Mission in Cambodia

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(3/1/2013) Sisters Joseen Vogt and Marlys Jax made a recent trip to Cambodia. The following article was featured in the Spring issue of the College of Saint Teresa Alumnae Newsletter. Click here to read article.


At an age when most people look forward to retirement, Sister Joseen embraced the opportunity to serve in Cambodia during the country's reconstruction period. Here is her story in her own words:


My Mission with the Cambodian People

by S. Joseen Vogt


My mission with the Cambodian people began in the Bataan Refugee camp in the Philippines in 1988. This led me to the refugee camps in Thailand in 1989. When the refugees returned to Cambodia in 1993, following the overthrow of the Pol Pot Regime, the organization Catholic Office for Relief and Refugees (COERR), asked me to start an English training center in Battambang, Cambodia. The government provided the land. COERR built, furnished the school and provided the teachers. Students attended classes free.

The school opened with an enrollment of 120 civil servant students utilizing four classrooms and with four expatriate teachers. I was the director, teacher trainer, and curriculum and course developer. The school grew and expanded rapidly enrolling people from the public sector as well.

COERR's commitment ended in January, 1999. I handed over the directorship to a Cambodian and I remained as consultant and teacher trainer. All teachers were then Cambodian. As consultant, I continued to prepare curricula, develop courses, train teachers, catalogue books, and advise both staff and teachers.

Presently, COERR is a new independent school. It now has 42 teachers and an enrollment of about 3000 young adults. Classes of 20-30 pupils each are held seven days a week, nine classes per day in each of the eighteen classrooms. Students who have had little or no English begin with level one and progress upward from there; after all nine levels, their standing approximates that of a high school graduate in our country. The four basic communicative skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking, are stressed in coursework through the nine levels of proficiency.

Although I continued to work with the academic part of the program, I feel my greatest contribution to those I served was to instill moral and ethical values. As one teacher said, 'Sister Joseen not only taught us how to teach the important English skills of listening and reading, writing and speaking, but more importantly, how to live honest, moral lives and how to be good citizens of our country.'



Franciscans Connect to Provide Water for Cambodians

In April 2009, Yuwatey Suy, Director of Business Affairs for the Sisters of Saint Francis, traveled to her former home in Cambodia, accompanied by her husband and sister. She has periodically visited her native country since arriving in Minnesota in 1979.

In addition to meeting with S. Joseen for the formal ceremony of dedication and graduation of the students, Yuwatey had a concern while she was in her native village: the need for wells producing clean water. She went to her former home with $2000 donated by the public, and another $1000 from the Franciscan Fund. At around $170 a well, the workmen were able to repair some wells, finish others, and dig and make operative several new wells. The need is so great, she says; families not having a well have to search for water and often find only polluted ponds. Families with children and the old and/or disabled were served first, but still, many remain without.

Among our readers, if there is anyone who'd like to donate a well to our Cambodian friends, know how they would rejoice in that clean water! Checks should be made out to the Sisters of Saint Francis and mailed to Yuwatey Suy, Assisi Heights, 1001 14th St. NW, Suite 100, Rochester, MN 55901.

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