A Brighter Future

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Lately, I have been reading extensively on the history of Cambodia and its dark period, rule by the Khmer Rouge. The re-telling of these devastating four years has opened my eyes to the physical and psychological ┬átorture the Cambodian citizens were forced to endure. Reading two memoirs, written by survivors, has provided me with insight into the trauma caused by the horrific acts of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. In the first memoir “To the End of Hell”, a French citizen shares her experience in the agrarian labor camps, and the atrocities she witnessed. The second memoir “First They Killed My Father”, is told from the perspective of a young, middle-class Cambodian girl who was forced to become a child soldier of the Khmer Rouge after her father, a former police officer in the overthrown government, was executed.

Angkor Wat

Many of the individuals who were fortunate enough to survive this genocide are still living to this day. With this in mind, I must be conscious that I will likely encounter survivors during my time in Cambodia. Many of these people have been permanently scarred, preventing them from trusting that there is hope for a brighter future.

Cambodian homes

Since the goal of my Peace Corps service is to provide the individuals of my community with an improvement in health, I must keep in mind that at times progress may be slow. I must first instill a sense of trust in the lives of those whom I hope to assist. If what I have read about the Cambodian people is true, they are a kind and welcoming population, yet something which is precious to all of us has been taken from them. They have lost their faith in humanity. In a travel narrative by Dutch author, Carsten Jensen, he wrote that many Cambodians will tell you that “Cambodia is bad.” This bleak outlook for their future develops from both the wickedness of the Khmer Rouge and also the current state of their political system.

Phnom Phen traffic

The government is currently quite unstable. This instability has trickled down into the educational system where it has resulted in the lack of many Cambodians receiving a proper education. There is a high level of corruption from the educators which makes attending school a very costly task. This lack of education has resulted in poor hygiene and living standards.

Cambodian rice paddies

Serving as a health educator in Cambodia will not be an easy job, yet it is not an insurmountable task. Though the Cambodian people may be hesitant to trust in a brighter future, they are eager to improve their lives. With my assistance as a health educator and the willingness of the people, I hope to spend the next two years of my life making a difference in the lives of my Cambodian community.

The Last Week of Class

Today is the start of my last week of classes as an undergraduate student at Arkansas State University. I’m a plethora of emotions since this is the last time I will have the opportunity to see many of the people with whom I have shared the last four years of my life.

Huge life changes are both exciting and scary! Graduating in May beckons in a new chapter of my life with new people, experiences, and locations. I welcome the opportunity to continue to grow and mature, but I am nervous at leaving those who have grown so special to me over the years.

I know all great things must come to an end, and if we are to continue to improve then we must keep moving. I am just saddened by the fact that I was only able to share a brief amount of time with Ellen, who has quickly become one of the most precious individuals in my life. I am so lucky to have met her and she has become such an inspiration to become a better person.

Thinking back over the past four years, I am overwhelmed at the number of life-changing experiences that ASU has offered me. This university took my ambition and exposed me to different world views which has molded me into a global citizen. Without Arkansas State, I wouldn’t be leaving for Cambodia in July and have the courage to leave all that is comfortable to me. I am indebted to this university and could not be happier with my decision to attend this great place of learning.

Over the next couple years, I will be going through a tremendous amount of change. I look forward to learning to integrate into a new culture, but I know I will miss all that has been familiar to me over the past 22 years. The loved ones of my life shall be missed, as I hope I am by them, yet I know this once-of-a-lifetime opportunity will forever change me into the person I am destined to become.