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December 2020 newsletter

 

Kylene Fremling, Cambodia

 

Grade 6 boys at LaValla

For many of us, this year has been unprecedented. It has come with a myriad of challenges, loss, a sense of overwhelm, and stress. Through my experience in impoverished communities, I have learned that uncertainty and stress narrow our worldview. Our vision shifts to that which is directly in front of us. Often we don’t have access to our loftier ambitions and dreams. Hope can feel daunting. It can feel a bit too risky, out of reach.

I invite you to join me in finding some moments of hope:

One of our home visits during the pandemic

When I asked my co-workers at LaValla School to tell me about hope, the conversation didn’t make it far. As many of my stories go, not before long we were in a fit of giggles. The word “hope” sounds like one of the Khmer verbs “to eat.” The rest of the day was filled with miming eating each other’s arms accompanied by “I hope you, you hope me”s. In moments of joy, there is hope.

When our school closed due to the pandemic in mid-March, most of our students returned to their homes in the provinces. The students that needed additional care, especially those still in rehabilitation from surgeries, remained at LaValla. It was at this time that I loaded up my backpack and moved into Srey Nith’s room. She generously shared her space, bed, and many nights eating ramen on the floor. In moments of generosity, there is hope.

While living at LaValla, I became close friends with the women who run a drink shop just up the road. One night while I was there, a downpour started. Soon enough, Sokna arrived with an umbrella so I wouldn’t get drenched on my walk home. In moments of thoughtfulness, there is hope.

One constant at our organization is the culture of community. It has been true since I began here, and became even more noticeable during this pandemic. After a few months of our students being home, we sent out trucks with food supplies for all our students’ families. Teachers packed materials and lessons so the children could continue their studies. The students still at school would tag along on these trips to check in on their friends.

In true LaValla fashion, when there is cause for celebration or mourning, we do it together. Recently, one of our custodians, Srey Roath, gave birth. A week later, a collection was taken and our van loaded with as many staff as were available to make a visit. Soon after, one of our students lost his mother, rendering him parentless. Again the collection was taken and his classmates, teacher, and staff headed to his home in the province to pay our respects. In moments of togetherness, there is hope.

My faith offers me a deep, more enduring sense of hope. There are times I am so frustrated by how intangible that feels. These moments in community have been the tangible, embodiment of hope.

As we wrap up an incredibly difficult year, may you find enough moments of hope for today.

 

Kylene Fremling Kylene Fremling
Kylene Fremling is a physiotherapist assistant at the LaValla School in Takhmao near Phnom Penh, Cambodia.