This past weekend during the Khmer New Year holiday, Lisa Cheong, Cambodia Country Director at Ratanak International accompanied three of the young women from the Ratanak Achievement Program (RAP) home and three of the RAP staff to Sihanoukville. They had a mini getaway together. The rest of the young women at RAP had travelled to their home villages to spend time with their families. For the three young women who stayed behind for various reasons, a beach was chosen away from the famous tourist beaches so they could have a place to relax. One young woman had never swam in the ocean before. She ended up plunging into the water over and over again well into the late afternoon as the sun began to set. Lisa, the RAP staff and the three young women went to the market, selected the food for the evening’s meal, had it cooked at the market, brought it back to the beach and enjoyed a delicious dinner by the water. The following day, they visited a pristine white sandy beach in a more remote area. It was another opportunity for the young women to go for relaxing walks, hunt crabs and find beautiful shells. To reintegrate after rehabilitation is a challenging time of transition for these young women. The dedicated staff at RAP are also so well deserving of a time for rejuvenation. They encourage and support all the girls and ensured that the ones who could not visit their families were able to enjoy a beach getaway. The young women at the RAP home continue to overcome obstacles and take steps towards independence. We will keep you updated. We hope you like the pictures!
Grannies Trip to Siem Reap
We wanted to share some pictures and provide an update for our Elder Care Program. The ladies whom we affectionately call the Grannies were invited and taken for a day out in Siem Reap. They enjoyed touring the city, a museum too, marveling at the massive trees in Angkor Wat and shared many laughs and delicious food together. In Cambodia, many people farther along in their years lost their children during the Khmer Rouge regime and civil war. They have lived through unspeakable tragedies. Elderly women in Cambodia are particularly vulnerable. Our program recognizes the need for elder care. This trip was a time for the Grannies to have a fun day together; a break from their long days of walking along the streets and markets. We hope you like the pictures!
Representing the Silent
Some Canadians (and others) tell their wives and kids they are off on business or away on a golfing trip with friends when, in fact, they are heading to Asia on a sex tourism vacation. Many of them hunt for desperate poverty stricken teenagers dressed up as young women and marketed through the neon and glitter of the clubs and bars of Asia that almost make it seem like this is some sort of legitimate, if seedy, business…almost.
Others however go to locations with no such pretense. They hunt small kids… very small kids. They travel around the world to locations like Cambodia where the children are unprotected and their deeds will be undiscovered… they think! So often they don’t realize they have been observed, their actions documented, and their victims known.
There are few things more rewarding than representing such helpless children by acting as witness to their suffering, giving voice to that which they so often can’t yet express, to carrying their message to those in power who have a heart to hear and to help. Monday, March 11, 2013, was such a day. I had the privilege, once again, of speaking to Canada’s Minister of Justice and being able to represent “the Silent”. How freeing, along with about 10 other Police and Social Service agencies, to speak with those who make strides to protect children both domestically and internationally.
Minister Nicholson both in the more public meeting today and in previous private conversation so clearly expresses his concern for victims left in the trail of destruction that follows the predator. His words, like those of Joy Smith, (our pioneering abolitionist MP) repeat the call for justice. And their words are backed up by the legislation they bring forward. We have discussed general principles and issues around child protection. We have also, privately, talked about specific cases, specific events and specific individuals – by name. There is something cleansing about taking the deeds of darkness and exposing them to light of day. My expectation is that there will be more than just talk. Canadians going to destroy the lives of innocent kids in Cambodia are nowhere near as anonymous as they think.
God knows every deed and every individual and He continues to expose that which is hidden. It is my privilege to introduce such activities and individuals that torment little lives, and so disgrace Canada, to a motivated and receptive Minister of Justice. Have you ever thought about that job title… “The Minister of Justice”. We all have a responsibility to administer justice among those around us but we need to pray particularly for Rob Nicholson – the man who holds the title. I hope I served the kids of Cambodia well that day.
March 7, 2013 News: Bill C-452, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons) received a unanimous vote in the House of Commons yesterday. This Bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code, preventing traffickers from getting away with light sentencing as it provides for consecutive sentences for offences related to procuring and trafficking. Traffickers would then have to serve these sentences one, after another. The Bill would also amend the Criminal Code to allow for money (proceeds) of human trafficking crimes to be seized. Together as we confront sex slavery in Cambodia and worldwide, let’s all celebrate this Canadian news and share it!
Together, we are focused on effecting change and confronting sex slavery. In addition to rehabilitation and reintegration services for survivors of sexual exploitation, there is also a crucial need for alternative employment opportunities. We partner with a transition life skills program that provides employment through several successful businesses, for men and women seeking to leave the sex trade. These brave survivors receive on the job training and access to healthcare, education, counselling, and life skills workshops as we help contribute to their ability to make a living in safety and with dignity.
RAP Home Restful Time in Mondulkiri
On Friday, February 1st, the young women and staff at the Ratanak Achievement Program (RAP) home travelled by bus to Mondulkiri, one of the northwestern provinces in Cambodia. They were able to have a time away for relaxation during this period of mourning for the late King Norodom Sihanouk’s funeral. When Lisa Cheong, Cambodia Country Director at Ratanak International, had arrived early at 5:30am at the RAP home, the bus was already there. Some of the girls were even gathered outside eagerly awaiting departure. In fact, they were able to leave at 6:00am sharp. The trip went very well with the young women singing on the bus, a pit stop for breakfast along the way, exploration at a rubber tree plantation; and that’s when the photo ops began. The clicking of photos happily ensued until the trip came to a close. The girls love taking photos!
The young women and the RAP staff next visited a place that seemed like a smaller version (yet in Cambodia) of the very popular Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC. There were beautiful flowers and a lush garden. Some cultural activities took place as well. They were able to visit the village of a hill tribe in Mondulkiri. The girls particularly enjoyed sharing candy they had purchased in advance of the trip, with the children in this area. In this beautiful mountainous region, as the young women and RAP staff walked around the village area, they had an opportunity to get a glimpse of life on a farm. They saw pigs eating and playing together, and goats grazing in a pasture. On the second day of the trip, they were able to enjoy a hike and see several waterfalls.
One of the most beautiful waterfalls they saw is called the Bou Sra Waterfalls. It’s a stunning sight! Some of the young women took the opportunity to change into outfits of the local hill tribes in that region so that they could take some more photos. Some RAP staff also enjoyed trying on the tribal outfits. The girls and the RAP staff spent some time along the water and had a picnic together. Some young women read books, while, others continued snapping photos and chatting together.
With all these simple activities enjoying the beauty of God’s creation, this mini retreat was also a time for the staff and the girls at RAP to rest and enjoy each others’ company. To reintegrate after rehabilitation is a challenging time of transition for these young women. The dedicated staff at RAP are also so well deserving of a time for rejuvenation. They encourage and support the girls. These young women continue to overcome obstacles and take steps towards independence. We will keep you updated, so much is happening at the RAP home. We hope you like the pictures!
Today, February 1st until the 4th, is a holiday in Phnom Penh as ceremonies were underway for the late King Norodom Sihanouk’s funeral. It’s estimated that around 1.5 million to 3 million people have come to pay their final respects. In addition to the city’s population, this influx of people includes global dignitaries and people from the country’s provinces. During this holiday, the young women from the Ratanak Achievement Program (RAP) home, the staff and Lisa Cheong, Ratanak International’s Cambodia Country Director, are taking a trip. They’re stepping out of their day-to-day routines for a mini retreat. To reintegrate after rehabilitation is a challenging time of transition for these brave girls at the RAP home. They are confronting their fears and overcoming obstacles as they take steps towards independence. This short trip is a special time for them to rest and recharge. Please pray for safe travels and that this retreat will be a time of refreshment and renewal for the young women, the staff at RAP, and Lisa, as they enjoy time together in a scenic setting. Thank you for all your prayers and support!
Grannies’ Special Dinner
We wanted to share some pictures and provide an update for our Elder Care Program. Last month, the ladies whom we affectionately call the Grannies, were invited and taken for a special dinner. They enjoyed touring the city, the beautiful evening lights and dining together. Children and elderly women in Cambodia are particularly vulnerable. Our program is set up as a night shelter where elderly ladies in need can receive medical care and sleep in safety. This night out was a time for the Grannies to rest their feet and have a special meal together after their long day of walking along the streets and markets.
Reminder: In Vancouver this Saturday, January 26th at 12:30pm, Brian McConaghy will be speaking at Missions Fest Vancouver in Room 13. The seminar topic is “Changing Cambodia - Carefully”. If you are in the Vancouver area, it would be great to see you. We hope you visit! Friday to Sunday we’ll be at BOOTH 0-05.
Together, we are focused on effecting change and ending child sex slavery. In addition to rehabilitation and reintegration services for survivors of sexual exploitation, there is a crucial need for various community development programs for Cambodians struggling in poverty. In Cambodia, many people farther along in their years, lost their children during the Khmer Rouge regime and civil war. They have lived through unspeakable tragedies. Elderly women in Cambodia are particularly vulnerable. One of our community development programs recognizes this need for elder care. We hope you like the picture of Brian McConaghy spending time with some of the women in our Elder Care Program!