Using Finance to Initiate Change Around the World

By: Meagan Kraft

I had the privilege of being a host family for my fellow last year, that I am now visiting in Dien Bien Phu. I had been looking forward to this trip for many months. I did quite a bit of research to try to prepare for the culture and my experience. I did not want to act or say the wrong thing. I arrived in Hanoi, with a co-worker of mine, on 3/2/20, after a very long flight. We were then connected with a wonderful woman, who was a contact of the YSEALI program. We had one day in Hanoi and then we were to catch a flight on 3/3/20 to Dien Bien Phu. Our contact was gracious and took out to eat and gave us the quickest city tour of Hanoi. It was truly a beautiful city. It was one of the busiest cities I have ever visited, and traffic was quite scary. There appeared to be no rhyme or reason to the road or how traffic flowed and there was a lot of traffic. In Vietnam you just walk across the streets without waiting for cars or motor bikes to stop. That was very intimidating and hard to get used to, but someone how it just works.

On 3/3/20 we caught our final flight to Dien Bien Phu. We stepped off the plane and I was hit with wave of extreme heat, mind you I was coming from Montana and was not acclimated to the temperature. We went straight to our hotel from the Airport. Once settled in my room, it hit me. I had culture shock and felt extremely overwhelmed and out of my element. It was a combination of the long travel, exhaustion, the language barrier and things just being completely different than I am used to. However, after some rest the shock started to ware off. I quickly realized I was among some of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met.

I am wrapping up my first week in Dien Bien Phu. I am here to work with an NGO called Anh Chi Em (ACE). Vietnam has made it through some tremendous economic growth. However, in Dien Bien Phu there are many rural villages that are unable to pull themselves out the vicious poverty circle. That is where Ahn Chi Em comes into play, they are truly using finance to initiate change. They were founded by a French NGO Entrepreneurs du Monde (EdM) in 2007 and launched a micro finance program with the primary goal of reaching as many ethnic minority individuals as possible. Most of the beneficiaries of this program are women, I was told that 85% of the money lent is to women. There are two reasons for the majority of the borrowers being women.

  1. The program was started by a women union program that aims to lift us women and children.
  2. The women have more time to attend the training for the loans as the husbands are often working away from the household.

This micro-fiannce program is not like all. This one is a social micro finance program, that not only focuses on financial aspects, but also nonfinancial activities.

  1. The finance portion of the program lends out money at a very low rate 1.3% to 1.4% , which is not traditional for a micro-finance program. Also, as part of the loan they also encourage savings. The saving is encouraged in 2 different ways. One is that each month they must deposit a minimum of 30,000 Dong (approximately $1.25 USD), this is the money that is then used to lend to other beneficiaries. The second is voluntary savings. The beneficiaries can access these funds at any time.
  2. The nonfinancial part of the program focuses on social education. The types of education are things such as agricultural training, human trafficking, HIV/AIDS training, hygiene and many other trainings.

The beneficiaries are very poor and seek small dollar loans to purchase thing such as fertilizer or livestock. However, ACE encourages the beneficiaries to diversify their income as agriculture and livestock can be very unpredictable. There is no control over the weather and therefore their crops may not produce, or the animals get stick and die. When these things happen, then they cannot make a profit to pay back the loans. Hence why the non-financial training can be very important, they try to help by educating the beneficiaries on the different business topics, specific to their needs. The other challenge is that even if they can diversify their income, the areas are very remote, and it is hard to get their products in front of tourist or consumers.

So, far I have spent the majority of my time in the field, learning about ACE’s entire lending process. From the initial meeting (underwriting), to the application process, to the group meetings and nonfinancial trainings (risk management), to delinquency follow up and to the disbursement of the funds. All of this is a done in a manual way. The credit officers work in the remote areas of Dien Bien Phu, every day. They go to the beneficiaries, unlike in the US, where many of these types of transactions are done in person or online. They face many obstacles and their safety can be a risk.

We had the opportunity to visit a village where the women make products from a homemade loom. The whole process is natural, all the way down to the dying of the yarn to make the products. The people truly live off the land and use the land in everyway possible.

ACE goes above and beyond to try and make a difference within their community and their work is truly special. At the end of the day my co-worker and I debrief on our learnings and have come to realize, that while they do things much different here, we actually have quite a lot to learn from them and are thinking of some of the experience we can bring back to our financial institution. So, far my experience has been one of the most humbling experiences. I have been greeted with nothing but excitement and kindness. I have been welcomed into every home with open arms and smiles on their faces. What is inspiring to me is that this whole lending process is not for wants, but simply just needs. I have realized I take a lot of things for granted in my life and this has been very eye opening.

Now that I have a true understanding of the process and the challenges the program faces, my co-worker and I will focus on how we can help. We are working on some management training, policy reviews and process efficiencies. I am looking forward to another amazing week.

Until, next week Tam Biet!

We are now Clearwater Credit Union!
Learn more at https://clearwatercreditunion.org/newname/

Clearwater Credit Union

Slingshot to Laos

In the weeks leading up to my professional fellowship exchange to Laos I had many feelings. Some of them exhilarating and some of them absolutely terrifying. I made packing lists, checked off tasks to wrap up at the office, and organized logistically for international travel. I prepared my family with food and freezer meals and showed my children where I would be on the world map. It was overwhelming at times, and there were moments as the Coronavirus outbreak escalated that I had second thoughts about going. At one point right before leaving, I described feeling like a rubberband on a slingshot. I was about to hurtle through time zones and culture into an epic adventure.

For the past five days I have had the pleasure of exploring Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. I am overwhelmingly grateful for this unique and important opportunity. The peaceful and welcoming culture of Laos has captured my heart and has allowed me to immerse quickly during my relatively short visit here. I have visited three incredible organizations working to improve health for people living with HIV, transgender and LGBTQ individuals and the sexual and reproductive health of youth. As I reflect on their work and the challenges they face, I feel connected to a sort of universal human experience. Poverty and stigma are significant factors in the overall health of the communities we serve. We share a common goal to expand inclusivity and access to healthcare that meets the unique needs of the people we serve. And advocacy and policy can make or break some of the most important health initiatives.

For the rest of my trip I look forward to digging deeper into issues of gender expression, homelessness and substance use, and the role of HIV prevention in garment factories. It is an absolute honor to be on this trip and welcomed into discussions on sensitive cultural topics. I cannot express my gratitude!

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Some Highlights From Cambodia (Week One)

By: Christopher Prosa, Montana Department of Labor & Industry, YSEALI Professional Fellows Program (Outbound Participant)

I visited the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Media Action Phnom Penh office with YSEALI Professional Fellow & BBC Media Action Project Manager, Sotheary Tum, 2/5/20. I met Country Director, Gemma Hayman, members of Sotheary’s team and other support staff and discussed some potential opportunities for future collaboration. I was very impressed by the ambitious mission of BBC Media Action, to transform lives through media worldwide and how that mission is forwarded by the very unique and strategic projects in effect locally, in Phnom Penh, and across the country. One such initiative is called Klahan9, which means Brave 9, and it is a multimedia initiative that aims to engage, inform, entertain and educate youth and to aid them by providing much needed access to career guidance and training to improve their prospects of finding quality and sustainable employment. The initiative also operates in some of the most remote areas of Cambodia to reach youth who wouldn’t otherwise have access to these types of services.

On 2/5/20 I also had an initial meeting with YESEALI Fellow Sotheary Tum and Indochina Sarfish Foundation (ISF) support staff at their office in Phnom Penh. We met to discuss the youth student workforce cohort we were to serve together, their barriers to employment and to strategize on possible subject matter and student engagement strategies for upcoming employability and career readiness soft-skills training that I was to conduct with the students. We also discussed possible student interest and assessment tools for future use and criteria for me to provide review feedback on skills and interest assessment tools currently in use. I left the meeting very moved by the work that ISF does serving a wide spectrum of youth and the intrinsic motivation that drives the staff members to serve their clients by providing education, structured sports programs and providing for basic needs.

My last business partner meeting for the first half of my trip was a meeting with Sotheary Tum, National Employment Agency, Phnom Penh Job Center Director, Aing Pheareak and National Employment Agency, Phnom Penh Job Center Advisor, Keo Rattana at the Phnom Penh Job Center 2/6/20. The purpose of this initial meeting was to discuss local and regional Job Center operations and initiatives that support their workforce and employer partner clients. We also met to discuss potential future opportunities for collaboration between the Job Center and the Montana Department of Labor & Industry’s Job Service Missoula office. I found a great deal of similarity between the Job Center office operations and those of the Job Service Missoula office, including the types of clients that we serve (both workforce and business clients) and the wide array of services we offer both client groups. The National Employment Agency representatives I met with seemed very eager to learn best practices from me and I also felt eager to learn from them in an effort for us to better serve the foreign and domestic clients we represent.

Change is Possible

BY: Kari Kerr

It is hard to find words to capture the experiences and emotions of the two weeks I spent in Myanmar, learning about the culture and meeting with survivors of violence and women leaders. I was saddened to see the realities of what victims face in their country, but I was also inspired to see the dedication of the women leaders working tirelessly to make a difference. It’s difficult to think about big change when the resources are extremely limited, but we must start somewhere. We can maintain a mindset that there isn’t anything we can do or we can dig deep and start taking small steps. When I started this work in the early ‘90’s, The Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC) had 13 staff, limited resources, and provided basic crisis services. We set our sights high and 20 years later we are now a staff of over 80, providing a comprehensive range of services focused on safety, healing and education. I shared that journey with the survivor leaders in Myanmar and we discussed what change could look like in their future. They have many barriers to overcome but they also have the passion to keep moving forward, which is critical. As I reflected on my experience on the long journey home, I kept thinking of one of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” I hope in my time there, I was able to provide information and some resources to explore different thoughts and open up some new possibilities. I know the challenge is big, but change is possible.

I am so grateful I had this opportunity and I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Kelsey Stamm and The Maureen & Mike Mansfield Center at The University of Montana for the chance to make a difference. Thank you to Amy Whitney and the University of North Dakota Center for Innovation for partnering with the YSEALI program this past May and inviting CVIC to participate. Thank you to Mindy Walker for your guidance with preparing for the trip and to Naw Kyu Ju Ni for being an amazing host and for your dedication to working with survivors. Finally, thank you to my colleagues at CVIC for covering my responsibilities during one of the busiest months so I could share our work with women leaders and survivors in Myanmar. I feel so incredibly blessed and honored to be engaged in this work and I came home ready to face the next 20 years so we can create a violence-free community for generations to come.

From North Dakota to Myanmar

BY: Kari Kerr

It has been almost 1 week since I landed in Yangon, Myanmar, and I’m really at a loss for words to truly capture this experience so far. Naw Kyu Juni has been an incredible host and has made sure I’ve been able to experience their culture before spending the past 2 days with a survivor group. What an absolute honor and privilege to share that space with so many amazing women. My heart has been touched in ways I could never have imagined. Although we have a language barrier, it turns out a smile and a hug are very universal. I look forward to continuing this work for the next week!

The Beginning of an End

The beginning of an end

How does one learn when they were young? Recall your adolescence days, growing up, you observe how people interact. Speak. Gesture. Motion. We learn by imitation.

I was back to my younger self once more as I embarked on a two-day job shadowing class observation as the. Laramie high school. Ms Angie Varca, a passionate top class chemistry educator, hosted me in her senior chemistry class and AP Chem class.

That morning, I had under-estimated the time needed to reach the high school. Normally at the University, the start time is quite flexible. Typically we begin at 8:30am or 9am. In the high school, class starts on time at 7:50am. While on the road, I realized that I would be late. My homestay host, Carole Hertz, drove me like how my own mother would back in my home (when I was young). Carole told me that that’s the Laramie peak period, a long, single filed stacked vehicular path. She said that the high schoolers drive to school here in the U.S. I was astonished. In Singapore, it is rare for a working adult to own a car and drive to work, let alone a young adolescent maneuvering a metallic transport behind the wheels. Even though we were running late, Carole gave way to the smaller roads that had cars awaiting anxiously to inch their move towards the Main Street. Carole was kind. The gray-haired lady in the maroon SUV gestured and smiled. Carole had made someone’s day.

As we arrived at the high school (we didn’t even drive towards the drop-off point! Too rushed for time), I quickly alighted and ran towards the school. Of course I remembered to say good bye to Carole. It was back to my childhood again, with Carole/Paul vis-a-vis my mum and me (Paul is her son).

As I charged towards the high school entrance, I slipped on the icy pave. My mind was too focused on getting towards the finishing line (school general office), I had become oblivious to the white glaze in my way. I tumbled. I let out a far cry.

“Ahhhh!!”

Quickly I picked myself up.

Because it was already 20 minutes past the school starting time, there was almost no young people outside the compound. At a distance away, from the corner of my eyes, a pair of gazes dawn upon my direction. A young chap heard my brief wail. He looked befuddled by my clumsiness.

Embarrassed by my mishap (luckily, I didn’t break any bones), I now watchfully examines every inch that my 10.5-inch feet place their weights on. It was a deliberately careful attempt. I didn’t want to fall down again.

I am now in the general office, the receptionist queried if I had a pass. I responded that I had. And that my appointment with Ms Varca was at room 3125. I frantically rummaged through my school bag. I could not find my badges.

My heart sank.

“GG.” – my mind thought.

A wasted trip?

Fortunately, the receptionist lady told me “you are good!” And that all I needed to do was to write my name on a piece of temporary sticker and paste it on my chest.

*thump*

*thump*

I hit my chest so hard to ensure my name tag was punched in. It was done with the amount of force that was equivalent to my days as a training officer cadet in the army, an act to show our patriotism towards our country.

I felt better having a name tag on me.

“Hey! Is that your real name?”

Someone exclaimed.

“Yes… I was given this name at birth.” I replied.

“How cool is that!?!” came the response.

As I made my to classroom 3125, my heart pounced even faster. Oh no, will I be scolded?

I walked past the door that’s labelled 3125, I swung the door opened, a lady, presumably Ms Varca, walked up to me and whispered, “Fun Man?”

I nodded sheepishly.

“Angie is at the next door.”

Oops.

There was no consternation as I had anticipated. Big boy now, I thought.

I mixed up. I was supposed to join Ms Varca in room 3126.

I now stepped into the correct classroom and surreptitiously tiptoed to the back of the class, where they had several empty seats. Ms Varca was in the process of elocution. I didn’t want to interrupt her lesson. Alas, one could not avoid noticing a 6-foot 1 shadow hurrying past their vista.

Lesson goes on and I listened attentively. I took notes, I had a first sight of how dedicated the US educator is like. Angie’s classroom was embellished with inspiring quotes, posters of famous leaders and artists ranging from Martin Luther King, the Beatles on abbey street, Gandhi, and the beloved (some may argue not) JFK.

I liked how the classroom was a microcosm of knowledge and friendship, a spirit that foster the growth of learners. The classes I observed were incredibly focused. None used their cellphone. (I later learned that Ms Varca had a house-rule that no mobile devices are permitted in her class).

I took down more notes on how to teach chemistry…

Suddenly, the bell rang!

In a swift motion, the students folder that books, zipped their bags and zoomed out of the class in split seconds. Most of them quickly waved and said goodbye to Angie before harrowing out the “Salida” exit.

I curiously followed.

In the hallway, we could see a turbulent flow of young human beings traversing left and right. All the Teachers stood outside their own classroom. When they see a student they know, these lines (e.g.) could be heard:

“Benny, come for training today, will you? You will train hard to become a swimming champion one day! Work at it!”

“Esther, how’s the corrections for assignment X going? Come see me any time when ready”

The flow of students in the hallway was very new and refreshing to me. In Singapore, and I could assume to say most Asian countries, the embattled teacher has to enter the student’s turf – their classroom. Just like a Football game between the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos, the atmosphere when visiting an away game can be intimidating.

I liked how the class size is small here at 15-18. I liked how the teachers build their knowledge hub – an information abode that stimulates learning. I liked how the teachers greet their students at the hallway before class. I liked how students had the liberty to take charge of their learning journey.

There were so much more I want to say. My memories did not fail me, but my phone battery may, disappointingly.

Angie, Elena, Jennifer and Tamara (other teachers-thanks to Dr Parker’s linkup) and I discussed about pedagogy.

I had lunch at the student canteen (another time for this story)..

At the end of the day, I called Carole to pick up me. As she drove her Honda CR-V to the front of the school, I greeted her, “I am done with school today!”

It has been ages since she has sent a child to the high school. I feel young and rejuvenated again.

We went home and I cooked for her an Asian dish – mixed vegetables with Iowa black Angus fried dark pepper beef, with rice.

****

This is one of the most memorable day of my professional fellowship at Laramie.

I hold every experience close to me heart.

I remember every persons I met, all of whom were incredibly kind and generous to me.

I am truly grateful to YSEALI, the U.S. State Department for this opportunity.

Sincerely,

Fun Man (pen name)

**See the photos for other activities that I had the privilege to experience. For that, I am thankful.

icon_10_generic_list.pngFun Man job shadowing at Laramie High school – …
icon_10_generic_list.pngIMG_20191115_171716.jpg
icon_10_generic_list.pngImmeasurable Amount of Gratitude for YSEALI. Ph…
icon_10_generic_list.pngRichard’s Host – the Bacons, hosting the Larami…
icon_10_generic_list.pngSingapore-Malaysi YSEALI Fellows conquered Vida…
icon_10_generic_list.pngThe World is our Oysters – YSEALI.jpg
icon_10_generic_list.pngWyoming Fellows stirring up a WOK!.jpg
icon_10_generic_list.pngYSEALI makes a differernce to so many people’s …

The More time gone by, the more things happened to My Life.

By: Rojana Inkhong

Tomorrow will be the last day of my fellowship placement in Helena, Montana and the final week of the 2019 Fall YSEALI Professional Fellows Program. Joining with this program, placement at Montana Human Rights Network (MHRN) and staying with American host family are the great moment in my life. Many experiences has influenced on my life. Every story, everyone, and every time in Montana have reflected on my mind to think about power of civic engagement and active citizen. I had opportunities to meet people who dedicated themselves to help others. They inspired me to believe in myself, my belief, and my goal.

Joining with 2019 Fall YSEALI Professional Fellows Program changes my life. I realize that network and partnerships are very important not only for work but also for life. We are from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Timor Leste, Thailand, and Vietnam. We learn and share our ideas, experiences and inspirations together. I am very impressed that my colleagues work hard in difference issues such as supporting and promoting human rights, woman rights, disability rights, LGBTQ rights, civic education, health care, sustainable public policy, equality, fairness, and peace. However, they have share ideas and policy intervention to help marginalized person and to enhance society better. I feel that I found the right place and there are supporters around me. I am very happy that I spent time with people who believe in the same value and philosophy. Friendship happens when we see each other eyes. We know that we see the same world; better world!!

Placement at the Montana Human Rights Network (MHRN) fulfills my belief and my goal. The MHRN is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that organizes Montana residents to realize their power to create pluralism, justice, and equality in community. They challenge bigotry and discrimination, support marginalized people, and advocate for legislation that honors everyone’s basic rights. They expand human rights in Montana by pursuing progressive public policy, combating white nationalism, and supporting community organizing. They address issues of LGBT Equality, Economic Justice, Immigrant/Refugee Rights, Anti-Semitism & Islamophobia, and Tribal Sovereignty The MHRN is a professional organization that runs by knowledge, information, and passion. The MHRN’s staffs work hard in deep each issue. They do research, work closely with community and network, create progressive public policy, and support positive things. Moreover, they work cross other organizations because Human Rights are all around and touch every part of personal life. Human Rights issue intersects with other issues especially woman rights, disability rights, children rights and minority rights, etc. I had opportunities to learn from other organizations such as Montana Coalition, Disability Rights Montana, Montana Women Vote, Empower Montana, and YWCA’s work to eliminate racism and empower women and discussed with City Commissioner. I saw American professional culture such as active citizen, volunteerism, community engagement, freedom of choice, self-determination, participation, network and organization coalition. They made me understand about leadership. I found that Leader is someone who has service mind and wishes to help others from suffering and to get others life better. My professional fellowship host told me that someone who manages well does not guarantee that they are a good leader. Leadership has many elements such as initiative, creativity, responsibility, courage, empathy, sympathy, love, encouragement, open mind, open space for all, advocacy, and work life balance. Leadership is a skill in the term of practical management, emotion intelligent, creativity and decision making that everyone can learn and practice. Everyone can be a good leader. Some jobs are a low payment, hard work, high risk and violence. However, people still work in uncomfortable area because they cannot hide themselves behind safe and comfortable place while there are a lot of people face insecurity situations and suffering. If we can do anything why we do not help them? I found that many people create their meaning of life from passion, belief and philosophy. They can do hard work, dangerous work and low-income work because they wish enhance the standard of living in society.

Staying with American host family made me understand about American culture and American life style. I had opportunities to stay with 2 host families. First week at Helena I stay with the first host family and after I change to other host family. I found that the American people value in family, friend and social. They have a lot of parties and events. They give time and space for their families and friend and take care society. I am very surprise that everyone in the town know each other and bring their family and their kid together. Moreover, they have a work-life balance. Children have a decision making skill and self-determination. They believe in themselves, their ability and opinion that is different from children in my country. I found that parent talk about politics, social problems, Human Rights, equality, LGBTQ rights, anti-racism, and rationalism with their kids. American people usually talks about politics with their family and their friends because they realize that politics and policies effect on their daily lives. In the part of food, American food is combination of international food from Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean, and Spanish food etc. It is very interesting that the U.S is diversity and freedom society. However, American society still faces social problems: white supremacy, white nationalism and hate groups.

The things that I learn from 2019 Fall YSEALI Professional Fellows Program are “do not just”, “a coin has two sides”, and “change how you see not how you look”. The program made me think about civic engagement, leadership, networking, community engagement, freedom of choice, voluntarism, empowerment and inclusive society. Furthermore, there are many things remind me about Audrey Hepburn. She said “as you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”

Let’s Talk About Sex

You might be wondering why a YSEALI Professional Fellow is talking about sex on this blog, the simple answer? Because no one is talking about sex here.

Sex can be a lot of things to different people.

  • Sex can be sacred.
  • Sex can be fun.
  • Sex can be scary.
  • Sex can be messy.
  • Sex can be good.
  • And Sex can just be Sex.

We won’t be on this planet without it, and yet you don’t hear a lot of people talk about it.

From my three weeks of stay here in Wyoming, I came to realized that our problems back home in the Philippines were almost the same as what they have here: some people are still not accessing sexual health services because they’re ashamed of being tagged as LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender), being seen at the community center, or not affording the health service that they need.

Even some People Living with HIV are getting lost to follow-up, because of these same reasons.

What caught my attention is how these people in the U.S.A and in the Philippines are getting through these barriers, and making something from it.

Advocates and health workers are supplementing what they’re getting from the government from other outside sources: from pharmaceuticals, from grants to private donations, just so they could provide service to everyone who needs HIV testing, prevention, and treatment services, especially the ones who are at the seams of poverty, but they need to know you’re here, and that you’re willing to do your part.

Our problems back home might be magnified by our current economic situation; however, that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop making things possible for our people. Empowering people to love themselves and take care of themselves is the best and easiest thing we could do to help ourselves and others. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, it’s also a lot cheaper.

Whether it’s with sexual partners or even a healthcare provider, you should talk about your sexual health.

So let’s talk about sex more 😉

by L.A Lomarda 🇵🇭

YSEALI Professional Fellow Fall 2019

From The Spokane Stairs, To the Next Steps

By : Zin Thu Aung

All the moment in Spokane is really enjoying and each day is worth learning. I can’t express the feeling of working with our host organization, League of Women Voters of the Spokane Area (LWV). All women from LWV can inspire and motivate me a lot, they are strong, brave and free-spirited women. All members are greeting and warmly welcome to us. We felt over the moon.

Firstly, thanks a Million to our host family Ann Murphy, who was a president of LWV and now Lobby Team Chair for all the time we are here. She is kind-hearted and very friendly. Her caring makes me feel like my home. I enjoy the time that we cook for dinner together. Instance, I got a chance to learn American culture and lifestyle

Secondly, thanks to Beth Pellicciotti who is the local president of LWV. Ann and Beth were scheduling details our timetable deals with our expectations and learning goals, I wonder. And Sylvia Oliver who is an Observer Corps of LWV and we got a chance to do the indoor activity, rock climbing with her. Really Enjoying! Thanks Sylvia. Full of exciting Experiences!

Thanks to Karen Verrill who is civics educator and Lunell Haught who is Washington President of LWV for arrangement of Olympia trip for meeting from the Washington Secretary of State, Women’s Commission and the Office of Public Instruction.

From Observe Civics Education in Schools activities, observation at Humbale Elementary School in the Grade 6 classroom and conversation with children are one of my favorite activities. And, my very first time of attending New citizen Naturalization Ceremony is my sensational moment. Congratulations to all brand-new American Citizens!

One more attractive activity is attending Spokane City Council Meeting. Full of New Knowledge for me! We have learned how to vote with mailing system in Washington State and brilliant opportunity is observed General Election at County Auditor’s Office on Nov 5 election Day and see live announcement of ballot counting results at KHQ TV Broadcast Center. Xo Xo Xo Excitement!

Nov 7, Olympia Trip is also full of satisfaction. attending action workshop, tour the capitol legislative building, meeting with Women’s Commission and Jerry L. Price who is civics education program supervisor, Social Studies and learning from Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) in Washington State. I am very lucky to meet a person like him who is full of attitude. His sharing resources are very treasure for my project, and I will use it effectively for my country.

One thing I do know is “ Change” this word is just one but full of meaningful and difficulties. But I love it. We need to make a positive change to our community as the whole life work. After learning from this program, I knew civic education is not only about voting, election and how the government works but also we can create a society that we want to live in. Also excited for the remaining two weeks in Spokane and Washington D.C

A bientôt Missoula with amazing and wonderful experiences

By: Sotheary TUM

Time gone by so fast and I can’t believe I have stayed in Missoula for almost four weeks now. During this four-week times, I have learnt so many things from Missoula Job service and I also traveled to visit different relevant educational centers to understand how they help young people to be well prepared for their employment path. Most importantly, I have spent a marvelous and memorable time with my host family. Let’s me give you the detail of the exciting moment on how I have gained my professional knowledge and bonding time with my second family.

I am very honored to have the opportunity to share my professional work experiences with Missoula Job service in term of how to help young people in Cambodia to have a better economic prospect. At the same time, I have learnt so many things from the job services on their different programs that they provide supports to their job seekers starting from financial support, educational/training support and help their job seekers to get the jobs right away. I also have learnt from how they work as a team as well to ensure they provide good care to their job seekers. I am very lucky to expose myself to a very friendly working environment and learn so many things from different people. Most importantly, I have a received a very well care from Kelly who is the manager of the job service who always pick me up every morning from home to work and always make sure I meet relevant networks to learn from their work as much as I can while I am in Missoula.

Besides, working in Missoula office, I also had opportunities to visit different relevant schools/institutions that help youth to get ready for their career path. I visited high schools to understand how the US education system is like and how they help to prepare the student to know about their future planning, identify student’s career passion and career options before they go to colleague. Adding to that, I also have opportunity to visit job corps which is a no-cost education and career technical program administered by the U.S department of labor that helps young people age 16-24 to improve the quality of their lives through career technical and academic training. I am very impressed to hear how they student’s life has changed after they gained the skills that they love.

Another exciting experience I have during my time in Missoula is to be the presenter in the DiverseU program at University of Montana. I was glad to share my working experiences and my currently project that I am working with youth in Cambodia to youth and teachers in the University. Furthermore, I also build up my leadership skills through the leadership training with University of Montana which I will put the new things I learn into practice with my daily work as a young leader.

Now it comes to the exciting and memorable part that I enjoy the most. Being placed with the home-stay family it was a nervous moment but a great exposure moment to be part of the American culture. I am very lucky to be placed with a very nice and caring family. We did a cycling together around their neighbors to visit the beautiful lake, I experienced feeding the carrots to the cows, we carved the pumpkin together before the Halloween, we went to the neighbor for the Halloween party and we went to the hunted house together. They just want to make sure I have experienced the US culture as much as I can. One weekend, we went to the Glacier park which is called “Crown of the continent”. Glacier park is an American national park located in northwestern Montana, on the Canada–United States border. The park encompasses over 1 million acres and includes parts of two mountain ranges (sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains), over 130 named lakes, more than 1,000 different species of plants, and hundreds of species of animals. It is a magical place where you can relax with the real nature.

I love Higuera family, they are always taking good care of me, they always make the healthy food and I love cooking for them sometimes. I also experienced eating Elk meat by cooking Elk meat in Cambodia food style called “Lok Lak”. It is my first-time eating Elk meat and it taste good. We often time end up our dinner with double caramel vanilla ice cream. OMG, I love double caramel vanilla ice cream 😊

Besides spending time with my host family, I also visited the school where my host family work at the target Range school. I shared them about Cambodia and the culture to students and I am very surprised that they never heard about Cambodia before and that they are very impressed about Cambodia and our culture in overall. It was a fun moment and I felt that I have teach new things that the American children never heard of before.

Long to short, I feel like home when I stay with Higuera family and we had a great memory together.

The sad moment is approaching, four weeks gone so fast and I will miss Missoula a lot specially the great people I met and spent my time with. I will miss a lot the snow and the cold weather in Missoula, the second family and the good time I have had in Missoula. I am ready for the final week Congress in DC and ready to bring back what I have learn in the US to shape my person and professional goal to see the changes in Cambodia. This is a great experience for me to be part of this professional fellow.