When I signed up for SALT, I spent hours reading all the placement descriptions and agonizing over which job I wanted to apply for. I eventually ended up in Cambodia, serving as a Child Support Worker and Office Administrator, but I realized very quickly that SALT is so much more than the service placement.
In Cambodia, I was privileged to serve alongside of seven other SALTers and YAMENers – young adults from Zambia, Nepal, Kenya, Costa Rica, Canada, and the United States. Together we attempted to speak Khmer, made friends at the local Mennonite church, grabbled with the historical context of Cambodia, and learned to bike and ride tuk tuks around the city. Experiencing Cambodia alongside people with diverse perspectives and life experiences deepened my SALT year, broadened my world view, and enriched my understanding of God. SALT became about building friendships and cultivating a global community.
Whenever I was struggling to feel useful in my service placement, my MCC supervisors would gently remind me that SALT is not just about supporting a local organization. SALT was cooking supper with my host family, SALT was saying yes to invitations to weddings of people I had never met, SALT was showing up and learning the importance of being present.
Once I had a conversation with a young Cambodian Christian who asked me about why I was there. I told her about SALT, and I also encouraged her to think about serving with YAMEN or IVEP. The latter programs really surprised her - she had met lots of North American volunteers before, but she was baffled that she might have something to contribute to another country too.
I think the philosophy of connecting peoples really distinguishes MCC. In the name of Christ, people from all around the world go to serve in countries across the globe. It isn’t just North American volunteers going to ‘help’ the global south; it is about cultivating meaningful connections and building transformational relationships.
It is this philosophy I hope to carry into my new work at MCC Alberta as the Peace Program Coordinator. Here in Alberta, I hope we keep growing in our sense of connectedness to a global community, and I don’t know how else to do that except relationship by relationship, connection by connection.