Current Role: Writing Instructor
Chapter: Seisen/Tokyo East
I like to think that I first joined TASSEL during its beginning phases - still focused solely on providing quality English education to children in rural Cambodia (this was 2014). Through my three years of intense involvement during high school, I witnessed TASSEL progressing from being teaching-focused to expanding towards fostering love and care through emotional care, sponsorships, food aid, medical care, and professional development support. The number of fellow volunteers exponentially increased along with the number of students. Other family members started getting involved after hearing about TASSEL. It has now grown into a warm, supportive international community of love and care between everyone involved.
I am forever grateful for that one lucky name-draw that allowed me to go to Cambodia that first year. That one summer, and subsequent summers, changed my academic and life goals. I ran into a boy with a three-inch deep laceration unable to go to a hospital; watched two young brothers waist-deep, collecting murky river water to be used for bathing, cooking, and drinking; heard stories about grandmothers with HIV being treated with TB medicine; observed the remnants of the Khmer Rouge horrors through generations of untreated and unrecognized PTSD. There was a multitude of social determinants that influenced the health and wellbeing of the surrounding communities, all out of personal control - lack of quality education, difficulty in accessing trustworthy health care, food insecurity, substandard water sanitation, to list a few. I understood how poor health and poverty were intertwined, and neither could be addressed without the other. Even as a high schooler, I realized how these upstream and underlying barriers shaped the health of the TASSEL communities in Cambodia. And as TASSEL started to incorporate medical care, emotional care, professional development support, and financial support that addresses some of these barriers, I realized my strengths and interests were in public and global health. I wanted to carry on my involvement with TASSEL, continuing a career of service, and this was the motivating force in my decision to pursue this field.
TASSEL attracts highly diverse, talented, and passionate people, who all have one common trait: a heart full of love and genuine care. The students, volunteers, teachers, family members, all contain a contagious passion that spreads to the people around them. Since my first trip back, I have gradually gotten my entire family involved. My sister joined first, leading the school chapter, then my mother followed, opening up our home in support of fundraising and advocacy efforts in Tokyo. My father, a physician, started visiting yearly to provide consistent primary care check-ups. Lastly, my youngest brother, who has known about TASSEL since elementary school, went on his first trip last summer as a high schooler, coming back finally understanding why his sisters had been crazy about it this entire time. Even those in my chapter who I had the pleasure working with in the past have now gone to study international relations, sustainable development, international development, and medicine all stemming from their roots of being involved in TASSEL. For all members, TASSEL is a community to learn what it is like to be invested in something, to actively serve, and to WANT to be involved. That is the magic of this supportive community - the moment you are involved, you immediately feel a responsibility and want to do something. So many of the Cambodian students who were in my classes have also been inspired and have expressed wanting to give back by becoming teachers and doctors themselves. Once involved, we all start thinking: What can I personally do at this current stage of my life? What could I potentially do in a few years, given my talents and personal interests? TASSEL is the starting point that transforms Cambodian students, teachers, and international volunteers into a family of action-seeking, determined, ‘do-er’’s.