Many of you have been asking about the effects of the Tsunami on Cambodia. Luckily, we have been spared from any serious consequences, at least in the material sense, even though we just spent Christmas vacation in Indonesia!
The recent events of the Shelter Project could easily make up and entire movie plot! Many things have taken place in these past few months, from everyday life and karaoke to the first real setback.
When two new girls came to the shelter after a brothel raid, some of their captors discovered the location of the shelter. The criminals came to the shelter’s gate several times, threw rocks and bullied and threatened the guards. The unwanted visitors had plans to return the girls to the brothel. Their last attempt was successful. One night, despite the barbed wire and security measures, we lost a number of our girls from the shelter. It was the hardest setback we've had so far.
Two out of the first three girls who came to the shelter, who I mentioned in the last newsletter, were among the missing ones. Luckily, one of them managed to call my cell phone the following morning and tell me where she was. She also knew where the other girl was and we managed to get them both back into safety. We had to move fast as the other girl had already been sold and was to be taken back to the brothel to work as a child prostitute that very day.
We also tried to track down the other two girls, who came to the shelter later and whose whereabouts we got some hints of. Despite our best efforts we could not find them. As for me, I found it very hard to go on with the work with the same enthusiasm after these events.
Sex trafficking has become such a large business that the arrogant kidnappings carried out by the criminals are not unusual. For example, here in Phnom Penh, right before Christmas, an armed attack was carried out in the largest shelter of Cambodia and the organized criminals dragged out and packed into their cars some 90 women and girls.
It is still a mystery to me why the International Community does not do more about this problem. Slavery and the degrading of girls to the level of merchandise are unacceptable and a shame on the whole human family no matter which continent it takes place in. Yet, compared to the magnitude of the problem, it seems that there are only a handful of people working against human trafficking.
Our psychologist Ean Nil
Our work, of course, goes on. If everything goes well our shelter will receive some new girls next week. The girls currently residing at our shelter are doing well and making good progress. We are committed to help and support them for as long as possible, to adulthood.
We are still in need of additional sponsors for the new girls. We encourage the new sponsors to have personal contact with the girls through e-mail or conventional letters etc. We will send information about/from the sponsored child about three times a year. A warm thank you to all the current sponsors!
Our other project in developing the local orphanage is moving along its own quiet path with the volunteer workers still taking the lead role. Unfortunately the management of the orphanage does not give us the opportunity to help as much as we would like. We did not for example receive permission to hire staff: a local to be in charge of the volunteers and a full-time physiotherapist. However, the time and care the volunteers give to the children is still vitally important to each individual child.
I would like to extend a big thank you to all those who have supported and continue to support our work in so many ways! I wish you all a Happy New Year and look forward to 2005 regardless of the challenges that lie ahead.
Children of Cambodia