The week started off as usual, with a staff meeting at 8:30. Our staff meetings may not resemble those at most other NGOs or companies, because in addition to reviewing last week’s activities and planning for the week ahead, we spend considerable time checking in with each person about her life outside of work. Today we heard all of the details of the arrival of intern Channa’s baby brother, who was born early on Friday morning. Her mom is 42 and this is her seventh child, but the first one delivered outside of their home. Mom and baby are both healthy and back at home now, but everyone’s sleep is suffering since all nine family members sleep in the same single room that is their house.
Staying aware of and receptive to what is going on with each of the women in my office with their families, studies, finances, and health is crucial to running our program well. They are all living in the village, supporting their families (here and around the country), and dealing with their own money and health issues, just like the women we serve. Channa’s family, for example, is especially poor, to the point where she gets up every night from 3AM to 5AM to help make noodles for her siblings to sell early in the morning to people on the street. She sleeps again for another hour or two before she comes into the office at 8.
I’m sharing these details because learning about the lives of my staff is central to my job. It helps me begin to understand the Cambodian women in general: their priorities, responsibilities, values, and familial expectations. It also helps me figure out how to help them develop professionally, by reducing or addressing sources of stress from outside of work. For instance, this week we’re having Channa focus her workshop research on information about caring for new mothers and newborns, as well as breastfeeding techniques.
After our staff meeting, which lasted a little more than an hour, we reviewed the curriculum for a new workshop that we’ll be offering this Thurdsay. It’s a “training of trainers” (TOT) for non-governmental organizations’ (NGO) staff here in Battambang. We’ll be presenting strategies for women who will be teaching workshops about reproductive health issues. This workshop includes a lot of role plays and interactive activities, so we need to practice a lot so that our staff, especially the interns, feel confident and enthusiastic.
The afternoon was spent on home visits: I stopped by four homes in the neighboring village to see women I wanted to check on. One recently miscarried; another started a new kind of medicine; the third hasn’t been able to sleep well in four months since her menopause symptoms began; and the fourth is one of our volunteer trainers who helps lead workshops. I spent about 45 minutes in each home. Most of the time isn’t talking about their health problems; it’s just sitting and chatting about the weather, the rice harvest, their children, and why I’m still not married or looking for a Khmer husband. I’m incredibly fortunate to work in a center that prioritizes people over programs, and encourages me to put friendships with women first.