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
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
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
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.
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
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)
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 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
(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
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.