Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 56 - Summer (Dec-Feb) 2014/15 > ADRA Connections Took Me Deeper (by Angela Vince Saunders)

ADRA Connections Took Me Deeper

by Angela Vince Saunders

My faith was made stronger in Cambodia

(NB: "ADRA" is the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, the charitable arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church)

There's a song that puts into words something I experienced recently, where I was taken "deeper than my feet could ever wander". 

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

This is a story of a week that I will remember for a very long time.  Just 7 days in Cambodia meeting with and working alongside Cambodian nationals as well as ADRA expats and fellow Sanitarium workmates - all left a lasting impression on me.  This was a group of generous, vision-driven and energetic people.

In October 2013, thirteen Spirit of Sanitarium Award (SOSA) recipients travelled to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as part of the annual SOSA International Community Project organized by ADRA Connections and ADRA Cambodia.  The project linked in to an existing cooperative arrangement between Sanitarium and ADRA Cambodia that includes noodle and bread-making micro businesses - both using fortified flour designed to supplement the diets of young Cambodian children who are at risk of deficiencies in several key nutrients.

There are two ADRA/Sanitarium projects that manage the noodle and bread-making micro businesses.  And we were there to help with both. 

The Family Nutrition Project

To support this ADRA project, Sanitarium has partnered with a large flourmill in Cambodia that makes fortified flour.  Our role during the week was to provide technical support to the small Vissot Noodle Factory that makes the dried noodles with the fortified flour, and packages, markets and distributes the flour and the noodles throughout Cambodia. We assisted with recipe and product innovations, nutritional questions, marketing ideas and packaging issues.  The manager of the factory, Lyndon, is a well-educated young Cambodian man, who teaches management at the Phnom Penh University, but volunteers his time to manage the factory and his team of workers. They are a group of 20-30 young people, learning new work skills that will keep them off the streets and provide opportunities for a better life. 

I could see how critical it was to provide work opportunities for these young factory workers.  It was our visit to the local Adventist school that showed me so starkly that education and skills are their lifeline out of poverty.  The school children were mostly sponsored and all could speak English superbly, unlike the factory workers.  They all said how grateful they were for their opportunities.  Several young students told me they plan to "give back to our communities" as teachers, doctors and nurses, etc.  They shared their hopes and dreams with us as we ate dinner together and had worship.  

SMILE Project (Securing Mothers and Infants Lives with Equity)

The SMILE Project is in 80 villages throughout Cambodia, with over 350 community partners, or village women who are trained by ADRA to help facilitate the project.  We spent two days in two different villages, assisting the facilitators with nutrition talks, cooking demonstrations and playing developmental games with the village children.  In one of the villages we helped weigh the infants - part of a screening and monitoring program to identify infants who were at risk for malnutrition and failure to thrive.  We assisted the facilitator prepare the fortified rice porridge for the malnourished babies. 

While a few of us helped with the nutrition program, some of our team helped the ADRA staff build several play-safe areas for the children, each with a play gym, a latrine and a tippy tap for hand washing.  ADRA trains the facilitator in many skills, including gardening, cooking, personal hygiene and parenting skills, which are then taught to the villagers.  We were so impressed with how well ADRA trained and resourced their community partners.

Highlights of the trip

So, what did I learn from my experience in Cambodia?  First, I learned that there is much we all can learn from Cambodian village women.  They are generous, gracious, tough, gregarious, family-focused women, all this despite living with only the barest necessities (most live without toilets or running water).  I also learned that ADRA Cambodia penetrates deeply into village and family life, to ensure that what they provide in the way of aide or care is what the village women feel meets their needs.  It was clear that the projects we were momentarily part of were absolutely essential in providing the most beneficial aide to the most in need.  With ADRAs wisdom and insights I found that we had wandered "deeper" than we could ever have imagined into the lives of some Cambodian families.  I learned that these families were living with so little by our standards, but in reality living blessed lives, enriched by strong family and community networks and relationships.

At the end of the week, as our team from Australia reflected on our short time in Cambodia, we all had an overwhelming sense that "to whom much is given, much is required."  We were all thinking of ways we could give more, do more. 

I came home utterly exhausted, but incredibly inspired by the work that ADRA does internationally and by the people we met.  I now consider myself not only an Ambassador for Sanitarium (a community-focused organization) but also more importantly an Ambassador for ADRA.  I speak enthusiastically about the work that ADRA is doing whenever I can.  As I finish, I encourage anyone reading this to consider being part of an ADRA Connections (2) trip - I guarantee it will refocus your life for the better.



(1) Oceans (Hillsong United, J Houston, M Crocker, J Lighthelm)
(2) ADRA Connections

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 56 - Summer (Dec-Feb) 2014/15 > ADRA Connections Took Me Deeper (by Angela Vince Saunders)