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Amy Kouch

Amy Kouch, '19, MS '20

Learning Cultural Humility in Rural Cambodia

Amy Kouch faces away from the camera into a field of flowers and green leaves

"I would love to live here," I said in awe, staring at the glorious sight before me.

I was working and living in a rural village in Cambodia. A friend from the village and I were sitting in an endless grassy field, having just finished soccer, a slight breeze cooling off the sweat dripping down our faces. The sun was beginning to set over the lotus ponds, the sky erupting in warmth, kissing the pinks of the petals and contrasting the deep greens of the leaves. There was something so peaceful about resting here with room to think and to spend evenings talking to someone who grew up on the opposite side of the world. I was away from the busyness, experiencing something so simple and so beautiful. 

My friend turned toward me with a curious expression on his face. 

"If you lived here, you would be spending hours working in the fields, not watching the sun set." 

I was taken aback by this truth. Suddenly, I was aware of how easy it can be for outsiders in this community to romanticize a life of simplicity, to be drawn to place like rural Cambodia with good intentions to make an impact.

In the summer of 2017, I interned with Sarus, a nonprofit organization that focuses on peace-building for students from countries with a history of conflict.

There were every day hardships and issues that persisted for those who lived there, such as the absence of resources for education, the lack of running water, of reliable electricity—aspects that I took for granted living in a developed and industrialized economy.  I also realized that these were the problems I wanted to help solve.

But I was an American visitor, an outsider in this community. In one month, I would return home. I took this moment to assess what more I could do.

What did this community need? How can I go beyond my internship and create real change and address issues that the community cares for? What does it mean to practice ethical and effective service throughout a lifetime?

Amy Kouch, ’19, MS ’20, interned with Sarus through the Community Arts Fellowship. She was a member of the Public Service Honor Society, a year-long cohort of that provides seniors the opportunity to reflect on their public service and develop their civic leadership identities. She also interned at the Office of Sustainability and was a member of the Stanford Khmer Association and Sigma Psi Zeta sorority. She is from Rohnert Park, CA.
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