast Asia’s poorest nations. For many Khmer people, making ends meet is more important than human dignity, which is why over 15,000 women in Phnom Penh alone work in drug or sex-related industries, often with the hope of being able to support their families.

The artisans of Penh Lenh strive to be messengers of equality in the workshop and throughout the community.  Penh Lenh seeks to combat these industries by taking their mission outside of their workshop and into the community through service projects and fun events.  Serving the marginalized and often abused women of the city gives Penh Lenh the chance to illustrate messages of kindness, peace, and hope where those things often lay dormant.

Penh Lenh is a family, and like family should, we look out for one another.  They are deeply committed to changing the world by starting from within.  Weekly, their team members are offered academic courses that cover an array of topics ranging from nutrition and physical wellness, to female empowerment, English classes, and professional & budgeting skills. It is their belief that from knowledge springs strength, and from strength springs reform.

All of their products are handcrafted in their workshop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, by female artisans working to build healthy lives for themselves and their families.  They are committed to producing 100% ethically-sourced,
responsibly-made goods. They take their time to source only the highest quality materials ensuring their products are crafted using semi-precious gemstones, handmade gold-plated and gold-filled chains and clasps, and hand-sewn and locally sourced fabrics. By investing in high quality tools and clean, hygienic working conditions, Penh Lenh ensures that their shop is a place of joy and peace for both their artisans and customers.

At Penh Lenh, they believe in transparency; when you shop with them, you can be confident that every product they make contributes to a global movement for slow, sustainable fashion.

Have you ever been to Cambodia?  What social good businesses did you like?

Hello Hot Season – February 2018 Update

Hello from Jenna (and Bullet) in Cambodia! February was such a huge success in so many ways. For starters, I only teared up a few times. Other successes include: completion of the Sponsorship Updates, passing my Khmer Language 1 Final, making new friends, strengthening relationships at Daughters, and a retreat to Kampot!

Meet (most of) the Staff of Daughters of Cambodia! Countries represented: Cambodia, Germany, France, England, Denmark, America, Indonesia, and Philippines.

Lino and I have finally wrapped up all the catch up Sponsorship Interviews! It feels good to finish up this project well and get into a normal routine of updates. It is truly an honor to hear these ladies stories and be able to speak into their lives. For example, one of the ladies we interviewed kept apologizing for doing sex work. Her story is a common one. She lived in a rural providence and her father was very ill. Her family didn’t have money to pay for his hospital bill so she came to Phnom Penh to get a factory job. In order to get a factory job, you need to have a certificate of education. (Think of a GED but for 8th grade education.) Since she didn’t have access to school growing up, she didn’t know about the paperwork and therefore couldn’t get a factory job. Desperate she turned to sex work to provide medical care to her father. During her interview, she kept saying she was sorry and that she knew it was wrong and that she was doing better. Because of the intimacy that Daughters has built over the years, Lino and I were able to pause the interview and speak to her about forgiveness. I explained that wanting to provide for your family and caring for your father was a honorable thing to do. That no one at Daughters, myself, Lino, her teammates or her sponsor hold that she did sex work against her. That God has already forgiven her and she doesn’t need forgiveness from anyone else. We were able to pray with her and strongly encourage her to forgive herself. Lino and I were able to point out all the good things going on in her life now. That she isn’t doing sex work anymore and can provide for her family back home and her children here in Phnom Penh. God is moving in her life and blessing her for being faithful. It’s these small shifts in mindset that are truly freeing to the women and a joy to witness. If you (or your church / friends) would be interested in learning more about our Sponsorship program. Please let me know!

Lino and I enjoying some relaxing time on our River Cruise in Kampot during the Staff Retreat.

Thank you for your prayers. I was able to pass my Khmer Language 1 Final. Here is a photo of the group of other seh (students) I was with for five weeks every morning. It was truly a blessing to be able to learn with them and take the words I learned back to Daughters and put them to practice right away. At the retreat, I was able to tell some Khmer Staff “In fifteen minutes we are going to the beach.” Every time I communicate something in Khmer I feel like a child, so proud of myself and think “I’m kicking butt at this language thing!” It’s super rewarding. (Don’t worry, I mess up all the time. A few days ago, a waiter asked if I wanted steamed rice and just stared at him blankly like he had grown a third eye right in front of me.)

My Khmer Language 1 Fellow Students at School

Another blessing of Khmer language class was meeting Stefani. The woman in black next to me. She has quickly became one of my closest friends here in Cambodia. During our first week of language class, I mentioned that I was thinking about getting up at 4AM to ride my motorcycle to a sports bar to watch the Super Bowl and she just looked at me and said “I’ll go with you.” Not only that, but three other ladies agreed to ride with us. This was a huge blessing for safety. While we were on our motorcycles, I almost started crying. If God would have told me in January that one person would get up at the crack of dawn to ride their motorcycle to watch a sports event with me. I wouldn’t have believed Him, yet a few weeks later THREE girls joined me. This group of ladies has been such an answer to prayer.

Stefanie, me, and Danielle, my flat mate at the Super Bowl party.
Worship and prayer time during our Staff Retreat.

It has been such a blast to relax in Kampot with the Staff at Daughters and be able to really strengthen friendships through prayer and playing.   We were able to pray for one another in various languages, Khmer, English, German, French, Danish and Indonesian. I feel like I got to see a slice of Heaven during those times of multi-language prayer. On the bus ride home, one of the women pulled me to her side so I could fall asleep on her lap. The barriers we see daily – language, personal space, job title – seem to fall away when you are part of a team looking to make a change for vulnerable people.

A friend passing through Cambo!

Finally, I had a friend of a friend swing by Phnom Penh. It was great to have an American friend to show around Phnom Penh, answer questions and show off my new apartment. Plus, Bullet had a blast with another snuggle buddy (not that you can tell by this photo). Word on the street is I’ll be having another American visitor coming shortly so if anyone wants to send anything / order anything from Daughters – please let me know. Below are some prayer requests. Again, I really love hearing from everyone back home.

Bullet and the Grand Palace.

Hugs from Cambo,

One final shot of our Staff Retreat in Kampot. I’m in a kayak with Phally, the Head of Daughters Social Work Team. Lino, who is Head of Medical and my faithful translator for Sponsorship, is right next to me. Malory behind her helps in Social Work. The next boat is Sokon, who helps in Finance, Sokun, our Tuk Tuk Driver, and Samy, who is in Graphic Design. Finally, Lin, the Visitor Centre Manager and Pastor Ambrose. Just a few friendly faces, I’m blessed to work with!

I would really appreciate you joining me in prayer in the following ways:

  1. Thank you so much for praying for my language final.  I really appreciated all the prayers, checkins and digital celebrations I received.  I’m starting Level 2 in April.  I’m doing this session part-time to make it easy for my work / language / life balance.
  2. Please continue to pray for the relationship between my sending agency and myself.  Things are strained and I’m really struggling with feeling hurt by their actions.  I’m praying for a smoother process and hopefully that things with my finances will be less stressful in the upcoming months.  I also need to release this grudge I’ve got against them.  It’s not helping me at all.
  3. Finally, that I will continue to seek and hear God’s voice on my time here in Cambodia.  Now that I’m settled, how do I enjoy this new found freedom?  What does He want to teach / lead me to next?

Smateria – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Before coming to Cambodia, one of my college best friends, Jade, blessed me with a Kindle for my birthday.  I have put it to good use over the past couple months, using it for email and Audible.  (If you have any other suggestions for what to do with a Kindle – send them my way.  I’m still learning!)

Smateria Kindle Case

In the hustle to get to Cambodia, I wasn’t able to pick up a case to protect my precious present.  However, while in the Phnom Penh Airport, heading to Thailand for Christmas.  I was killing time, checking out the shops and stumbled across, Smateria, a social good business that makes amazing bags and cases.  They were having a Christmas sale and I picked up this beautiful Kindle case, in mermaid blue, for half off!  Since, picking up this Kindle case I’ve done a little bit of research on the company and have fallen more and more in love with their mission.  I’m a huge fan of organizations, creating beautiful AND functional products and helping women better their situations in the process.

Seriously – how beautiful is this?

Smateria’s journey begins when founders Jennifer Morellato and Elisa Lion met in Cambodia, sharing a passion for creativity, sustainability, and business. After prototyping their first bags with upcycled and recycled materials, they took the entrepreneurial plunge to transform their ideas into a thriving social enterprise.

Smateria creates bags and accessories that fuse together fashion, playfulness and social consciousness.  Their passion lies in taking unusual materials and crafting them into innovative and fashionable bags and accessories, using recycled materials wherever possible. They do this to stretch the boundaries of a material’s usability, quashing the idea that fabrics and materials can only be used for specific purposes.

The founders couldn’t be happier with where this journey has taken them so far. Since beginning in a small garage space in Cambodia 2006, they now have several shops across Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, online stores and distributors that continue to spread their style worldwide.

At Smateria their passions go beyond creating unusual designs.  They have a clear mission to employ Cambodian workers in a fair and sustainable way, where employees are treated well and priority is given to the employment of women and mothers.  Over 80% of their current employees are women, and they challenge the glass ceiling by ensuring all our staff have equal opportunities to grow and develop within their roles. They offer a free childcare centre on site (like Daughters does).  All of their staff receive benefits such as English lessons, double maternity and family support leave, health insurance, savings accounts, and training to develop their skills and careers.  All their employees are given paid holiday leave which they must take, so they can ensure they can see their families, take rest, and have a healthy work-life balance. It is their mission to create a safe, happy workplace where Cambodian women are given space to thrive.

Smateria’s workshops are made safer for their employees by following the leading standards for luminosity, space per employee, and ergonomics. The women also receive professional training on fire safety, have regular electrical audits, and professional training to balance health and work.  They go by a set of rules to make sure their team has exemplary working conditions.  Five days a week, a maximum of eight hours of work per day, sick leave for family matters, and more.

The materials Smateria’s use are important to the mission as they are what guides them to create new, innovative designs, while lowering the impact on the planet. Each season Smateria source, test and design new styles using unusual materials and recycled products.  At Smateria, any material has potential. They work with fishing nets (like my Kindle case), upcycled PU leather and plastic bags, and line each bag with upcycled fabrics from factories. Their Diva collection takes inspiration from recycled leather, while Remix brings new life to plastic bags. They play with color and fishing nets to create their Net collection (I think this is the collection my Kindle case comes from).  Working with these different materials takes time and care – every centimeter needs to be checked for imperfections, and specific processes are adopted to make the designs strong and reliable, as well as stylish.  16 people check each and every product to ensure they have been made with care and perfection.

Ever been to Cambodia?  What is your favorite Social Good Business?

Bloom Cafe – Phnom Penhh, Cambodia

Ever need a great cupcake?  Where would you get such a delicious treat in Phnom Penh?  Back home in Portland, Oregon, I would always reach out to my close friend, Joy Childress of Sweet Joyness.  (She is still available for cupcakes, cookies and cakes.  Check out her Instagram).  But now that I’m in Phnom Penh, my alliance is with Bloom Cafe.

Example of Joy (in PDX) cookies.

Bloom Cafe makes stunning celebration cakes for birthdays, wedding and parties.  Enjoy a designer cupcake and the BEST fair trade coffee in their stylish cafe.  Escape the bustling heat of the city and step into Bloom Cafe: a world where barista-made coffee, refreshing smoothies, cool air-conditioning and a mouth-watering range of cakes, cupcakes and cookies await.

Example of a Bloom Cafe cake that was being picked up while I was there!

Bloom creates the most deliciously moist, flavorsome treats housed in incredibly detailed edible art that will have your friends talking for weeks.   I can attest to this – I bought some cupcakes for a birthday party and people still talk about how beautiful they were.  Plus, they are well made – meaning they can survive a tuktuk ride from the bakery back home to the party.  (This was something I was a little nervous about.)  Whether you want a single layered cake or a gravity-defying multi-tiered creation, they’ve got you covered.

Bloom Cafe’s Cupcake Display.

For those after a daintier mouthful, Bloom creates cupcakes unlike any other. Whether it’s a single cupcake to enjoy with your morning coffee, or hundreds of them artfully arranged, each individual piece is intricately crafted by hand and come in an incredible array of flavors.

My only word of caution is, Bloom Cafe only does cupcakes and coffee at their store.  I made the mistake of thinking I could grab a breakfast treat and showed up starving.  This was totally my fault but I had to run down the street and grab some breakfast before grabbing a coffee and cupcakes from Bloom.

Outside the Bloom Cafe.

Best of all, Bloom is a not-for-profit Social Enterprise, which means every delicious mouthful actually helps to empower and skill local women in the art of baking and decorating beautiful cakes.  Bloom Cafe is a training cafe for Bloom Training Centre. A not for profit organization that provides vocational training and employment opportunities for Cambodian women.

Have you been to Phnom Penh?  Where are the best places to get desserts?

February 2018 Update!

Yeah!  It’s February and I’m celebrating a new month and a new year.  I want to apologize for not sending an update in January.  But I need to be honest, January was a tough month for me.  I cried 24 of the 31 days in January.  (It was that bad that I was keeping track and celebrating the days I didn’t sob my eyes out).  Thanks to everyone who reached out, prayed, sent encouraging words, and listened to my struggles this past month. Your support did not go unnoticed.

Bullet exploring his new neighborhood.

I’m kicking off February in a new home!  Yes, I’ve moved twice now since coming to Cambodia, but I’m confident that this will be Bullet and my home for a long while.  For starters, it has real beds!  (I’ve been sleeping on floor mat for the past three months.)  A kitchen – with a stove AND fridge.  (Yes, my last place didn’t have a kitchen, which made hosting – and my budget crazy.)  I’ve got an awesome new neighbor across the hall from my new church and have had more people over in the past weekend then I ever had visit me in my old place combine.  All these things make it such a joyful home.  Not to mention it’s half the cost of my previous rent and I still have a guest room for those who want to come visit me!

Bullet’s new balcony.

I just finished a five week intensive language class.  This class has been a real joy to participate in.  Not only have I made an awesome friend who lives in my area and is involved in rescuing girls as well, but the amount of language I’m learning is really amazing.  It has also opened more doors for me at Daughters, since I come from language class right at lunch time and sit down with some of the Khmer staff and go over the new vocabulary I’ve learned – like pointing out all the colors or describing what someone is wearing. Even though I’m still using a translator (Lino) for my Sponsorship project at Daughters, I’m getting to practice my Khmer with the girls we do interviews with.  I can now ask their name, age, and about their family on my own.  Lino has been a huge source of encouragement in this process and always has me repeat what the girls have said and then clarifies anything I might have missed.  There is definitely a lot of laughter involved both in class and with the girls.  I found out early this morning I passed Level One.  I’m looking forward to a five week break before jumping into Level Two.  I’m praying the funding to continue my language education will arrive in the next five weeks.

My study buddy.

I’ve got a new boss at Daughters, his name is Martin, he’s German, has been working at Daughters for two and half years and has the same business focused mind I do.  We are kicking off our overseas sales project together with some pilot shipments.  If anyone is interested in joining the pilot program and getting some cute Daughters products.  Please let me know.  Also, if you have any connections to shops in the USA who might be interested in selling our products, please let me know.

Daughter’s Valentine’s Day products.

I also had a friend come to visit from Portland, Oregon in January.  It was fun to show someone around my new home town and give them a break from rainy / cold Portland.  I definitely learned a lot about hosting international guests and how to be prepared for cultural differences.

Bullet’s buddy from the PNW, Adrian showed up!

Hugs from Cambo,

Bullet and I tuktuking around Cambodia.

How is 2017 almost over?! (December 2017 Update)

How is 2017 almost over?!  I’ve been spending a lot of time on reflecting on how hard (job changes, saying good bye to friends, and the political environment back home) and how good (arriving in Cambodia, awesome good bye adventures, and sweet moments of joy) 2017 has been to me and those close to me.  How was 2017 for you?

Bullet is adjusting well to his new live here in Cambodia.  (Which basically means he’s in the process of shedding his Portland winter coat.  I think he should be naked by now, but it’s still coming off of him in handfuls).  He’s been on mission to the neighborhood.  Most Asians are a little scared of dogs (especially big ones), but a few brave kids have enjoyed petting him and getting him to give them high fives.  I’m glad my title of “Bullet’s Mom” still holds true here in Cambodia!

I’m been so blessed to share my life here with Beckie, who visited for nine days.  She got the chance to relax after wrapping up the Thorns season and explore her first Asian country.  We even made the trek up to Angkor Wat for a little holiday outside of Phnom Penh.  I’ve got another friend coming to visit in January, so if anyone would like to send belated Christmas cards or order some Daughters products please let me know and I can facilitate the transfer.  (Also, if anyone wants to come visit in 2018, please let me know.  I’d love to have more visitors!)

I’m looking forward to the Advent season, which I know is almost over.  It’s a little tricky to get into the Christmas mood when you live in a Buddhist country that celebrates the consumeristic version of the holiday while wearing flip flops and t-shirts.  How was I ever such a big skier?!

Work at Daughters has been good.  I’m continuing to work on the sponsorship program.  We’ve conducted five of the 13 interviews so far, these moments are some of the best parts of my job at Daughters.  My exercise class continues to be a source of laughter with the women who attend.  We continue to talk about healthy body image and I attempt to practice my counting in Khmer during our work out sessions.  (Side note – I start formal Khmer language class in January 2018!)  I’ve also taken on another project around the Operations Centre – painting!  We’ve been able to secure the building for another 10 years, which is pretty unheard of in Cambodian culture, so I’m leading the charge with a Khmer male staff team of organizing and communicating the new paint colors, room-by-room.  So far we’ve tackled the Training Room and Day Care Center.  It’s amazing how much clean paint can improve the feeling of a room.

Shameless plug, as 2017 wraps up, if you are looking to make a  last minute tax-deductible donation, please consider supporting my self and my work via Oaks Parish (PDX home church) or Daughters directly.  Respond to this email and I can send you additional information on either option.

Below are some prayer requests.  Again, I really love hearing from everyone back home.  I hope you have some peaceful and relaxing moments both with Christ and with your family and friends this holiday season.  Please send me an email and let me know the highlights (and lows) of 2017 for you.

I would really appreciate you joining me in prayer in the following ways:

  1. A new roommate / personal finances with the House of Healing.  My roommate decided to move back to the USA so I’m on the hunt for another one to help share the burden of renting.
  2. For more friends my own age / outside my work space.  I’m trying to find professional networking events to attend, reach out to other NGO groups, etc.  If you know anyone living in Cambo, please let me know.  I’d love to grab coffee with them.

Bullet Is Here!

After three months of being separated, Bullet and I are finally back together.  Bullet Is Here!  This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my amazing friend, Beckie, who signed up to watch him for 6 weeks and ended up having him for three months.  Long story short, I made a last minute decision to fly home and grab Beckie and Bullet.  I spent 72 hours in PDX and 60 hours traveling/flying in less than a week.  BUT IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Our adventure included:

  • Personally meeting the Captain of a United flight from SFO to SIN.
  • A 17 hour flight where Bullet was a champ and just slept the whole time.
  • Being denied a 2 hour flight in Singapore because I “wasn’t blind”.
  • Four Singapore staff members + United online helping us get rebooked.
  • Another traveler coming to pray for us.
  • A few tears.
  • Lost luggage (we got it the next day).
  • Beckie and Bullet’s first tuk tuk ride.
  • Walking through “Nothing to Declare” in Cambodia without being stopped with a 70 pound dog.  Literally the easiest part of the entire trip.

I had the chance to “surprise” speak at my church, Oaks Parish, on Sunday on the topic of “Comfort and Joy” where I shared how being a missionary you are called to be uncomfortable – the heat, the language barrier, the safety, etc.  Yet God gives you so much joy in the midst of the uncomfortable.  Having Bullet here snuggling with me, doing our prayer walks again, just seeing his smug face and having my best friend here for the past 48 hours has filled me with such joy.

Thank you to everyone who prayed, checked in and asked questions.

How are you doing?  Let me know what’s going on in your life.

Thanksgiving 2017


I spent most of Thursday morning in our office, hugging my fellow staff members and explaining the significance of the day.  Why it is so important for Americans.  “Today is a national holiday in America.  It’s a day where you spend time telling people you love how thankful you are to have them in your life.  I am thankful for you.”  Then answered a lot of questions about turkey and Black Friday.  I’m a little sad that American consumerism is a bigger deal here than spending a day being thankful.  It was also my first Thanksgiving not watching any sports and having to work – granted only a half day.

My roommate/co-worker posted this on her Facebook wall:

With the time zone difference today is Thanksgiving in Cambodia. Walking to breakfast this morning I was about to turn onto a side road when I heard someone yell “Happy Thanksgiving!” I turned around to find Jenna the only other American on staff walking towards me to give me a hug. I stopped and realized how rare that greeting is today. I said, “Happy Thanksgiving!” We hugged and just stood there for a moment.

Speaking of work, most of my Thanksgiving morning was spent interviewing two girls to collect their testimony of their life before and after coming to Daughters.  There were a lot of tears – from the girls, myself, and our translator.  It really set the tone of how good God is to each and every one of us and how He is working in the lives of so many here in Cambodia.  Definitely one of those moments where you go into the meeting thinking you are helping someone else out and you end up leaving the meeting feeling like instead they poured into your own soul.

I was blessed to get to celebrate TWO Thanksgivings this year.  The first one was with a group of missionaries who I was connected with via Oaks Parish / Imago Dei back in Portland.

Pre-Meal Moto Muscle. Thanks, Jong for hiding my small muscles with your big guns.
Mid-meal smiles with the American crew.

On actual Thanksgiving, Ruth, the Founder of Daughters / my next door neighbor, who is British, hosted her first Thanksgiving (and second ever Thanksgiving) for a bunch of Americans.  I was so blessed to eat even more turkey.  This turkey was extra special to me since I bought it frozen at a local super market and then road it down the streets of Phnom Penh, a little worried it would fall out of my front basket and what the protocol would be for rescuing it from the ground!  Additional fun fact: Turkeys defrost WAY faster in Cambodia.

Clearly I didn’t get the memo to look up in time…
Talking about Thanksgiving foods and teaching American cooking with a Khmer friend.

I think the thing about being an expat is learning about your new home culture.  I’m not going to lie, it was fun to flip that learning session for a day and share about my own culture to those who wanted to learn more.

“It’s a day where you spend time telling people you love how thankful you are to have them in your life.  I am thankful for you.”

I am thankful for you.

Wishing you a (belated) blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends.  How did you celebrate this year?

First Full Month Update! (November 2017)

Hello from the Kingdom of Cambodia!  I am so thankful to have you as a supporter of my work here.  After a month and a half here, I think I have finally found my groove.  Here is an update on what is happening in my world.

I’m really enjoying my work at Daughters.  We’ve submitted two grants proposals already, a grant update, and are gearing up for the holiday season.  I’m working on a really interesting sponsorship program, where myself and a translator interview individual girls on their stories.  While I don’t have much of a handle on the Khmer language, it’s beautiful to see the girls go from looking down at their hands while talking about their past life to looking up and maintaining eye contact when talking with pride about their job at Daughters.  They sit up a little straighter, smile, and even laugh.  The physical change very striking.  This has been a great time for me to get to know the girls on an individual (and very personal) level.  I feel honored that they trust me with their stories.  It also gives me a chance to interact more with the women during work breaks.  I can say “hello” and interact with their children at the Daycare Center.

The girls and I working out together.

Another way I get to interact with the girls is through a work out class I’m now teaching once a week.  It’s focused on healthy activities – drinking clean water, why it’s important to work out, and how to do so safely.  It’s a lot of acting out on my part.  Showing bad posture versus good posture, for example.  I get a lot of laughs this way.  Again, this is a way for me to build friendships and trust with the women.  I’m no longer the “new white girl in the administration office”.

Other updates:

Roommate, Stephanie, celebrating getting the keys to House of Healing.

My health has improved dramatically.  My asthma is under control and I’m back to 100% health (and my spunky attitude).  To quote my office mate, “Jenna, you are so much prettier and white.”  (The Khmer culture is very focused on fair skin.  Where I’m trying to get a tan, they are putting whitening ingredients on their skin to get pale).  Personally, I think I’m less red in the face since I’m not struggling so hard to breath every day.  One of the big reasons for my health improvement is due to the fact that I’ve moved into a new Khmer house.  I’m actually next door neighbors with my boss and her family.  Her son, Toby, comes over to go do homework and talk about Star Wars, almost every day.  There are currently three women living in my house, one from Indonesia, one from Seattle, and myself.  We named the house, “The House of Healing” and hope it will be a place of rest and community for fellow expats and short term missionaries.  I’ll be honest, it’s a little out of my budget and I’m working hard to make it a home.  If you are interested in learning more about this project, please shoot me an email and I’ll send you some details.  Also, if you want to come visit, please let me know!

Cascade and I.

I’ve been able to secure a moto.  I’ve fondly named her “Cascade” as a little homage to my Portland roots.  Through my home church, Oaks Parish, I was able to connect with missionaries who have been here for 23 years.  The husband, Dave, has a moto ministry, where he and a group of Khmer men ride around the various providences praying and encouraging other pastors.  Dave helped me find the moto and introduced me to some Khmer men who can help me if I have any moto issues.  I’ve been so blessed to have them as friends.

View of Bon Om Touk.

I’m still working on making more friends here, but I was able to safely check out Bon Om Touk, a big water festival here in Cambodia.  And attended the last, national soccer game against Jordan.  (We lost 0-1, but my friends were super excited because typically we loose 0-7…  I really enjoy the Cambodian optimism in life.)

Watching Cambodia vs. Jordan in Football (Soccer).

Again, I really love hearing from everyone back home.  Please send me an email and let me know how life is.