Karen works in Phnom Penh, Cambodia as a “Business Development Facilitator” with a business called Future Now Enterprises (FNE). In Cambodia, both the economic and education systems are still struggling to recover from their total destruction under the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970’s. As a result, a huge “knowledge gap” in the skilled-labor market among young people still remains, and it is a barrier for growth in the growing economy. FNE aims to change this by equipping young Cambodians with practical business knowledge and skills through a range of consulting and training services, enabling them to positively impact economic development in their country – and allowing us to expand the Kingdom of God through business.
What are your current activities?
As the coordinator of FNE’s Entrepreneur Life program, I work with 21 young Cambodian business owners to define big visions for their businesses, and then equip them, through training and mentorship, with the skills and resources they need to realize those visions. By the end of the 10-month program, “apprentices” have a meaningful business plan and the ability to set and achieve goals and strategies, market their products and services and effectively manage finances.
Describe your path since graduation
I graduated from Calvin in 2008 with a degree in International Development Studies, having spent a month in Cambodia and a semester abroad in Thailand in 2007. During my summers at Calvin, I worked in direct sales as an independent educational consultant with The Southwestern Company, and this incredible job experience greatly influenced my interest in the relation between business and development.
After graduation, God knew my desire to go back to Cambodia, and the opportunity to work in Phnom Penh as an intern with the International Justice Mission (IJM) fell into my lap. I moved to Cambodia in January of 2009, and spent a great year with IJM. During that time I saw a big connection between the supply of prostitution and the lack of meaningful work opportunities available, and that, combined with lots of prayer and patience, took me to my current job. I hope to continue working in this area in Cambodia for many years to come!
Advice to current IDS Students:
Get to know your professors and take advantage of the time they make available for you to learn from them – inside and outside of class. And, if and when you move abroad, learn the local language – it’s one of the most important things you can do to show respect for and learn from the local people, and it will help you tremendously in all parts of your life and work there.