Lucky Us!

 Sylvia T. getting the salon treatment from LKC students.

Steve Mojica is the Technical Advisor for Senhoa's preschool programs, Lotus Kids' Club. As a social worker with 20 plus years of experience working with young children and families, he has been devoting his expertise for the past three years to our foundation.  Here, he recounts his first few interactions with a special volunteer.


Lotus Kids’ Club (LKC) has had some volunteers over the few years that we have been in operation.  We appreciate all of those volunteers who have graciously given their time and efforts towards helping LKC grow and improve.  And we are incredibly lucky now to have a volunteer who has thrown herself completely into LKC mind, body and soul—Sylvia Tran.

My first contact with Sylvia was through email with her expressing interest in volunteering for us to complete her graduate studies for a Masters in Public Service.  Sometimes I am reluctant to take on volunteers as it could be more work than it is worth.  Especially if it is for a short time and initially she was scheduled to be with us for 3 months or so.  It has taken some volunteers a month to adjust to the time, weather and cultural changes, and some never do.  So we arranged a Skype call to sort out details and see if it was a good fit for the both of us. 

My first impression was ‘Hmmm this is one bubbly, excited young woman on this video Skype call.’  I don’t usually do so well with bubbly.  But she asked questions that showed she was bright, organized and motivated.  We really needed someone to help us better organize our Afternoon Program, which is a drop-in program for kids of 3 years and older.  With that age range it has always been a challenge.  Her task would be to help us in this area.  We both decided it could work, and her excitement about her coming was contagious.

Sylvia came, she saw and she conquered LKC.  She was indeed a bit bubbly in person but not at all the annoying bubbly type.  Maybe it’s better to describe Sylvia as upbeat with great energy, enthusiasm, a great sense of humor and a quick learner.  She made sure she understood our needs, took her time in formulating a plan of action, communicated that clearly and jumped feet-first into the work.  She quickly won over the entire LKC staff and readily embraced the language and culture of Cambodia, embarrassing me as she picked up the language at a much faster rate than I did after my 4+ years here.  Not sure I’ve forgiven her for that yet.

She did indeed help us improve the delivery of our Afternoon Program services.  But Sylvia came to love LKC and Siem Reap and was not finished with us yet.  She signed up for another 4 months and then decided she wasn’t returning to the US till nearly her graduation, an additional 4 months away.  She’ll be with us for close to a year.  So for the almost seven months now that she has been with us she has taken on a wider workload, completing several tasks and working on others.

She has helped with staff professional development, streamlined and made efficient our micro-loan efforts and helped with the implementation of English and computer learning.  Additionally, she has been influential in helping our families access vocational training with job placements.  She has helped our social workers better define their roles and been instrumental in teaching all staff about data collection.   She has built partnerships with other local NGOs and helped with fundraising.  Sylvia has also contributed her own money to expanding our physical space which includes a new library space.

LKC 1 Library.

She has done more than what I’ve stated, and there are the intangibles that are difficult to articulate.  I know she has freed me up to focus better on many of my tasks.  On top of all that she takes great photos including the one for our Global Giving page of the child reading a book.  Yes, we are very lucky this bubbly young woman called us to volunteer.  I have a feeling we won’t be seeing the last of her when she returns to her home in the States.  We’ll be even luckier if I’m right.

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