It’s been 5 years since I left my wonderful job and stepped out of my comfort zone to serve the Lord by working at CGI. I was excited that I could be a part of changing lives as I have always been passionate about helping women who have been trafficked or treated unfairly. Every day I pray for God’s wisdom, love, and guidance to help me do this job as I know I can’t do it alone. But because of CGI, these women have been brought out of the darkness and into the light. Seeing their transformation is what gives me the strength to continue with this work.
A student recently wrote me, “I grew up in a broken family. My mom was sad and sick until she passed away. Since I was born, I never received love from my father. I hated him! When I first came to CGI, I did not think the teachers could love me because they are not my family. If my dad couldn’t love me, how could the teachers? But I have seen all the teachers truly love me and teach me from their heart. They never gave up on me, even though there were many times I couldn’t remember the lessons.
I can now read and write Khmer and sew beautiful clothes! Most importantly I learned about Jesus who loves me. I learned a verse in the Bible that says, ‘Love your parents’ and I began to pray and ask God to forgive me and help me forgive my dad. Someday I hope I can see my dad again and show him I love him because Jesus loves me first. I am thankful for the teachers at CGI who taught me a skill and about Jesus!”
I’m so grateful for all the supporters who give generously so we can share the love of God with these women. Each day I witness so many lives changing through the work we do here; and that only happens because of you.
Thank you from Cambodia,
Sopheak Lim is a quiet 19-year-old on the outside. But after a few minutes of listening to her speak, you sense the strong determination she has in her heart to serve God and create a brighter future.
After losing her father to tuberculosis when she was five, she also lost her mother and step-father to HIV four years later. She spent several years being shuffled between other family members in Thailand and Cambodia, and eventually wound up living with her uncle and aunt in Battambang, Cambodia in 2016.
Sopheak is a member of CGI’s current culinary class at the Green Mango Café and Bakery in Battambang. As part of the Culinary Training Center (CTC), Sopheak and seven other girls are learning to cook and bake, as well as how to run a restaurant. Sopheak’s favorite part of the program so far is learning to be a barista. She enjoys making coffee, espresso and especially smoothies. She really enjoys making (and drinking) avocado smoothies.
But more importantly than using the right ingredients in a smoothie, Sopheak and the students are learning about Jesus and His love.
Sopheak had a little knowledge of Jesus before joining the CTC program. But since joining more than a year ago, she has seen first-hand the power of His love. Lim’s younger sister, Vichaka, was part of the CTC program two years ago, and when Vichaka became ill, she needed hospital care. CGI helped take care of her medical needs.
“I really didn’t know much about God and how He works in the world,” explained Sopheak. “But I saw how CGI loved Vichaka and helped take care of her, and I realized this is how loving people live in the world.”
When Sopheak is asked about her favorite Bible story, she quickly points to Mark 2:1-5. With many people crowding around the house where Jesus was preaching, four men lowered a paralyzed man through the roof, so he could be healed by Jesus. Sopheak said she sees herself in the story as the man on the mat, but after he has been healed.
“I now know that I’m a daughter of God,” she explained. “I’ve been healed by Jesus, so I’m better than before.”
Sopheak and her fellow CTC students graduated May 24, 2019 and Sopheak dreams of one day partnering with her sister to open a western-style restaurant in Battambang.
“I want to thank CGI and everyone who has supported us and has helped teach us to cook, and about Jesus’ love,” Sopheak said. “Thanks for making this possible.”
And once she opens her restaurant, be sure to stop in for a smoothie. They will certainly be on the menu!
Help more young women, like Sopheak, have the opportunity to study at the Culinary Training Center.
Written By: Charlie McAtee
Charlie McAtee is a member of CGI’s Board of Directors. He is a professional communications and public relations expert and is the owner of Charlie McAtee Communications. He lives in New Palestine, Ind. with his wife (Dawn) of nearly 20 years, their two youngest children (Andrew and Audrey), and their dog (Dixie) and cat (Freedom).
The Culinary Training Center (CTC) is an 18-month training program that teaches kitchen and restaurant management skills to at-risk girls.
Located in Battambang, Cambodia, the CTC is complemented by a CGI-operated restaurant: The Green Mango Cafe and Bakery. In addition to a culinary education, students gain service experience in the restaurant and receive job placement assistance as they prepare to graduate.
Learning a valuable skill, like being a chef, empowers girls out of poverty and allows them to start creating a hope-filled future. It is a life-changing program that impacts not only the student, but their families and the communities in which they live, as people see first-hand the transformation that happens over the course of the program.
Recently, some of the graduates as well as CTC staff received a request to help train girls from another organization to make lattes, espressos, and other delicious coffee drinks. This was a huge honor for the staff and graduates of the CTC and an incredible opportunity to pass along not only their skill but also to empower others who come from backgrounds similar to their own.
At CGI we are so incredibly proud of these young women for “paying it forward” and helping other girls, much like them, find pathways out of poverty. We have seen many instances of the lives of our students being transformed by Christ through the CTC program and it is a tremendous blessing to see such work being duplicated! Praise God for this blessing, and we pray there are many more opportunities and moments like this to celebrate together.
Your monthly gifts to CGI are critical to the continuation of such programs. Thank you so very much for being part of the work being done in Cambodia!
Do you want to build a legacy of impact? When you donate, you provide vocational training opportunities, life skills classes and moments to share the Gospel.
Rescued from desperate life situations where she used to do everything she could to help her parents get out of debt, Reaksa came to us from one of CGI’s partner ministries. Her home village is three hours away from the city and she dreamed of being a clothing seamstress. Sadly, she could not make enough money to help pay off the debt and to go to a sewing school. Because of generous partners like you, CGI was able to accept her into the Imprint Project, a program focused on developing students holistically while also teaching sewing skills. She was excited when she knew that her dream would come true. When she started she did not know anything about sewing but after being in our program for 10 months, she now can design and sew clothes with confidence. She also helps other students when they have questions about sewing. She likes to help other students and is very friendly.
Furthermore, she loves to be part of the Life Skills Class. “Now I know about being a good person, wife, and parent. I understand about emotional health and stress [management],” said Reaksa.
Her other favorite part of the Imprint Project is the devotion time each morning. She likes to share with her friends about what God has done in her life. “The daily devotion helps me to be closer to God.”
Reaksa has also improved in her general education since she started at grade level four and has now progressed to the next level.
She plans to work at CGI’s byTavi workshop when she graduates from the Imprint Project in July. She also hopes to have her own sewing machine so that she can continue using her sewing skills at home in the evenings and weekends to earn extra income.
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