Posts Tagged 'education'

LFS Introduces…Carolyn & Anjali House in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Please introduce yourself…

I’m Carolyn;  I’m a 31-year-old Scottish girl who now lives in Cardiff, South Wales.

What is Anjali House?

To properly answer this, I need to explain a bit of Cambodian history and culture. I’ll try to be concise.

Between 1975 and 1979, under the regime of Pol Pot and the communist Khmer Rouge party, approximately 21% of the Cambodian population (an estimated 1.7 to 2.5 million people) were killed. Pol Pot’s vision was for an agriculture based communist utopia, and two of his methods of promoting & achieving this were to close schools (everyone was now to be a subsistence farmer, working to provide for Cambodia’s own needs so it would have no need for the Western world) and to kill anyone with any level of prior education (as they may have been a threat to the new ‘utopia’).

Cambodia as a country has been ‘reeling’ from this ever since. Although Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge are long gone, the legacy of their rule was a country in ruins – no economy, no infrastructure, and the huge problem of a pretty much uneducated and unskilled population. Either you were educated before the Pol Pot rule and were killed due to being educated, or you didn’t receive any education to begin with as you were a child during the regime as you worked in the fields instead of attending school and after the regime was over there was no infrastructure for schooling and no educated citizens to teach you.

Fast-forward 30 years…

Cambodia is a country that’s done a pretty good job of piecing itself back together. It’s still a very, VERY poor country. But it has an infrastructure of sorts. It has an economy of sorts. It has a stable government. It’s getting there. Corruption is rife. There are still live landmines all over the place. It’s not perfect. But in spite of all this, it’s getting there.

The education gap is still there though. It’s one of the things Cambodia can’t easily fix on its own. Another generation has passed, but they didn’t have anyone to teach them either. And so the cycle continues.

There are ‘public’ schools in Cambodia, but the fees (a few dollars a month) plus the need for a uniform and the lost earnings of the child make it an unobtainable dream for most Cambodian families.

And this is where NGO’s (Non Government Organisations) come into the picture, and where I finally get back to the original question…

What is Anjali House?

Anjali House (pronounced An-jah-lee) is an NGO in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  I was privileged to spend a month there in summer 2009 working as a volunteer English and General Studies teacher.

Anjali aims to provide support, education and healthcare provision to street kids who otherwise wouldn’t have access to these things.  In practice, this means…

  • The kids attend Anjali for half a day, and public school for the other half (Anjali pays their fees and provides them with a uniform).
  • Many of the health problems affecting Cambodian children are a result of poor diet and unsuitable drinking water. To attempt to counter this, the children at Anjali receive two healthy meals (breakfast and lunch) and a fruit snack each day, and have access to filtered drinking water throughout the day.
  • Due to the lack of clean water and the constraints of poverty, many of the children had never used soap or cleaned their teeth. They now bathe every morning at Anjali and are educated in the importance of personal hygiene.
  • All Anjali children have regular medical and dental health checks provided by the project. They will also be taken to hospital or the doctors if necessary.
  • As one of the conditions of attendance at Anjali, the child is no longer allowed to be sent out to work on the streets begging, selling trinkets etc. The families receive a weekly allowance of rice to compensate for the loss of income.

There are currently approximately 80 children at Anjali. Enrolment is by application (and based on social and economic testing). Due to lack funds and constraints of space, Anjali currently is not accepting any further applications at this time.

Tell us how you ended up going over to Cambodia to work with the team at Anjali?

The short answer is it felt like the right thing to do at the right time.

The longer answer is that I had recently resigned from a job I’d once loved after a prolonged chain of events (clash of personalities with one of my bosses, what I believe was an institutional bullying campaign, an unrealistically large work load, a nervous breakdown and a 5 month absence due to stress, a subsequent formal grievance process, and so on) None of it is particularly interesting reading. Suffice to say it wasn’t the best period in my life.

I had (and still have) an incredibly supportive partner in my boyfriend, Ian. He not only encouraged me to bite the bullet and resign, but told me to take as much time as I needed to recharge my batteries, get my head straight again, get over the lousy year I’d had and generally become myself again.

I realised that I’d been defining myself primarily by my job for a long time, and that I needed and wanted to change that.

I’d just posed the question ‘what next?’ when my friend Beth had returned from a month in Cambodia, having been placed at Grace House by a volunteer organisation called Globalteer. She’d come back on schedule purely to attend her own university graduation, and was planning on heading straight back out to Siem Reap. She told me I ought to come with her. I decided to roll with that.

Beth later decided that although she’d love to return straight away, it wasn’t to be. I applied anyway, thinking that it probably wouldn’t be possible. Less than a month later I was on a plane, having been placed at Anjali by Globalteer.

What are the most important things you learned from your time at Anjali?

I think I learned a lot, but it’s incredibly difficult to describe the experiences I had, words just don’t seem to do it justice. I can honestly say it was one of the best months of my life. (I STILL want to go back).

I learned that you don’t have to be perfect to be a volunteer. You just have to be enthusiastic. I’m a perfectionist, and as such, frequently worry that my best isn’t good enough.  It was, and you get lots of help and support from the staff and other volunteers at Globalteer.

I learned that there’s a place for all personality types in this sort of environment. I’m very much an introvert, and in the beginning found myself feeling inadequate due to the fact that I wasn’t an ‘all out’, loud, confident presence around the kids during non lesson times. Pretty soon I realised that not all of the kids were extroverts either, and the fact that I interacted with them in a different manner to some of the other volunteers didn’t actually matter.

I learned that there’s a peace that comes with just going with the flow and that somehow you’ll end up in the right place at the right time anyway – even if you didn’t see it coming.

I learned that I can’t solve everything for everyone, but that’s not a reason to stop trying to at least make a small difference. There’s an old Scottish saying that –  “Mony a mickle maks a muckle” (translation: lots of small things make up a large thing), and I realised that I need to stop worrying about the ‘Muckle’, and just get on with my ‘Mickle’.

How can we support Anjali?

There are lots of ways…

Volunteer over there. I promise, you will NOT regret it. You don’t need a month; however long you have is fine. And if I can do it, ANYONE can.

Raise awareness of Anjali, who & what they are and what they do. You’re welcome to use the information & pictures on my blog.

Make a donation/ host a fundraising event for Anjali. I’ve been there and can personally verify that every dollar is put to good use. If you’re a UK tax payer, you can gift aid your donation to make it worth and extra 28%.

Sponsor an Anjali child Please be aware though that Anjali don’t generally allow sponsors to visit the kids (Cambodia, unfortunately seems to be fast becoming the new Thailand in that respect, and that fact breaks my heart).

If people wanted to pray for you, what would you have them talk to God about on your behalf?

Prayer isn’t something I’ve figured out, so I’m not entirely sure how to answer that sincerely. I guess the best answer I can give is ‘however they feel led’.

Cambodia is a beautiful country with beautiful people, who lead hard, hard lives. I’d like to hope it’ll get better for them.

The kids at Anjali come from some pretty hopeless backgrounds, I’d like to think that they’ll have better futures than pasts.

I’d hope that their time at Anjali makes them feel loved and validated and allows them to have a childhood.

I’d like to hope that they won’t have to go to bed hungry again.

I’d like to hope that they grow up create a better world than the one they were born into.

Thank you so much for sharing about Anjali House with us Carolyn. We’re also really happy to announce that Carolyn will be returning to Cambodia and Anjali House this summer! You can find out more about Anjali House by going to www.anjali-house.com and follow more of Carolyn’s tales of Cambodia, plus life as a Scottish lass in Wales on her blog http://searchingforbrokenness.blogspot.com


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LFS Introduces…Liam & Rachel Byrnes in Masi, South Africa

Please introduce yourselves, and tell us about what you are doing in South Africa just now?

We are a newly married couple in our early twenties with a sneaking suspicion that Jesus has an amazing plan to see the World made new, humans brought back to relationship with himself and each other, and that the place we should be doing that right now is in Southern Africa. More formally though, Rachel grew up in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and has been serving Church plants, loving her nieces and nephews, and loves culture. I (Liam) grew up in Cornwall near England (that’s a South-West joke) studying Theology in Aberdeen with a background in Politics and Economics and until 4 months ago was working in the oil Industry.

We are working in South Africa helping facilitate locally led, home based simple churches/bible studies, giving people the tools and education to lift themselves out of oppressive poverty, teaching people the skills to have life giving family life and care for Children.

How did you get involved with/what inspired you to work with YWAM?

YWAM just happened to turn up at the right time really. We love YWAM’s core values and have some great friends who are involved in it. YWAM is also releasing and broad enough that you can pretty much work in any sphere under their banner.

All that being said although we are relationally connected with YWAM we don’t have any long term commitment as of yet, but their DTS* program (which we are currently involved in) seemed like a good intro to our more long term plans in South Africa. We are very much of the mind that we want to build a Kingdom not an empire, so as long as being involved with YWAM serves that we will probably stay connected with YWAM.

*DTS = Discipleship Training School

What is 2010 shaping up to look like for your work with YWAM?

Well from January to March we will be in South Africa continuing to scope out the land and make arrangements for our more long-term return later in the year. As part of the DTS program we are doing we have to go back to our sending YWAM base Kona for a little while, after that we are hoping to visit a few churches and friends in mainland USA for a couple of weeks up until end of April. Then from May to July we will be back in the UK to visit Churches, family and find some short-term employment to help towards our return to South Africa in August.

What is your favourite thing about the work you are doing?

We get to see people all day and we get the opportunity make a real difference to help them out of poverty.

Spiritual poverty: the sense that they don’t matter to God or have anywhere to take their burdens.

Financial poverty: helping people realise they can really step out of poverty and that it is something that is on God’s heart for them.

Relational poverty: networking them with people who care about them and want to engage in community with them.

All those areas are something that we are passionate about and so being able to work with people in those areas can be very enjoyable.

What is the most challenging thing about the work you are doing?

Situations that feel hopeless have been challenging, we are working in a community of 30,000 in a 2sq mile area – there is more depravity, poverty, and brokenness than I ever thought imaginable. We often see heart breaking injustice: an alcoholic mother who neglects her baby to the point of serious malnutrition; a refugee working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for not enough money to pay rent.

There is so much need, as soon as one problem seems to be solved; a new one comes to the fore. It just reminds us that this community needs more than just initiatives, programs or even money; it needs Jesus-centered restoration in every category.

Who do you have supporting you? How do they support you?

Our families particularly have been incredibly supportive; Rachel’s parents are even currently visiting with us. We have lots of faithful friends who pray for us regularly as well as keep in regular contact (which is actually more of a support than you would realise!). The Church I grew up in, in Cornwall has committed to pray for us as a church, and our house group and great friends in Banchory from the Aberdeen Vineyard Church really support us as our home community.

In relation to financial support, Rachel and I saved for around a year – I did some web design projects on the side back in the UK to raise money. We also asked people to gift us money for our wedding instead of the normal gift registries. A number of friends and family gave us generous one off gifts, a couple others have committed to giving to us monthly which has been of huge help but is less than 20% of our current monthly outgoings. Financial support is one of the main reasons we have to return to the UK for a few months this year.

Do you partner with any other organisations?

Yes, we love to in fact. We are working closely with All Nations, a local organisation focused on planting small simple churches in peoples houses. We are working with them to integrate a business training initiative we’ve been working on for some Zimbabwean refugees who can’t find work into a more advanced program that All Nations run. We are also working on a policy and advocacy level with Justice Acts/IOM, a part of the Counter Trafficking Coalition, on a human trafficking and prostitution prevention project for the World Cup later this year.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone that is thinking about doing mission/charity work overseas?

1) Do your research – cultivate a cultural, historical and spiritual understanding of the country, understand the main difference in the culture you are coming from and the one you are entering. Find out what groups are already at work there, and understand how you want to partner with them. Learn some of the language.

2) Create Community – lack of support is the number one reason people leave missionary work, whether it be an organisation you are working with, a home church, a house group, your family, friends, a society, find a group of people who will partner with you, believe in you and what you are working for, a support team is really integral to any long term sustainability in missions.

3) Love God, Love Others – Missions work, especially in developing nations can be relationally, emotionally and physically exhausting, if you are not rooted in an understanding of the Love of God for you, and for the people in the World it must be entirely unsustainable. Relational conflict amongst missionaries is another major reason people leave missions work, get ready to be humble, submit to each other in love, you will likely come with cultural baggage and other westerners will more likely rub you up the wrong way than the local population. Bonhoeffer said in his book on living in Christians Community called Life Together – “If you love the vision you have for community, you will destroy community. If you love the people around you, you will create community.” There is no integrity in showing the love of God to a local community if you can’t practice it between other people working to the same end.

How can others engage with you and support you in the work you are doing with YWAM?

I think I’ve already been too long winded so I’ll direct you to our website for that! –

Click here to help us by praying with us, follow us on our blog or you can sign up to receive our email updates. You can communicate our story to your local Church or housegroup and we would also hugely appreciate anyone prayerfully considering financially supporting the work we do in South Africa on a regular basis, you can find more about that here.

If people would like to pray for you, what would you have them talk to God about on your behalf?

1. Safety – Everyday we are working in a community with a shockingly high violent crime and murder rate and sometimes getting involved in difficult social and family situations, we haven’t had any issues so far but we certainly need God’s continued protection as we seek to be light in the darkness here.

2. Wisdom – We could get involved and see meaningful transformation in almost every sphere of society if we were to give our time to it, so please pray that we would work in strategic areas to help bring about the radical transformation Jesus announced when he was on earth.

3. Marriage – We consider a strong and loving marriage to be one of our most compelling witnesses in a community with so much unfaithfulness and broken families, please pray that we would continue to grow in our love for each other and commitment to each other.

Thank you so much for sharing with us Liam & Rachel! We will be praying for you as you prepare to get settled long-term in South Africa.

To keep up to date with what Liam and Rachel are up to, and to find out more about the different ways people can support them go to their website & blog at www.liamandrachel.com

LFS Introduces…Alece & Thrive Africa

Please introduce yourself, and tell us about what you do with Thrive Africa?

Hey! I’m Alece, Originally from New York and have lived in South Africa for almost 12 years, where I helped pioneer the ministry of Thrive Africa. I provide strategic and visionary direction to the ministry, even during this season of being Stateside.

What inspired you to start Thrive Africa?

I fell in love with Africa when I first spent a summer on her soil at 16 years old, and then I moved to South Africa by myself when I was 19. All I knew was that I felt God was leading me there and I wanted to use my life to make a difference. As I began by simply meeting needs around me, God brought clarity to my vision and my ministry work became more focused on leadership development.

What is 2010 shaping up to look like for your work with Thrive Africa?

I’m in a unique season of restoration right now. A year ago my husband chose to leave me and the ministry to pursue another woman. The ripple effects of that decision have obviously been devastating both to me personally as well as to Thrive. By God’s grace, Thrive continues to move forward and bear fruit of changed lives under the leadership of our Director. I am spending this year Stateside, allowing the Lord to do His healing work in my heart and promoting Thrive domestically.

What is your favourite thing about the work you are doing?

What I’m most passionate about is the work we’re doing in public schools, teaching students what it means to follow Christ and make Godly choices. I believe it’s the best thing we can do to prevent the next generation from contracting AIDS.

What is the most challenging thing about the work you are doing?

The challenge for me lies not in the work we’re doing, but in the work we’re still unable to do because we simply don’t have the finances yet. Our vision is bigger than we are, which is how I know God’s in it. But it is also an ongoing challenge to lack the resources and manpower to do all we want to do. The realities of poverty and HIV increase the urgency of the vision. My heart always longs to reach farther and have a greater impact than we currently are.

Who do you have supporting you? How do they support you?

We are funded solely by donations from generous people and churches across America. Support information can be found here if anyone is interested in partnering with us: http://thriveafrica.org/helpout/

Do you partner with any other organisations?

We partner locally in South Africa with over a hundred local churches of all denominations. We work with several other African-based independent missions organizations that have visions similar to ours. We also have supporting partner churches in America that run the full spectrum of denominations.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone that is thinking about doing mission/charity work overseas?

More important than Biblical training or a missions degree, is a teachable heart. For anyone doing missions work, it is vitally important to have the posture and attitude of a learner and not just a teacher. Be willing to be flexible and to learn as much as you can from the people you are going to serve. Nothing makes a missionary more effective than a teachable spirit.

How can others engage with you and support you in the work you do with Thrive Africa?

You can support our work through your prayers and giving. You can help promote what God’s doing through us by telling others about us. You can also spend time on the field with us. We have programs that run two weeks, two months, one year, and three years, giving you the opportunity to serve with us for any length of time that you might be interested in.

If people would like to pray for you, what would you have them talk to God about on your behalf?

For Thrive, I covet your prayers for wisdom, favor, and provision as we navigate through this new season of ministry. For me personally, I’d appreciate your prayers for my heart healing and strength for the journey.

Thank you so much for sharing with us Alece. What an inspiration, we pray for continued healing and restoration for you, and for the growth and provision needed for Thrive Africa to continue its work alongside partner churches in South Africa.

You can read more on Alece’s personal story and many of her thought provoking writings on her blog Grit and Glory at www.gritandglory.com


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