Recap: Home Visit and More! (July 2018 Update!)

Wow!  July literally flew by…or maybe it was the 78 hours of travel time going to/from the USA.  But let me tell you – it was totally worth it!  I got to see so many family and friends.  Plus, my baby brother got married and I got an awesome sister-in-law!  Seriously, how cute are they?

(Bride and Groom, on their wedding day.)

And as promised, photographic proof that I did wear a dress:

(Me – in a dress, with Dane and Christine.)

The wedding was such a blast, filled with laughter, love and so many family and friends.  It was great to have most of our family come out from the East Coast, especially since I didn’t get a chance to travel back to New England during this trip.

Other than the wedding, most of my home visit was a blur.  Between catching up with friends, buying last minute things for life in Cambodia, adulting (aka going to the dentist and checking in on my house) – my father also retired and my parents moved back to the East Coast.  There was a lot of scrambling around for the family.  To quote my mom, “These two weeks were a major season of change for our family.  We need to be gentle with one another.”  While it was an exhausting week, I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to walk through this transition with my parents.

(Being able to “roast” my father, at his retirement party.)

Thank you to everyone who made time to meet with me, ask questions about Cambodia, gave me hugs and offered to drive me around.  I really appreciated each conversation and hope to continue to stay in contact even while I’m abroad.  It was fun speaking at my church, Oaks Parish.  As promised, here is the prayer I shared:

អរគុណ ព្រះយេស៊ូវ
Akun Preahyasu.
Thank you, Jesus.

(Oaks Parish at the Portland Pickles game.)

Also, to everyone who came to my gathering – thank you!  Way more people showed up that I anticipated and I was super overwhelmed (in a good way) by the love and support.  I didn’t get to speak to everyone and definitely didn’t get to chat as in detail as much as I wanted too.  I really do hope you’ll forgive me and send me an email letting me know what is happening in your life and how I can be praying for you.  Also, if you have any interest in seeing the slide show I had prepared for the night – send me an email and I can send you the link.

(Photo from my gathering.)

Before heading back to the USA, I was able to purchase my “big” motorcycle for upcoming prayer rides here in Cambodia.  For months, I have been training to join Prayer Circle Cambodia and also praying for the perfect bike for me and peace with making a huge financial decision.  With the help of some amazing friends, I was able to purchase this beautiful bike.  I have few feelings to compare this moment too – maybe like trying on my prom dress for the first time.  I got a text from one of the leaders of Prayer Circle Cambodia saying the guys at the motorcycle shop found a bike that “might” work and that I should hurry down and check it out.  When I got there, the group of Khmer guys who were looking for a bike for me rolled out this beautiful teal bike!  They were smiling and laughing and I was near tears.  It was such an awesome moment.  I’ve already got two confirmed rides and two tentative rides planned.  Please keep the team and I in your prayers – for safety and wisdom in serving.

(My new bike and I!)

Another thing that happened before I flew back to Portland was a conversation with Daughters about wrapping up my time with the organization.  While I have no doubts that I’m supposed to be in Cambodia and working with vulnerable populations here.  I do believe Daughters was the door to get me to Cambodia and for that I’m thankful.  I’m planning on taking some time to focus on language while listening to God direct my path.  If you have any questions about this, please email me and we can set up a call.

I really love hearing from everyone back home.  You can email me and share what is happening in your life, how I can be praying for you.  I’m also available to chat via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, fell free to message me that way.  You can do this by sending me a friend request on Facebook (if we aren’t friends already) or adding my USA phone number to WhatsApp.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Hugs from Cambo,
Jenna (and Bullet)

(Bullet and I right before I dropped him off to stay at Animal Mama while I was on home leave.)

The month of good-byes (June 2018 Update!)

Happy (belated) 4th of July from Cambodia! I hope all of you have an excellent day of BBQs, family, friends, craft beer and fireworks. I was able to secure some decently made hot dogs here in Cambodia and ALMOST felt like I was home. Words can’t express how excited I am to be flying home TODAY to catch up with most of you. I’m also finally getting that sister I’ve always wanted. (Just think next update will have photos of me in a fancy dress with my new sister! How cool is that?)

(Women’s retreat to Silk Island – various girlfriends from various anti-human trafficking NGOs).

Well June has come and gone. This wave of faith continues to grow and pick up momentum. I recently heard (an English) sermon on 1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The pastor spoke about how everyone focuses on the “love” part, but he wanted to speak on how important faith and hope are. That they are intertwined. That you need faith for hope to grow and you need hope for your faith to be strengthened. I feel like I’m really pressing into that balance of faith and hope in this season of change.

I want to personally thank each and every one of you who reached out after my last update. If I’m honest, I was pretty anxious about leaving my sending agency and then sharing why with people. I felt like I had really let a lot of people down (as well as myself), but the words of encouragement and support were more than I could have asked for or imagined. I found myself near tears as emails and Facebook messages came in. It reminded me how faithful God is and how before I even came to Cambodia, He told me, “I’m not sending you there alone, I’m sending you with friends.” This burden was much too heavy for me to carry and I feel so thankful to have this weight off my shoulders. I also have received pledges of $1,200 / month in support for the upcoming year. My goal is $1,500 a month to cover living costs, health insurance, annual home leave, self care and more. If you are interested in supporting me or want to learn more about it, please send me a note and we can talk more about it. To those who have already committed support. You are the true heroes here in Cambodia. Your blessings are more than I can count.

(Mango catching at Martin’s house).

My housing situation has changed yet again since my last update. At this point I’m a pro at moving via tuk-tuk and I’m so thankful that Bullet is such an easy going pup. I’ve been house siting for my boss, Martin. While Bullet and I have been gone from our apartment, thieves broke in, stole my flatmate’s motorcycle, bicycle, and a couple of washing machines (these are kept on balconies in Cambodia). On top of that, the helper was attacked. I am so thankful the helper is okay, that my flatmate is okay, that nothing of real value (passports, laptops, etc) was stolen. But at this point, my sweet landlord doesn’t believe it’s safe for us to live in the apartment and is looking to sell it. Danielle, my flat mate made the decision to move out and I quickly followed her lead. I found a great pet-friendly service apartment in a new area of town, where some of my friends live with their two dogs.

(Esther and one of the puppies).

The best thing about housesitting for Martin and Valerie was getting to spend time with Esther during her last few weeks in Cambodia. Esther is an 18 year old woman doing a gap year from Germany volunteering at Daughters of Cambodia. On top of all the laughter she brought to our home, it was fun to help her process some of her feelings about returning back to her country after a year in Cambodia and we had some really great deeper conversations that I will cherish for a long time.

(Jeanie, Katrine, Johanne, Esther and I in Kampot).

After Esther left, the other two young women from Denmark serving at Daughters also flew home. Spending time with Johanne and Katrine, have been some of the highlights of working at Daughters: sitting in worship together, translating words together, grabbing coffee and their hugs. The deep conversations from Esther’s leaving continued to flow into their last two weeks in Cambodia as well.

(If only I could sleep that well).

A big surprise of moving into Martin’s house has been one of their dogs had PUPPIES! That is right, we went from a household of three dogs to seven in one night. Rocky (mama dog) has been a wonderful mother and has done much of the work making my life of cleaning towels and mopping up “accidents” pretty easy. I’m so thankful all four survived and continue to grow. Their eyes have opened, they are beginning to walk and I’m a little thankful I get to head to the States before their cuteness is overrun with pure energy once they figure out how their legs really work…

(Bullet after going to the vet with a sting).

On top of the puppies, June was a month of recovery for Bullet. At the end of May, Bullet got an eye infection which required a week of eye drops. Which he hated, but put up with. Followed by getting stung in the face by a scorpion, which required our second and third trips to the vet in one month. Luckily, after medicine three times a day for three weeks, he got a clean bill of health and his shave is finally starting to grow in. While I’m stateside, he will be staying at the boarding place associated with this vet, so I’m so thankful he will be in good hands. After the scorpion sting, we were at the vet and they put a muzzle on him (standard for Bullet even in the States) and I watched this young Khmer guy scratch his ears and speak so calmly to Bullet while the vet looked at his face and while Bullet was trying to give kisses to the Khmer assistant made me tear up. In a country that is terrified of dogs, let alone big dogs, seeing how close Bullet was to this one young man he’s know from daycare made my heart fill with peace.

(One week later, Bullet’s check up).

Things have been a little different at Daughters this month. I haven’t been able to go into the office, which is making some projects difficult to continue working on. Ultimately, it has been a blessing between, helping Esther leave well, the puppies, Bullet’s recovery, moving and my Level 2 Khmer final having more freedom in my day to help out and serve others has been really helpful.

(This is what a typical Khmer language class looks like. Asking, “What size shoe do you wear?”)

Speaking of Level 2 Khmer, thank you so much for your prayers. I didn’t fail Level 2, but I also didn’t pass Level 2. Basically, I did great at comprehension and terrible at speaking. To make up for this, I’m working with a tutor on speaking. In Khmer culture, there is this thing called “saving face” so it’s hard culturally for people to point out when you make mistakes, because it can cause shame. Having a tutor point out your mistakes is a great way to work on formal speaking and it’s really helping me understand the structure of the language so much better. I’m wicked excited to start Level 3 in September, where I’ll start learning writing!

(Wendy and I out riding).

Prayer training rides continued in June. I went on an awesome half day ride to Oudong, the old capital of Cambodia with my friend and female rider, Wendy, and our coach, Yong. I had a blast! Conquering my fears of cows, eating a custard apple for the first time, walking up to the top of the Oudong temple and so much more. I also made a conscious decision to start riding my moto back and forth to my job at the bar past the two streets that are known for sex for expats praying blessings over the women, conviction for the men and protection over the children there. I’m looking forward to my first ride in August and helping out at another race in September! Check out this cool video of me riding in the floods in my neighborhood. (I hit a floating tree limb at the end – don’t worry. I’m okay.)

I’ll be back in Portland, Oregon July 15 – August 1! (AKA TODAY!) I would really love to meet with you. So please send me an email or Facebook message so we can set something up.

Scarves for School – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

One week from today, I’ll by heading home for a much anticipated life event.  I’M GETTING A SISTER!  My little brother is getting married and I’m finally getting that little sister I always wanted.  Words can not describe how excited I am for this.

In anticipation of heading home, my friend, Panhaha, from Cows for the Kingdom reached out and asked me if I would be willing to help him sell some scarves made by women from his village.  These scarves help provide additional income that allows mothers to send their children to school here in Cambodia.  Of course I said, YES!

I’m flying home with 15 of these beautifully hand-made scarves.

Purple, green, and pink.
Red and white.
Pink and green.
On a prayer ride, rocking a krama head scarf.

This is a style is a traditional krama (ក្រមា).  It’s a sturdy traditional Khmer garment, with many, many, many uses include: scarf, bandana, towel, swim suit, belt, mat, decoration, hammock, etc.  I typically wear them on prayer rides, to keep my neck covered from the sun and then as a hair wrap while visiting temples and eating.  It is worn by men, women and children here in Cambodia.  Traditionally it comes in either red or blue, the Cambodian national colors.

I’ll be selling these kramas for $20 each during my time in Portland.  I’ll be selling them after church at Oaks Parish on Sunday July 15th and at my party at Hopworks.  If you are interested in buying one ahead of time.  Just shoot me an email and I’ll save you one.  Also, if you live outside of Portland, let me know and I’ll ship you one while I’m stateside.

Villageworks – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Welcome new followers!  I added a lot of new followers with my post on Facebook.  I try to showcase a social good business in Cambodia on my website / email list every month.

I first learned about VillageWorks from my friends at NOMI Network and now every time I see their shop I smile.  I have been lucky to be invited to the VillageWorks location in Phnom Penh, where a large group of the polio survivors work.  VillageWorks is more than handicrafts. The essence is really building the lives of the villagers. Behind every piece of work, you get the whole person and his or her family.  Supporters are invited to join them and be engage in building lives. That support helps the villagers break free from their poverty cycle, and find hope in life.

VillageWorks Songkhem was conceived by a missionary from Cambodia Methodist Services for the purpose of creating employment, providing skills and livelihood to women and young people in a small village in Baray district of Kampong Thom province Cambodia from 1997 to 2001 and name it Songkhem.

In 2001, VillageWorks officially opened by the Girls’ Brigade Singapore and continue supporting the project to 2006. With their support Villageworks Songkhem has touched many lives and contributed to society and to the nation.  Villageworks Songkhem became locally operated by Cambodian staff from 2006.

In 2008, VillageWorks Songkhem Co., Ltd was registered with Ministry of Commerce of Cambodia and became a provisional member of World Fair Trade Organization member in 2011.

VillageWorks vision is to bring hope to the villagers and to nurture their self-worth as persons and to help them realize their potential and purpose in life. Their strategy is to organize, equip and inspire the villagers to produce quality handicraft work for the global marketplace.  VillageWorks is more than making handicraft products and allowing the villagers to buy food for themselves and their families. VillageWorks is about restoring human spirit in small villages and bringing meaning of life to them. It is about empowering people to stand tall on their own.

Their workers in the villages are called “Shining Eyes” because each worker makes the product with passion, pride and enthusiasm. They know that someone outside of the villages cares, supports and believes in them. As part of the VillageWorks team, their workers want our buyers to be excited when they see the products. They take great pride to show their work to the world.

They believe in the dignity and worth of every person in the villages. They work and live a meaningful life to become the people they can be.  Each piece of work has its own unique fingerprint of personality and potential. No two pieces are alike. No piece is perfectly identical because no two of us are the same.

And they have dreams….BIG dreams for the people and the handicrafts. Every day we take a small step and make it a reality. Their focus and direction gives their people renewed energy and purpose.

Every cent earned goes to the villagers. VillageWorks is committed to helping every person in the village find meaningful work and become all they can be. They also want you to join and become part of this worthy moment.

VillageWorks cannot do this alone. They need your support to continue to make an even greater impact. You can touch a life and make a difference in another person’s life by taking these actions today.

  1. Make a purchase.
  2. Pledge financial support.
  3. Be a volunteer helper.
  4. Join them in prayer.

This is one of the many awesome social businesses in Cambodia.  Do you know another one?

Animal-Mama – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Animal-Mama has such a special place in my heart.  First of all, Bullet loves staying there for boarding.  It is the only place I considered leaving him during my two week trip home to the States this summer for my brother’s wedding.  Animal-Mama is a passion project that aims to provide unique, holistic, healthy, affordable and personalized pet services to animal lovers in Cambodia. As Veterinary Hospital & Animal Welfare Center it offer medical veterinary services, pet boarding, animal daycare, socialization, hydrotherapy, doggy pool & homemade holistic food and treats. Founded by the animal lover, long-time animal welfare activist and a businesswoman, Yulia Khouri, the proceeds from this project fund the on-going rescue/adoptions/health services for the street animals as well as the country-wide education about animal welfare to public.

Bullet hanging out with Animal-Mama Therapy Humans – aka friends from church!

As a social enterprise, the profits from this business are used to help street animals who are in dire situations because of sickness and injury. As well as the country-wide education about animal welfare to the public, our community projects focus on Spay/Neuter Programs, Street Rescues & Adoptions, and Long-Term Special Needs Care.

Animal-Mama is NOT a donation based NGO, they don’t have regular funding to help all the street and pagoda animals who need it.  Animal-Mama is also NOT a public animal shelter, which means with their current capacity they can only take a small number of animals at any one time.
There is only so much Animal-Mama can do on their own, so they  encourage participation, donations, and sponsorships from individuals and organizations who want to get involved and help the animals in Cambodia.  Here are some examples:
    1. There are fifty Pagodas in Central Phnom Penh, each with approximately forty cats and dogs. Most of these animals are abandoned and homeless, and live as best they can with rice and scraps given by the monks and local residents. They suffer from terrible illness and injury and are constantly breeding which adds to the Pagoda Problem.
    2. Almost every day, sick and injured street animals are brought to Animal Mama.  Many of these come from the Street Meat Markets.  (Yes, they eat dog here in Cambodia).  They use the profits from their Social Enterprise to pay for their treatments and care, but Animal-Mama can’t cover the costs of all the animals who need help on their own.
    3. Cambodia has one of the highest reported fatalities of the Rabies disease in Asia, second only to Myanmar. Capture, Neuter, Vaccinate and Release (CNVR) programs are effective in eliminating rabies, so Animal-Mama goes out into the community to vaccinate the cats and dogs. They microchip them and store the data on the PassPet database.
    4. Home of Heroes is the first retirement home in the world for de-mining dogs who have become too old to work in the field.  These dogs are some of Bullet’s closest friends in Cambodia!  The center will also take in the young dogs who don’t pass the very rigorous training.  These Belgian Malinoise dogs have given the greatest service to humanity and Animal-Mama believes that they deserve the very best we can give them in return.  The dogs are deployed to countries all around the world and have cleared thousands of acres of land sniffing out land mines, improvised explosive devices, and un-exploded ordinance like the awful cluster bombs that have remained buried for decades.  In the past, the dogs would be euthanized when they became too old to work the long and demanding hours out in the field. The younger dogs who didn’t pass the training would be given away and they would often meet a gruesome end. But not any more! Animal Mama and Home of Heroes have signed MOU’s with both the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) and Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) to make sure every dog is saved.

Recently, Bullet has had a little bit of a health scare, including an eye infection and an insect bite to the face.  So far we have visited Animal-Mama three times to make sure he is getting the best care and recovery.  The amount of care and love they have shown Bullet and me and been such a great experience.  They take the time to check him out throughly, ask clear questions and calmly explain what course of action and things to look for specific to Cambodia.  It’s great to know that part of Bullet’s care is going to support all these other programs as well as his friends who live at the House of the Heroes.  (Also, Bullet gets to stay at the House of the Heroes when he stays at Animal-Mama, he’s such a lucky boy!)

Know another great animal support program in Cambodia?  Or anywhere else in the world?

What an adventure we are on! (May 2018 Update!)

May has definitely been my best month here in Cambodia.  I’m been reflecting a lot on what “moving with the Spirit” means to me.  If I’m honest, for months it has felt like I’ve been in this deep ocean floating alone, not knowing what is near or under me.  Which has been a really scary feeling for me.  May has felt like the start of a wave crashing.  I’m the surfer, Jesus is the surf board.  (I’d also like to point out that I’ve been sitting on His surfboard out in the deep ocean this whole time, yet not always aware of it.)  And the ride is just about to start.  I’ve had this month of excitement towards movement, that God is so clearly drawing me towards something better and I can’t wait to drop in and see what He has in store for me.

(Pops and I in Phnom Penh!)

May kicked off with a visit from my dad, Stu, he stopped in between China and Vietnam on a business trip.  It was great showing him my new apartment, my neighborhood, some of my friends, and I got to play tourist in Phnom Penh!  Bullet was pumped to see a friendly face as well.  Thanks to everyone who sent encouragement cards to me with him.  They made my heart swell.  It was fun spending some father / daughter time with him, we had some great talks about the past and the future.

(Safety Team: Theary, Srey Pov and I)

The following weekend, Bullet and I travelled to Kirirom (about three hours west of Phnom Penh) to the only place in Cambodia where I have found pine trees!  Some of the Prayer Circle Team were participating in a motocross enduro race.  It was a blast cheering them all on.  It was my first time camping in Cambodia, my first time volunteering at a motorcycle event that was in English and Khmer.  It was the first activity that wasn’t just for expats or just for Khmer that I’ve participated in.  Just a bunch of people who love motocross.  It was a blast!  Bullet was one of two dogs there, won everyone over.  I got to spend more time with my Prayer Circle Coach, Dennis, his wife, Sharon, and their two daughters, Theary and Srey Pov.

(Kirirom Enduro Race)

While in Kirirom, I was part of a really interesting God conversation with some retired expats who were also participating in the race.  I was sitting with them after the practice rounds, drinking beer and they were asking me about myself and how I ended up in Cambodia.  I explained that I was a missionary working with victims of the sex industry and that some of my Prayer Team was participating in the race.  One of the guys commented, “I’m like you, a philanthropist, but I don’t talk to imaginary friends.”  (To my credit, I didn’t roll my eyes at him.)  He then continued to go on, “You people shouldn’t go talking to girls at KTV bars (“hosted” bars), those girls are living the life, they are their own boss, they make good money, they want to be there.”  At this point, I’m about to launch into my whole human trafficking speech and Holy Spirit whispers, “shut your mouth and watch.”  HIS teammate shoots back at him with, “Wait, you honestly believe that?  You have a Khmer wife!  Those girls don’t want to be there and you know it.  They have no education so no job prospects, chances are they are the oldest daughter and have to provide for their entire family, that they came from a village and have no health care…”  He just kept going and his teammate is really taking it in.  You could see he had never thought about KTV’s in this way, even after living in Cambodia for a long time.  I truly believe if I had said the exact same thing he would have brushed me off as “the missionary” but since it was coming from his peer and teammate it was held with more validity.  It was super amazing to witness this interaction and to be personally encouraged that there are some adult, expat males, who “get it” here in Cambodia.  I’m really looking forward to seeing their team again at the next race in September.

(Danielle, Kat, Stefanie and I in Kratie)

The following weekend, Danielle, Stefanie, Kat and I headed five hours northeast to Kratie to see the fresh water dolphins of Cambodia.  It is because of the Irrawaddy dolphins that I even knew about Cambodia as a nation.  They are the sole reason I wanted to come to Cambodia when I was 13 years old and the start of my calling to move here.  This was my first “girls weekend” and I loved every moment of it (minus when I got bite by fire ants).  We saw the dolphins not once but TWICE!  We went on an epic kayaking adventure, mermaided in the Mekong river and practiced our Khmer along the way.  If you want to see the Irrawaddy dolphins, just click here:  If you want to hear Kat and I singing Justin Bieber to the dolphins, just click here:

(My borrowed Prayer Circle motorcycle and the Daughters Cafe)

On the work front, I’ve had a few changes.  I’m now part-time at Daughters, we have hit a natural slow period here in Cambodia and a friend from the home brewing community is heading back to the States for 30 days and asked me if I would be interested in being a manager of his bar while he is away.  It’s a short-term commitment that allows me to work with another Khmer population as well as expats and tourists.  My first day helping out I spoke to two people who had connections to Portland (one was even sporting a Timbers shirt)!  I’m learning a ton of new Khmer vocabulary and learning more about my Khmer team by asking questions in Khmer about their family and their thoughts on beer.

(Daughters staff celebrating volunteer, Katrine’s birthday)

I’m still continuing to study Khmer part-time and really seeing my comprehension continue to grow.  During a Daughters Sponsorship update I had the following interaction, it started with the typical, “hello, how are you?” The client said, “not well.” And I asked, “why?” She responded with, “my child is sick.” My response to that? A fist pump and a smile, because that entire interaction was in Khmer and I UNDERSTOOD it! Then I realized my response was the wrong one, apologized and asked the translator to explain my “happy” response to sad news.  I’ve learned from this mistake, in another interview, a women was telling us that her daughter got into a good school program and I exclaimed “la-ah nah” (Good job!) before Lino, the translator, could tell me what was being said.  Lino then started to joke that I didn’t need her in the interviews anymore.  And I pointed out that I couldn’t even ask her to stay longer since I didn’t have the language for that.  See, I really do still need her!  I’ve also gotten a little more comfortable praying out loud in Khmer for the girls at Daughters.

(Richer, Rocky and Bullet on a walk)

Bullet and I are currently house sitting for my boss, Martin, who is back in Germany for a couple of months with his family.  Responsibilities include: Bullet’s two new best friends, Richer and Rocky, four fish and an 18-year old girl, Esther, who I’ve know almost the entire time I’ve been in Cambodia.  She is also volunteering at Daughters during her gap year.  I have really enjoy spending her last few weeks in Cambodia, talking through what she has loved, what she wants to do in the future and helping her “leave well.”  It’s a little crazy to think in five years she will only be 23…oh man I feel old!

(Jade learning how to pick mangos Khmer style)

Speaking of being old, I missed my 10 year college reunion being in Cambodia in May.  However, my college bestie and her boyfriend flew into Phnom Penh from Nepal (they climbed to Everest Base Camp) and we had a reunion of our own.  It was a fun showing them around Phnom Penh and answering their questions about my life here in Cambodia.

(Just a friendly reminder your favorite mermaid is coming to PDX)

Again, I’ll be back in Portland, Oregon July 15 – August 1.  I would really love to meet with you.  So please send me an email or Facebook message so we can set something up.  I’m planning a party on July 26th from 4-8PM at Hopworks.  Formal invite to come, but you can put it on your calendar now.  I really love hearing from everyone back home.

Hugs from Cambo,
Jenna (and Bullet)

Cows for the Kingdom – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Did you know in rural Cambodia, most children don’t have access to quality education?   Cows for the Kingdom is trying to change that!

I just wanted to send a little update on a side project I have been working on with some friends here in Cambodia.  My boss, Martin, at Daughters has a huge passion for a lot of different things, one of them is helping more children in Cambodia go to school.  I have been working with him to build a website for his passion project, Cows for the Kingdom.

To have a qualified teacher come to your village (or “phoumi” in Khmer – Cambodian national language) and teach your children – especially in English language – villagers need to raise minimum $100 per month.

Education is essential to the thriving and success of children all over Cambodia.  Those without a 9th grade certificate, can hardly even access factory jobs.  Leaving them with little options.

Most of them come to Phnom Penh, looking for jobs and find themselves in a large city, with no money, no family, and no where to live.  A lot end up in sex work, either willingly or unwillingly, and have to be rescued by e.g. Daughters of Cambodia.

It is always exciting what God can do with spontaneous ideas.
God opens doors … to solve the problem, before it becomes a problem.  By enabling local villagers to come up with the means to hire a teacher.

The Solution:


An international gathering, along with a few of their friends, both Khmer and foreign nationals, invested in a few cows.  Over the course of several months, these farmers learned animal husbandry skills and were able to sell their cows for a profit.

Through mentoring and financial coaches, the farmers will be able to invest their profits into hiring a teacher for the first time in their village.  There are now children going to English classes, right in their own town.

We are praying to replicate this small success story all over Cambodia.

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” – Matthew 13:31-32

Need more convincing?  Check out our “Goals” page.

Interested in helping send more Khmer children to school?  Email me or leave a comment below and I’ll follow up with you directly.

byTavi – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

When I moved to Cambodia, I brought my entire Nike leggings collection, because that is what I used to wear to work almost every day, it’s 90% of my clothing collection and it’s what I would wear if I was moving to a tropical place – like Cambodia.

Unfortunately for me, leggings aren’t consider work appropriate so I’ve been hustling to find ethically sourced, professional looking pants that I can rock to work and still keep as cool as possible.  That is how I found byTavi!  Not only are they cute and ethically sourced – they have POCKETS!  Be still my heart.

My byTavi pants and a HUGE jackfruit!

Here is a little bit of information about byTavi.

When Tavi came to Center for Global Initiative (CGI – a NGO based in Cambodia)  in 2008, she found herself in a desperate situation. Her husband had recently passed away and she was the sole caregiver of her two young children and a relative. Struggling with her health, she was weak and had no resources to sufficiently care for herself, let alone her family. Surrounded by poverty and struggling to make ends meet, she sought a solution.

She approached CGI and requested a sewing machine and seamstress training. Three short years after she began sewing pillow covers, she had inspired over thirty other women in her community to join a sewing team, whose products were to be labeled byTavi.

Today, the byTavi Workshop serves as much more than a vocational training project.

Beyond seamstress training, byTavi desire each woman to realize and reach her full potential.  What started as four women sewing pillow cases, is now over 40 women sewing a full line of handbags and clothing. In partnership with their designer, the byTavi team has learned to take a sketch and bring it to life. They take pride in knowing that the byTavi line is a product of their workmanship.


    The workshop operates under fair trade principles, respecting the dignity and health of every employee.


      In addition, daily lunch is provided by CGI and regular health checks are available, including special attention for expecting mothers.


      Every Wednesday, the sewing machines come to a halt as an opportunity is provided for Bible study and worship.

      Know another social good business in Cambodia (or anywhere in the world)?  Especially those that come with POCKETS!  Leave a comment below!

Le Tonle Guesthouse – Kratie, Cambodia

18 years ago, I first heard of Cambodia. I was reading a Zoobook about dolphins and how Cambodia had endangered fresh water dolphins.  They are actually called Irrawaddy dolphins. Ever since then I’ve wanted to see them.  Recently, three girlfriends and I made the five hour bus ride to the town of Kratie to see the Irrawaddy dolphins.

Honestly, it was an awesome time.  The first night we watched the dolphins during sunset on a traditional Khmer boat.  The second day, we spend the entire afternoon kayaking in the Mekong River with dolphins.  I had so much fun handing out with these women, laughing, and crossing off a huge item off my bucket list.  (Up next: Drinking 100 year old scotch on 100,000 year old ice in Antartica – who is with me?) 

Another great thing about going to Kratie?  We stayed in this awesome training hotel, Le Tonle Guesthouse.

Le Tonle Guesthouse is more than just a guest house.  Le Tonlé Tourism Training Center is a not-for-profit training guest house providing vocational training to disadvantaged youth from Cambodia’s north-eastern provinces of Kratie, Stung Treng, Ratanakiri, and Mondulkiri.  The guest house and restaurant in Kratie provide vital vocational training and a unique opportunity for travelers to support human resource development in Cambodia.  When you stay with Tonlé and support their trainees.

Le Tonlé Tourism Training Center is also a 13 rooms guesthouse located in the center of Kratie.  Danielle and I stayed in a double bed with a shared bathroom and AC and Stefanie and Kat stayed in a double bed with a private bathroom and AC.  Honestly, both were great.  They also have a restaurant providing Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.  Their restaurant offers traditional Khmer dishes and western food.  (I think the crowd favorite was the mango spring rolls with caramel sauce).

Le Tonlé was founded by Tourism for Help (TfH) in 2007 in Stung Treng. In the first five years under the direct management and operation from TfH, 63 trainees (30 women) successfully undertook the one year training course.  From October 1,  2012, the Cambodian Rural Development Team (CRDT) took over the project from TfH under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and agreements with the funding support from the Fédération Genevoise de Coopération (FGC) based in Switzerland and supervised by TfH. Another 36 students (20 women) successfully finished the training course under management of CRDT.

Le Tonlé TTC also builds a stable partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, Provincial Department of Tourism, Mekong Discovery Trail Project and Netherlands Development Organization (SNV). Le Tonlé TTC received in 2016 the certificate of ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) for Tourism Professionals from the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism.

To expand the impact scope and provide more opportunities in different aspects of tourism and hospitality, a second Le Tonlé center was established in Kratie town in late 2013. The new training center is equipped with practical facilities such as kitchen, a classroom, a welcoming ground floor restaurant, and a classic nine bedroom guesthouse in a traditional wooden stilt house.  In 2014, CRDT decided to focus its efforts on the guesthouse in Kratie, which hosts more tourists, and closed the Stung Treng guesthouse.

Aims & Objectives of the Le Tonlé are simple:

  • To contribute to poverty reduction and ecological conservation of Cambodia by introducing responsible, sustainable tourism and by training the local population to cater for tourists.
  • To give theoretical and practical training to young disadvantaged Cambodians in the different areas of tourism professions to enable them to obtain varied and worthwhile careers.
  • To provide quality training in response to the requirements of tourism professionals in Cambodia.
  • To integrate the values of responsible tourism in the training.

The Le Tonlé training model is Learning by Doing, and our 12 month training course covers a range of industry-specific subjects.

  • Theoretical classes: General English, English for Tourism, Administration & Invoicing, Computer Literacy, Service Excellence, and Ecology.
  • Practical classes: Hygiene, First Aid, House-keeping, Cooking & Food Preparation, Food & Beverage service, Front Office & Reception, and Job Application & CV Development.

    Since its inception, 121 students (63 female) have graduated from the 12 month Le Tonlé training program. 95% of their trainees found work after graduation in guest houses, hotels, restaurants and other tourism providers in the provinces of Stung Treng, Kratie and Ratanakiri.

    Hospitality skills are sorely lacking in Cambodia, simply because of the lack of training institutes focusing on vocation skills. Despite year on year growth of tourist arrivals, and ever growing number of guest houses, hotels, and tourism providers, there is a deficit of suitably skilled staff. The training provided by Le Tonlé equips students with job-ready skills, and employers and tourism operators in the north-east welcome the skills and enthusiasm their graduates bring to their new careers.

    By the way, want to see the dolphins?  Check out this video:

    Want to hear Kat and I singing Justin Beiber?  Check this video out:

    This is the first social good hotel I’ve ever stayed at.  Have you ever stayed in one before?  Know of any others in Cambodia?

May Mission Month – Oaks Parish

There are few moments when the time zone world collide and things work out just right.  For example, 7PM in Portland, Oregon, the perfect time for wine and fellowship, happens to be 9AM for me the next morning, perfect time to be wide awake and visit with my church family back in Portland.  Earlier this week, I got the chance to “call in” to my church back home during their/our May Mission Month.  It was such a blessing to see you all!  I’m so encouraged that Oaks Parish is participating in May Missions Month.  Pastor Bryan asked me to answer a few questions before our chat.  We didn’t get time to get through them all so I figured I would answer them here.  Again, it was so great to see you all.  And for those of you who sent Easter cards – I just got them!  My dad brought them over on a business trip and they were so appreciated.  Thank you!  Ya’ll sure know how to make a girl feel loved!

  • Why did you feel led to life and work in Cambodia?

I’ve had a lifelong dream of traveling to Cambodia, I think it’s because I read in a Zoobook that they have fresh water dolphins and that was enough to sell me on this magical country. In 2014, my parents and I made this dream a reality and spent two weeks traveling around Cambodia. Ever since then, God has been calling me back.

I’m actually spending this weekend traveling to Kratie (about five hours north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia) with a few girlfriends in hopes of seeing these endangered dolphins for the first time!

  • Tell us more about the culture of Cambodia and your work with Daughters.

One thing I love about Cambodia culture is when it comes to food, you share it!  I’ve learned if I’m going on any type of trip to pack twice as many snacks as I need, just so I have the opportunity to share it with people – friends, strangers, kids on the street.  You name it (or in my case: point) – you share it.  I love that food is a very easy to way to bond with people.  At my office, the girls are always sharing snacks with me.  I trust that they won’t give me anything that will make me sick and so far, I’ve tried a lot of really different foods – frog, fermented duck eggs, something I call “fish floss”, and a bunch of other street foods for like $0.30!  I love it.  Just this week, one of my co-workers shared jicama with me!  That was an interesting language opportunity:

Jenna: Oh, jicama!  Khnom nam srok Americ dockinier!  (Broken Khmer for “I eat in America – the same!”)

Bong:  Hicama?  Spell it.

Jenna:  J-I-C-A-M-A.  But the “j”  is a “h” sound.

Bong:  Why?

Jenna:  Well it’s actually a Spanish word.  And in Spanish, “j” is a “h” sound.

Bong:  So no Americ word?

Jenna:  Not really, we just use the Spanish word in America.  But that is okay, because Khmer doesn’t have a “j” sound anyways.

Bong:  Proceeds to “jicama” randomly for the next couple of minutes.

Jenna:  A-ah-nah!  (Khmer: Very good!)

I seriously have no idea how to pronounce “jicama” in Khmer.  But I did learn it is considered a fruit (ply chur) and not a vegetable (bon-lie).

Work at Daughters is going well.  Since I just hit my seven months of being in Cambodia, I’m doing six month updates for Client Update Interviews.  Daughters does this every six months with the girls who are in our Sponsorship program.  It’s really cool to be here for six months and sit down with the same girls who I interviewed during my first month, when I was absolutely clueless, and hear directly from them how their lives have changed.  For example, they have moved into better houses, there kids are in school and doing well, how God is answering their prayers, what they did for Khmer New Year, etc.  It’s really great.  Most of them participate in my weekly work out class so I always ask them what is one thing they have learned in my work out class.  Which always gets a chuckle out of the girls, since this is the main time I really get to hang out with them.  I’m working hard to get all the updates done before July, since I’ll be home for most of that month.

  • How does the gospel meet unique spiritual needs in Cambodia?

In the work I do at Daughters, the gospel provides so much encouragement and fact.

God loves you.

He has wiped away your sins.

There is nothing you can do to make God love you less.

He sets captives free.

He hears you and listens to your prayers.

When you call out to Him, He will rescue you.

He breaks chains.

There is nothing to big/messy,/complicated, etc. for God.

Every day at work, I get the opportunity to speak these words over girls.  Everyday I get the reminder that those truths are also just as true in my life as they are in the girls’ lives.  And for that I’m extremely thankful and blessed.

The spiritual needs for Cambodia are great.  It’s an entire nation recovering from genocide.  There are orphans, fatherless, widows, addicts, abusers, abused, broken people, doing the best they can to survive.  While it’s messy, confusing and a little overwhelming.  There is so much hope, potential and opportunity here.  Generational sin, abuse, addiction and fear are slowly being broken – one person at a time.  Working and serving here is like getting a front row seats to watching people take the first, third and hundredth step forward.  It’s truly a honor to be so close to the action, when you know you didn’t even buy the nosebleed seats.  Being able to cheer people on is definitely the best part, even if it is just in silent prayer walking Bullet around the block.

  • What can the church in Cambodia teach us?

I go to two churches here in Cambodia, one is in English and serves primarily ex-patriots and the other is in Khmer (Cambodian national language).  The number one thing I’m learning from the Khmer church is that God loves worship – not matter what.  No matter if you understand the sermon, the song, the prayer, you can still worship God.  I’m getting more confident in singing a few worship songs in Khmer and if you are focused on the right words and understanding the translation – it doesn’t matter how your voice sounds.  Plus, it’s fun to be encouraged by your Cambodian friends.

On the flip side, I believe the Cambodian church is learning a lot about unity and being in unity with one another as the body of Christ.  This is something I would love to see continue to be strengthened within my Khmer church.  That you can love one another even in the midst of being broken.  None of us are perfect and none of us have all the answers or even the right answers, but we are trying to do life together in community and to do that we need to be in unity with one another, supporting and encouraging one another.

When it comes to my English church, they are so focused on community care.  They love on each other well.  My Bible Study spends one hour just hanging out doing community and one hour on the actual study.  I love the group because we are all doing different things here in Cambodia, some of us are studying malaria, some of us work in human trafficking, counseling, teaching or emergency response and radios!  It’s such a cool bunch of people doing very different things.  It gives me a lot of exposure to what to be praying about for my group throughout the week.

  • What challenges are you facing personally and how can we pray for you?

I’d really love continued prayer for safety and protection.  I’m a single woman living in a third world country so I’m not naive to the fact that what I’m doing is a little risky.  I recently joined a motorcycle group called “Prayer Circle Cambodia” which has historically been a group of guys riding into rural Cambodia to teach about Jesus.  They recently opened up the group to four women and I’m extremely honored to be one of them.  The entire team could use this prayer, but since I’m a noobie, I could use some extra prayer.  (Especially when it comes to cows.)

There is a lot of stuff happening around Cambodia as well.  I would strongly encourage you do some research on your own to what that entails and pray for peace within the country of Cambodia.  We are entering into an interesting time within the nation and prayers for safety and protection could also be applied here.

Have any other questions about life in Cambodia or how you can support the work I am doing?  Leave a comment or send me an email!  I would love to hear from you!  (Also, friendly reminder, I’ll be back in the States July 15 – August 1.)  Please send me an email if you’d like to meet up.