Steve Chinnavaso

Year Joined MKLM: 2005, 2012
Country: Cambodia
City: Phnom Penh
Focus: Education
Project(s): Teaching at the Royal University of Phnom Penh and LaValla School.
Project Goal: To contribute to improving the level of education and broadening the perspectives of primary and university students alike through teaching music and English in public and private institutions.


Steve is from Livermore, CA, where he was a member of Saint Michael’s Church. He studied Human Biology at Stanford University. He worked as a middle and high school science teacher for two years before deciding to attend San Francisco State University to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in music with a focus on music education. He directed choirs for three years both at the middle school and high school level and then took two years off to serve as a volunteer in a Catholic parish in San Lucas Tolimon, Guatemala. Steve has also been a General Volunteer – Habitat for Humanity International and Bay Area Organizations; Team Teacher – Students for Environmental Education, East Palo Alto, CA; Mentor – Special Olympics, Stanford, CA; Spanish-English Translator, Fair Oaks Community Center; Redwood City, CA; ESL Tutor – Livermore Public Library, Livermore, CA; Coordinator of Children’s Concerns – Wildflower Home, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Steve first joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners in 2005 and ministered in East Timor. While in East Timor, Steve taught music and English at the local Catholic and public schools.
Steve returned to MKLM in 2012 and is now serving in Cambodia. He tells us:

In my job as a university teacher, I am simply helping to bring new perspectives and experiences into the lives of my students through our English classes together. Most of them come from the rural provinces where the quality of education is quite poor. Many of the students also have scholarships to attend university since they need economic support to complete their studies. I am doing my best to teach them effectively and help them gain much needed facility in English for their continued tertiary education as well as skills that can be useful for future job opportunities.

As for my work as a music teacher, the children I teach, despite the challenges they face with their various physical disabilities, challenge me to create a fun and engaging atmosphere where they can participate in the making of music through singing and basic movement. Once they graduate from the primary level, some of these children may continue their studies but so many of them may not have hopeful job prospects due to their disabilities. My greatest hope is to have fun with them and give them musical skills and experiences from which to build upon and use in whatever way they wish. Since music has been so important for me in terms of learning to express myself and cope with difficulties in my life, I hope these children can also see music as a wonderful and effective way to express themselves and deal with life’s stresses.