Human Rights Tour Update

Friends of Hagar USA,

I apologize for the delay in updating you. Our friends and coworkers at Hagar Australia kept us busy as we joined in on their Human Rights Tour. They did an excellent job. It is impossible to convey all that this tour entailed. But I will do my best to relay what I have absorbed so far.

The Killing Fields

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Visiting the Killing Fields was a grave reminder of the trauma that this nation has experienced. Many middle aged Cambodians remember what the work camps were like or how their family members were killed.

History of Cambodia

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Steve Penfold, Hagar Cambodia Country Director, gave us an overview of Cambodia’s history. The genocide caused a “youth bulge” in Cambodia. Fewer jobs are available to these youths, because the former generation was not able to stabilize the economy or train and educate youth. Young people tend to take greater risks to make money, leaving them vulnerable to trafficking.

Time at the Catch Up School

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We were able to meet some of Hagar’s clients at the Catch Up Learning School. Some of the group joined in on a soccer game, while others made crafts. Despite the pain that these children have endured, joy and laughter can be found here at the learning center.

Hagar Catering

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We ate lunch at Hagar Catering. They are quite a large operation, serving 15,000 meals a day in varying locations. This business provides training and jobs for many Hagar clients. I must say, the food and service were excellent!

Time with current clients

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This was perhaps one of the most moving moments of the trip. I met 6 young girls from the Hagar shelter. They were very young and some were smaller in size than my 6 year old son. A few of the girls strongly resembled one of my daughters. The counselor told me later that most of these girls are with Hagar because they were raped. I couldn’t help but think, “What would I do if that was my daughter?” I would go to the ends of the earth to make sure she got the best care and support possible. I know that this is the type of care that Hagar seeks to provide. These girls are the reason we do what we do.

APLE (Action Pour Les Enfants)

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APLE is one of Hagar’s rescue partners. We are privileged to work with them. They have conducted investigations leading to the arrest of pedophiles. Several Hagar clients were abused by a foreign pedophile. Support from Hagar helped some of these children maintain their testimonies against this man, instead of changing them due to bribes. Solid testimonies mean jail time for pedophiles who would seek to abuse more children. We commend these boys for their courage and we’re thankful for a place like Hagar where they will be supported through the entire legal process.

Joma

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Joma Bakery Café is another business that provides training and jobs for Hagar clients. It’s an excellent place for a much needed coffee break.

Sue Hanna and Sue Taylor

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(Pictured: myself, Sue Hanna, and my daughter, Victoria)

Affectionately called, “The Sues” at Hagar, these women are the cornerstones of the counseling and recovery program. Sue Taylor (not pictured) works tirelessly at Hagar, but also travels to train counselors from many different countries in effective trauma therapy. Sue Hanna has poured countless hours into Hagar’s clients, and is now Hagar’s Leadership Development Advisor. Both women, at various times, have taken in Hagar children into their homes and will soon be attending the wedding of one of “their kids.”

Visit to a slum

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Sue Hanna took us to visit one of the slums in Phnom Penh. Several Hagar clients have come from slums like this one. It was sobering to see the poverty and sense of hopelessness. Drug use, alcoholism, sexual abuse, and gambling are rampant in these places.

So far, we have witnessed some of the toughest of human conditions. But we have also witnessed joy, hope, laughter, and celebration. We celebrate with a Hagar client who is finishing up his Bachelor’s degree and has plans to pursue a Master’s. We celebrate the high fives and laughter of children in a soccer game. We celebrate the stable jobs that clients have found at Hagar Catering and Joma Cafe. We celebrate healing and second chances.

Thank you for being part of this.

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Day 3 in Phnom Penh – An Invitation

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To Hagar USA Supporters,

A big thank you for following our blog and updates. We appreciate you and your commitment to support us. Here in Cambodia, we have become convinced that Hagar’s mantra, “We do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to restore a broken life”, is much more than a motto. Hagar has a local reputation of taking the toughest cases. In other words, when one of Hagar’s rescue partners recovers women and children, they refer to Hagar’s care the individuals who have experienced the most severe trauma and require the most care. We are so proud to support an organization that boldly and confidently responds to the most difficult cases of trauma and abuse.

Yesterday was an early start, as we traveled to Hagar’s Catch Up Learning Center. The learning center offers Hagar children an opportunity to complete 2 years of schooling in 1 year, so that they can return to their proper grade level. Some children have been able to jump 6 grade levels in 3 years.

During our time at the school, we were able to shoot some footage which will appear in a thank you video to our supporters. Keep an eye out for this video in the near future! We could not continue this work among Cambodia’s most vulnerable without you and we are deeply grateful.

Yesterday afternoon, I continued to meet with Hagar International and Hagar Cambodia staff. I am continually amazed at the level of dedication, passion, and commitment that these individuals possess. It has been a privilege to work with them.

Thank you again for your support. We have begun to refer to ourselves as Team Hagar USA. As members of this team, we have chosen to stand as Ambassadors for Abolition. We want to be part of a generation that says, “Enough is enough. Not on our watch.” We take a bold stand against modern day slavery and severe human rights abuse. We work to defend the rights of the helpless and vulnerable. We will speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. We will work to restore to wholeness those who have already experienced these atrocities. This work is a team effort that will require passion, courage, innovation, creativity, and resources. We invite you to stand with us. We invite you to be an Ambassador for Abolition.

Good Evening from Phnom Penh

Good evening from Phnom Penh! Although it is probably mid morning for all of our US supporters.

We arrived safely in Phnom Penh yesterday morning and spent most of the day recovering from a bit of jet lag. Last evening, we were able to connect with several Hagar Australia staff members.

Today has been an encouraging day here in Cambodia. We have had a full day meeting with Hagar International staff. Getting to know these individuals has been an absolute delight. We have found them to be an incredibly hardworking, passionate, dedicated group of people.

We had the chance to sit down with many of the staff members and discuss the journey that led each of them to Hagar. It was incredible to hear about the varying circumstances that led each staff member to be part of Hagar International.

Despite the differing journeys, their purpose is one. They are deeply committed to the restoration of women and children who have experienced some of the worst human rights abuses possible. They are tenacious and hopeful, believing that any  life can return to wholeness.

Listening to their stories and learning more about the Hagar programs has only served to intensify our passion and strengthen our resolve to do our part.

Ray’s Reflections

When did we see Him…?

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40.

Life took a dramatic turn for me after spending a substantial season of my vocational life in education working with children. I had many opportunities to travel with students to different countries, serving the needs of the poor, orphaned, and widowed. But something began to stir deeply within my soul that took time for me to fully understand.

Simply put, the growing realization of my mortality, the beauty and brevity of life, and the desire to make my days count began to overtake other transient ambitions. This time of searching and solitude led to a new declaration, “Lord, I want to give the most of me to the least of these!”

So after two months as CEO of Hagar USA, working on establishing our new headquarters in Charlotte, NC, I am heading to Cambodia and Vietnam to spend time with those on the front lines of The Whole Journey. I look forward to celebrating courageous survivors and the dedicated people who are deeply committed to “doing whatever it takes for as long as it takes to restore a broken life!”

Please join me on the journey.

Dr. Ray Casey