I'm back in the US now. Thank you all for covering my trip in prayers and well wishes. You can never expect everything to go perfectly or predictably when you travel (I've learned you're only setting yourself up to be stressed out if you do and it's much more fun to just go with the flow) but this trip was wonderfully successful.
Although this will be my last post in my little series, this is in no way an end. This is a beginning...
As I've said before, I'm continuously learning. And I've learned a lot from this trip that I am sharing with our DSI team as we continue developing programs. There are 3 main themes and priority needs that our partners have helped us to identify. They are:
1 - Special education training. Right now, the entirety of training for teachers on how to include and work with children with disabilities is 3 days long... and not many teachers even have access to this training. There is also a lack of diagnostic ability in country, leaving many undiagnosed or perhaps misdiagnosed. Many of our partners are asking especially for help understanding cognitive disabilities and autism who are often excluded from society and education.
2 - The need to reach rural areas. Phnom Penh is developing rapidly and there are many organizations trying to work in Cambodia. Unfortunately, it seems that little development is reaching into many parts of the country, continually making the inequality and access worse instead of better.
3 - Financial stability for partner organizations so they can continue offering services, paying their Cambodian staff, and making long-term plans toward growth for their organizations and the critical work they do.
We are already planning our next trip. Elizabeth and Nathan will be heading to Cambodia at the end of June, to continue working with partners and conduct DSI's first in-country training!
We are also continuing to work on our own organizational development and growth. Of course, this means raising funds for us as well. We are currently all working as volunteers, giving as much time as we can, but hope to begin funding some staff positions within the near future. We are also finishing up our application forms for the IRS to obtain our own 501c3 (tax exempt organization) status which will allow us to staff paid positions and begin applying for grant funding. The application fee for this is $850.
We are grateful for the many ways so many of you have and continue to support us through financial support, your prayers, kind words of encouragement, asking tough and important questions...
Please continue to focus prayers and thoughts for DSI's development on clarity for our board for our next steps in developing programs and operations of an organization grounded in its mission and love for those we aim to serve and walk alongside of.
And if you are in or around the Red Wing area and want to delve in deeper, I will be holding an informal Cambodia reflection time and Q&A in the upstairs meeting room at Caribou Coffee in Red Wing, MN next Sunday (April 9th, 2017) from 1-4pm. Feel free to stop by anytime to share your reactions to my post topics or ask any questions pertaining to DSI's mission.
Please continue to advocate, support, & empower with us.