From the field: practicum reflections from Cambodia
By Tyler Loewen
Sue s'dye (hello in Khmer), my name is Tyler Loewen; I am a fourth-year International Development Studies student currently completing my practicum. The organization where I am interning is called Organization to Develop Our Villages (ODOV) based in rural Pray Veng Province, Cambodia. It exists to address issues of food insecurity, inadequate livelihoods, unsustainable farming practices, and financial exclusion. The population in the region is made up almost exclusively of rice farmers; however, a significant percentage of the population has migrated to Phnom Penh, Thailand, or Malaysia in search of better economic opportunities.
My position title at ODOV is Agriculture Development Worker, a title that encompasses a wide variety of tasks and responsibilities. A typical day may include working alongside the Executive Director writing funding proposals or project progress reports, accompanying a coworker on field visits to different villages, working in the demonstration garden, or researching new project ideas that could be implemented. It is a fairly diverse position that offers me an opportunity to be involved in a number of different development activities.
Thus far my practicum experience has definitely integrated a number of different skills and theories that I have learnt in my studies of international development. For example, I had the opportunity to work alongside my Director in developing a logical framework for a three-year food security and financial inclusion project. The ability to speak confidently about inputs, outputs, and outcomes was a result of the Program Evaluation course that I took at MSC. I also had the opportunity to plan a wealth ranking exercise that we intend to conduct in the near future to better understand the dynamics of poverty in specific communities, a skill that I developed in my Participatory Local Development course. By completing an international practicum I can say with certainty that I have a better understanding of what 'good development' and 'bad development' looks like.
Perhaps, the most significant realization that I have had is how important it is to understand the needs of the community and include community voices in the decision-making processes. This idea was emphasized in the classroom; however, it is only through practical experience that I have been able to understand how and why this is important.
I chose to complete a year-long practicum, as the position was offered for eleven months, which allowed me to invest a longer period of time in the organization and community. Definitely there are joys and challenges associated with an international practicum; however, the opportunity to create relationships and become involved in development at the local level has truly been an incredible experience.