It was a meeting of hearts, minds and hands in Cambodia. A week at work like none other for 13 Sanitarium Health & Wellbeing employees who recently travelled there to serve alongside the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).
In a country where more than 50 per cent of children experience stunted growth and health problems as a result of malnutrition, the team used their expertise to improve health, nutrition and education opportunities by working alongside communities in the poorest areas.
"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace" (1 Peter 4:10).
The ADRA Connections trip was undertaken as part of Sanitarium’s annual Spirit of Sanitarium Awards (SOSA), an employee reward program that recognises employees whose behaviours reflect Sanitarium’s values of care, courage, humility, integrity and passion. This year SOSA recipients had the opportunity to take part in a community project linked in to an existing cooperative arrangement between Sanitarium and ADRA to produce and promote fortified noodles, bread and instant rice porridge. Through this cooperative arrangement, $A128,000 is being invested in nutritional intervention programs to address malnutrition.
“It’s not a cliché to say that it is a privilege to be involved in these programs,” said John Menzies, from Sanitarium’s Development and Innovation team, who instigated the program with ADRA and has remained a key supporter for the past few years.
The Vissot food company in Phnom Penh mixes, packages and distributes enriched noodle flours and also uses fortified wheat to make healthy noodles. Vissot’s role is also being expanded to include production of fortified instant rice porridge and nutritional bread. The Sanitarium team worked alongside Vissot staff, sharing knowledge and advice on marketing, accounting, electrical systems, packaging, importing raw materials and recipe development.
“What an amazing team at Vissot–they even came in to work on a public holiday just to be with us!” said Julie Praestiin, Sanitarium’s Corporate Communications manager, who led the SOSA team. “Their smiles were infectious and their willingness to learn and help was inspiring. It was a great alignment of Sanitarium’s mission and expertise to work with a team so passionate about improving nutrition.”
The Sanitarium team also spent time in Rovieng, in northern Cambodia, building shelters and play equipment for children on behalf of the Family Nutrition Project, which ADRA Cambodia conducts in 80 villages throughout the region. The team presented cooking demonstrations using the fortified noodles and Sanitarium’s dietitians worked with members of local mothers’ groups to cook up a delicious noodle stir-fry for sale at local markets. The team also helped install a latrine and “tippy taps” to improve sanitation and health. In addition to Sanitarium and ADRA’s joint investment, an extra $A30,000 was donated by Sanitarium on behalf of the SOSA team.
“Doing the cooking demonstrations together with the locals was so much fun and it was so inspiring to see the wonderful work that ADRA does—so collaborative in approach and so targeted,” said Chris Stanbridge, from Sanitarium New Zealand’s head office in Auckland.
The ADRA Connections program reflected Sanitarium’s commitment to health, nutrition and wellbeing in the community, and built relationships and connections within the team and with ADRA. “For those in our team who weren’t previously familiar with the work ADRA does, this trip opened their eyes to the practical ways ADRA empowers people and communities,” Ms Praestiin said.
ADRA Connections are short-term volunteer trips for groups from Australia, matching skills with service opportunities so people can make a real difference in countries throughout the South Pacific, Asia and Africa.
The experience certainly made an impression on the Sanitarium team. “The selfless nature of both the Cambodian people and the ADRA staff was inspirational on a number of levels,” Export manager Matthew McKenzie said. “It has made me reassess my life by challenging me to spend more time supporting others.”