During my fellowship, I will be working with Nomi Network, an NGO aiming to end human trafficking through economic empowerment and development programs for women at risk of exploitation. In Cambodia, Nomi Network has created a comprehensive training program called Nomi International Fashion Training (NIFT). NIFT works with existing social service providers and enterprises to strengthen survivors’ reintegration, business growth, job creation, and market competitiveness. As the program intern, my responsibilities are connecting with designers to instruct NIFT courses, conducting market-based research studies, preparing impact stories, securing factory partnerships, and creating an ethical standards matrix for a transparent supply chain. I am eager to see how Nomi utilizes a business model to maximize their social impact.
I am on the plane admiring the crystal blue ocean as the Cambodian coastline comes into view. The first thought that comes into my head is, “this is home for the next eleven weeks.” I felt a sense of comfort in seeing the miles of green farmland fill the space between stretches of huts nestled along a murky brown river. The landscape was oddly familiar: I saw similar colorful stilted houses in Haiti. Although I was many thousands of miles away from Haiti, I realized that I would be able to draw from my experience in an underdeveloped country to better understand how Cambodia’s development parallels with the work of Nomi Network as an economic development organization.
I am most excited to engage with the culture of this country. I am eager to learn how our lived experiences are similar and different. As I learn more about the culture, I hope to get a deeper insight into the issue of human trafficking particularly in Southeast Asia. On the other hand, I am most worried about struggling to find commonality between us. Language barriers and cultural customs may perpetuate feelings of isolation at times, but I am hopeful that I will find peace in returning to an understanding of why I am here.
This experience will be different in that I will have a lot more time to myself. I hope to grow in my introspection as I reflect on the daily experiences and encounters in Cambodia. I am so excited to see how my upcoming writings build upon my anticipation.