Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A volunteer's reflections: a welcoming community

by Laina Schneider
Individual volunteer from Virginia

On Sunday, I went with Katherine, the missionary I am working with, Teresa, a pastor from Singapore, and some students from the Methodist youth hostel to church in Prekormel. The service was great, it was comprised of mostly young people, and they were singing their hearts out.

Following worship, the church leaders met about the plans and location for a new church they would be building. I went with the students, three of which were from the village, to meet their families and see their homes and farms. The village was great, there were farmers harvesting eggplants, and all sorts of kids running about, very curious about me. Men rode by on horse drawn carts, bringing dirt and manure to their fields. One of the boys family prepared us a traditional Khmer lunch, and invited us into their home to dine. The food was delicious, and their house was impeccably clean, simple and sensible. I loved getting to experience exactly what they did on a normal day. They had made no preparations for me, and just invited me in like another student.

Following lunch we walked out to the fields where green things were growing as far as the eye could see. Squash, pumpkins, potatoes, eggplants, bananas, mangoes, rambutan, and much more. I was inspired by the students devotion to their farms even though they lived in the city to attend university. It was clearly engrained in their being, it’s normal and natural to live off the land, and I could sense how they missed the fresh open air.

Visiting this village was definitely my favorite part of my time here so far. They way they lived was truly beautiful. They all worked together and valued simplicity, effort and kindness. I hope that someday I can learn to be as welcoming and wonderful as they were to me.

Laina is a member of Aldersgate UMC in Alexandria, VA and a rising sophomore at Virginia Tech in the College of Agriculture. She is studying agronomy and civic agriculture and food systems and volunteering with the CHAD program for one month.

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