Overwhelmed by God’s Work


Whitney Vance with byTavi seamstresses

I will never forget the first time I stepped foot into the byTavi workshop. I followed Chris (CGI’s President) and Nathan (CGI’s Chief Operating Officer) up the narrow stairs to the second floor where the women work. When I rounded the corner and stepped through the threshold, I was immediately speechless and choked up.

For the first time I understood – and it clicked for me. I had been working with CGI for eight months, telling the story of these precious women and marketing their high-quality items, but I didn’t quite get it until I saw them with, what looked like to me, scraps of fabric, being created into works of art. That was in January 2012.

I just returned from my third visit to Cambodia, and this visit to the workshop was no less impactful. The program continues to grow, and the women’s lives are continuing to change. I met our three newest members of the byTavi family during their first day of work. It was a pleasure to see the “veteran” seamstresses training the new ones.DSCN9894

I talked with Tavi and was pleased to hear that her prayer request was for her teenage son, who had an exam later that week. The mere fact that he is in school is a testament to her and her family’s growth over the years. Another woman, who had just joined the team a month ago, asked for prayer about a breathing condition, so we laid hands on her and prayed for her healing. One of the management staff shared that her parents have recently come to know Christ.

byTavi is so much more than a great product. byTavi means lives changed – not only the lives of the women making purses, but their family members. It’s amazing the impact God can make with a simple sewing machine.

by Whitney Vance (CGI’s Marketing & Relationship Coordinator)


The Luxury of Making Choices

Photo by Aimee Davis

Photo by Aimee Davis

I caught malaria once. It came during a season when I was a missionary serving overseas among the poor. To this day, I’m not sure how or when I contracted the disease. I simply remember the pain and fatigue which overwhelmed me for weeks until I did one crucial thing.

I bought medicine—a tiny pack of four pills costing the equivalent of eight dollars.

This action seems logical, and indeed, it was. What complicated it was my awareness that the majority of those I was ministering to would have died long before being able to afford the life-saving treatment.

Yet my understanding of this, as well as hundreds of conversations with the poor, made poverty no less easy to define. Initially it was a lack of money, space, and resources, and certainly the poor experience the deprivation of such. However, poverty encompasses much more than physical shortages. Rather, to be poor is to dwell in an existence without options and in circumstances without escape.

Quite frankly, the poor do not have the luxury of making choices.

Photo by Aimee Davis

Photo by Aimee Davis

As a believer, I can’t help but consider the greater significance in having the ability to choose. The Bible’s first book gives witness to Adam and Eve roaming the confines of Eden with opportunities at their fingertips. To name this, to go there, to eat that; this remarkable human propensity to make decisions existing before the fall of humankind signifies divine approval. Perhaps free will is a significant and foundational component of not only what it means to be human, but also what it means to be in perfect communion with God.

So what does this mean for us, and more importantly, for Cambodia? It means ushering individuals and families into communion with God again through restoring choices to the poor. And this restoration is what CGI is passionately pursuing.

Photo by Sonja Overhiser

Photo by Sonja Overhiser

For the most vulnerable women and girls of Cambodia,it means. . .

– she can choose to send her brother to school tomorrow because of the meal she cooked at the Green Mango Café tonight.
– she can choose to accept a higher paying position because of the fluent English she learned as a cgiDaughter.
– she can choose to buy the medicine that will save her mother’s life because of the purse she sewed for byTavi.

She can choose.

Think about those words. Then join CGI in the fight for the poor and for their freedom to choose.

by Bethany Rivera

byTavi at Village Experience

DSC03557 Well, if you are as old as I am you’ll know the Village People’s one hit song was YMCA, but you might not know Village Experience (6055 N. College Ave. 46220) has a more contemporary message.

Nicole Krajewski & Martha Brammer

Nicole Krajewski & Martha Brammer

Founded in 2008 by sisters, Anne and Kelly Campbell, Village Experience sells fair trade products handmade by impoverished women in Thailand, India, and Kenya. Their heart to help the poor make a living by providing an American market correlates well with CGI’s mission

Thursday, June 27, from 5-7pm, byTavi’s new Imprint Collection, along with Green Mango treats from CGI’s cookbook, were featured in the fair trade boutique’s Give Back Evening. Several CGI supporters attended and enjoyed browsing through the byTavi products.

Yet what made the evening more significant is the partnership of two like-minded organizations collaborating to help at-risk women throughout the world. I’m thinking Jesus likes that cooperative spirit in His followers.DSC03553

Let’s pray for more opportunities to work together with those nearby and those throughout the nation and world.

by Joyce Long

Hearts to Help Cambodian Kids

CGI Kids“Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and  white, All are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

When Clare Herbert Woolston (1856-1927) penned these lyrics to a Civil War marching tune, she had no idea that children decades later would still be singing them. Nor would she fathom how CGI KIDS would someday take these words to heart. All she knew is that Jesus loves children and so should we. (Matthew 19:14)VBS Uniforms

When 75 kids during Fountaintown Christian Church’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) learned about their Cambodian counterparts, they wanted to help. They raised $1,800, some of which has already been used to purchase school uniforms. Costing $10 each, an estimated one-third of the families cannot afford the three-four uniforms required for each of their children to attend school.

DSC01176Having clean water to drink is also a huge need for families living in extreme poverty. Recently one hundred kids from Southside Bible Church’s VBS have helped by contributing money for 23 water filters.

When kids here break their piggy banks and ask for more chores to help kids in Cambodia, Jesus smiles. He may even be singing!

CGI’s Culinary Training Center’s Student Cook-Off

ImageAnd the winner is (drum roll, please!) Ong Em! Her smile was worth the 60-minute wait. Under the direction of Sonja Overhiser (acouplecooks.com), CGI’s current class of culinary students created a western dish in just one hour during Sonja’s March visit.

CGI’s Culinary Training Center, adjacent to Green Mango Cafe & Bakery in Battambang, Cambodia, sizzled with a whirlwind of knives and flame as the girls chopped and sautéed. Sonja, CGI Founder and President Chris Alexander and Resident Chef Ryana DeArmond judged the seven original entrees. In the end, fish and chips seasoned with corn and cilantro captured the grand prize.

The next day involved a shopping trip to the market where Em selected hot pink, platform shoes as her reward. Em’s flare for taste carried over into a stylish accessory. Fun and food—a great combination!

Watch the video for a quick snapshot of the CTC’s Student Cook-Off.Then order a cookbook, or perhaps a baker’s dozen, for yourself, friends, and family (myCGIstory.com).


For the Kids in Cambodia

Nellie GolbovIn September 2012 I had the joy of participating in CGI’s 5K. I signed up anticipating my husband would watch our 15-month-old son and 3 ½ year old daughter while I lazily jogged the trail. Well, husband dearest needed to rescue a jet engine, leaving me with our children. I quickly realized my simple, sweet trot to raise awareness about Cambodia would be much more work. I loaded our double stroller, packed a bag of snacks, filled sippy cups to the brim and trudged off to the race.

My daughter Nellianne began asking questions: “Where are we going? Who are the people we’re running for? When do we eat next? They don’t have nice water?! I have to pee!” general questions and comments for a three-year-old thrust into a 5k. We arrived, unloaded, and checked in. The event, geared toward children, bustled with carnival games and parents as runners registered and proudly pinned on their badges.  The large group headed toward the start line, funneling together like clowns in a car.

Just after the start gun popped, Nellianne looked up at me and politely asked, “Momma, may I run, too?” A thousand thoughts zoomed through my brain (as often happens in a mother’s mind). In the end, I let her run.

photo by: Craig Nordhoff

photo by: Craig Nordhoff

And she ran.  And ran.  And ran some more. In total, Nellie ran ¾ of the 5k and, in honesty, motivated me to run more than I would have otherwise.

After the race, I asked her if she understood why we were running. “Ummm…” She paused.

“For the kids in Cambodia.”

“But, Nellie, do you know what that means? Why do they need people to run for them?”

She waited, then responded, “They don’t have water or anything and we’re running for them.”

“That’s right sweetheart. We ran today so they could hear about Jesus and have jobs and clean water and so many more wonderful blessings! Our running raised money to help them!”

Two months later, she came to me and asked if she could give some of her toys to the Cambodian kids that don’t have any. We gathered some stuffed animals and books she no longer used or needed and gave them to Jaime Roscoe. When Jaime asked her why she wanted to do that [give her toys away], she said: “It made me sad they didn’t have anything to play with.”

I completely underestimated my daughter. Not only did she run – she grasped the idea of the run. It stuck somewhere in her tiny toddler heart, causing her to make decisions later in the year to help someone else, without provocation or motivation for herself. CGI Kids is helping change distant ideas into concrete concepts for children to grasp. Nellie isn’t just putting money in a jar to help change lives in Cambodia, she’s visualizing another child in need and asking, “What else can I do?  How can I help more?”

CGI Kids is doing so much to help me teach Nellianne about people in need, about what it means to have a servant’s heart and what loving one another is all about. I am so grateful for their ministry and the way it is shaping my daughter.

by Emily Golbov


My Sister Tavi

Tavi & Tasha in workshop 2My sister died of cancer the day before I was scheduled to leave for Cambodia. While my heart broke, I knew it would honor her memory to go there to see what I could do to empower the poor and prevent human trafficking. My sister and I both shared a passion for this area of brokenness. Each of us felt compelled to be a voice for the voiceless or those who have been silenced. She was a speaker, author, and activist who used her voice to bring attention to women’s issues. Her death inspired me to live my life leaving no stone unturned to help the poor, abused, and marginalized. She’s my inspiration to live with passion and to fuel the fire in my heart to love God, love others, and invite others to join God’s mission.

When I met Tavi, we instantly connected. I just LOVED her! I felt like I had known her my entire life.  I’m sure this came from God. It was mutual. We spent time together in her home with her children as well as in the byTavi workshop. She shared her heart, telling me how she lost both her husband and daughter to AIDS and how Center for Global Impact (CGI) had helped her learn a skill. Now with the income from making purses, she could send each of her kids to school and purchase needed medicine to help her stay well as she also has AIDS. Tavi also shared about the pride she has in her home. She was able to replace her mud floor with a cement one, which significantly improved her living conditions. When we finished talking, she asked:  “Will you be my sister?”At Tavi's home

Tavi didn’t know my sister had just died. She didn’t understand how her question impacted me. We both cried as we agreed to be sisters. Tavi, my sister in Christ, has been empowered through CGI’s byTavi program. Her life will never be the same, and her story inspires me to share byTavi so that others like her can provide for themselves and their families in a healthy way.

Chains are being broken. Lives are being healed. The gospel is being shared, and Christ is being revealed in Cambodia. Daughters are no longer sold into human trafficking because mothers have a professional skill that provides for their families. What a blessing to be a part of what God is doing in Cambodia! He is at work. Who would have thought that by buying a purse, you could change a life?  Amazing!

To live is Christ. . .

Tasha Simons

Meet Sokhoeun!

ImageSokhoeun, the Culinary Training Center’s newest staff member, isn’t there because of  food. Instead she focuses on the students—their lives, their families, and their well-being. She enjoys her new position as CGI’s social worker in Battambang, Cambodia.

“I want to help poor families, especially the children. I want to see them have a good future and occupation. Also I like to work with the government.”

Sokhoeun with CGI President Chris Alexander visiting a poor family in Battambang.

Sokhoeun with CGI President Chris Alexander visiting a poor family in Battambang.

A graduate of the University of Battambang, she previously worked four years for Homeland and the last year and half at KNK Orphanage.  Sokhoeun has two brothers and three sisters. Currently she lives with and takes care of her 62-year-old father, who was widowed when her mother died in 2007 from a motorcycle accident caused by slick roads.

Spending time with the girls and their families, identifying needs, and keeping good records keep her busy. Cultivating community contacts also plays a significant role in her work.

In Sokhoeun’s spare time, she likes to stay home and spend time with her friends. She also enjoys spoiling her 4-year-old nephew and 8-month-old niece although they live in a distant province.

When sampling selections from Green Mango Cafe’s extensive menu, Sokhoeun usually favors the Asian salad. At the Culinary Training Center, she joins a staff that includes Ryana DeArmond, resident culinary training chef, LyPhalla, assistant program administrator, and Nary, server-in-training.

Blessings from Kosova


Corey Devereaux with 7-week old baby girl Eljesa

Corey Devereaux, who helped facilitate CGI’s honey production project, shares God’s work in Kosova.

What a blessing it is to visit Hyra in Morinë. Hyra and her sister in-law Raza lost their husbands and some sons in the genocide performed by the Serbian army in 1998-1999. Chris Alexander, Doug Harty and CGI became involved with the family as they wanted to provide a way for the family to improve their weak financial conditions. They also wanted something that would help us build a relationship to share our faith in Jesus.

As usual I was joined by Arben, Shanae, Gillian and Adam. Arben translates for me and is a good friend and fellow brother in the Lord. Shanae is a colleague/teacher at Prishtina High School (PHS). Adam is my roommate and teacher at PHS and Gillian, a good friend, works with Albanian people in the city of Suharekë.

Today we came to visit for three reasons. One, we last saw the family December 26, the day after Christ’s birth. Two, Marigona,Hyra’s daughter in-law, and Ylber, Hyra’s son, had their first baby seven weeks ago. Three, we wanted to share what Easter means to us as believers.

It was a very blessed time of sharing stories, laughing, talking about the last week of Jesus’ life on earth and the resurrection and eating amazing food.

We are all hopeful and are praying that this will be a productive year for honey.  Hyra's Family & FriendsHyra desperately wants to pay us back for everything that we have given so we can help other families. We just want to build relationship and share the Gospel. Hopefully both take place! To the left is a picture of the family. Ylber wasn’table to be there as he was at work. The new baby’s name is Eljesa.

A Friday in Cambodia

Yes, I had an idea of what Cambodia would be like–sunny, hot, crowded, and brimming with poverty. But no, I didn’t expect so many smiles and Buddhist monks clothed in shiny orange togas carrying umbrellas, exchanging blessing for money. I had no idea CGI in-country staff like Vibol, Sopheony, Sreyleak, Nary, and LyPhalla, would soon become good friends. Nor would I have guessed a simple Friday at the zoo would imprint my heart forever.From the time we picked the CGI Daughters up to when we arrived at Cambodia’s only zoo, we had shared sliced green mango heavily salted, sprinkled with chili sauce, and many favorite karaoke songs. The Titanic’s theme, “My Heart Will Go On,” created a chorus of both harmony and giggles.After a picnic of roasted chicken and yes,even fried frog legs, we watched monkey acrobatics. Then the otters and black bears swam circles in greeting. Pythons lounged, keeping cool in the water. CGI President Chris Alexander even treated an elephant to a coconut.

Our mini-safari ended mid-afternoon. But not without one last instruction.
Donna Alexander gave each girl Khmer currency worth two dollars. Chris told them to give it away to the weathered elderly who begged along the dirt road leading into the zoo. But they were not just to give. They were to encourage and bless.

And one by one they did. Smiles and tears mingled. Gratefully, heads bowed. We soon left. But a part of me will always linger there.

By Joyce Long