Cambodia Recruitment Trip 2018: A Q&A with SHE-CAN Supporter Peggy Northrop
The SHE-CAN staff chatted with supporter Peggy Northrop about her trip to Phnom Penh to help recruit the next cohort of Cambodian candidates. Peggy is a former magazine editor-in-chief (Sunset, Reader’s Digest, More) who is now consulting from her home in Mill Valley. This was her first recruitment trip with SHE-CAN. She joined Founder and Executive Director Barbara Bylenga, Program Manager Madison Shepard and mentors LeeAnn Bissell and Barbara Giuffre.
Peggy: My friend Julie Abrams invited me to a SHE-CAN event last summer where several scholars spoke about their experiences. I was wowed by the young women and by Barb’s vision for the organization. At one point Barb put me in front of LeeAnn Bissell and said, “She’s going to Cambodia. You should come!” LeeAnn was probably just being polite when she said, “You should!” But I said yes on the spot. A few people have since placed me by saying, “Oh, you’re the woman who said yes!” I think that’s a good way to be known.
Peggy: I had never been to Cambodia and knew that seeing the recruitment process up close would deepen my understanding of SHE-CAN. And in a selfish sense, I knew that this would be a purposeful trip and not at all touristy—which is the way I like to travel.
Peggy: Our interviews took place in teams over a couple of days as we winnowed down candidates. I paired up with Madison and we asked a series of screening questions, some personal and some hypothetical; then we invited groups of 6-7 to a café for more informal chats, to see how the girls interacted with one another. We were looking for facility with English, commitment to something greater than themselves, and a willingness to think differently. Even the girls we didn’t end up choosing impressed me. They were so sincere and serious about their educations and their dreams for their country as well as themselves.
Peggy: I fell in love with those girls. We spent a weekend at a resort in Kampot with them and that was really special—they had all gotten into their chosen colleges and were so relaxed and happy. We had an enormous feast of crab and shrimp on the beach at Rabbit Island—those girls can eat! And we had a lot of conversations about what they should expect in America. Mostly they seem worried about access to fish sauce.
Peggy: On our first night in Phnom Penh we had a party for the girls and their parents on a riverboat on the Mekong. Most of the parents didn’t speak English, but they didn’t need to – their pride in their daughters and their gratitude to SHE-CAN was obvious. Each of the girls gave a little speech thanking their parents for the sacrifices they had made to get them to this juncture. Everybody cried. I now feel a very personal sense of responsibility to the parents to make sure their girls are supported and loved while they’re here.