What I Learned from my YAMEN Year in Colombia

By Hut Phealy







Meeting New People and Making Friends

As I have decided to go with YAMEN program, I have met many new things such as new places, new language, new cultures and new faces. I have learned to live independently and to live inter-culturally and to be the ambassador of Christ and represented the country where I came from. Sharing the way of the people living in Asia, how we communicate, the food we eat, and the clothes we wear.  The communities where I have lived understand and get some ideas about people who are living in Asian continent. After they knew more about my country. I also have taught English to Spanish-speaking students. I was a real example for the students there, because English is my second language as well. English is an international language and they can travel anywhere, as long as they know English.


Kids from the Mennonite Church that Phealy attended

Becoming Part of a New family

Of course at first I had a little strange feeling during the orientation because I thought what is this host family going to be like? How will I communicate with them? What foods they are going to eat? Will I have enough ability to communicate in Spanish with them? What if I make mistakes or do something that they don’t like will they scold me? There were so many questions come to my mind but I just sat down and talked to God. I said Lord, you have brought all the way here and you have been there before me please let everything will be done in your will and help me to go through all the process.

The Lord is faithful to me when I came to know my host family, and they were very nice and kind to me. They did a warm welcome and I still remember the first word they told me (make yourself like home and my house is your house)

I believe because the love of God in our hearts we could live and together even we have not known each other before. They love me so much and so do I.

I had a wonderful time with them. I could not thank God enough for his grace and mercy. Wherever I go the Lord’s present is with me, I was not alone.


Phealy’s Host Family: Pastor Rodrigo Preciado, Emilse Maria Bobadilla and Felipe Preciado

Got to know more about Mennonite church and be part of it:

Before I went to my host family’s church, Mennonite church of La Mesa, I thought only old people will go the church and they will worship God quietly. Because I never been to the Mennonite Church before and I thought all Mennonite churches were like that. But when I got there it has changed my thought, there were all kinds of people like children, youth, and adults. They used kind of same music to praise and worship God just like my home church in Cambodia. It made me feel like we worship the same God no matter where we come from. I have made brothers and sisters in Christ – they were so lovely and kind. Friends from church always invited me to eat, chatting about my country and Colombia they wanted to know more about my country my testimonies and Colombia after we prayed together. My host dad is the Pastor at the church; I learned more how the Pastor’s life like, and to serve just like what the Lord Jesus did. Working and serving God in all ministries such as: with children, youth and adult. Sharing the love of God to all the people. I love being part of the Mennonite church.


MCC Leadership Tour to Cambodia

Reported by Beth Landis

UntitledFour of us from the USA and Canada, regional MCC board members and staff, joined Jeanne Jantzi, Co-Director for MCC Southeast, for a week of learning in Cambodia.

What we did before arrival in Cambodia

Read from our assigned reading list including memoirs of Cambodia refugees to the US.

  1. Searched Facebook for my new best friends for the next week.
  2. Watched videos online of MCC partners. https://www.youtube.com/user/michaelbade
  3. Packed modest clothes for hot humid weather.

 Partners we visited:

  1. Women Peacemakers, an organization focused on empowering women experiencing violence and illiteracy.HPIM2085-L
  1. RISC, Returnee Immigration Support Center, supporting Cambodians who immigrated to the US and returned because of legal difficulties. I was impressed with their support to 400+ men and women over the past decade.
  1. Angearhdei School in Prey Veng and we tasted the rice porridge that MCC supplies for the school for breakfast. I am thoughtful about the 70-80% of the students that have a parent away from home, searching for better work elsewhereHPIM1969-L
  2. ODOV – Organization to Develop Our Villages in Prey Veng, an influential organization working in 62 villages, impacting 3600 people with gardening, back yard fish ponds, after school programs for middle schoolers to teach tailoring and sewing, and more.HPIM2008-L

Additional Partner Information

The country celebrated three days of holiday, which meant that the streets were easier to navigate, but not all the offices were open.

  1. Peace Bridges. Executive director, Mony, visited us, and shared stories of conflict resolution and concepts of peace. It seemed like they touch hundreds of pastors and directors of NGOs, with issues ranging from human rights to land acquisition to church conflicts to family relations and everything in between.
  1. Precious Women Ministry, Royal University of Phnom Penh, and School of Peace. MCC staffers told us about their roles.

What we Shared with the Partners

  1. Where the MCC money comes from – relief sales and thrift shops. Jeanne started with photos from a thrift shop in Ohio where elderly folks volunteer at the store or scrub pots and pans at home. Then Denise followed with her story that her 90 year old mother still makes doll clothes for doll babies given to the local thrift shop.  I followed with a story of a 92-year-old cousin, a bit frail, but works with his partner, another friend, early 60s, fit and strong, who has Alzheimer’s disease.  Together they make a team, volunteering at the thrift store.
  1. The local Cambodians were amazed at our story and did not realize the money came from small amounts of time and donations made by a lot of folks, many of them, elderly. They said repeatedly to please thank each and every one of the volunteers. We agreed to take back their greetings.

Visits in Phnom Penh

  1. Restaurants – with the IVEPers, former exchange visitors to the US and Canada to hear their stories of how a year abroad changed their lives and ripples to family and businesses in Cambodia.



  2. Restaurants – with the SALTers and one YAMENer, young people finishing up a year in Cambodia, enthusiastic about their assignments. We went crazy and ordered “lots” of food, even splitting one dish of taro ice cream among six of us.
  1. Phnom Penh Mennonite church
  2. Royal Palace, Genocide Museum of Tous Sleng, Killing Fields of Cheoung Ek.
  3. The “spa” nearby, for our Thai massages, facial, or deep tissue massage, also a silent sacred time to reflect on the day.


Fooods we ate:

  1. Mangos.
  2. Mangosteens, the queen of tropical fruit
  3. Rice paired with everything, in restaurants and MCCers homes.

Conversation Topics

  1. Our life stories. If we had sat in the van in a parking lot for the week, I would have come back bursting with anecdotes. Denise served in the Middle East with MCC. Iliana was born in El Salvador and wound up in Alberta on MCC staff. Teng was born in Laos and crossed the Mekong River as a six year old and eventually found his way to a Hmong Mennonite church. Jeanne has served with MCC in Nigeria, Congo, and Indonesia. I live in Idaho. I felt a bit like white bread.
  1. We asked questions of each other and our hosts. We discussed, what salvation means in this context; what is MCC doing right; and what does partnership mean. Since Cambodia is primarily Buddhist with 2% Christians, many have never heard of Christianity. We agreed that as Christians, we are called to be faithful. The first part of any relationship is caring, reaching out, and friendship to all. The logo In the Name of Christ is part of the MCC identity.

What I’m telling folks about our visit

  1. As much as I can. My conference gave me “only” 90 minutes for my report.
  2. MCC has been described as a “non-anxious presence” and as an organization that does not have a rescue complex.
  3. MCC is fulfilling its mission for relief, development, and peace.HPIM2074-L


Remove your Glasses


Stanley W. Green, Executive Director of Mennonite Mission Network, recently visited MMN programs and MNN workers in Cambodia. He took the chance to visit Cheoung Ek, a famous killing field during the Khmer Rouge Regime where thousands of people were sent to be brutally killed. He visited Cheoung Ek on the same day that 9 members of Emmanual AME Church in South Caroline were shot and killed. He writes personally, reflecting on the depth of violence and suffering that has transpired and is transpiring. He writes;

I realize then that we must hasten the day when instead of “I forgive you,” we are able to say to each other, “I give you sight … eyes to see the vision of a world healed and made whole … I give you life.”

We implore you to read his full article found here on The Mennonite’s online edition, and to reflect on how we all can be agents of bringing new life out of violence by seeing clearly and banishing hatred.

A Field Trip to Kirirom

A Field Trip to Kirirom

Near the end of my second semester of teaching English, we were studying a unit on travel. Whenever a new topic is taught, I have to consider the framework that the students have to understand the topic, and concordantly, what experiences they can draw from to practice the new language that the topic incorporates.

Every one of my 60 students has traveled to some degree. Even if they had never traveled to Kep, Kampong Som or Siem Reap (all popular destinations in Cambodia), all the students are from the countryside, and had traveled between their homeland and Phnom Penh any number of times since beginning school at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. However, there were a number of students that had not had many opportunities to go on a trip for fun. Being as I had been with these students all year, I thought that we should take a field trip.

After telling my supervisors and fellow SALT program participants my plan (so that I would be accountable and not be able to back out), one of my exchange coordinators, Denise, suggested that I use a crowdfunding site to raise some money to help make the trip more affordable. I chose a location, Kirirom (literally, pleasant mountain), a national park about 100 km west of Phnom Penh. The same day as I posted the funding site, I told my students the plan, and they seemed to be happy about the idea. Even though we weren’t going to one of the more popular destinations, we would be going together, which counted for something.

Crowdfunding through Indiegogo.

Crowdfunding through Indiegogo.

A few weeks later, about $275 had been raised from members of my Church, family, and MCC – enough to pay for the bus there and back, and enough to buy soda (or pop, whatever) for all the students.  Several days before we left, I asked each student for 10000 riel (about $2.50) for food.  I asked for some help with planning lunch, and several students volunteered to take the money and buy food for the 55 people who were going.

Finally, the day of the trip arrived.  I took a motorcycle taxi to school, and when I got there, my students were all dressed up in their tourist clothes. The bus driver had gotten confused and wasn’t there yet, so one of my students spoke to him on the phone and guided him to where we were. We stowed the food and water in the storage under the bus, everybody got on, I read through the attendance list, and we were off.

The bus ride there was fairly quiet. We didn’t have enough seats on the bus, so I and a number of boys sat at the front next to the driver and talked in a mixture of Khmer and English about what we saw on the road. Words like brick, cement, plant, replant, and harvest were learned. After about three hours of driving and a bathroom break, we arrived at the national park and the bus started to climb the mountain. Unfortunately, the bus was only so strong, so while we were climbing the mountain, the air conditioner had to be shut off, which resulted in the bus becoming a sort of sticky toaster oven.  Even the Cambodians were sweating.

However, when we reached the top and got off the bus, we were greeted by some very nice, cool weather, and our spirits were lifted. We found a path going back into the forest, and everybody helped to carry the food and water. After about a kilometer or two, we arrived at a place that rented big tables for ~$5 each. I got three of them and we put our stuff down and spread out. We were in sort of a river valley, which was mostly dry because Cambodia had not entered the rainy season, and besides that it’s been a dry year. Some of us walked down the river bed until we found some shallow pools of water, and there we took maybe 500 pictures.

Carrying food in to the river.

Carrying food in to the river.

Bouavanh carried some water.

Bouavanh carried some water.

Leak and Tropin carried the vegetables using a stick they found.

Leak and Tropin carried the vegetables using a stick they found.

Back at the tables, we got out the food and everybody started eating. We had prahok k’ti (a type of fermented fish paste mixed with coconut milk, and before you form your opinions about it, it’s quite good), deep-fried fish, pan-fried chicken (not really sure how to translate that) and something with pork. It was a veritable feast, and everybody was full and we had food to spare, which we ended up taking back home.


After lunch, we sort of meandered around (taking pictures all the while, mind you) until it started to rain a little. When the rain had stopped, we assembled a group of about 20 students to climb the remaining distance up to the very top of the mountain.  On we went, and shortly, we arrived. It was so wonderful, I didn’t want to leave, and my students seemed to feel the same way.  Naturally, we did the only thing we could do, and took more pictures.

All of us who climbed to the top of the mountain.

All of us who climbed to the top of the mountain.

Sreymom, a biology major, collecting plants to take back and study.

Sreymom, a biology major, collecting plants to take back and study.

The view from the top.

The view from the top.

Finally, it was time to go back to bus, so we went down the mountain and met up with the rest of the students to take some more pictures all together. Back on the bus, we picked up two French teachers and took them down the mountain. I didn’t ask, but they paid $5, which was very considerate of them as they didn’t have actual seats. As soon as we were back on the main highway, someone broke out a microphone, we plugged it into the sound system, and students took turns singing different Khmer songs a capella. I sang ‘You Are My Sunshine”, which my students enjoyed.


All of us together, before boarding the bus and heading back down the mountain.


After a longer trip back (understandably, on Sunday evenings, the road into Phnom Penh is quite crowded) we arrived back at the university. I thanked everybody for coming and reminded them to bring their World English and Essential Reading books to class the next day. Everybody was happy and quite tired, and we had good memories and thousands of pictures to show for it.

Years later – Gratefulness for MCC Efforts Continues On


MCC Service Worker Dawn Landes and Sothy Eng

Rarely do we have the opportunity to hear directly how MCC’s efforts impact individuals or communities over the course of time. We work by faith that God will take our efforts, which often feel small or insignificant, to grow and nurture them into something transformative; something much greater than what we alone contributed.

Recently, we had the pleasure of one of these rare occasions to hear directly how MCC’s work has helped transform an individual’s life in the long term. MCC Cambodia celebrates when stories of gratitude, such as this one highlighted below, float back our direction.

Dr. Sothy Eng, is a professor of the Practice in the Comparative and International Education Program at Lehigh University , as well as a writer and photographer. Dr. Eng was once a student at Royal University of Phnom Penh in MCC’s partner English language learning program.

The English language program at RUPP provides students the opportunity to further their studies in English, and thus find more sustainable careers in their field of study after graduation. The program, which is still in operation today, was in part initiated and developed by MCC volunteers Chris and Dawn Landes. Since then, additional MCC volunteers have given their time as teachers, teacher trainers, or as management staff  at the English program. Currently, there is a SALTer (one year volunteer) teaching courses. MCC’s partnership with the English language program since 1997 has been part of a support system providing better opportunities to Cambodian students; students that are often from rural areas and studying by way of scholarship.

Dr. Eng describes how instrumental MCC’s presence has been in his life, through Dawn and Chris at the English Program;

During my undergraduate degree at Royal University of Phnom Penh , I had an exceptional opportunity to study English with Dawn and Chris Landes. I had Dawn in writing class and Chris in general English class. Both of them were dedicated and inspiring teachers. They were willing to go above and beyond their role as teachers by helping their students utilize their English skills and achieve their academic and career goals. Chris was really good at encouraging students to speak up in class (as Cambodian students are typically quiet), while Dawn was so helpful in personally assisting me with my application for a graduate program at Texas Tech University. With her help I was accepted and came to Texas Tech for my Master’s in Human Development and Family Studies the following year, 2003. I graduated with my Ph.D. at the same university in 2009. Then in 2010, I moved to UCLA for my post-doctoral fellowship for one year there before starting my job at Lehigh University as a Professor of Practice in Comparative and International Education until now. Dawn and Chris are inspirational and I will always remember them and owe them my gratitude. 

Dr. Eng, though living and teaching in Pennsylvania, stays rooted and connected to Cambodia. He facilitates a partnership program between graduate students at Lehigh and a Cambodian NGO providing monitoring and evaluation support for various educational programs at the 21 schools supported by the NGO.

He recently wrote and published the story of his parents’ experience during the war. He writes in order to honor his family’s survival and to mark the 40th year since the Khmer Rouge took over the country. The story can be found on the Huffington Post titled: 40 Years After the Cambodian Genocide, One Thing My Parents Still Talk About.




YAMEN: Finding your Unique Gift to Share

Written by Keila Julissa Medina from Honduras and working/living in Sihanoukville with Partner Organization: Let us Create

When I knew that I was going to serve in Let Us Create, in Cambodia, my greatest desire was not to change things, but make my own small contributions – like planting a seed that would continue to grow into something special. During my first months, I spent a lot of time wondering about what my particular seed, what my contribution would be. Even though I was busy doing many things like cooking, cleaning, teaching English, assisting in art classes, and helping with the outreach program, I felt that I still had not found my own special contribution. I had thought teaching violin to the program’s children would be my special contribution – but it turned out that there was no way that LUC could purchase instruments.


Keila teaching at LUC



Half way through my term I came up with a new idea. I proposed to the LUC director my idea to teach Spanish to the teenagers of the program – and she accepted!

Since January, 12 high school students stay at the center after their art class to take Spanish class with me. In the first lesson, I taught very basic greetings like: “hola”, “¿cómo estás?”, “hasta pronto” (this means: Hi, how are you? see you soon!) Coincidentally on that very first day, Allison Montgomery (serving in Phnom Penh through MCC SALT program) was visiting Kompong Som province and came to see me and walked into my class. As soon as my students saw her, they said like in a choir: ¡HOLA! ¿CÓMO ESTAS? (Hi, how are you?)

It was such a surprise for me, but what impacted me most was that from that day on, my students greeted me in Spanish whenever they met me. I cannot describe how amazing it feels to share my life with them like this. Before, nobody could speak Spanish at LUC, and now some of them are able to keep a simple conversation with me. It’s amazing!

Now it is April and admittedly, almost all of them need my encouragement to continue attending the Spanish classes. The kids of LUC are very poor and I see that a frequent problem is that the kids suffer from poverty, but also having low expectations on themselves. Therefore, I feel like we need to keep teaching and work hard to help my students change that mentality.

I have a student that is really special for me, because I was able to see a real interest in her to learn Spanish since the first lesson we had. Her name is Nary, she’s 14 years old and she is a really smart girl. If you met her you will know the truth of how hard she works.

As a conclusion, I can say that the best thing about teaching Spanish to them is that I can not only speak my native language but practice my Khmer as well and LEARN TOGETHER! – which is what I believe life is all about. We should never try to be teachers about everything, we will always need to learn from people around us. It doesn’t matter who is more professional or experienced. Everyone has something to teach and to learn.

I’m so thankful with God and with the Mennonite Central Committee for this opportunity to serve in Cambodia. I’ve learned a lot and also, I’ve become a better person.
The best way to show the love of God is through the service to others, living the love that we profess. We need to show the light of Jesus wherever we go!

Monitoring and Evaluating Training Strengthens Food Security Projects

Contributed by Abtolors Mer, Partner Advisor for MCC Agriculture and Livelihood Programs in Cambodia since 2010.

CFGB conference
In order to build capacity and improve quality of the program, Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFBG) conducted a training course related to monitoring and evaluation. The training was called “Measuring CFGB” and was facilitated by CFGB staff from Canada. Currently, I work with 3 partner organizations who implement food security program in Takeo and Pre Veng provinces funded by Canadian Foodgrain Bank (CFGB) through MCC. I provide capacity building to partner’s staff to manage the program effectively and to grow their organization. Every month, I travel to visit and stay overnight at my partners to assist and work with them. At the training held in Kathmandu Nepal, there were more than 30 participants from CFGB partners from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Lao and Cambodia.cfgb 2
During the training, I learned more general information about CFGB’s program in the world. So far, CFGB is funding 3 main programs through their partners. The programs are: 1. Food security, 2. Food aid and 3. Nutrition. These 3 programs are all related, so partner work must address these issues in order to receive funding from CFGB. CFGB trainers teach that food security does not only mean having enough food to eat but also refers to having enough good and nutritious food to eat for everyone and each family.

An interesting topic from the training was Gender Mainstreaming in to projects. Men and women and children should have gender equality. This alerted me to using mainstream gender terms when writing a project logic model for my partners. I also learned to write a better logic model to fit in line with CFGB program which uses result based management in project design. The words long term impact or ultimate outcome, intermediate outcome, immediate outcome, output and activities were heard a lot during the session and us trainees were allowed time to do team discussions and practicing using these terms correctly. Finally, I learned more clearly about good performance measurement framework (PMF) and indicators used by CFGB such as Food Consumption Score (FCS), Household Dietary Diversity Scores (HDDS) and coping strategy. These tools are very useful in measuring food security related program achievements.
cfgb 3
I considered the course to be very fruitful and I am excited for trainings that bring together all people who work with food security project with MCC, CFGB or others NGOs. I also enjoyed making new friends and learning about the programs of other countries that were designed based on the different culture and geography. Since capacity building is always a need, I hope that MCC will continue to focus on developing staff and partners so they can implement projects more clearly and effectively.