An intern answers questions about her life and work abroad
Sovannary Cheng was a finance intern in the South Sudan office. Since completing her internship, she has become a field accountant for Samaritan’s Purse. Below is a Q&A describing her experience while she served as an intern and lived in the world’s newest nation.
Q: What made you apply to the intern program with Samaritan’s Purse?
A: I remember meeting a Samaritan’s Purse staff member when I was a sophomore in college. The way he described Samaritan’s Purse reminded me of other international relief organizations I was familiar with. That year, I went to Cambodia and learned that Samaritan’s Purse has an office there. I thought, “Maybe one day I could go back to my country and serve there.”
Q: What did you first think when you received the assignment to work in the Samaritan’s Purse South Sudan office?
A: The first question that came to my mind was “Where is South Sudan?” I went online and saw that it was a new country and knew that this would be an interesting experience. That’s when I started researching the geography and culture of the country. I mostly saw information about the ongoing conflict, but I still felt like I wanted to be there. I talked with the previous intern who had served in South Sudan and he told me, “South Sudan is for people who are willing to take risks, who are bold and not afraid of a challenge.”
Q: What was the biggest surprise during your internship?
A: I was surprised by how much I love the people of South Sudan! At first I thought the people probably wouldn’t be friendly and welcoming because of the fighting. But that hasn’t been my experience. They’re friendly and helpful. They teach me Arabic and are curious about where I’m from. The South Sudanese are accepting.
Q: What has your favorite moment been so far?
A: My favorite moment was visiting the Yida refugee camp. I felt so included by the team there. They incorporated me into their daily work and interactions.
Q: What would you say the greatest challenge has been?
A: The hardest thing about being here is missing home and the comforts that it offers. Adjusting to the food and communicating to friends and family at home can be challenging because of the time difference and slow internet.
Q: What advice would you give to those thinking about applying to be a part of the internship program or to those getting ready to go to the field?
A: Don’t have expectations or preconceived ideas about the country or the job. You have to be flexible in the field and need to be able to adapt to the role, culture, and food. Be mindful of the host community and be willing to learn and try new things.
Q: What has the Lord taught you during this time?
A: I’m a systematic person. I like order. But sometimes this work has made me realize that having perfect records is not as important as saving someone’s life. This is something the Lord is teaching me.
The Samaritan’s Purse internship program is an opportunity for college students and recent graduates to use their skills to impact the world in a tangible way. Find out more here.