March 22, 2013

Jake and Sara K in Siem Reap Province

Jake with his friend Viet

Jake and Sara K live in two quite rural villages outside of Siem Reap, about a half hour from each other and at least a 45-minute bike ride from the city. Both have made their villages home, making connections with family and friends and finding meaningful work/accompaniment.

Sara lives in Krabei Riel and commutes into Siem Reap, usually by bike, for her work at IDE, a world leader in practical, market-based solutions to rural poverty. Mike Roberts — husband of Sreyhem Roberts, who was our SST family assistant in 2007 and 2010 — is the overall director of IDE Cambodia, and helped us place Sara in Krabei Riel.

Sara has a number of colleagues and associates at IDE’s offices on the outskirts of Siem Reap, including friend Ravi and translator Punith, who assists with some translation during interviews, even though Sara’s Khmer is quite good. Sara’s work involves interviewing IDE’s present and future women Farm Business Advisors, so Sara meets regularly with the FBA’s in her community and is writing up a report to be used for information-sharing and fund-raising for IDE’s rural programs.

Sara lives with her uncle (Poo) Puap, her main contact in the village; Puap’s spouse, whom Sara refers to (as is Cambodia custom) as Bong Srey (older sister), her ma and pa, a the five-year-old daughter and 10-month-old son of Poo Puap and Bong Srey. The day we visited a number of Sara’s family members were away from home, though we met some members of the family as well as neighbors. Photos in this blog entry were mostly taken by Mia Graber Miller, but a few of the photos were taken off of Sara’s facebook page.

After leaving Sara’s home we traveled by tuk-tuk to Ompul, which is about 18 kilometers away from Siem Reap. The route between Sara’s and Jake’s was the roughest road Keith, Mia, and Jake had ever been on in Cambodia, with regular 18-to-24-inch-deep cavities routinely scattered on the dusty path. But the views were magnificent, especially in the late afternoon when the golden sun turned the rice fields a gorgeous, lush green.

Jake’s primary contact in his village of Ompul is Ratana, who works for the fair-trade organization Rajana as a potter. Both Ten Thousand Villages and Found in Goshen purchase fair-trade goods from Rajana. Rajana’s pottery shop was founded by former Mennonite Central Committee worker and GC graduate Tom Unzicker. Ratana and his spouse, whom Jake knows as Bong Srey, have a 3-year-old son and 5-month-old daughter. Jake lives with Ratana’s family as well as Bong Srey’s parents and two younger brothers (23 and 19). Brother Vichet also works as a craftsman for an NGO, hammering recycled bullets and bombshells into jewelry.

Jake has made a number of friends in the village (see photos here), some of whom celebrated his March birthday with him a couple of weeks ago. Occasionally he visits Ratana at Rajana’s pottery shop in Siem Reap, and he also assists Ratana with teaching English classes — at 5 p.m. at the church Ratana attends and at 6:15 at a neighbor’s house.

Jake and Sara came into Siem Reap Tuesday evening to spend the night with Audrey and Joel and the Graber Miller’s at the Frangipani Villa Hotel. They enjoyed an evening dinner together, and then the Graber Millers read all four of their journals and discussed their service assignments with each of them. Keith has visited Kampong Phluck, Audrey and Joel’s village, on Tuesday, and then Keith and Mia both went to see Jake and Sara’s villages on Wednesday.

This weekend students have a couple of get-togethers planned. Jessie, Maryn, Carina, Lauren, Jacob, and Jake are visiting Nate and Brett here in Phnom Penh — Lauren and Jacob stopped by the Graber Miller apartment this morning — and Henry and Renae are hosting Sara K, Joel, and Audrey in their home village in Kampong Cham. The Ratanakiri Five are preparing for a guided jungle trek. Ann and Keith leave Sunday for Kep, where they will visit Carina and Maryn. Please be sure to see today’s post about Audrey and Joel’s placements in Kampong Phluck, too.

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