The day I decided that I wanted to intern with Caring for Cambodia came to me at the end of 2020 after I had completed two other virtual internships. As everyone else felt, it was strange to continue another year of virtual work, however, here we are over a year later. This was my final year of undergrad school and I was seeking opportunities to gain experience in the international field. Also, in-person internships were not an option for me and so, I took a leap of faith and sent out an email to CFC to inquire about openings. Rebecca Large was the first person I had contact with and soon, we had an official starting date to begin my tasks as CFC’s Health Intern.
During the first couple of weeks, I was still learning my bearings and getting a sense of the type of work I would be doing. I had some insight about what it would be like, however, I did not have a lot of real-world experience so this would serve as a great way for me to apply it. Coming from my perspective of being both a Cambodian American and “third-cultured” kid, I felt that I was always seeking to get a better grasp of my heritage and understand its existing inequalities. When I lived in Cambodia during my early high school years, I grew a strong connection with my family, and it is through those experiences as to why I felt so compelled and passionate to pursue an internship with CFC.
Throughout the rest of my time working with the team, I did a lot of work regarding health education and policy writing. Some health topics that we focused on were mental health and nutrition education in which I created basic lesson plans or PSAs that were like “101” classes explaining the topic, symptoms, forms of treatment, etc. With nutrition, I did a lot of behind-the-scenes work that involved analyzing the best methods of nutrition screening or enhancing the dietary intake of children in the community.
The largest and most important project that I took on was with policy writing for the health team in relation to the community, teachers, students, and other CFC staff. Being that this project was so essential for the health team in establishing official groundwork, this was a daunting task because I have never done this type of work before. However, with the guidance and support of my team, we were able to create a product that includes the framework for people in the community to refer to when needed. Although this is a document in its infant stage, I would say that this was the biggest accomplishment we made for the health team in future developments.
Despite this being a virtual internship, I have learned an invaluable amount of knowledge from my team and myself. Not only have I gained hard skills that have allowed me to develop better data analysis and critical thinking techniques, but I have received vital soft skills. These skills include establishing better written and verbal cross-cultural communication, attention to detail, and most importantly, developing my teamwork strategies. The list could go on, and I cannot thank my teammates, Syreneang, Ratha, Lay, and Rebecca enough for giving me these successes.
Now, as we are slowly exiting from a seemingly never-ending period of quarantining, social distancing, and being virtual, I am looking forward to seeing what CFC will continue to do. As for myself, I aspire to find work in the global health field helping communities facing health inequalities. Currently, I am looking forward to starting my new path after graduation and when restrictions are lifted, I hope to visit Cambodia again.
Ashley An is a graduating student from Simmons University obtaining her Bachelor of Science in Public Health and minor in Nutrition. As a first-generation university student and daughter of immigrants who lived through the Khmer Rouge, she had grown a passion for serving underrepresented communities. After spending her high school years in Cambodia, she was able to look at a holistic approach of what factors influence health disparities and nutrition.
Moving forward, Ashley is searching to gain experience working alongside organizations that support the research and development of health issues. On the same note, she has high ambitions to continue her graduate studies in Public Health in the United States or abroad at the London School of Tropical Medicine. This opportunity has allowed her to practice her technical and critical analysis skills, and most importantly, build her cultural intelligence to become a well-rounded individual.
Ashley told us that CFC has given her a new perspective of global health and the inner mechanisms of international nonprofit work. More importantly, she said it has allowed her to connect to her heritage and understand what is happening in this community.
Thank you, Ashley, for all your work. We wish you all the best and hope to reconnect in the future!