I finally made it out here into the village.  I applied for this role about 2 months ago, and I have been patiently awaiting for my time to come.  

Where am I staying?  It’s like a small commune area in the middle of a village about 15 minutes out from town.  I first arrived while it was daylight and I was fine with it. I thought back to when I spent a month in a rural village as a first timer.  When I look back on doing that, I wonder how the hell I did a whole month as a first timer. That’s the type of person I am, though. When it comes to challenges like these, it’s either yes or no – chips all in, or no chips at all.  That is why I’ve decided this time around that this is going to be a long term stay. For what I want to achieve in terms of self growth and life experience, there is no other way about it. You go all in, or you just go home. For some, they may not look at it like this, but I do and so I have decided to go the full length.

These commune areas are pretty interesting, actually.  You have students and teachers living within the commune.  These organisations have a cult like aspect to them. The Cambodian family who I am staying with have openly admitted that they were once part of similar communes when they were growing up and they underwent major brainwashing.  There was an Indian psychologist who once came to Cambodia to create an education program, using learning the English language as a way to entice people to come. Once the kids joined the commune, there was very little learning English.  This psychologist who was awarded the nobel peace prize worked hard at rewiring the brains of these kids who seemed to be stuck in negative personal narratives – the types of negative narratives that are a result of being raised in poverty, scarcity and sometimes helplessness.  I never thought about it until hearing this story, but poverty not only manifests itself in our physical world. It can also manifest itself within the mind.

Author, Simon Sinek refers to this concept of personal narratives with a story involving a homeless woman.

Most homeless people are found holding up signs, asking people for donations. Essentially, they are selling goodwill.  People who give their money may feel good about themselves after they have gifted someone for a good cause.

Sinek set out to find a homeless person that would help him out.  He found that this particular homeless person worked 8-10 hour days and makes around $30 selling goodwill.  Simon changed her sign to say, “if you only give me money once a month, please think of me next time”. This new approach got the homeless woman $40 in 2 hours, compared to her average $30 in 8 hours. Once she made her $40, she packed up for the day and left.  Sinek says, this lady left after making more than $30 because in her mind, she only needs $30 to live – this was her personal narrative.

You may be wondering where I am going with this.  Well, you only have to observe the people who were raised through poverty or are still experiencing some level of poverty, and you can see that they lack a tremendous amount of confidence and self-esteem.  

Back to the Cambodian humanitarian that I was talking about, earlier.  She told me that she joined a humanitarian commune many years ago as a poor person who lacked education and basic life skills. As a result, she believed that she was only destined for a life of poverty and struggle – This was her personal narrative.  Through personal development training conducted by the Indian psychologist, she was able to change her mindset and she is now helping other people do the same, empowering them, mentoring them and proving to them that they are worthy and they can too defeat this cycle of poverty.  

I thought this story was quite extraordinary.  This lady is intelligent and incredibly confident.  She is now on a mission to establish more schools around the country that offer conventional and personal development education to the next generation of kids, working hard to help break this negative narrative, showing them that they can achieve more than what they could ever have imagined.   

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