Where nature meets technology and e-creativity – an environmental-education program to be replicated

Imagine entering your science class and the teacher says – “today we will learn how to create a video game, then you will create your own, enter it in competition, and then finish up playing the games.” I am sure your experience with textbook-based environmental awareness – the importance of nature, animals, plants, and RECYCLING – would be forever changed. Yayasan Anak Warisan Alam (or YAWA) has partnered with corporate partners like AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) to change the way environmental education is being taught in Malaysian schools – through technology training and creativity capacity-building.

Me with YAWA staff and current student now a volunteer trainer for new youth groups.

Through a train-the-trainer approach, youth train younger youth creating mentor-mentee relationships. This particular youth said before he did not know a lot about the environment, but now he knows more about things like recycling, has fun doing it, and now hopes to be a landscape architect.

One of the staff explained why she went from supporter, to volunteer, to staff with YAWA: Her own son had disabilities and was very shy. After joining the program, he started wanting to go all of the time and finally the pivotal day was when he asked his mom “to go home”. He was confident there and no longer needed her with him. She said she committed 100% to making sure he could make it to every YAWA activity because she saw the change in him. It gave him courage, and his grades even improved. Now he is a volunteer training younger youth.

at MyCore Cyberjaya (the tech-park of Kuala Lumpur) where a class is creating video games with environmental advocacy missions (defeating deforesters, poachers, gathering rubbish); AMD gave 112 pc’s to the program to promote the E-Creativity Green Competition

MyCORE was created through a government push for an educated and technoologically savvy population. It was looking to develop the job and economic future of Malaysia.  There they provide trainings and workshops.

The first collaboration AMD had was a road show to 10 states in Malasia for 9-12 year old students to compete in educational games. AMD gave 80 pc’s at first to 8 schools.

I was told that game development project not only cultivates creativity but develops skills for future careers.

Next we visited  YAWA Environmental Education and Interpretive Centre – students practicing combining entrepreneurship training through green-solutions, products, and businesses. This center is for youth to gather, organize, and meet building entrepreneurship skills, selling products, and starting businesses with a green-focus.  The picture above is one of the top students in the e-creativity competition demonstrating his environmental game that involved jumps, avoiding bad guys, grabbing rubbish, and depositing it in trash bins.

This group demonstrated their advocacy campaign by selling t-shirts they made about the environment with cool catchy slogans and colors

These 2 young women took old newspapers and made new paper to sell- they showed me how and then made a lovely card saying “thank you for coming”. Now I know what to do with all of my old newspapers – I never have to buy paper again.

This group was using old water bottles to create hydroponic plants and spices – which they then sold to the community.

This group of youth were practicing baking and fundraising… and creativity… by selling home-made sweets self-decorated  (even the icing was homemade.. and delicious).

Salina from AMD and me

with cupcakes to take home and the home-made card

Other projects not pictured were taking left over water bottles, fruits and vegetables to create home-made cleaners, soaps, and shampoos to sell in the community. Another project was to raise birds to sell eggs.

YAWA is trying to encourage the moving away from a culture of dependency and teach self-empowerment while also creating awareness about environment through a hands-on science education approach.

YAWA’s long term goal is to create a forest development center with land to provide hands on training for youth.

Although YAWA is not a current project featured on GlobalGiving, I visited because of GG’s involvement in the partnership between AMD and YAWA.  I was blown away by YAWA’s organizational structure, commitment and drive of its creators, staff, and volunteers (the volunteering and give-back culture of Malaysia is commendable and inspiring). Additionally, the students I met were learning not only about the value of recycling turning waste to new products, developing creative mind-sets, and practicing career skills that will support them for a lifetime. I would love to see these programs implemented in schools back home…

GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 


A change-agent in TB and HIV treatment for impoverished communities… a visit with Global Health Committee

Feb 29, 2012: I met with Dr. Sok Thim, co-founder and Executive Director, and Ung Prahors, Deputy Director, of Cambodian Health Committee in order to learn more about and visit the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital providing health care for impoverished communities affected by Tuburculosis and HIV for free, and visit the Maddox Chivan Children’s Center, a social and educational care center for children infected or affected by HIV/AIDs.

The day started with an introduction and background of Cambodian Health Committee and how it has developed into the now, Global Health Committee, in response to an expansion and replication of the successful local model of treatment and care. Dr. Sok Thim, co-founder, shared his inspiring story about surviving the  horrors of Khmer Rouge regime and the life-path that brought him to his experience and expertise in medical care via HIV treatment for impoverished communities (beginning in Cambodia-Thailand refugee camps with USAID). Through his experiences and developed expertise as well as Dr. Anne Goldfeld’s work as Senior Investigator at the Immune Disease Institute of Children’s Hospital Boston and a member of the Infectious Disease Division at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, together they created CHC. Even against all obstacles (such as refusal to mold program design and mission in order to fit bureaucratic demands) they persevered, and 10 years later earned the recognition they most deserved from local and international community. CHC’s model was so effective that its research has been published in the National Science Journal as well as is being replicated for Cambodia’s Ministry of Health. CHC has been asked to work with government hospitals and staff and is now focusing on improve quality of medical care through staff training.

In waiting play room with kids and families

I was able to meet several of the children who were being treated by Cambodian Health Committee, as well as their families. One woman was there because one child had HIV and the others did not – so the CHC made sure her and her baby were taken care of as well in order to accomodate for their long trek to get treatment for her child.  This waiting room was specifically a play room for kids waiting for treatment and care – full of toys, books, and tv!

CHC provided transportation for her to get to school and to the hospital. This was a major hope for Cambodian Health Committee to get more vehicles to safely transport their patients to receive treatment on a regular basis.

Gifts from the U.S.

We went up to the main CHC hospital office, and I was able to see the CAMELIA headquarters – a published research collaboration between US, French, and Cambodian clinicians and scientists. The office was an open space used for meetings and tracking HIV and TB cases all over the country on a giant, pin-board, wall map – with color coding to signify different types of medicine-immune cases. I learned that they also have field staff and social workers that go into the communities and work with patients once they can be returned to their homes. CHC believes that the best way to heal is under the least stressors and in their homes (as long as it is safe to go home for families) – as opposed to the traditional belief that patients should stay 100% in the hospital under observation.

with Cambodian Health Committee Staff and government staff

The staff I met explained that because of CHC they were able to provide care and treatment that they would not have been able to with the government program and budget. Cambodian Health Committee was able to fill the gaps and work synchronisticaly with the Cambodian Ministry of Health, supporting each other’s research, treatment, and care for their patients. Another staff member said that because of CHC support, they were able to revamp and improve facilities which were previously very old.

At the end, we visited the Maddox Chivan Children’s Center which provides active educational, medical and nutritional support for over 300 children from 179 families and provides lunch for approximately 130 children each day (source:Global Health Committee).

Kids playing soccer

Nap time

This was so cute, during the tour we came across nap time, it was adorable to see them all peacefully resting after a long day of school and play!

The MCCC playground and artwork done by Friends International beneficiaries! (Click here to read my post about FriendsInternational)

with Maddox Chivan Children’s Center kids

It was so wonderful and joyous – as soon as the kids heard the word picture, they came running and piling on top of each other to be in it. By the end of taking this shot we all were falling over and laughing so hard. The whole time the kids were coming up to me to say “Hello! What is your name?!”

with MCCC Staff and Kids – please note the angry birds picture in the middle. Kids love Angry Birds here!

It was a delightful and incredible day spent with the kids at MCCC as well as with the committed and driven staff at the hospital and Cambodian Health Committee office. On a personal note, it was difficult to witness people suffering through HIV and TB, but after seeing the care and research behind their treatment, and despite the patients’ difficulties, their strength and ability to smile and laugh still – was inspirational and soul-moving.

Some future goals for GHC that Dr. Sok and Prahors shared with me included (1) replication globally, (2) a 10-year program in human resource development medical training specifically for poor-family and communities care and support (this is to change the atmosphere with medical care in these communities to focus on staff attitude to create quality service), and (3) more vehicles to safely transport patients who have little to no way to go and receive care and treatment at the hospital.

A little side note – yes this is Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt with Global Health Committee head staff (including Dr. Anne Goldfeld). Angelina and Brad are supporters and funders of GHC programs as well as helped create the Maddox Chivan Children’s Center (named after their adopted son, Maddox, who is from Cambodia) and the upcoming Zara Children’s Center in Ethiopia (named after their adopted daughter Zara from Ethiopia). To learn more about Angelina’s participation click here.

To learn more about Global Health Committee: Click here.

GlobalGiving InTheField Traveler | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here

What can I do for you? A story of Friends…International

This story is not about what you should do or what is best – this is about what can I do for you? That is how Friends International began. It began by asking, “what can I do for you? What do you need?” On 22 of February 2012 I was able to meet with staff from Friends International, recently voted Top 100 NGO in 2012 by Global Journal, as well as experience their work, “help out” in it, and live the impact. James and Charlotte welcomed me into their head office to share a bit about their backgrounds, the projects, and the impact.

Part I – Beginnings

Almost 15 years ago when Cambodia was opening up post Khmer Rouge, Sebastian, the Executive Director, was traversing through Cambodia on his way to Japan. While resting he noticed truck after truck of NGO and Aid vehicles passing by. But beyond the image of these, in the distance along the river, were homeless and suffering Cambodians and youth laying along the riverside. The amount of aid pouring into the country since it opened was enormous – but why were there so many homelss and impoverished youth untouched and unaffected, Sebastian thought.

Sebastian decided to start speaking to them about their stories asking them what they needed. The number of education facilities and orphanages were skyrocketing, but the surprising answer from these youth were not to go to school or for a bed –  they wanted work to support themselves and families.

Part II – An answer to the calling: 4 Friends Programs

Yes, educational opportunities exist (for those under 15 if they wish). Outreach teams go out to street kids, ask what they need, build relationships, and encourage the value of education.  The participants are never forced but supported to make the decision on their own, but the demand was for opportunities to gain skills for jobs, and so was born the (1)Friends Programs providing vocational skills training, (2) Friends Social Businesses to support the trainings and provide real world application, (3) CYTI Alliance, a coalition of best-practices and lessons learned to collaborate and involve NGO’s in supporting marginalized communities, and finally the (4)Childsafe Network to spread advocacy and include the community in child-safe tourism and business practices. This includes the “Thumbs Up” logo that is featured everywhere from tuktuks, to hotels, police, and even airlines (coming soon).

The Friends Educational and Training Center 

Part III – Experiencing the Vocational Programs

It is one thing to hear about and read about programs, but it is another to experience it first hand. After the meeting, off I went to track down the social businesses and trainings, speak with the beneficiaries, and observe how well their hospitality program REALLY was. I was able to find 2 restaurants, which has now separated to be its own entity (Mith Samlanh) as well as the stores selling the beneficiaries’ products, and a beauty training salon.

Mith Samlanh – Romdeng Restaurant – Social Business and Vocational Training
Romdeng Friends International Product Store – featuring items made by beneficiaries

Vocational Training – Nail and Beauty Salon

Finally, I decided to sit down, relax, and try out the training program of Friends Restaurant. First thing I did was ask a “Teacher” and staff how it worked from their  perspective – and the trainer was VERY well versed. He knew all of the details of the levels of the hospitality program. This trainer was actualy from the local university there to support the program. Another staff with little anglais did not want me to go empty handed even though he could not answer my questions (language barrier) so he brought me a ChildSafe Traverler Tips brochure (in Khmer). It was thoughtful and sincere. Every member of the staff were sincere, focused, and in a state of learning – the highest state I would say to be in life.

The Training Process:
Step 1: preparing food for chilfren in schools (4months training)
Step 2: Training in serving and hospitalitiy in Cambodian restaurants (for locals) (about 10 mths)
Step 3: Move to training/working in Friends-Mith Samlanh Center

And voila… there I was about to sample the cooking and services of Friends International trainees…

Menu, staff, and trainee board (in background) at Friends Restaurant

Getting work done at Friends Restaurant while having a non-alcoholic Passion Fruit chiller, reading the ChildSafe pamphlet, and about to taste the  tuna and egg salad (YUM)

Part IV: Creating Advocates

At the end, I was sold. Not only did I buy gifts and a Friends trainee-created notebook for myself, but I had lunch at the restaurant and visited their training salon. Yes, Charlotte and James were fantastic pitchers of their program. But beyond that (and I am not saying I am a hardened jaded global development specialist)… it takes a lot to get me to buy in. And there need not be any pitching necessary – because the products were quality, they were items I wanted to buy for myself (but I couldn’t be selfish…so I’ll call them gifts and figure out who they’re for later), the food was delicious, and I had better service than at the more expensive restaurants of Phnom Penh.

When I asked James how he would describe the FRIENDSISH image,  he said it is about fun, smiling, and bringing those back into the community from the margins. It is about collaboration (see previous post), and being young at heart. When you learn you feel young again, and being young is not about age.. it is about a state of mind. That is how he viewed friends… and that’s how I experienced it.

For more information: Friends-International

GlobalGiving InTheField Traveler | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here

Collaboration – inspired by my site visit with Chab Dai

This post is a post about Collaboration. What does it mean to you? What actions are undertaken in collaboration? Why is it important? Think about this before reading on…

On February 23 I was able to meet with an organization that is changing the way organizations, communities, governments, and well I guess the world communicates and understands – Collaboration. Through creating and compiling best practices for coalitions in Human Trafficking and Human Rights, Chab Dai Cambodia is from the “bottom up” being requested to share how they work, their lessons, and how-to’s of creating an effective and COLLABORATIVE coalition for effectively and efficiently impacting communities through prevention and trafficked victims rescue and care.

What do I mean? Chab Dai has spread FROM Cambodia to the USA and Canada, as well as is now working with organizations all over the world.

What do they provide? (Among the many change-agent projects and programs for anti-trafficking and human rights issues) Toolkits for organizations including self-assessments, best practices, a network of shared resources, and membership of charter-signed members commited to ethics and impact.

What is wonderful is this is a CHANGE in the global development community mindset – no longer is it what the “developed/first world” countries and people have to teach and offer “lesser developed/developing nations” it is what these nations, communities, and local organizations can now teach US.  It only makes sense that since Cambodia has been dealing with the sex-slave trade intensely and for  quite some time.. now that awareness is increasing in the United States (and other “developed” nations) about human-trafficking that happens in our OWN borders, we can learn and adopt what is ALREADY working – not stumble through a million lessons that have already failed, tackled, and improved upon.

I was explained by Tania, the International Communications Director, that what people, even academics, claim to understand about collaboration usually includes the surface, material, and financial. Maybe even, “well ya I attended once this forum on XYZ, so now I am collaborating with the hosting organization.” This is not the case – and is not what really matters. Chab Dai is spearheading the true meaning and impact that the word Collaboration has the power to create.

Now this post does not even dip its toe into the ecosystem of projects, programs, and networks that Chab Dai is creating for human rights, but since you have the power to explore their site yourself, I am focusing on the issues that are very close to my heart. Sustainability, working together, and development for humanity.

(I know this is a very wordy and long post)

If you’d like to read on…

Religion has the power to separate and unite but it can also open up for Collaboration: Before my site visit with Chab Dai, a flag initially raised when I found out they were a faith-based coalition, but I found out they strictly do not prostheletize or discriminate against religion. Chab Dai formed because in the beginning, no one was working together, wasting resources, and doing the same work but in repetition. Helen (International Director) recognized everything could be more effective and efficient if organizations worked together. The government and UN agencies thought the Christian orgs were just prostheletizing and the Christian orgs felt persecuted. So Chab Dai was created to join organizations that have at least a common foundation so that they can all start from and build upon a foundation of trust, and through doing this identify development gaps, repetition in programs, and eventually to work with trust and understanding the government and secular orgs (and vice versa) synchronistically and collaboratively instead of all against each other – creating trust and Collaboration.

A Metaphor of good conquering evil: before Chab Dai moved to its new location, the building was used by a “Recruiting Agency” to “domestic train” women and send as “House Helpers” to various areas throughout Southeast Asia. The barbed wire along the outer gate was used to keep women in…not keep thieves out. Now Chab Dai, a force for protecting humanity from human trafficking and the sex trade, has taken over the location – a great metaphor of their impact to tackling human rights perpetrators.

If you are interested in learning more about Chab Dai: Click here.

GlobalGiving InTheField Traveler | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here

Breaking the cycle of poverty and preserving Cambodian arts -My day with Kasumisou Foundation

My day began bright and early with Juana – from Peru she is the local staff for the Family Support Program, Kasumisou Foundation. On 20 February 2012, over a breakfast of fruit, we discussed  a brief overview of her work and the day’s itinerary. I would be visiting several families benefitting from Kasumisou’s FSP program (those affected by HIV) and then visiting the Apsara Arts Prgoram where youth and orphans can learn traditional Cambodian dance, drawing, and music while not in school and during summers (instead of being on the streets).

The first family lived in a Buddhist Temple Pagoda that looked like this….

After the PolPot regime (Khmer Rouge) Buddhist temples began to welcome Cambodians without homes re-settling back into the city after being scattered among different provinces looking for their lost loved ones and for places to live. (Please Google the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge if you are not familiar.. I was able to visit the “Killing Fields” and the Tuol Sleng Museum, and will share photos in a later posting).

The first family consisted of a young boy, Pirron, affected by HIV and his grandmother who took care of him after his mother passed away due to the virus.  I asked her what her life was like before she was taken in by the Kasumisou foundation – she had been a beggar. Homeless and penniless she took in her grandson after his mother passed and was desperate because he was dying. At a local church they were introduced to Juana and  the Kasumisou foundation, and they were given a small stipend to pay for rent, for food, and education for the young boy. The conditions were she had to stop begging. When I met this family I would have NEVER imagine what they had gone through. She was proud of her grandson’s studies, smiling, and welcoming. I asked what hope she had for her grandson in the future, and she said for him to finish his studies and become a professional. He responded he hoped the same and loved working with electronics and electricity. His favorite subject was math. She now has a home, electricity (no running water yet), and with therapy the boy has lived to the age of 15. She now sells snacks and candy to the local community.

With Pirron, his grandmother, and FSP staff at their home

Now meet these two young girls who not only lost their mother due to HIV but have been constantly affected by it, and were adopted by their mother’s friend. One wanted to be a doctor “to help (listing everyone in her adopted family, the Kasumisou staff, and sponsorship family who is paying for her education) for free of charge” and the younger one followed with wanting to be a nurse “to help all of Cambodia”. One loved to read and the other draw. Her favorite thing to draw was.. Angry Birds! I was astonished and had to see her drawings- they were amazing. I told them how kids in the US also loved Angry Birds! At the end of the visit she gave me her prized angry bird and tom and jerry drawings. They practiced their english with me and showed me some of the dance and song they learned at the Apsara Arts program. These were two sweet and educated young girls with hopes and dreams. I asked Juana what was the likelihood of them receiving education to become doctors.. and she said the hope of Cambodia is for youth to graduate 6th grade, if possible 9th (14 years old). If they are very talented and have the funding then 12th. It is very difficult to attain vocational or university training here. That did not stop these girls from reaching for the stars.

Holding Smile’s Angry Birds Drawings

The final few families ingrained in me the strength of the human spirit. Sampao had been ostracized by her family when her husband died since she had HIV and was separated from her children. She was on her deathbed when Kasumso took her in and instead of accompanying her to die with dignity.. Juana was able to “accompany her to life”. When she never expected to live she now accompanies Juana home-visiting other families affected sharing experience and support. The next family was a mother and son both affected – all you could see was their joy and strength. The mother was able to work since she received therapy and he was a very naturally gifted artist – self taught drawing and painting with beautiful elaborate pictures of whatever he could get his hands on.  The final family’s mother had been blinded by the disease and was supporting her 2 young boys. Kasumisou provided her the opportunity to not have to turn to brothels to make money, but supporting her children through school and allowing her to focus on them.

Sharing fruit with mother and son during home-visit

How does it work? Kasumisou is no longer expanding but maintaining the current families. They support 110 orphans, 70 Family Support Prgoram families with 180 children,  4 in university and 3 in vocational school, and 9 orphans iving at the Apsara Arts Progaram. They provide food support, small stipend for rent/electricity/water, education, therapy whether it be for TB or HIV, and homevisit care- a holistic all-econompassing type of support to  break the cycle of poverty and provide opportunities for these youth otherwise without. The kids stay in the program for as long as they need. With hopes of focusing more on education for their children, their donor-focused funding is trying to find a way to become more sustainable.

The final leg of my site visit involved attending clases at the Apsara Arts Association.. a program for training youth whether oprpahned, poor or rich in traditional Cambodian culture. Kasumisou funds a summer program to allow their beneficiary children to spend their summers not in school learning Cambodian arts and not spend it in the streets. Kasumisou also donated the current training center.

Teaching Assistants performing (right is female dance and left is the male dance)

Please observe the 2nd child… the cutest 3 year old you have ever met

And I even was able to participate… I was dragged on stage even though I repeatedly oh-koon’d (thanked ) and declined but to no avail up I went…and then was guided with clear English 1,2,3’s throughout the entire dance…

Me attempting Cambodian Dance

It was wonderful to experience how those involved did not differentiate by age, race, or religion (some beneficiaries were Buddhist, some Christian, some “attended all temples to receive support and live long lives”) – it was about providing lives with dignity and breaking the cycles of poverty for future Cambodan generations. Although it is frustrating to see the common trend of constant dependency on dwindling donor support.. my hopes are that organizations find self-sustainability. Hopefully, these children will have the opportunity to attain all of their hopes and dreams… and even finish university.

About the staff I met: Juana’s background was in HIV family support in the US and for over a decade here. Sithen’s background is in accounting and business management supporting Kasumisou’s efforts with the Apsara Arts. Slim staff – but skilled, experienced, and dedicated. Sithen even went on to say if he ever has to take another job for some reason he would always be a supporter of and donate to Kasumisou.

To find out more about about Kasumisou Foundation click here. For more information on the Apsara Arts Association click here. The Apsara Arts Association hosts Traditional Cambodian performances on Saturday evenings.


GlobalGiving InTheField Traveler | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here