Canada 2013 – Why are we doing this trip?!

We’re off on our first Canada Trip!

Rather than call our trip a “tour” which is what a choir trip is generally called, we have chosen to call ours a “Learning and Serving Trip”. This is because we will be spending (and have already spent) a large amount of time during the trip engaging in intentional learning opportunities.

Before we begin to share stories about the awesome experiences we are having, I thought it would be helpful to share the…

HtH PHILOSOPHY ON TRAVEL EXPERIENCES

Traveling in a Learning and Serving Team is an important part of the HtH experience as it accomplishes our mission statement:

1)     It builds community (internally and externally);

2)     It expands worldviews (culturally, religiously, politically, economically etc.);

3)     It develops the leadership of our participants;

4)     It provides opportunities to promote justice (pre-trip, during and post-trip).

No two people experience the same travel experience- we see the world through our passions and strengths. Through the lenses of our upbringing, past experiences, and gifts, new experiences teach us about ourselves, how we can glorify God and our role in his Kingdom here on earth. In this way, travel is an opportunity to discover our uniqueness and why God has us alive at this time. A Learning and Serving Team creates this opportunity in the safety and transforming power of community.

Although we are performers, our performance is merely a reflection of the learning journey we are on. We seek to have attitudes of humility. We are not experts and we are inviting others to dare to learn and be stretched as we have. We hope our performances inspire others to take their “next step” of courage.

HtH seeks to travel to developing nations and locations within developed nations where your “traditional choir” wouldn’t go. Wherever we go, we want to create a win-win experience where we bless others by adding value by our being there and where we grow as individuals and as an organization. It is imperative to have experienced travelers on these trips for pre-trip orientation and on the trip. These experienced travelers help participants by anticipating issues that may arise, help process the world the participants are seeing, dialogue around the questions that are arising, and who empathize, comfort and encourage.

We invite God to increase our openness to the world around us in hopes that we will become more aware of the world that Jesus sees. Through prayer, guided reflection, and discussion, we discover how and when we are meant to respond. We have also developed trip objectives to help guide this process, which will be briefly described below.

CANADA TRIP OBJECTIVES:

1) DEVELOP RELATIONSHIPS

External Relational Objectives:

  • Relationships developed with churches, NGOs and schools in other parts of Canada.
  • Relationships developed with IJM, Streetlevel, Youth for Christ and other local organizations.
  • Relationships developed with our First Nations community / leaders.
  • Seeds sown for future HtH ensembles – leadership and participants.

Internal Relational Objectives:

  • HtH participants will discover and develop a new level of being in community with each other.
  • HtH participants will increase in self-awareness.
  • HtH participants will deepen in their understanding of God, values, beliefs, faith.

 2) LEARN

Music Learning Objectives:

  • What choirs / musicians across Canada can we connect / collaborate with?
  • What music can we perform together?
  • What First Nations music can we be exposed to?

Justice Learning Objectives:

  • How is life on the First Nations reserves affecting youth, especially young women?
  • What does life on the streets look like in different areas of Canada?
  • What Christian organizations are addressing:
    • Throw Away Kids
    • Addiction in Youth
    • Sexual exploitation of minors / sexual abuse
    • Foster Care crisis
  • Are they being effective? Why or why not? How are churches volunteering with them?
  • How are youth in the school system being educated about sex trafficking and abuse, pornography etc.?

 3) SERVE

Leadership Objectives:

  • HtH participants will be involved in the development of the trip’s details.
  • HtH participants will be the contact for hosts.
  • HtH participants will grow in their ability to be ambassadors of Christ and of HtH.
  • HtH participants will be involved in leading activities where appropriate. (e.g. youth group)
  • HtH participants will advocate for the organizations we collaborate with.

Performance Objectives:

  • We are bearers of HOPE. We must let our light shine.
  • Inspire Canadians to be courageous and fight injustice.
  • Increase audience awareness on injustice and complexities of poverty locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Remind the Canadian Church that injustice must end and its end requires our engagement in the fight.
  • Engage the Canadian Church to create more Christian rescue and recovery solutions locally / nationally / internationally and to partner with those that do exist.
  • Bring Christians and non-Christians together to find solutions to end sex trafficking and exploitation globally.
  • Our performance will be based on variations of our spring concert
    • “Meant to be Unbroken”
      • Who: Canadians: people who need to take the next step
      • What: Reaching out to the broken and seeing the image of God in others
        • Know: God is redeeming this world through community
        • Feel: Courage
        • Do: Reach out to the broken in your area of influence

 4) DEEPEN FAITH / EXPLORE VALUES

  • What are Canadian values? Are these the same across the nation? Are they biblical values?
  • How does the Canadian Church worship (in music and with their lives)?
  • How is God at work in Canada?
  • How can the Church bring focus to our WORTH (made in the image of God) relative to justice and aid in prevention?
  • What value does music have in Canada? The arts?
  • How can the arts be better leveraged as a communication tool for God’s glory?

Organizations we are collaborating with

 Streetlevel:

StreetLevel seeks to change and strengthen the national Christian mindset on issues of justice. One of the strongest tools to accomplish this is through “collaboration”. HtH is excited to partner with this national organization and its focus on unity, encouragement and education. We too want to be a ligament in the body of Christ, connecting organizations and churches to one another.

International Justice Mission:

HtH passionately endorses the work of IJM internationally, especially in its work to end sexual trafficking around the world. We want the Canadian church to be more aware of this organization and mobilize more funds for it to accomplish its mission. We especially love that it models prayer first.

In addition, where possible we will connect with…

Local organizations and churches:

There are many organizations across Canada that are currently meet the needs of vulnerable youth and children- we would love to meet up with them and learn from their experiences. We would also love to discover any existing Christian resources that address or discuss the issues that Canada is currently facing, including homelessness, prostitution, addiction and “throw away kids”.

It is going to be challenging and exciting to see injustice “in our own backyard”. Ready to join the journey?

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Day 3C – An Evening I Will Never Forget

We ended up with some free time after Hagar which I used to work on my IJM notes. We then headed off to a quick dinner where I had a cool drink: Watermelon & Chili smoothie. The drink combinations here are really interesting. Each time there is something unusual on the menu, I am trying to have it. Watermelon and Chili adds a slight kick to the drink and brings out the flavour of the watermelon. And the watermelon is fresh- not a fake syrop- so it is a neat texture. I was quite surprised at how yummy it was and as a hot day drink it was really refreshing.

And then on to what was a highlight of the trip so far for me: Bloom Café Graduation.

Here’s another organization where I am limited as to what I will put in print. I look forward to sharing pictures and stories when I get home.

I encourage you to visit www.bloomcreations.org to get a visual of what I am going to write about.

Bloom Café is a social enterprise. It trains and employs Cambodian women in cake making and decorating, cupcake, and café skills. It is set in a beautiful old building which normally is a café frequented by the many ex-pats living in Cambodia.

Bloom Café works in partnership with IJM and Hagar. If you have read my past journal entries, I will let you connect the dots as to what that means…

We were privileged to be at the graduation of 5 young women. Every 3 months, a new class of young women goes through an extensive training program. When they graduate, they receive certification through an organization in Australia. For the 3 months of their program, they work very hard. They learn the skills, they write exams. No small thing for someone who is illiterate. The Bloom teacher have found ways to teach all the skills, including how to read recipes, even though the majority of the young women can’t read.

For the graduation, the women were dressed in full cap and gown and under their gowns had on their best dresses. Hair was done up, make up… the full bit. They were introduced as a graduating class and then, one by one, were called up to receive their certification.

It was beautiful.

Their families were invited to the celebration as were many from related organizations who had been part of their journey- which is why we were able to be there. It was neat to see and hear the pride and excitement over the big moment in these young women’s lives.

What is really cool to learn about Bloom Café is that it is a really young venture yet it has made quite the impression on Phnom Penh. Some of the clients who regularly order from Bloom include the Royal Family, the prime minister and many of Cambodia’s elite. The cakes are beautiful and delicious.

Cakes made by studentsCakes made by students

 

Remarkably, the founders, Ruth and Murray, have no background in this business. The idea came to the female founder who loved baking. Back in Australia, she and her husband had successful careers but following a trip much like the one we are on, they felt called to leave Australia and start up this skills training not-for-profit business. The rest is history.

It was profoundly moving to watch this couple celebrate each individual. They clearly have a deep love of each young woman and along with the presentation of the certificate, each was affirmed, encouraged and the rest of us got to learn how that young woman is gifted in character and skill. I cried through all of it. Nothing moves me to tears faster than seeing people discover their potential and having it affirmed by others.

I have been thinking ever since about “eating for a cause” ventures. It seems to me that Calgary is an environment ripe for this kind of idea. To my knowledge, the only one that is somewhat similar is Venu 1008 but it is primarily a catering / events business. Hmmm….

Once again, it was so inspiring to meet humble Christian people, boldly taking steps of faith to be obedient to the crazy idea God laid on their heart. I am encouraged to keep on “keeping on” with the crazy Harmony through Harmony idea God laid on my heart. May it be used as greatly to be a culture changing organization as the ones I am being so privileged to see here.

 

Day 3B: Afternoon at Hagar International

Our team plus all the IJM staff (30 or so people) went to a lovely restaurant for a lunch of Khmer food. I sat near 3 IJM staff.

Each person on our Canadian team has been enjoying learning how each staff person at IJM Cambodia came to be there. It is really neat to hear how God stirred their hearts, planted seeds years before, their surprise at how they ended up at IJM, and their passion for what they are now doing.

I learned a couple of Khmer food lessons… in Cambodia, the senior person at the table is served first. This is either senior in age or senior in position. Doesn’t matter if it is male or female. Utensils in a Khmer meal are a fork and spoon, never a knife, and often chopsticks. The food is very similar to Thai food but less spicy. At Khmer restaurants you can either order your own dish and it will come with a bowl of rice or you can eat “family style” and order a variety of dishes which get shared. This meal was “family style’ and had been pre-ordered for us.

We ate some Tom Yam soup, a vegetable yellow curry, a green fish curry, a beef curry, rice and the local Khmer specialty- fish amok. Fish Amok comes wrapped in a banana leaf and is a very tasty white fish with a mild sauce. Definitely my favorite dish here. One favorite way to eat it is to have a carved out coconut shell full of hot fish amok. That would be a much bigger serving than what we had. The meal was followed by fruit: pineapple, papaya, dragon fruit and watermelon.

Fish Amok A banana!

This restaurant had some lovely décor including massive pots with floating arrangements of green leaves and pink flowers. It was a lovely relaxing meal together and the last time we will see most of the staff.

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After lunch it was time to head to one of the key IJM partners for Aftercare: Hagar International.

What a fantastic organization. www.hagarinternational.org

An interesting protocol in this world of anti-human trafficking and sex exploitation is that there is a huge level of protection around the victims and so your default needs to be to think of protection before anything else.

The biggest area this shows up is in what can be made public- photography and written communication. Each organization we connect with pretty much opens with comments around photography etc. and what can be put online. Hagar was no different.

So… At Hagar, no pics of the outside of a building. And if ever you have the opportunity to take a photo of one of the victims, no full profile shots and no photos ever on the internet. Great rules. Seems like rules that are also appropriate for the safety of all children- not just trafficked victims.

Here’s what it says on a promo postcard we received (I have bolded what they bolded):

“There’s something beautiful about the human spirit. About seeing an individual who once was broken, who stood against the worst of adversity, in the darkest of human conditions, whom within themselves can now stand tall. At Hagar Cambodia we restore the lives of women and children suffering from extreme human rights abuse.

We do it, because we believe. We believe in possibility; in the greatest of human potential. That broken lives can become whole again. That those who have survived the greatest of exploitation can become strong.

And we do it because our purpose is singular; to enable every woman and child to live with a future and a hope – with renewed self worth and the courage to again stand tall.

Hagar- the whole reason. “

We were given a presentation by Catherine, “Visitor Coordinator & Support Office Liaison”. Catherine is volunteering at Hagar for a year. What struck me about Catherine was how well she understood the organization, her passion and her ability to answer all our questions- even though she was new to the job. To hear her speak, one would think she had been there for years. Clearly her life has been forever transformed by this experience.

The name “Hagar” comes from the Bible. Hagar was seen by God and he sought her out and noticed her even though no one else did. (Genesis 16:13) And this is what Hagar International wants to communicate to its clients… God sees you and hears you and sees beauty in you. You were made by Him for a reason and you are precious.

So to that end, they have a very individual approach to each of their clients. The end goal is wholeness. They have found that their clients have experienced on average 5 traumas. They take the clients through Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TFCBT) and have found it to be super effective. They are now training people around the world in TFCBT.

Catherine shared a story about a boy that came into their care who wouldn’t make eye-contact and had been severely abused. Through TFCBT he learned why he had so much rage, how to handle it, eventually move through it and now is a totally different child. Talking about the change in this boy brought tears to her eyes and she had to stop the presentation for a minute. Beautiful.

Their mission: Whatever it takes for as long as it takes to restore a broken life.

Pretty powerful mission statement. Pretty amazing commitment to broken, hurting people in a developing world context.

We were given a copy of their Hagar International annual report. Hagar International is doing the same types of work in Cambodia, Afghanistan and Vietnam. Hagar Cambodia is the largest and longest running of their three operations.

In Cambodia, one-quarter of married women have experienced violence in the home. The trafficking of women, girls and boys for labour and sexual exploitation is common.

Hagar takes a four-pronged approach to wholeness:

Protection

  1. Personal Well-Being
  2. Economic Empowerment
  3. Social Capital / integration

An individual isn’t considered whole until he/she has been stable in all of the above areas for 6 months. And if the person is a minor (age 14 and under), that time increases to 1 year. What that means is that if an individual has been stable in all areas and then has a personal well-being crisis at month 5.5, the clock is reset to 0 and their “stable clock” begins again. That is a commitment to wholeness. That is a commitment to walking alongside a recovery journey. I was so inspired by this. And so challenged!

So what do each of these approaches look like in Hagar? (Notes below taken word for word  from their annual report with sections cut out.) The presentation we were given was basically their annual report.)

Protection: Clients are provided safety from physical harm or injury, access to legal support and assistance and their personal capacity to physically protect themselves is strengthened…

Protection restores a client’s most basic dignity and creates a foundation for recovery to take place. It is helping each person pursue justice. It is countless meetings with governments and partner organizations to develop a framework for the recovery of women and children. It is securing identity cards and birth certificates for those without. It is training police and civil society how to work with victims of trafficking and abuse. It is emergency shelter for women and children. It is teaching clients their rights and going with them to court.

Personal Well-Being: Clients develop internal strength and resilience through activities that foster mental, physical and emotional health. Clients cultivate the ability to “bounce back”, or even grow in the face of adversity, trauma and tragedy.

Personal well-being means hours upon hours of post-trauma counseling. It is house mothers on call 24 hours a day. It is hundreds of vaccinations and medical checks and referrals to hospitals for special procedures and surgeries. It is listening to the stories of pain, and going deep into the darkness. It is art therapy and dance and sport that help each woman and child discover their value and self worth. It is learning how to build healthy relationships.

“Some people see scars, and its wounding they remember. To me, they are proof of the fact that there is healing.” – Linda Hogan, Author.

Economic Empowerment: Clients increase their power over economic decisions that influence their lives and enable greater freedom and choice of action. Clients become financially independent and able to take care of themselves and their families.

Most women and children come to Hagar with little or no formal education or career training. But we know that given the opportunity, each client can achieve their fullest potential. Economic Empowerment is practical. It is “catch-up” schooling and early childhood development for children. It is literacy and job-ready skills for women. It is on-the-job training and finding that first job. It is partnering with local organizations, business and enterprise partners to give each client the tools ad the opportunities to make their own way. It is each women and child being able to provide for themselves with dignity and to contribute back to society.

Social Capital / Integration: Clients build healthy connections and relationships with their families, friends and social networks. This in turn increases community engagement and enables clients to successfully integrate into the community of their choice.

Developing the social capital of clients so that safe and successful integration is possible might mean reconciling with and reconnecting with family. Or, it could be finding a loving home in the care of foster parents. It means working with families and friends, churches and communities to create a safe and supportive environment for women and children to go home. The chance to live happily among loved ones is part of the journey towards wholeness for each women and child.

Clients spend an average of 2 years in Hagar care.

Social Enterprise: Hagar partners with professional organizations and businesses who share their commitment to lasting change, and to seeing women and young people achieve their potential. Hagar’s business investments and enterprise partners provide quality on-the-job training, employment placements in a supportive and professional environment and career progression for clients from Hagar.”

Get this. In 2011, Hagar Catering & Facilities had a total revenue of $1.63 million and Joma Bakery Café had a total revenue of $2.67 million. Hagar clients were employed at both locations.

I was so very, very impressed with this partner organization. And thrilled that IJM clients are in it. For those of you who donate to Ratanak Foundation Canada, know that your dollars are being well spent as Ratanak is listed as one of the organizations giving major gifts to Hagar.

We listened to the presentation had time to ask a few questions and then that was it. Part of me was surprised that we didn’t get to see Hagar in action. I didn’t realize that was one of my sub-conscious expectations until we were there. I am realizing more and more the seriousness of privacy and complexities of dealing with exploitation. For us to “pop in” for even an hour to a centre, even with intentions of being totally in the background, could totally disrupt the tremendously hard and important work that Hagar is doing with each client. I am realizing that the chances of us actually meeting any hurting kids is really, really low. Cambodia gets hundreds of teams here each year. If teams were allowed access to the clients, it would take much longer for victims to be restored to wholeness. This is a classic example of When Helping Hurts. Best gift I can be is to be an engaged learner, pray and mobilize people back home to pray and fund fantastic organizations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

International Justice Mission = AWESOME

Our morning was a whirlwind of learning about three IJM departments: IJM Investigations, IJM Aftercare and IJM Legal. I am very impressed by this organization. I am first impressed by how well they hire and the leadership that is being provided. Each individual is an outstanding person. Their character proclaims credibility and authenticity. Within seconds you know they are “the real thing”, passionate, honest and determined to do their work with excellence. They know what they believe and why and have grappled through tough questions about evil, God’s sovereignty, and seen the transforming difference Jesus makes in the world. I feel like I could talk to them forever so it is a good thing that we will spend eternity together one day!

IJM Investigations

IJM is not trying to stop prostitution of adult age women. IJM is trying to stop the exploitation and trafficking of minors. Prostitution in Cambodia is so common. There are many  cultural attitudes around prostitution but most will agree that prostitution of minors is wrong.

Depreciation of a girl is fast. You get huge money for a virginity sale. Trafficking of girls is systemic, often even generational. They think it is justifiable considering their poverty. “I survived, I did what I had to do back in the day, it’s my daughter’s turn.” The young girl still has value as she is “fresh” but eventually she loses her value in the industry and then ends up in a karaoke bar, a beer garden.

Svay Pak (THE area of child sexual exploitation) in 2003 and now is very different. Pedophiles went out to Svay Pak, did their business right there.

IJM Investigations measures success on how many rescues are accomplished- but that’s not the entire goal. Really, it would be preferable to se the children never get there, never get exploited in the first place. The hard thing is that you then never know who was prevented from being trafficked. In many ways it is similar to being a missionary, one never knows who was potentially affected by the work that you did in sharing the gospel. Success here is that we took out the people who are not going to be able to traffic others anymore.

Pray for discernment, eyes to see, ears to hear in brand new ways. Street smarts. How do you follow that? How do you identify what is happening, who the players are?

The good news is that it is now a more difficult business for traffickers- they can no longer show children.

The IJM model is to use the individual casework to identify the problem, create enough social demand to create change in law. The casework has show that there is a huge leak in the

Other organizations have political horsepower to work with government to change the laws. IJM is working with these organizations.

IJM Aftercare

The person heading aftercare is a wonderful mix of strength, wisdom, compassion and gentleness. I have really enjoyed watching her interact with people. You can tell that she has well-honed listening skills and she asks great questions. She is also confidant and self aware, humble and credible. I am awed by God’s sovereignty in bringing just the right person from around the world to do His work. It is no small thing to take on this position because aftercare is a tough area to lead… Especially aftercare for trafficked minors in a country like this one. She has been on staff at IJM for 5 years. I can’t even imagine what she has seen and heard in that time. Sitting with her, you feel like you have known her for years. She is incredibly approachable and you know she genuinely cares about you. It’s like sitting with a female Jesus. Oh that we could all have that said about us!

IJM Aftercare: Vision and Need

IJM seeks to restore to clients of oppression the things that God intends for them: their lives, their liberty, their dignity, and the fruits of their labor as well as engender hope and transformation in the lives of those it serves.

What does IJM Aftercare do?

IJM Aftercare provides Crisis Care & Support following Interventions:

Provide crisis care at the police station

–       emotionally

–       physically

–       translation needs

–       needs assessment / victim identification

Aftercare helps trafficking survivors to see that they are not in trouble. Aftercare needs to be there so the victim feels safe, they are providing support for a min of 48 hours at the police station- day and night – until the girls are put in an aftercare shelter. They explain what is going on and that the police wants to help them. It takes awhile to convince the girls because the perpetrator will often tell victims lies about police and NGOS to prevent the girls from getting help. They are scared to receive the help. They receive a care package- food, water, toiletry supplies. Eventually they feel cared for. In 48 hours some of the girls will build trust and will then share more. IJM Aftercare works to get more of the full story, assess their needs, serve them better.

Aftercare also works with the government and NGO aftercare services. IJM does not have a physical centre for Aftercare- they partner with other NGOs who have centre care. IJM ensures the victims get medical care, social care, safe place, skills training and people who will assist them in moving back to the community.

Survivors of trafficking all have a choice of whether or not they want to participate in the case against their perpetrators. For those who choose to participate, aftercare staff help them prepare for the process of sharing their testimony truthfully in court, which can be a scary and difficult process.

The need for victim care continues long after the operation is over. Victims need a safe place and a safe people to help the process and heal from their pain. IJM ensures victims receive Ongoing Victim Care. IJM Aftercare ends up doing a lot of “case management” to ensure that each victim’s multiple needs are being addressed.

Most partners have an agreement with the highest reputation clinics so that the victims are treated professionally, and where there is high confidentiality. Medical treatment always includes testing for STIs and HIV. Remarkably, very few clients are HIV+.

Most of the girls in client rescues are 15 and over.

IJM ensures that all survivors receive:

–       Individualized Treatment planning

–       Medical support

–       Psychosocial support

–       Placement

–       Economic Empowerment

–       Support through Legal process including training the aftercare partners on how to counsel the victims as they have the relationship with the client

–       Transition to Safe and Sustainable Living Environment

In order to return to their community safely, they need to have a sustainable income. Some it is going to school, some it is to receive training. There are no laws around how long to go to school. There are labor laws. At 15 you can work. There are clients who are 16 or 17 years old who have never had any school. They need the vocational job training programs and lifeskills- like literacy training.

Some of IJM Partner Organizations

–       Chab Dai Coalition (has 2 member Cambodian organizations working together to end sex trafficking)

–       World Hope International (assessment centre, always send minor victims there)

–       Agape International Missions (50 staff, counselor, social worker, house moms)

–       Hagar Cambodia (150 staff, great model of care program, wholistic care. Training centres, school, help clients with life skills, placement for victims)

–       Transitions Global (helping the victims to be ready to go back to the community, how to live independently)

–       World Vision  (doing work with the Vietnamese victims, have a lot of Vietnamese staff)

–       Bloom Café (business training, loving environment, professional environment)

–       Sak Saum

–       Rapha House

The shame is enormous. Moral cycle-strong pressure on girls to provide for their families. How do you negotiate that it is good to provide for your family but you don’t need to sacrifice your body to do it?

Aftercare helps to create Structural Transformation. They build partnerships with AHTJP Police and the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSAVY) to ensure that clients receive humane and nurturing caregiving. Survivors should never be put in a jail cell, they should never have to see their perpetrators or hear them threatening them, they should be treated sensitively and officials should know the trauma the victim had. IJM Aftercare works with IJM Police Training on how to respond to the trauma and victim at the police station. Currently, IJM Aftercare is working with the MoSAVY to implement in their policies how to refer victims to the services, how to remove the victims from the brothels.

How will Aftercare adapt to the new situations (like what investigations is dealing with) in communities?

Building alliances in communities

Building trust in communities through key families

Over the next few days in Cambodia, we will be meeting many different aftercare partners and hearing how they help IJM Cambodia continue to care for the girls IJM rescues.

IJM Legal Department

Objectives:

  • Empower victims to stand up to those who exploit and use them
  • Hold perpetrators accountable through successful prosecutions
  • Transform the public justice system through training and excellent casework.

Cambodia is a destination country of perpetrators for commercial exploitation. The victims have low education and are poor. IJM assists them to understand their basic rights and how to deal with their situations.

The IJM Legal Department works with the government and court systems.

Casework is key to holding the perpetrator accountable. Not just rescuing the children. In order to transform the system here, need to provide training to associates, how to do the best casework, working with other legal attorneys on how to transform the system for the rights of our clients. Political will is often one of the main issues.

Background and Need

Deficiencies in the legal system originated during the reign of the Khmer Rouge as most of the legal professionals were killed during the Khmer Rouge era making it difficult to educate future generations of lawyers.

Today, only half the judges in the country have law degrees, resulting in frequent misapplication or misinterpretation of the law. There are currently four before the Royal Academy of Judicial Professional to become judges. Now they must be lawyers and then spend two years in the Royal Academy before becoming a judge.

Today there are about 751 lawyers in the country, a quarter of which practice legal aid for a country of 16 million. Not all of them practice- only about 400 practice. If someone doesn’t wan t to practice they have to request it from the Cambodian Bar Association. For example, the current prime minister is a lawyer but he is not practicing.

There are many, many children who need legal aid but it is not available.

Gap between Law and Practice Challenges:

  • Incorrect interpretation or application of laws.
  • Inappropriate presentation of evidence
  • Difficult in accurately identifying and dealing with criminal evidence due to lack of resources and training.

This session was cut short because it was prayer time followed by an all staff lunch with us, however, when we go to Siem Reap, IJM legal staff will be with us touring the courts and so we will be learning more about the Legal Department at that time.

I found it fascinating that our presentation by the legal staff was cut short “because it was prayer time.” JM has such a focus on prayer that it is acceptable to end meetings, whether or not the meeting is done, in order for the community to come together to pray. They passionately believe God needs to be at the centre of their work.

It was a full morning of learning which set us up very well for a full afternoon and evening of seeing aftercare partners.

Day 2 B: The cost of history

For lunch we went to this place called “Daughters Café”. This is a café run by the NGO Daughters of Cambodia. (www.daughtersofcambodia.org) Daughters of Cambodia empowers victims of sexual exploitation to set themselves free from the sex industry in Cambodia and change their lives. It is an IJM partner organization and provides skills training for other vocations: cooking and hospitality, retail, sewing, woodworking, jewelry making, lotions and soaps. Our IJM host, “Allisa”, called our outing “eating for a cause”. Yup. All over that.

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And then it was off to the very sobering Killing Fields- specifically the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre.

Choeung Ek is the largest killing field with over 70,000 bodies buried there. It is located about 15km south east of Phnom Penh. It is a memorial site. There is a 19 stop audio tour to take in as you walk around the area. Each stop is described with additional listening in between for further information on related topics- like the history of Pol Pot or the use of music to drown out the killings. We didn’t have enough time to listen to each session but it was long enough.

As we arrived, the dark afternoon clouds were rolling in. For me, this was the perfect atmosphere to take in this deeply disturbing location. A bright sunny day would have felt trite. With the dark clouds came wind and eventually a down pour. It matched the stirring emotions in my soul and spirit.

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You walk down a lane to the Memorial Stupa “where the remains of Choeung Ek’s victims are reverently preserved”. This means that there is a large tower with literally thousands of skulls in it which you can see through the glass walls. Skulls and bones and pieces of clothing. There are 17 levels to the tower and on the first 9 levels there are 9000 skulls- all the skulls have been classified according to the way the person was killed- machete, club, bullet, etc. Death by bullet was rare because bullets were considered too expensive to waste…

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It was impossible to take notes, hold an umbrella, take photos and hold the audio player at the same time. Just as well. I can’t digest all the info anyway. Thankfully there was a brochure. Each time the number says “Sign” it is referring to a sign that had info on it but that marked the spot where either people were sent to line up before being killed or where a building once stood. Here are the 19 headings…

  1. Intro and walk to stop 2. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge march into Phnom Penh, 17th April 1975.
  2. Sign; Truck Stop
  3. Sign: Dark and Gloomy Detention
  4. Sign: The Executioner’s Working Office
  5. Former Chinese Ceremonial Kiosk
  6. Sign: Chemical Substances Storage Room
  7. Mass grave: 450 victims
  8. Sign: Killing tools Storage Room, How people ewere killed
  9. Chinese Grave. Bones and Teeth Fragments
  10. Longan Orchard. People worked to death by Angkar
  11. Walk on path by lake: Music an dMemoreis
  12. Survivor stories- may be heard anywhere at any time on the walk
    1. Loss of an infant
    2. Witness to a killing
    3. Rape leads to shame
    4. One man’s story
    5. The first day, forced to leave home
    6. In the village, his cousin killed in front of him
    7. Anger, isolation, his mother’s dream, hope
    8. Arrested and beaten; saved by a stranger’s sacrifice
    9. Escapes to America, returns for revenge, healing
  13. Mass Grave: 166 Victims without heads
  14. Glass box: Victims’ clothing
  15. The Killing Tree
  16. Glass Box: Victims’ Bones and Teeth
  17. The Magic Tree
  18. Memorial Stupa: Design and Meaning of the Stupa
  19. Farewell “Oh Phnom Penh”.

 

Mass graves. Ok. So I was prepared for the history because I have read up on Cambodia, I have met survivors of the killing fields, I have processed in my imagination what I have learned. I was not prepared for it to be an experience where my 5 senses would be affected. Seeing the concave earth of mass graves is one thing, haunting and disturbing… smelling them is another. You can still smell the decaying bodies- because they are still decaying. You can taste decay in the air. It feels like the air is landing on you. I wanted to wash it off. You are hearing the stories and if you wanted to, which I didn’t, you can touch the trees where babies heads were beaten, the leaves that were used to slice people, the boxes that hold remains. Regardless, you are walking on ground that is groaning in sorrow.

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The hardest for me was hearing and then seeing that skull fragments, teeth and clothing get unearthed during heavy rains and flooding. As in, they specifically ask you to not pick up the pieces of bone that may be at your feet as you walk down the path. Hearing that turned my stomach. Seeing fabric coming out of the earth and seeing hard things in the ground and realizing they were skull bits was… nauseating, horrific, deeply disturbing. So very real. So very recent.

How does a country pick up and keep going after a genocide?

It is so striking to be here experiencing this within the same week that I was meeting, introducing and listening to Immaculee Ilibagiza. To hear her speak on her experience in Rwanda and the choice she had to make to be either on the side of hate or the side of love… and that the side of love means to choose forgiveness…

As we drive around Phnom Penh, I am struck that there seem to be so few people over the age of 40. When I do the math, it is striking to look at the continuing impact the Pol Pot regime of Khmer Rouge had…

Pol Pot took over on April 17, 1975. His reign ended in 1979. If you were born in 1975, you turn 37 this year. Pretty tough to survive the Killing Field years as a baby… and if a baby born at this time did survive, it was certainly a malnourished baby. If you were born in 1980 or later, you may have avoided the Killing Field years but your parents have a story of survival. If you were 20 in 1975, you are now 57. If you were 10 years old, you are now 47.

Think of the implications of that. Age 0 – 20 at the start of the regime = age 37 –57 now. How many of the people age 37 – 57 are now parents or even grandparents? Likely many. If you witnessed people being killed and tortured, if you survived somehow, it is impossible for those experiences to not massively continue to shape your worldview.

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How does this worldview shape attitudes around prostitution, human trafficking, child sexual exploitation? How does the worldview influence parenting, community, education?

On the back of the brochure it reads:

“Choeung Ek is the most well known of over 300 killing fields throughout Cambodia. You may want to visit the following websites: Khmer Rouge Tribunal www.eccc.gov.kh/en; Yale University’s Cambodian Genocide Program www.yale.edu/cgp; and Cambodia Tribunal Monitor www.cambodiatribunal.org

I would add that you may also want to read an outstanding novel, Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men to do nothing.” -Sir Edmond Burke.

 

Day Two: International Justice Mission 101

We began our morning at the International Justice Mission (IJM) field office. IJM wisely has many policies to protect the work being done and its people safe. I think it is wonderful that they are so concerned about the well-being of their staff and so honest about the risks involved in fighting injustice.

To that end, I have taken the time to ensure that any of my descriptions about IJM have been read and approved by the IJM office staff.

Our office tour was like any other office tour – saw the building, met the staff- with the exception of the time taken to explain what was on the walls. I was really struck by the intentionality in the choices of the pictures and wall hangings. Other than the odd map of Cambodia or Phnom Penh, the décor was very simple: banners with scriptures embroidered in them and photos of key events. The banners came in twos- one in English, the other in Khmer of the same verse. The photos were of important moments in the Cambodia IJM office…

  • A drawing of a cross done by a sexually exploited girl as she clung to hope of being free again. It was discovered in a brothel;
  • A lock that locked children in a brothel;
  • Children being played with outside a rescue shelter;
  • A team photo.

Pictures do indeed capture a 1000 words…

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After our tour we met in the “meeting room”- a room with a screen at one end and an oval boardroom table which seats 13 chairs comfortably around it. After a brief introduction we watched a 45 minute training movie called “Saving Seca”, jointly produced by a number of organizations. This movie is in Khmer and uses Cambodian actors and Cambodian police people to act out the story of a girl being trafficked and how the police end up rescuing her.

“Saving Seca” is about Seca, a young 14 year old Cambodian girl, who takes a job in the city thinking she is supposed to be working in a restaurant. She arrives at the “restaurant” to discover she as been tricked. Greeted by a “mamasan”  (the woman who manages the brothel), she is taken upstairs to a room full of other young prostitutes who are to educate her on her new job. She puts up a fight and then gets beaten by her new owners. One of the “veteran” girls, Makara, who is now 17 takes Seca under her wing and decides she is going to try to help Seca before she is sold for the virgin price.

Makara coaches Seca to play sick to buy her a day. Makara then comes up with a ruse to go and get the mamas an some massage oil and while out to buy the oil goes to the police station to file a report about her concern for Seca. The police chief she tells the story to doesn’t think he can do much. Makara boldly asks him, “Do you have a daughter?” He does. And she is 14 years old too.

The rest of the movie is about the police chief stepping up to save Seca imagining what if Seca was his daughter. The police scenes are all very textbook to be used for training and discussion.

Of course the movie has it all go smoothly and ties everything up nicely… I thought it did a good job of pointing out key issues police need to know when dealing with trafficking (e.g. the girls are victims not criminals, it’s a rescue not a raid, even if the perpetrator is a very rich and influential man a crime is a crime, etc.)

I found a couple scenes really poignant: 15 girls all putting on make up to look older, attractive, sexy even though they don’t want to; and the girls told to “go into the goldfish bowl” and see them filing in to a room with benches and a glass window. Here they sat on benches with numbers pinned to their tops so the men could then look through the glass at them and select which “number” he wished. At the end of the movie, it is then really powerful to see the same 15 girls peacefully sleeping on mats in the rescue shelter.

In Cambodia, sexual exploitation and human trafficking are against the law. Multiple times in the movie the Chief would say “we have support from the highest levels’. Is this actually true? Perhaps. Depending on the province in Cambodia depends on how engaged   police commissioners are in work to fight trafficking. From a government perspective, however, there is support. And the changes in legislation and attitudes in Cambodia in the last decade are truly encouraging.

After the movie, we learned of a research study that IJM did, From Inside Prison Walls.

Over 60% arrested and prosecuted in cases were women. In terms of operating brothels, or establishments like brothels, women are the managers of these places. This is not true of all countries IJM works in but is true in Cambodia. In Cambodia, the woman manager is called “mamasan”.   Women, often the mamasan herself, are used to psychologically connect and manipulate the girls. IJM wanted to know why. They wanted to know how these women (managers) got into the business – were they entrepreneurs? Were they once trafficked themselves and found this was a ‘way out”? It is unusual to have that subject group available so a significant piece of research was done painting the picture of what trafficking in Cambodia looks like. All of those who were in prison during the interviews were sentenced prior to the overhaul of trafficking laws in Cambodia in 2008.

The info, quotes etc. from these interviews are in the study From Inside Prison Walls. Available in pdf form off IJM website. We each got a hard copy to bring home.

After a brief coffee break, at around 10:30 as the schedule had planned, came our session on the IJM Police Training programme.

First we were given a distinction between what roles IJM takes in a case: IJM investigators and their role- which we will learn much more about tomorrow- and the role of the police.

IJM Investigators are like “Neighborhood Watch”. IJM takes this role until they are confident they have enough information that the police have to be involved and do the rescue. They then pass on their evidence to the police and ask the police to investigate.

Human trafficking is the worlds’ 3rd largest criminal activity after drugs and weapons (U.S. department of State). Unfortunately, in the three months of police training that police get in Cambodia, sex trafficking isn’t one of the modules covered. It is so very important that the police know the law, know procedures, know basic training related to trafficking. IJM put together an excellent training program with classroom content, practical content where the officers work on skills, and where a team from IJM develops relationships with the police by connecting with the police officers in the months between training. I think it’s a brilliant partnership.

It was a delight to meet the training coordinator for IJM Cambodia- a Cambodian I’ll call Linan. Linan has worked for IJM since 2004 – which means that his leadership in conjunction with Lt. Col. Kai Loo (not his real name either) has literally transformed the Police system in Phnom Penh and other areas of Cambodia. The police involvement in trafficking cases now compared to 10 years ago is “night and day”. Read Terrify No More by Gary Haugen to learn about what Cambodia was like before IJM set up office here. Please pray for protection for Linan and his family, for wisdom and discernment as he does training, and for his circles of influence to continue to expand in Cambodia and beyond.

Mission of Police Training Department: To equip public justice officials with the necessary skills and desire to effectively fight injustice in Cambodia.

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The IJM Police Training program has twelve modules and takes 2.5 years to get through. That’s a significant investment of time on the part of a police force and on the part of IJM! Training team trains police officers in two – three week training time blocks every few months with one week per module. Each module contains practical exercises related to effective protection of victims of human trafficking and sexual abuse

Examples of modules:

  • Report writing
  • Evidence Collection : Journaling, investigation
  • Witness protection
  • Courtroom case preparation
  • Crime scene Management
  • Victim friendly procedures
  • Team work
  • Human trafficking Law

And practical things like how to use digital recorders! Most provincial offices don’t even have a digital recorder or it is in someone’s drawer yet this tool enables them to catch demeanor, focus on questions, listen better.

I was really impressed at how humble IJM is in sharing about its successes. These are the ones Linan listed:

  • Improved treatment of victims,
  • Crime Scene Investigation,
  • Passion for fighting trafficking, etc.
  • Training being implemented in successful cases
  • Building skills in how law enforcement interacts with children

Stop and consider just one of those bullet points. These are the categories where they have seen measured success. Hello?! Those categories indicate that IJM is successfully accomplishing its mission to transform communities! No small thing.

As a Canadian, I was also excited to learn that IJM sometimes does police teams to countries and that a Toronto Cop, has come over 3 times to help with the training. Canadian Police Chiefs International Service Agency in Toronto has hosted training in Canada of Cambodian officers. Proud Canadian moment. I had no idea that we were bringing over officials from other countries to help them get better training. I also learned that there are multiple NGOs in Cambodia working on police training and that these NGOs get together periodically to ensure there isn’t overlap, that their approaches are consistent and to be aware of what each other is doing. Jamie McIntosh, the IJM Executive Director for Canada who is traveling with us, said that actual enforcement of laws to stop human rights violations – which needs to happen through national police forces – addresses the missing link  of human right protections that groups like the UN have been trying to find a way to fill for the past 50 or 60 years. Cool.

IJM Core Value: Be a bridge building organization.  So… to see BIG PICTURE TRANSFORMATION it is crucial that the Police Training programme assists in  IJM’s mission to rescue victims and prosecute perpetrators. IJM commits to work with the police at every step of their work: before, during and after the intervention process.

I was really encouraged by everything I learned and frankly, surprised. I knew IJM was effective and intentional and wants to do as much as possible through the nationals, however, to learn from a Cambodian about the work being done to train his fellow Cambodians in order to fight injustice in his country- a country that has a horrific not too distant past… it was really, really inspiring.

I asked him how we could be praying for him. Here’s what he said:

  • How IJM can specifically be training for more training staff:
  • For enough resources to provide the training and the training assessments.
  • Sustained relational impact of IJM with the people they train.

I’ll add a rather important one… him.

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And all of this was before prayer time. And before lunch. Crazy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day “One” – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

First Impressions

Every trip has its new experiences. I try to be mindful of  my first impressions as it points to my preconceptions.

This is the first trip I have been on where e-visa was an option. One applies for it online to the Cambodia government, including a scanned photo, they then send you back your approved visa – it looks just like another passport page with your photo on it – and ask you to print two copies of to bring with you.

The second new experience was that as part of the customs border crossing they did a pupil scanning and electronic finger printing of all digits- first the 4 fingers on your right hand together, then your right thumb, then the four fingers of your left hand together, then you left thumb. It felt very unnerving actually. I felt like a criminal or like it was a warning that I might experience some violence where my body parts would need to be identified. Nothing like starting a trip with an imagination going into overdrive!

Generally in developing countries, once through security, one is immediately surrounded by people wanting to take your bags, by people begging and by taxi drivers clamoring for business. Not here! It was very calm. I was also struck by the orderly driving, clean streets, lots of motorcycles, not many bikes. Really quiet. It was Sunday. Apparently Sunday is the only day anyone has off- all factory workers work a 6 – day week. There were many families out riding the one motorcycle. Didn’t see any animals on the street- no chickens, no cows, no goats. It reminded me quite a bit of Indonesia or Singapore. And just as humid.

 

Our Hotel:”The Plantation”

Our hotel is right in the middle of Phnom Penh, within 10 minute walk from the river, the Presidential Palace, the restaurants etc. And you would miss the entrance if you weren’t looking for it. It is called “The Plantation”. The front entrance is REALLY unassuming. It looks like barely a driveway to a store front- like maybe 15 feet across. But then you walk through the doorway and you discover a well-disguised quaint hotel! I was so surprised!

To get to the reception desk you walk through the doorway and around this picturesque courtyard with a sunken “wading pool” with plants growing in the water. En route there are couches and chairs and coffee tables to lounge in. Once at reception we were met with glasses of passionfruit juice as we waited to get our assigned rooms. We were then led by a bus boy to our rooms. Mine is on the second floor and my balcony overlooks the pool and yet another courtyard. Our room rate includes breakfast.

I was very surprised at my room. Bright, open, spacious, and simply decorated. The floor is all black tile which is lovely and cool on the feet. There is a big fan on the ceiling or the option of air conditioning. The bed is a canopy style bed with mosquito netting over it and pulled back with ribbons. There’s a “couch” but it is really a raised flat area with some pillows on it about a foot off the floor. There’s a desk with a flat screen TV that faces the flat bed couch area. The bathroom is European style- sink in one area, toilet in its own room, a shower in its own space. No bathtub. The shower is like an outdoor shower or pool shower- there’s a wall that creates the “cubical” but otherwise the shower-head just goes over the black tile that is everywhere else in the room. No cupboards or drawers. A small open “closet” with a few hangers in it and a bench for the suitcase. Free wi-fi. Voila. Simple yet elegant really.

Hotel room

Hotel room

I was not ready for a nap. So as soon as my luggage arrived I put on my bathing suit and headed to the pool.

The pool is surrounded by little open air cabanas. Each cabana has two “beds” that are on the floor of the cabana. Each bed has a pillow and a towel. It is amazing how relaxing it is just to see beds all around a pool! It is like it is calling out to you to “Come cool down, relax, unwind!” The water was lovely. It was overcast and began to rain a bit while I was in the pool. Also lovely.  Behind the pool there is an open air restaurant where we also go for the breakfast buffet each morning. Considering we are in the city, it is remarkably quiet and serene.

 

Hotel pool

Hotel pool

My first Khmer Massage

As lovely as the pool was, eventually I got out because… I had scheduled a massage for 3 pm!

There’s a very simple “spa” here with AMAZING prices.  Once I read about the prices in the book thing in my hotel room, there was no way I wasn’t waiting on this one!! Get this:

Energizing Khmer Massages (Dry)

An energizing ancient Cambodia therapy- smoothes the body’s energy flow and clears the mind with soothing sleuk toy tea.”

Legs and back                                   45 minutes                        $15 (yes your read that right)

Head, Back and Shoulders             45 minutes                        $15

Whole Body – Short                        60 minutes                        $15

Whole Body – Long                         90 minutes                        $27 (WHAT?!?!)

 

I was escorted to a little sitting room where they brought me a cool cloth with something in it that smelled really good. That was for my hands and face. Then they brought me “sleuk toy tea”. It is made with ginger and sleuk toy leaves. Very tastey. Slightly medicinal but more like spicey green tea. Being the tea granny that I am, I thought this was an awesome way to ease into a relaxing headspace!

Then my masseuse asked me to follow her upstairs. The room was green, had two massage beds in it, a sink and a shower onto the black tile floor. I guess if you want to wash off the oils? Beats me. I didn’t have a shower.

She gave me light mint green coloured scrubs to put on- the pants were Capri length. I looked like a green nurse! And then I was to lay down on the bed. My “dry” massage was done through my green scrubs. Never had that before.

45 minutes later…

My body had definitely experienced “ancient Cambodia therapy”!! My goodness. Most of the time she was on the bed with me. Using her legs, her elbows, her feet, her whole body weight to dig into my muscles, stretch my muscles, contort my muscles in all sorts of positions I have never done before. And what incredibly strong thumbs! Man. I figure at this price, I am going to try to make this happen more than once. I may just float off the plane when I get back home!

And then I was escorted back downstairs to the waiting room and given more “sleuk toy tea”. Welcome to Cambodia!

 

Foreign Correspondent’s Club

Our host took us for a walk down the street to the “Foreign Correspondent’s Club” for dinner. This is a restaurant on the riverfront that served as a place for journalists to meet during the tense period after 1993. Our walk took us down a street with no cars- apparently the only road without cars in Phnom Penh. And then past a park where there were many families having night picnics! We ate on the roof with a lovely view overlooking the river- at night. There were boats on the river all lit up. I had Pad Thai and a “lemon lime bitters” drink. The drink was like lemon lime juice but with some fizz. Better than sprite, not quite as juicey as lemonade but close.

I sat next to our host. This was a good move because he talked and talked and talked and all I had to do was ask questions and work very hard on concentrating on what he was saying… jet-lag was definitely settling in. It was hilarious to watch our team. You could tell everyone was having troubles focusing- eyes fluttering, heads bobbing, postures shifting trying to stay awake. Our host did his job and kept us up long enough that when we got back to the hotel it was pjs and sleep.

Tomorrow, reality hits.