This week we have been focusing mainly on how we can prepare to plan for the trip to Cambodia and how to go about the activities we will do there. Firstly, we look to direct our attention on what exactly the staff at CSSD (Cooperation of Social Services and Development) would like our team to accomplish there. Also, upon completing the tasks within the 6 week span, we would like the team to evaluate our services there so that we may work to improve our team for the following year.
The Skype call took place in the Food Science Builiding on Busch Campus at 10 pm. Mr. Chanthan was prompt to answer the call and (as always) we received welcoming smiles and excitement from him upon seeing our bright and shining faces. This call in particular was, in my opinion, the most productive and informational meeting we have had so far with CSSD. Mr. Chanthan was clear in stating the organization’s Mission: to enhance the livelihood of the Cambodian people (mainly in Phnom Penh) and to eventually expand to servicing children, poor civilians and to people at risk. He is open to new projects to broaden the scope of CSSD by strengthening partnerships and building a network with other organizations and government institutions in the Phnom Penh area. Our GROW team suggested that we arrange a meeting with other GlobeMed grassroots organizations in Phenom Penh while we are there so that CSSD may collaborate and share ideas/experiences with them and establish a support system for the future.
Mr. Chanthan also emphasized the idea that CSSD is very experienced with dealing with “vulnerable people” (entertainment workers, men who have sex with men, drug users), however it is hard to communicate and interact with other beneficiaries because they lack the knowledge and don’t care about their health as well as their human rights. Furthermore, these beneficiaries are not respectful to CSSD, which makes it harder for CSSD to accomplish their goal. To add to the struggle, dealing the three groups (EW, MSM, and drug users) present three different attitudes and environments which the staff have to adjust to. Much of the staff at CSSD were former EW, MSM and drug users that were inspired to change their ways and teach other vulnerable people to improve their lives as well. CSSD can continue to recruit new staff to work in their office, however they want the people to WANT to be helped and WANT to learn. Mr. Chanthan believes that the most effective people that can teach others are those that have been in a vulnerable situation themselves in the past. In this way, the staff’s passion and concern to help others (EW/MSM/drug users) is sincere and relatable.
Our conversation with Mr. Chanthan continued on to discuss the step by step work day of the staff as well as our daily schedule as interns when we arrive in the CSSD office in May. The staff at CSSD currently service 750 clients and schedule to meet with each client 8 times/year. Throughout the course of the year, the CSSD staff teach 6-7 important topics to the clients that will help improve their health and livelihood. The staff is trained to record each meeting so that the events are documented. When our GROW team is there, CSSD asks us to train them on project design and report writing twice a week so that they may clearly communicate their goals and projects in a professional and well-planned way in the future. They also would like us to hold English sessions in the morning from 7-8 and a review from 1:30-2 pm everyday so that their staff can improve their English. Lastly, for one full day each week, GROW with teach CSSD more about data entry and how to design their next project.
Unfortunately, we had to end the call unexpectedly when my laptop signaled ‘low battery’ and we happily said goodbye to Mr. Chanthan and his response as always is – “Sweet Dreams!” – acknowledging the 12 hour time difference between our 2 locations in the world. However, he is unaware of the cultural differences between real life and ‘college life’ in which college students don’t hit the hay until the early hours of the morning at 1 or 2 am.
At the end of the day, our GROW team is eager to land in Phnom Penh and help CSSD as much as we can. Before we get ahead of ourselves however, we need to plan plan plan! It is one thing to travel halfway across the world and dedicate 6 weeks out of our summer to extend our services for the greater good, but it is another thing to PLAN beforehand (long beforehand) effective and applicable lessons that will have the most impact on the people there. Up until we all leave on May 21st, our time as a GROW team will be directed to planning for and learning about CSSD and the Cambodian culture.
Until next time – Cheers!
With GlobeMed Love ❤