Kelly and Phil in Mesang District

Kelly Frey and Phil Stoesz are living and working in Mesang District, a quite rural region of Prey Veng Province (already rural itself), which is located adjacent to Vietnam. Both SSTers work at Organization to Develop Our Villages (ODOV), a non-governmental organization funded by Mennonite Central Committee and other entities. In their first week in Mesang Town, Phil and Kelly worked about 45 hours in the office or the classroom, assisting with editing and accounting and then teaching an English class every evening.ODOV is located on the main street through the center of Mesang town (all streets are dirt in Mesang), and staffers are crammed into a temporary office until a new office is completed within a few weeks. The day Keith visited Kelly was assisting her colleague and housemate/sister Phirou with new accounting software, and Phil was helping his colleague and housemate/brother Watana with editing a summary report for ODOV.

Both Phil and Kelly eat over at Phil’s house, a wooden structure with a bamboo floor, with excellent meals provided by Phil’s host mother. On Phil’s property are multiple other families or portions thereof, which makes the nights interesting since animals woof and huff throughout the night, people regularly walk through or under the house, and roosters begin crowing by about 3 a.m. Keith “slept” on the floor at Phil’s house the night he was there.

Kelly is teaching a Beginners English class for ODOV employees, and has a gentle, persistent style. The evening Keith visited she was going over the previous night’s lesson, which included basic introductions, and then moving into numbers and time. Phil teaches a more Advanced English class, and addressed syllables and enunciation the night Keith visited. Both classes are held in the new but as-yet-unoccupied ODOV building.

During the day, when Kelly and Phil aren’t doing office work or resting in hammocks under their house for the lunch break, they are out in the field (literally) visiting families. At this point ODOV is going to five different villages and trying to determine the 20 most needy families in each village — people who could or should receive ODOV’s agricultural development services. Kelly also hopes to work part-time at the local health clinic. Both Kelly and Phil will assist with setting up computers and doing a brochure for ODOV once the office settles into its new space.

For their SST projects, Kelly is likely going to present a report on birthing and obstetric care in Cambodia, based on her earlier research and on what she is learning at the clinic and in her village. Phil is working on an epic poem describing day-to-day life in the countryside. The SST pair finishes each day with a round of push-ups. They add one push-up each day and will continue to do so until they get to 50; on the day Keith visited they were at 32.

Both Kelly and Phil seemed quite happy in their setting, and both are doing meaningful work with people they enjoy.