A few months after I graduated from BC in May 2009, I moved back to Cambodia. I had been here twice before; first as a traveler, and second as a volunteer with support from the BC Career Center’s Non-Profit Summer Internship grant, between my junior and senior years. I returned to help launch a women’s health education program at the Msgr. Oscar Romero Pastoral Center. Our work is based out of Battambang, a small city in northwest Cambodia that is quickly developing and attracting more business and tourism. Despite rapid growth, the city and especially its surrounds are poor and many people do not have reliable access to nutritious food, clean water, healthcare, or education.
My daily work involves coordinating and guiding the projects, priorities, and development of our women’s health programming. We have four main types of activities: teaching health workshops for women, visiting women in their homes, providing accompaniment and support to women with reproductive health problems, and running a small social enterprise that sells reusable cloth sanitary pads for rural women. I work with a group of four Khmer women, two of who work full time, and two of who are college students and interns with us.
My time is split pretty evenly between the office and the villages. In the office, I manage finances, write proposals and reports to donors, draft and translate workshop curriculum, maintain files about patients that we support, meet with my staff as a group to plan and evaluate projects, and check in with my staff one-on-one about their work and personal lives. We also occasionally counsel women about their health or personal problems in our office.
The other half of the time, I am in villages. We spend a lot of time informally with women in their homes, chatting about their lives and their health issues, checking in on women who have been sick or overwhelmed, visiting with our volunteer trainers and reviewing lessons with women who have participated in our workshops. The relationships we form during those visits embolden women to join our health workshops, which are usually two to three hours long, and offered in sets of four or five sessions.
Every day is different and unpredictable; rain storms, late harvests, or broken trucks can easily force us to reschedule a workshop at the last minute, or a day in the office to focus on a report can be postponed when someone in the neighborhood goes into labor or the electricity goes out with explanation. That said, I have an idea of what this coming week might bring, but I won’t make any promises about the kinds of stories or activities I’ll have shared by Friday. Describing my life here to people from home helps me reflect on how fortunate I am to have such an amazing job in a welcoming community, so thanks for reading along and giving me this opportunity to share!
If you are interested in learning more about our work, you can look at the Apostolic Prefeture of Battambang’s website at battambang.net, or read my personal blog at planningtheday.wordpress.com. Also, feel free to email me at meghan[dot]battle[at]gmail[dot]com.