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.
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.
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?
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.
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”.
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!
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.
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.)
Again, I really love hearing from everyone back home. Please send me an email and let me know how life is.
Hospitality is huge for me. I love welcoming people into my home and giving them a place to rest. This includes my love of handmade soaps and candles. I’m still trying to figure out local prices – like I can get a four pack of factory made soaps here for $1.20USD. Which works, but isn’t “homey” to me. I recently was exploring the F.C.C. (really famous restaurant here in Phnom Penh) and found this:
Cute little soaps with this message on the back of them:
The Bumblebee Group (Cambodia) works to empower Cambodians to determine their own future through employment and education opportunities. We produce luxury soaps and beauty products as well as soaps specifically designed for hygiene in the developing world. We also operate a homestay for young interns and visiting team members, and a custom tuktuk tour company. Profit from these ventures fund our free education program. “Eat honey, my child, for it is sweet and good to eat. Wisdom and knowledge are like honey – if you find them, you will have hope for your future.” – Proverbs 24:13-14
While this soap is a little more expensive ($4/bar) it supports local Khmer through education and vocational training. Plus, it smells great! I’m getting so many compliments on this soap I’m going to get a few more bars as gifts!
Bumblebee Cambodia Soap is part of the Bumblebee Cambodia social enterprise group. Their soaps feature premium virgin coconut oil made in Cambodia by Coco Khmer, Italian olive oil and silky smooth Australian castor oil. They blend the finest essential oils from Asia and around the world. 100% of their product sales are reinvested in the social mission of Bumblebee Cambodia Soap.
I picked up two bars – Heaven Scent (currently in my main flood bathroom) and The Healthy Hippy – just in case my guests or myself pick up some weird skin bug. Like I said I picked my soaps up at FCC on Sisowath Quay. Less than a block away from Daughters Visitor Centre.
Know any other social good businesses based in Phnom Penh? Leave me a comment below and let me know. Thanks!
I’ve started a list of socially good businesses I want to check out during my time here in Cambodia. A new friend recommended I check out Jars of Clay, near the Russian Market. Jars of Clay is a family orientated cafe which operates as a social enterprise providing sustainable employment for many disadvantaged and at-risk young Khmer women.
Established in 1998 by Barbara Neale, a missionary from the United Kingdom and five young women who were equal shareholders in the business. Jars of Clay Cafe was founded on Christian values, with a strong social mission to help vulnerable young women from various backgrounds, like needing reintegration into a safe workplace setting after being rescued from human trafficking or prostitution.
This is the part of the story that I love. In 2007, Barbara handed the business over to the Khmer staff who were existing share holders in the business. Since then the business has continued to flourish under the Khmer management team. They even offer access to educational scholarships to their staff members. From those humble beginnings, Jars of Clay now has over 20 Khmer staff and two locations. One in Toul Tom Poung (a one block walk to the Russian Market) and Phnom Penh Thmey (near the airport).
Jars of Clay’s motto is, “Always with love.” And has the following values:
We are: Local Cambodian owned and managed.
We offer: Healthy, tasty, and affordable home cooked foods.
We employ: Vulnerable and disadvantaged women.
We give: 10% of profits to support local NGOs.
We exist: To provide great food in a friendly atmosphere – serving their customers always with love.
We went for brunch. I had the full American breakfast and a Khmer coffee. My roommate got the build your own sandwich on a bagel that she said was really good. I heard that most people come here for the desserts. So I’ll definitely be back. Another great thing about Jars of Clay is it’s one block from the Russian Market, a big tourist attraction here in Phnom Penh. You could easily use Jars of Clay as your pre (or post) meet up spot.
Have you ever been to Cambodia? What social good places would you recommend to check out?
At #321 Sisowath Quay (aka the Riverside) in Phnom Penh, there is an awesome shop / cafe / spa called Daughters of Cambodia Visitor Centre. Here you can learn all about the amazing work Daughters is doing in the city of Phnom Penh and the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Launched in 2010 to provide training for their clients (term used for women leaving the sex industry and gainfully employed by Daughters) in customer service industries. There are 20 clients currently employed at the Visitor Centre, with positions ranging from head chef to business manager to barista. With the additional opportunity for visitors and tourists to support Daughters and learn what the organization does to support the freedom of women (and their families) leaving the sex industry.
The Boutique is located on the ground floor of the Visitor Centre and showcases all the clients’ beautiful work. Every item sold in the Boutique is produced at Daughters Operations Centre, located in the heart of Phnom Penh’s red-light district. It’s at the Operation Centre where young women and men who were formally trafficked into the sex industry are able to start a new life. (This is also my main office, where I go to work most days.)
Daughters beautiful products include fashion accessories, t-shirts (for men, women and children), children’s toys, accessories, jewelry, home furnishings, wooden ornaments and Christmas decorations. (I’m slowly decorating my new apartment with Daughters products. Right now my favorite thing is the 4th of July bunting they have. I’ve got a little bit of America hanging in my room.)
The Sugar N Spice Cafe offers a cool, relaxing environment in which to enjoy a respite from the Phnom Penh heat and dust, with a cup of premium coffee or a refreshing fruit smoothie. Treat yourself to an indulgent brunch or lunch, or a sumptuous homemade treat, like the famous gooey, chocolate browning.
(I’m currently in the process of eating my way through the entire menu. My current favorite item is the chicken quesadillas. This is the only place in Phnom Penh that serves homemade salsa and guac so far.)
The ambiance is unbeatable, with a serene, stylish, interior design overlooking the tranquility of the Tonle Sap River. The cafe has free wifi, air conditioning and unbeatable prices.
At the Hands N Feet Spa, weary travelers in need of some relaxation will find just what they are looking for. They offer an array of manicures, pedicures, and massages for the hands, feet, head, and shoulders.
Daughters of Cambodia exists to empower those trapped in the sex industry in Cambodia to walk free and start a new life, with healing, dignity, and the means to prosper. Daughters of Cambodia aims to help at least 100 girls each year to permanently walk free from sex-work, and to experience psychological healing and quality of life. They teach their clients how to sustain their new life-styles in non-institutional settings, and provide recovery programs including social work, counseling, medical treatment and life-skills classes.
“In that brothel I felt I was in hell and would never get out, I thought I would die there and never return home. It was beyond my belief that I had become a sex worker. I felt so hopeless, so worthless, without value. I stayed locked in that brothel for one year.”
They are motivated by the belief that Jesus is the Light and the Hope for the World. Isaiah 61: 1-3 summarizes the ministry of Jesus Christ and says, “the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners….to comfort all who mourn…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
Commercial sexual exploitation of children and young women and men in Cambodia has escalated over the last decade into what is now an “industry”. In Cambodia, there are several key factors that lead to a girl entering the sex industry, and once there, it is hard for her to leave:
Social stigma and lack of education reduce alternative job options.
Children want to support their parents financially in order to pay back the debt of being born.
Loss of hope is off-set by the belief that she will earn a better re-incarnation through sacrificing her life to support her family.
Victims are unwilling to live in a shelter due to the loss of dignity/choice and the need to retain existing support networks and family relationships (collectivist-society).
Our clients come to us voluntarily because they are looking for life-change. We are not a shelter and our approach is non-institutionalization. Clients choose where they wish to live, and most choose to remain in the community, where they can maintain relationships with their families and friends.
Instead of creating dependence, we empower our clients, building their internal capacity and providing the external resources they need to change their own lives within their cultural and social contexts. We seek to create changes that are internal, voluntary and sustainable — not imposed. Long-term success is achieved when a client remains out of the sex industry for the rest of her life, supporting herself through dignified, rewarding work and achieving psychological and social health.
Daughters had a dedicated, talented and incredible team of Khmer staff who are assisted by a small number of skilled foreign volunteers, all of whom are passionate about the cause. They work in departments of social services, medical clinics, production of business, design, retail, administration, communications (me!), and finance.
This is it! I made it! I mean, I guess the journey is really just beginning. BUT I AM HERE! In Cambodia, working, making friends, and learning a ton!
I landed in Cambodia on Friday evening, spent the weekend in a dazed, meeting new people, trying to figure out connections, trying not to get lost, etc.
Then on Monday, I went to work for the first day. The first couple of hours were pretty typical, trying to remember people’s names, roles, where the bathroom is, etc. Then we had church.
Daughters offers church on Monday mornings for the Clients (the term we use for women leaving the sex industry). I walked in with the Staff team and a few minutes later, all the Clients came in and I realized it, “These are my people. This is why I’m here.” The entire service was in Khmer so I pretty much just spent the hour glowing, sneaking glances at these women, the Staff, and thanking God for this calling. I’m still in awe of that moment.
Since my first Monday, I’ve managed to get lost a few times going to work. (Trust me I’m a lot better now.) I’ve managed to get WIFI at my apartment, which is insanely helpful when you are trying to learn a new location, language, and keep in contact with family and friends. I’ve made a close group of friends, which really embody the “froommate” vibe. They are constantly inviting me over to hang out and eat with them. For that, I’m extremely thankful. I think I’m really settling into life here.
Work is going well. I’m working on three grant proposals, a photoshoot, reviving our Instagram channel, and marketing to local hotels. Plus, I’ve managed to make a few friends at work and enjoying eating Khmer lunch with them most days.
Below are some life updates and prayer requests. Thanks again for being part of my amazing team. Please write me back and share what is happening in your life. As much as I love being in Cambodia, I do get homesick and I do crave knowing what is happening in your lives back home. I would also love to answer any questions you might have about Cambodia, Daughters, life here, etc. I look forward to hearing from you.
I would really appreciate you joining me in prayer in the following ways:
Health / Housing – I’ve been “sick” since I landed in Cambodia. I think it’s a combination of all the dust and the fact that my apartment doesn’t have A/C, so my little asthmatic lungs are working so hard even when I’m sleeping. I’m praying about finding a new place to live.
Bullet / Beckie – Looks like they will be coming out for Thanksgiving! Anyone else want to come and help Bullet move in? I’m still waiting on my work visa to come in so I can finalize plans. I miss him so much! Beckie has been great at sending me updates and I go back and forth being really happy how happy he is, really jealous of Beckie, and really nervous about him living here.
Friends / Moto – I’m hoping to expand my friendship circle to more than just co-workers. I believe I need to get a moto (think scooter) to get some more independence and easier travel. It’s dangerous to walk at night so I need to take a tuk tuk which is also risky. If I have a moto, I can just scoot to where I need to go to meet up with people.
While I was still in Thailand, I was able to check out this really awesome coffee shop in the Nana District of Bangkok. CityLight Coffee is coffee with a connection. They make delicious coffee made with the freshest locally-sourced beans, a homemade pastries, and have very comfortable chairs to rest in.
For those who don’t know, the Nana District of Bangkok, is a red-light district. To get to this coffee shop, you have to walk past several adult bars to get to the coffee shop. We went during that day, so it wasn’t overtly in your face, but it was definitely noticeable.
Thailand is a source, destination and transit country for trafficking in persons according to the 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs. An estimated are that 80% of Thai men frequent women in bars and 60% of foreign men entering Thailand participate in the sex industry, generating approximately US $1.2 billion annually.
This coffee shop is a light in the darkness, a safe place to come in, escape the madness, enjoy a coffee or their signature CityLight cold creations (I went with the coconut creme and it did not disappoint) and lounge on their comfy couches.
They also have some great jewelry for sale, made by local women looking to better their economic circumstances.
I also picked up a new coffee mug and snagged a bag of their coffee beans, these locally-sourced beans are from Abonzo Coffee, a small coffee farm operated by Akha Hilltribe people on Doi Chaang, located 65km outside of Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand. CityLight Coffee purchases the beans directly from the farmer, ensuring that no money passes through a middleman and maximizing the benefit to the community. The beans are grown on the highest part of Doi Chaang which provides the perfect climate for full-flavored coffee beans. All of the farm laborers are paid fair wages and Abonzo Coffee seeks to use proceeds from their coffee sales to benefit education and job opportunities in their Akha community. How cool is that?
Ever been to Bangkok? What was your favorite coffee shop?
Words can not express how pumped/thrilled/wicked excited I am to be home in Cambodia. This is a three year prayer in the making!
For the record, it’s way easier to fly from Bangkok to Phnom Penh, then from Portland, Oregon. The flight was only 40 minutes! One of my new co-workers picked me up, I had dinner with the Founder of Daughters, Ruth (aka lady I’ve been emailing with since Summer 2016). I also met a few more of my co-workers during a worship session last night and my roommate for the next month. Slept like a babe, went shopping this morning and am now emailing you. God is so good! While I enjoyed my time in Thailand, it was a rough month. I’m so happy and at peace here. I start work on Monday and can not wait!
Thank you so much for praying for me, texting me, Facebook messaging me, and supporting me on this journey. The year has just started and I’m excited to see what happens. A more detailed email will be coming soon. But for now, I’m alive, I am home, and my contact information is below:
I’ve got a new phone number. Here are the three ways to get a hold of me:
1. Email me.
2. Reply leave a comment.
3. Text me on WhatsApp!
How are you doing? Let me know what’s going on in your life.
Antique Cafe serves up compassion, hope, and honor in their coffee shop located in Bangkok, Thailand. This is a for-profit social business that provides on the job training to prepare vulnerable individuals for their next job in the food and beverage industry. They exist to support and empower their local community. Their heart is for developing and collaborating with others. They do this primarily as a rental space where groups can meet for workshops, small events, community gatherings, and special interest clubs.
This week, I had the opportunity to check out an adorable coffee shop and bakery called, Samaritan Creations. Samaritan Creations was founded by Mike & Kay Killar (who were kind enough to give me a tour) with Kong & Sook Phomphuong in May 2010. Kay, who is Thai, first visited the infamous Patpong red-light district on a ministry trip with a friend. It was during this time that the Lord broke her heart for the two million girls all over Thailand who were trapped in a horrifying situation and in desperate need for the Lord. Together with her husband, Mike, they decided to begin development of a ministry to give these women a way out of the trap that they were in. Now they help operate the Samaritan Creations ministry, helping many women discover an alternative to life in the sex trade and about a loving God that wants them to be healed and free.