What Empowerment Looks Like

Giving students confidence

Giving students confidence

This week, i went with a group of friends to a village school close to Phnom Penh, to give out school suppplies. We gave out backpacks filled with goodies such as water bottles, writing materials, crayons and even shoes and uniforms to the students identified by teachers as coming from families with financial difficulty. My friend singlehandedly created awareness of the cause, garnered donations in cash and kind from friends, ex-classmates from other provinces, corporate companies and business people, packed and bought all supplies, rounded up volunteers and organized the 1/2 day trip including meals and transportation, then she shared her testimony with the students, chatted and build relationships with them and we all ate bread and milk. She also got media support, newspapers and magazines, who will print the photos of our community action because she wants to encourage and engage more young Cambodians to do likewise. O, and she documented all the photos and made it accessible to everyone on Dropbox. 

This sounds like something short term mission teams would do. Except that this was driven by one lady. One volunteer. And she's Cambodian.

This made me re-think about how foreign teams are interacting with the locals in the country we have a heart and passion for. Previously, we always went in wth such enthusiasm, took charge and planned everything, as though the locals had to stay on the side of the fence and be labeled as beneficiaries. We incessantly speak about "train the trainers", "job creation", "income generation", "sustainability", but what does that look like in reality? Unfortunately, it's not a 3-step or 7-step program or a 16-24 hour workshop, nor will these things happen in a classroom, through a internationally accredited Business Management curriculum, taught by a professor. We pour out finances on fancy buildings, training centers, help someone build a run-down house, gift bicycles and phones, laptops to students, yet, the cross culture differences, the lack of understanding of how locals think and feel and are motivated and just the empathy that they live in a harsh and difficult world where theories don't become applicable at the snap of our fingers, makes the things we do ineffective and practically useless.

The classroom is their world. The training or rather mentoring never stops, it happens mostly over a bowl of nom banh chok in a hot and dusty roadside stall. But I think what's significant is that they just follow whatever we do. We are their role-models, they see, they hear, they feel, they emulate. 

I found myself surrounded by great great friends, whom i truly believe in, whom I want to help find their purposes in life and allow them to dream and step into their destiny. I accept them for who they are, I attend weddings with them, I cry with them in hospitals, I get angry and discipline them when they make poor decisions and other times, we just stand on the riverside and admire the sunset. And the transformation happens slowly but surely on the inside.

It's a radical concept for sure and a huge change in paradigm for people who want to get involved in developing nations and want to help. If you are a convert and would like to support my ministry in Cambodia by equipping and empowering young people over coffee and doing life together AND if you want to support these young people to champion the cause and organize outreach projects to help their own people, please contact me at melissa_shine@yahoo.com.sg. We welcome your time, your presence, your heart for this generation and finances. Happy to chat always.  

 

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  • Melissa Seet Champion

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