Wow, as I wrote that title, Cambodia // Day 15, I had to double check and make sure I was correct and didn't miss a few weeks. It's such a strange feeling to say I've only been here just over two weeks. I don't even have the feeling that It feels both long and short. I feel like I've been here for months. Actual months. Maybe it's because I've made a point to explore and learn everyday. I've made everyday count, I suppose you could say. It hasn't been all butterflies, but I went into this experience with my arms open, ready to not be surprised and surprised all at the same time.
If you know me, you know how much I love to travel. If you look at my phone, you will see last minute flight and cheap air apps. If you look at my search history, you would see nothing but recent flight searches. Year 2015 was basically a US and World tour, using Nashville as my home base to leap off every week to two weeks. I love to always be on the go, but I've never actually done any of it by myself. I've made deep connections with people I met in the same car to adventure on a week long road trip. Cambodia, for me, is to journey alone and create a home base while pursing a passion so deeply rooted inside of myself, it's still spilling out at my surprise.
You may be wondering; "What the heck is she doing there anyway?" Let me give you a brief summary of my goals in pursuit of this project. I am a Co-Developer and the Education Director for the Rapha House Freedom Stylist Program, a prevention program that equips at-risk youth and equips them with the skill of being hairstylists. Our program is based in Cambodia, branching off of the pursuit of one of the most big hearted Cambodian women I've met, who saw a need and opened her home to protect girls in her community. Along with her, myself, and my good friend Crystal, we are developing a program for these girls that will provide them an income for themselves, their families, and equipping them to become mentors for their communities. I take no solo credit for the amazing work being done here. It has been amazing working with these women who truly love our students.
My goal is to ask the big questions to our students. As simple as it is for a Western Culture to ask a question like "What are your goals?" It is completely out of the cultural norm to be asked to think about their own futures here. Stemming from a culture traumatized from genocide, almost eliminating all educated people, education systems, and creativity; they are mostly focused on making the next day better than the last. I however, start with asking those questions to, at least, get them thinking.
And you know what? It's working. I've already seen breakthroughs within 10 minutes. Most of them start timid in their goals, maybe feeling guilty for having them. The more that I tell them how loved they are, how worthy they are, how their lives shouldn't have limits, well... then the outpours of goals is achieved, usually following a huge hug. Gosh, I feel so honored. I really do.
I'm also researching salons around the city to push our program to the best it can be, while keeping the consideration of their own culture on the forefront.
So that's what I'm doing.
I probably wont be posting a TON of pictures of my time here. Exploitation is always on my mind. Even though many people have incredible intentions when it comes to taking photographs, sometimes it can do more harm than good, and I'm not willing to take that risk. I'm going to try to keep this blog up and keep all of you up to date in what I'm doing in this beautiful country.
Thank you to everyone who financially supported this project. When I say I couldn't have done it without you, I truly mean it. You have no idea. Thank you all.