“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” ~ Desmond Tutu
One of the highlights of my recent trip to Cambodia was initiating the first KTECH Academy cohort. My vision for KTECH Academy is to reduce the risk of women and children in developing countries becoming trapped in the sex trafficking industry by providing STEM skills training and creating jobs. This was my first opportunity to find out if the idea would come to life.
Cambodian Care (CC) selected twenty women to participate in this first cohort. They ranged in age from 15 years old to 67 years old with an average of 2.4 years of formal education. All of them have children, grandchildren, or siblings who attend one of the three CC Light of Future Schools. The majority of the women had traveled from Kratie Province, five hours away from Phnom Penh. What they shared in common was a desire to learn and a hope that their learning would open the door to a better life for themselves and their families.
We began with our training with a session focused on women’s health and hygiene, taught by Kathy Medd, our team’s lead nurse practitioner. All of the ladies listened intently as Kathy explained the basics of women’s health through her translator. Based on their reactions, I believe they had never received this information before, including the information on women’s reproductive health. We decided quickly to give each lady a personal appointment with Kathy during class time to privately discuss women’s health questions and any current health concerns.
Following Kathy’s presentation, we began training for the Kid Power Organics Handwashing Project!
Michele Lozano taught this portion of the class. Each lady learned why handwashing with soap was important and the basic Center of Disease Control (CDC) protocol for handwashing. Their “exam” was to demonstrate washing their own hands to Michele and then teach a student from the Light of Future School to wash their hands. Everyone passed the test!
While ladies were taking their handwashing test, JeanMarie Fouquet began his introduction to sewing workshop. Each lady learned how to thread a bobbin on a sewing machine, measure and cut the correct amount of fabric for a pattern, and cut pattern pieces. Each woman used these techniques to sew their own denim Kid Power Organics apron. They were so excited to be able to create their apron! In a few weeks, they will be wearing these aprons as their uniform in the CC Light of Future Schools as they conduct the Handwashing Project.
One of the characteristics I noticed in this cohort was the willingness to work together as a team and help each other succeed. Some ladies were able to learn the basic sewing techniques more quickly than others, but everyone worked together collaboratively to get the aprons completed.
I was inspired by their enthusiasm and look forward to working together with them on our next KTECH Academy project. Something tells me that our next project will involve goat’s milk…
(Photo credits: Gabriel Rivera, Cambodia, August 2016)