I don’t think anything can fully prepare you for all that is Cambodia- the sights, sounds, and smells. Dirt roads lined with marketplaces packed with farmers, swinging on hammocks above their produce. Families of five or more somehow squeezing onto one moto, already in pajamas at noon. Crates of snakes, bugs, fish, and chickens, waiting to be killed and taken home for dinner, right before your eyes (talk about a fresh meal). Picture your life in America, everything you experience living here. I guarantee that Cambodia is just the opposite. Perhaps that is the magic of it. You step into Cambodia and although it is so foreign; so different from home, it seems that you can breathe a little deeper and walk a little lighter. Don’t get me wrong, the poverty and desperation in this place is beyond what I can try to process through in one blog post. The emotion in this place is heavy and hard, especially for a 20 year old white female who grew up in America. But beyond the heaviness, it is in this place that I experienced peace and hope and joy in a way that I have never felt with my feet planted on American soil.
You may be wondering how I ended up in Cambodia. Trust me, I wonder the same thing every day. Back in April I accepted the position of Creative Manager at Landmine Design. I was in over my head, completely under qualified, but entirely swooned by the thought that I could in some way help a woman in poverty and desperation rediscover her worth and work a dignified job. So, I accepted, and just two months later found myself on a 24 hour journey to Southeast Asia. I would love to give you a glimpse into what it looks like to do this work, because God is in it. God is changing the trajectory of women’s lives through Landmine Design, and I am still in awe that I have any small part to play in this story.
We sort of have this motto at LightBridge, and it goes something like, “I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out”. If I had a nickel for every time someone on our staff said those words, I would be rich. Something you must understand is that Southeast Asia does not, at all, function like America. For someone from America, it felt like there was no order, no process, and no sense of urgency when it comes to getting things done. So, you can imagine the chaos when an American woman hops off a plane in Bangkok, Thailand with the mission of sourcing all new fabric and materials for textile and jewelry collections in 48 hours. I’m not kidding when I say I hopped on the back of a Thai man’s moto, in a maxi skirt, with a pocket full of baht (Thai currency), and scooted around the city looking for marketplaces where we could buy fabric to take to the women in our LMD DAI (sewing) program. I shoved my way through a very sweaty street of vendors, shoulder to shoulder with other shoppers, to finally arrive at Charlie’s. We source all of the raw materials for our jewelry from him. With arms full of fabric and metal dreams, we head for the border of Thailand to cross into Cambodia.
Everything we hustled around Bangkok for makes its journey down the muddy road into the Minefield Village to meet our Landmine Design artisans. We sit and laugh together, worship together, and then teach each lady new designs for the upcoming collection. With buckets full of new raw materials, they head home to begin working on the pieces that will one day sit around your neck, your wrist, or hang from your ears. I still can’t believe it. What we do together is incredible. American and Khmer sisters coming together- giving more and more women the opportunity to know Jesus, to work a dignified job, and really dream again. So many women that I talked to were once labor trafficked, poverty stricken, and hopeless. Now, being employed at Landmine Design, they are able to build better homes, provide for their babies, and understand who they are in Christ. When I said yes to this position a few months ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I’m so glad I did. I’ve seen hope rise from very broken places, and it has changed my heart. I am forever grateful.
Creative Manager, LandMine Design