Experiences from the U.S. Would Change My Life and My Community

RATANA Oeurn

Cambodia

Chum Reap Sour!

Hello Everyone!

You may learn some Khmer (Cambodian) in the attached picture of this blog. It must be fun to learn some Khmer words for the Economic Empowerment Program.

I have arrived Montana, USA for 3 weeks now for attending an excellent Economic Empowerment Program hosted by the Mansfield Center of the University of Montana. From the north-western part of Cambodia, I am very proud and honored to be chosen for this wonderful program.

In this second blog, I will share with you what I have learned from this program in the United States. Before, I start in detail, I would like to express my deepest thanks to the following people who have contributed and invested a lot of their time, energy, knowledge and skills in me such as: Deena Mansour and Kelsey Stamm of the Mansfield Center, Montana University, Missoula, MT; Mark and Caroline Rehder, Owner of Organic Geyser Farm and Fellowship Host Coordinator for Cambodia and Thailand, Livingston, MT; Jon Berens, Owner of Neptune’s Brewery, Livingston, MT; Bob Zimmer, the Water Program Coordinator at Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Bozeman, MT; Amanda Schultz, Director at the Montana Women’s Business Center, Livingston, MT; Alex C. Sienkiewicz, District Ranger at Gallatin National Forest/ Yellowstone Ranger District, Livingston, MT; Katie Weaver, Economic and Community Development Agent, Extension Office of the Montana State University; Sarah Ondrus, Owner of Paradise Adventure Company, Yellowstone Park, MT; Lil Erickson, Rob, and Margi of the Western Sustainability Exchange in Livingston, MT; Dean Williamson, Owner of Three Hearts Farm, organic certified farm in Bozeman, MT; Matt & Jacy Rothschiller, Owner of Gallatin Valley Botanical Farm, organic certified farm in Bozeman MT. And others people whom I cannot mention.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to the U.S. Department of State for sponsoring this Economic Empowerment Program (EEP) that allows fellows from different countries, especially in the lower Mekong River in Southeast Asia be able to come to the United States to learn about American cultures and to broaden their professional skills.

After one week program at the Mansfield Center in Missoula, I moved to Livingston for staying with a very kind American family of Mark and Caroline Rehder. I am very warm welcome and accommodated in a very good room in their cozy house. What makes me very much appreciated about Mark and Caroline Rehder is they are not only my host family but they are also my professional coordinator. They are really kind and helpful to offer me all assistances to achieve my professional interests. Mark (the husband) and Caroline (the wife) are the owners of Geyser Farm and they have been farming for nearly 20 years.

In this program, I have learned many things from different organizations and individual professionals in Missoula, Livingston and Bozeman via the private sectors, government, non-profit organizations and people. Three important areas that I have learned from this program are 1). American Cultures; 2). Natural Resources Management and Conservation; and 3). Sustainable Agriculture through Organic Farming.

1. American Cultures: Before I came to the United States, I knew very little about this huge landscape and big diversity country. I have learned about the American history, cultures, and how they interact with each other. With my almost two weeks staying in a house with an American family, I get to know about their habits, food, family management, and hospitalization. Based on my observation, Americans are more direct and open-minded. They like sharing and exchanging ideas.

2. Land Management and Natural Resources Conservation: I have learned that plants, land, water, soil and animal are important for the planet. Most Americans understand the importance of these resources and they are trying to protect them and use them in sustainable way. For example, here in Montana, Clacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park are the most beautiful places that attract millions of tourists every year. I have learned that these resources are very important because they brings together land use planning, water management, biodiversity conservation, and the future sustainability of industries like agriculture, mining, tourism, fisheries and forestry.

3. Sustainable Agriculture through Organic Farming: I see that most products on the store at the market either fruits or vegetables are most organic certified. I met and discussed with several organizations and governmental institutions about sustainable agriculture. Air and water pollution, chemical fertilizer and land cover improvement have been discussed and recommended to transform. I have learned from experts and farmers that they the best way to sustain agricultural farming system are to rotate crop patterns (crop diversification), grow weed for improving land cover, and use compost for improving soil fertility. These are very good lessons learnt and I will share these lessons learnt to Cambodia farmers.

I have learned so many things from this wonderful program and I cannot describe them all. I also have learned many things from participants from other counties. I hope that all knowledge and skills that I have gained from the U.S in this program would change my personal life, my professional skills and also would help me to change my community in the future. Once again, I would like to say thank you very much for your support and encouragement.

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