Real change for communities does not happen overnight. Each of us plays an important role—from supporter to office staff to community leader. It takes years of relationship building, planning, education, and persistence. But the conduits that make this happen? FH staff who live and work in the community, who truly walk alongside leaders, churches, and families.
Meet Neak Phanna. She’s worked with FH for over 19 years, serving with Child Sponsorship, then Savings and Loans groups, and later as an Area Team Leader. She is now in a supervisory role as the the Program Officer for the Trapeang Prasat region.
Interview by Karen Koster and Michael Prins
KK: Tell us a bit about yourself.
NP: I am 50 years old. I have two daughters and two grandsons from my eldest daughter. I supported the studies of my children to university and they now have great jobs. My husband also works, and I can say that we have enough for the needs of our family. We have a home in Dom Nak Chom Bok Village. I thank God for providing all of these blessings! In my spare time, I enjoy singing and reading the news, and playing jokes on my friends—ha!
KK: Where did you grow up and what was it like?
NP: I grew up in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. My father passed away and my mother was widowed with three children. I was small when Khmer Rouge broke down. To help earn an income, I sold snacks to pay for the school fees for myself and my siblings. So, I was forced to live like an adult even though I was still a child.
I eventually graduated as a Primary School Teacher in 1985 at Kampot Province and taught for 14 years.
Growing up we were not hopeful of our future. When I started working for FH, I accepted God and shared this faith with my family. We began seeing hope and have since experienced real happiness.
KK: What lead you into community development work?
NP: I believe that God planned for me to work in FH. I love working with the poor and want to help them to know God like me, too. I experienced how difficult life [can be] and I understand their situations. This is my chance to help others to have a better life and overcome their challenges.
|Phanna has been walking with community leaders and children for the past 19 years.|
KK: What does a typical day look like for you?
NP: We always begin our day with devotions. I would typically go to the community to visit a family, or facilitate a meeting, or coach community leaders. I also meet government officials to build relationship and discuss [projects] in their community. I provide guidance to Area Team Leaders and other coordinators entrusted to me in the region.
KK: What is one of your most memorable stories?
NP: Years ago I helped a woman in the city of Chhuk. Her name was Thuy Phea, 43 years old. She was so sick and went to a “quack doctor”. She became worse. Then, one day, the quack doctor said he cannot help her any longer. I visited her and prayed for her. Then I brought her to church and everyone prayed with her. She got better and now she worships God.
KK: What is the hardest part of your role?
NP: Encouraging leaders to cooperate. In Cambodia, leaders have a lot to say about everything! Moreover, sometimes leaders are corrupt and think only about the benefit that they can get.
|Phanna with her family|
KK: What do you love most about your role?
NP: Helping communities discover their potential. [We must] bring positive change to communities, to focus on the most vulnerable, and overcome poverty by discovering their potential.
We know that wherever we go God always guide us.
I’ve enjoyed helping many families understand the value of education. [We talk about] how to encourage a child, enroll them in school, and [set goals] to finish their education.