Putting My Design Skills to Work

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Over the last year and a half here in Cambodia, I have worked on several projects that are not specifically for my community, but rather aim to help my fellow PCVs,  members of  their communities, and strengthen the PC Cambodia  program. I thought in this post, as sort of a year-end review, I would share with you some of this work. As you will see, I have been putting my writing, organizational, and design sills to work here in Cambodia.

The Chewy Pong Reference

chewy-pong-coverOne of the first projects I became involved in when I arrived was Chewy Pong. “Chewy Pong” is Khmer language equivalent of  “HELP ME!”. The Chewy Pong Reference is like a first aid manual, but much more (how could I resist getting involved in it?). Chewy Pong was conceptualized and first drafted by several K5 PCVs that arrived a year ahead of me.

Chewy Pong is a bilingual medical reference written by PCVs for PCVs to be utilized at their health centers and in their communities. The purpose of Chewy Pong is to provide medical and first aid information specific to Cambodian health centers to help PCVs build rapport, trust, and capacity in their health centers. It uses very simple vocabulary and does not require a PCV to have a medical background to use it.

A team of us new K6 volunteers was formed and we worked with the old volunteers, redrafted, and expanded the reference. Drawing on my years of experience with emergency medicine as a Paramedic, I headed the effort as chief editor, writing several new sections, and creating the design and layout for the second edition.

Pages form Chewy PongYou can read more about Cewy Pong here.

The CHE Curriculum Toolkits

CHE Curriculum Toolkit Cover CollageMany volunteers worked on this huge project. There are now 5 Community Health Education (CHE) Curriculum Toolkits establishing a series of resource books with technical information, lessons, and language related to CHE primary assignments, and the Cambodia CHE Project Framework. Although designed as a resource for CHE PCVs, these Toolkits are great resources for all PCVs in Cambodia that want to include health education in their work.

 Work began on this project in December 2012, and took almost a year to complete. Each toolkit contains complete lesson resources to encourage good teaching methodology with participatory activities and a comprehensive  appendix with complete teaching tools and handouts. The lessons are designed for capacity building in community members, and can be used as a resource for PCV Training.

Each toolkit is laid out in the same format presenting the following:

  • CHE Curriculum toolkit orginizationBasic and Advanced Information
  • Technical Vocabulary (with English transliteration and Khmer text)
  • Learning Activities with Discussion Questions (transliterated and in Khmer text)
  • Activity Resources containing:
    • Illustrations / Visuals
    • Case Studies in English and Khmer
    • Lesson Activity Card Sorts
    • Transliterated Materials
    • And more

 I assisted with editing and did the design and layout of all 5 of the toolkits. I also co-authored the Non Communicable Diseases (NCD), Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH), and Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Toolkits. The WASH I piloted using all it’s activities in my Samrong Diarrhea prevention project.

Pages-from-WASH-Book You can read more about the CHE Curriculum Toolkits here.

The Small Grants Guide

Small-Grant-Guide-CoverI serve on the Cambodia post’s Small Grant Committee. Resembling a grant writer, my duties are to support, and advocate on the behalf of PCV small grant applicants with regards to the grant type selection, planning, writing, the application process, and grant management, helping to ensure successful awarding of funding to support PCV projects.

Available to PCVs is a thick intimidating manual that has all the requirements for this process. No one ever reads it, and most PCVs don’t even know it exists. The committee agreed that an abridged version, focusing on the common questions, pitfalls, and post specific requirements would be good to have. I wrote and designed it.

Pages-from-Small-Grant-GuideIf you are inclined to support PCV Cambodia projects, grants needing funding will appear  here, (search for Cambodia).

The Create Cambodia Toolkit

Create-Cambodia-Toolkit-CoverThe Create Cambodia Youth Arts Festival is an annual art education event for Cambodian 10th, 11th, & 12th grade students, run by PCVs. It provides students with formal art education, and an opportunity to showcase their talents via exhibition or performance. A team of volunteers created an arts curriculum to support this event, and asked me to do the design and layout for it.
If you want to learn more about this event, visit the Create Cambodia Web site and blog here.

The Art Olympics Toolkit

Art-Olympics-Toolkit-CoverThe Art Olympics is a project that provides basic visual arts education to primary and secondary students through local art clubs. It also has a comprehensive art curriculum created by PCVs, and I was asked to compile it into a toolkit. Thus the Art Olympics Toolkit; second edition was born.

You can learn more about The Art Olympics Project here.

The Science Lab Toolkit

Science-Toolkit-CoverCurrently, I am working with two other volunteers to create a Science Lab Toolkit. This project compiles a series of science-based lessons surrounding currently unused science equipment at the Cambodian school where my friend Evan teaches. Again, I am helping by doing the design and layout for the toolkit.


A Resource Web Site for My Fellow Volunteers

One of the shared frustrations many of the Volunteers and I have here in Cambodia is a lack of access to ideas and resources for projects or the frustration of constantly reinventing the same project. We all have our primary projects; mine for instance is teaching at my health center, or teaching in the surrounding villages like I am doing with the Samrong Village Diarrhea Prevention Project. Then we have our secondary projects. These can be anything else we are asked to do, such as projects based on specific needs identified in our communities, or elsewhere ,outside our primary work. A lot of great ideas and projects exist that Volunteers are doing, or have done in the past. How great would it be if a single place existed to find everything a volunteer needed to do one of these numerous projects?

Say hello to the PC Cambodia Secondary Projects web site!

My friend Sean started this idea as a Facebook group, and when I teamed up with him, it quickly blossomed into a full-blown categorized and searchable web based resource site. I put my years of web design experience to use and built the PC Secondary Projects web site. This site is intended to be a forum for ideas, inspiration, discussion, and the sharing of resources for secondary projects. It is a place where PCVs can submit projects if they have them. Alternatively, they can search for ideas if they need one. On the site, they can find files, photos, and tools, or share their ideas supporting each other making the design and application of secondary projects a little easier.

If you have nothing else to do today, feel free to click over to the site and see some of the great things are being done here in Cambodia.

5 responses to “Putting My Design Skills to Work”

  1. Ken says:

    Wow – this is WAY cool. Great job on Chewy Pong.

    • Denise says:

      WOW~ You have amazing skills, so awesome for you to be able to help so many people by putting them to good use. AMAZING job with all the projects. Incredible how much you have gotten accomplished, very impressive. Peace Corp should hire you as a full time person to help with all of this stuff. It has to be a huge asset for all involved.

  2. Connie says:

    Would you please explain the meaning of the symbol on CHEWY PONG instruction book at the beginning of the blog….thanks….

    • rich says:

      Great question. No, the illustration like many of the illustrations on the inside were done by a fellow PCV and I have no idea what meaning the cover illustration has.

  3. Aidah says:

    Thanks for the story, Anthony. I am also a fairly retncely returned PCV from West Africa and your picture of the women in your village and the description of the situation brought back a lot of memories great memories but also memories of frustration. I actually think failure is a topic PCVs are pretty comfortable talking about. You’re almost always around long enough to see your projects fail before your eyes or have friends report the failure to you after you leave. I’ve certainly had my fair share of failed projects.I can easily picture the events you described even if I cannot easily explain why the women bailed on the bread project. Two years living with a Gambian family and in a Gambian village only provided me with enough experience to be able to predict the behavior of my friends and host family. It was not enough time for me to really understand the why behind all of their actions. I’m also certain that is how they felt about me. They eventually knew how I would act, but they didn’t really understand why I did things.The women were probably really excited about doing something together, having tasty bread, making money and having a little prestige and good gossip around the village for this project. They also probably got tons of pressure from their families to cash in on the little project for the money. Maybe they just wanted some money for themselves an opportunity rural West African women rarely offered. I dunno. But I do know that attempting to retrofit one’s own cultural ideas of families, gender roles, financial management or whatever to another culture is a great way to doom a shared project. It’s natural to expect others to feel the way you do: Money should obviously be invested back into a new, successful project. But that idea is just a value; an opinion. And I don’t think it’s idea these women valued. To me, it’s this attempt at a shared project among people with very different and often unknown values that is the crux of what makes cross-cultural work equal parts amazing and tear-out-your-hair frustrating. Teach a (wo)man to fish? That’s easy, and also the last step. First, figure out if s/he even wants fish. Then ask how they feel about the fish and the water you’re pulling it from. What will they do with the fish? How will the new fishing skill affect their family, their reputation, the community? Does their culture foster sharing so they’ll also teach other people or have you just created a monopoly in the fishing industry? If these questions sound ridiculous then you haven’t had a cross-cultural project fail . . .

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