Cards, Cake, and Gratitude

The end-of-internship apprehension is beginning to set in as our last full work week at CSSD ends.

On Monday, Mr. Chanthan attended a training session with USAID to discuss requirements and procedures in order to secure funding from them. Even while he was gone, the staff members worked diligently so that the office seemed a little more quiet than usual. But during lunch, they allowed themselves a few liberties and took us on a trip to Boeung Keng Kang Market, which is known for its wide selection of clothes for great prices. Rottanak, Sophea, and Sraiyon seemed to love showing us around and asking us to try on different outfits or accessories. It was a fun way to learn about their styles and personalities while exploring a new part of the city that we had yet to visit. We shopped around for less than an hour, returned back to the office within the time allotted for our lunch break, and continued to work. Our aim over the next few days was to complete the website so that we could present it to the staff, get feedback, and make changes before the internship is over.

Mr. Chanthan’s training session continued into Tuesday, leading to a second day of calm and productivity. We made progress on the internship application, using Google Forms to create the questionnaire and linking a spreadsheet to record the responses. Once the website is published and the internship is properly publicized, we hope to populate the spreadsheet with lots of applicants! That afternoon, the staff stayed after work to relax with us, aware of the fact that we would have few other opportunities to do so. We sat around Sophea’s desk, ate mango and peanuts, and talked and laughed together for some time before going home.

Wednesday marked Mr. Chanthan’s return from training and the staff resumed their bustling work mode, full of activity and noise. Our team continued to develop the website, writing a majority of the page contents and bringing us closer to finishing within our self-imposed deadline. After the work day was over, we went to a park in front of the Independence Monument. I sat on a bench with my laptop and hacked away at my personal statement for medical school, while the rest of the team exercised. It was exciting for me personally to write in such a stimulating environment and the rest of the team seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed their run as well. The following day was full of similar activities during the work day, as we rounded out the website content and began adding photos and adjusting page layouts. Jackie and I also began interviewing some staff members with basic questions (like what is your name, what is your position at CSSD, etc) to not only sharpen their English skills, but also to compile footage for a short summary video describing the staff. This is just one of the many ways we hope to bring GROW back to the staff once the trip has come to a close.

Friday was our going away party. Many of the staff members will be attending training with PSI next week, so this was one of our last opportunities to gather after work in the office to celebrate the end of the internship. I was hoping to ease into the festivities by beginning with a normal work day to wrap up some changes on the website and then transitioning into the party. But Mr. Chanthan urged us to start the festivities earlier in the day, so that the work day was completely over by 10:30 in the morning. The staff brought food from the market (including green mangoes, peanuts, and steamed fish), which they arranged on two tables outside. We filled the afternoon with photos, memories, stories, karaoke, and dancing.

After cutting the cake, each team member read a personal message to the CSSD staff, which we had written in a card that we presented to Mr. Chanthan during the party. It was nearly impossible to stand in front of all of them and speak about how much they mean to us. The past six weeks were defined entirely by their hospitality, generosity, and genuine good nature, a fact that we wanted them to understand but could not properly express. As we read through our messages, Mr. Chanthan translated our thoughts so that everyone could understand them, a process which made the whole experience even more touching. Jackie spoke last and found herself tearing up as she read her words aloud, a surprise that caught me, the rest of the team, and the CSSD staff very much off guard. It snapped the reality of our leaving into sharp focus. Immediately afterward, Sopany read a message to us about how much she will miss us and our smiles and how appreciative she was of our help. It was hard for me to process the fact that they could be the ones expressing gratitude towards us, when we had learned so much from them.

GroupWe passed the rest of the evening in festivities and celebration, putting aside sadness to instead cherish the few days that we have left together.

– Nabgha

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