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We found ourselves squished into the back seat of a mini bus with our bags atop our laps, cruising through provinces, past temples and street markets, with sweat dripping down our faces, watching cows graze by with mopeds circling around us. We made it to Cambodia.

After many hours of travel, we were welcomed into our guest house, our new home for the next 4 weeks. The guest house overlooks the Mekong River. This street itself has the 3 most top-rated restaurants in all of Kampong Cham… Can you say yum? After dinner at a traditional BBQ with JiaLi, the Program Technical Advisor of BSDA, and Chhunleng and Sophors, the Community Support Officers (CSO’s) and translators for our visits with beneficiaries, we found ourselves crawling into bed after all those hours of travel and with pure joy knowing we will be waking up in this country come morning for the next month.

The next morning, we made our way to the BSDA office (click here for the time lapse of the trip!), where the entire staff was meeting to go over program progress. We were greeted with smiles, and whilst sitting in the meeting listening to the triumphs, challenges, and goals for each project enlisted under BSDA, we found ourselves more in awe of an organization than we would have ever believed. BSDA is a nonprofit organization that “works to empower and support women, children and marginalized people in social development processes especially health, education and livelihood promotion.” Their goals are as follows:

● To improve and support education for communities by providing technical and life skills, vocational training, scholarships and social morality activities.

● To enhance community health through partnership with the government to strengthen the community health care service and sustainable livelihoods of vulnerable people.

● To improve social accountability and transparency to achieve democratic development at the sub-national level.

● To participate in climate change programs and to promote agricultural practices which support community livelihoods and adaptation to environmental change.

BSDA is largely involved in the community through implementing several programs that focus to achieve the goals listed above. Through partnering with this organization over the past seven years, we have continuously evolved in our progress of projects. Apart from the many programs that BSDA enlists, we are currently in the beginning stages of implementing the Financing Futures project. Financing Futures identifies families in need of support in affording fees associated with their children’s education. It is an income generation project focused on giving micro-loans to families identified as the most underprivileged. This program has been implemented in parallel with the MKK and CCOSC programs, giving children the opportunity to pursue an education their parents want them to receive.

The following day after diving into the specifics of each program, we had the honor of visiting the Happy Happy Center and Apsara Center, both sponsored under the MKK Project, to provide education and other skills, such as traditional dance and music, to children across the province. The children at the Apsara Center put on a recital for us, and with full hearts, we said our goodbyes. In the upcoming days and further weeks, we will be meeting with all the beneficiaries for Financing Futures and the recurring beneficiaries of the Chicken Raising Project. Until next time, leahaey!

– Cara

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