“It starts by standing with the poor.”
I had heard those words many times since I started volunteering with the Vancouver+Acumen chapter in 2009. By August of 2012, I was craving a new adventure and opportunity for hands on learning. So I joined a 6 month program with Wedu, whose mission is to catalyze the next generation of female leaders by providing access to higher education and support through mentorship.
There were a multitude of lessons and new adventures waiting for me when I landed in Bangkok, Thailand – the operational hub for the Wedu team. Within a month I launched the first iteration of the Mentorship Program. Wedu works with students from rural Cambodia and Myanmar and, it was through the Mentorship Program that I found myself with a new mentee.
She is a bright light in my life, and has been since the day I met her and her family. My visit to her small village was the first time I had ever seen true poverty first hand. Her family lived in a single room home that was elevated from the ground for protection during rainy season. They had one cow, one pig, and a couple chickens, and made their living off of their small rice field and mango trees. They had so little, and yet they gave everything. We had a beautiful meal that cost no less (and likely much more) than one month’s wages, and with hand gestures (as they spoke no English, and I spoke no Khmer), they told me over and over how grateful they were for the scholarship Wedu gave their daughter. She is the first person in her family to go to university. I told them that we were not to be thanked, as she earned her scholarship with her hard work and dedication to her studies. My visit was short and happy, and I smiled as we drove away the next day.