Bloom and Daughters of Cambodia

Bloom1

By: Diane Harvey, our fearless justice leader from Perth Australia

It’s amazing what word-of-mouth can do. We were only supposed to be checking out two projects, but when my friend Lynda found out we were in Cambodia she said I had to check out Bloom. My new friend Trish was on the trip with me and she was told by another lady at church about the work of Daughters. We set out to squeeze them both in if we could.

Bloom2

“Bloom is a cake art gallery and not-for-profit organisation that empowers and skills Cambodian women while providing you with a chic oasis in the city.” They have a high quality vocational training program AND the cakes are beautiful and yummy! Double yay!! The Cambodian website is here. There is not much publicity on there about the work that they do but further information about Bloom can be found at here. I suspect that they are guarded about publicizing their work to protect the women, and to let the work speak for itself.

bloom3

The second place we went to visit was called Daughters. Its mission is a lot more explicit. “Daughters of Cambodia is a faith-based non-Government organization reaching out to victims of sex-trafficking and sex-exploitation in Cambodia. We work to eradicate enslavement in the sex industry by offering to those trapped in it, opportunities to walk free and start a new life.”

We took a tuk tuk to the Visitor Centre in Phnom Penh which enables the public to learn about Daughters and support their work. I was able to browse in the craft store (sorry I don’t have pics!), enjoy deep fried cookie dough and a “Snickers” thickshake in the cafe, and get a head/face/shoulder massage in the spa. Three shops in one location! The work they are doing is explained everywhere you turn: in artwork on the walls, on the back of the products, and in a dvd looped in the mezzanine. You can check out their website at here. It’s pretty fascinating!

We all care about the exploitation of women. I am thankful for the work these businesses are doing, but I think it is genius the way they make it accessible for an affluent white westerner like myself to come alongside, engage and find out further ways to support.

Bloom4

All of the pictures are from Bloom except the picture of me holding up an ice coffee. That was a regular cupcake place that I dragged everyone along to, knowing that Bloom sold cupcakes. I had spied it from our river cruise, thinking that this was surely it – before I took the time to find out the actual name and address of Bloom!

Peace Bridges

PB1

By: Diane Harvey, our fearless justice leader from Perth, Australia

Peace Bridges are also a Cambodian Christian NGO. This is the project that we have been supporting in our church. This is the one that people back home will want all the detail about.

After decades of war and conflict, violence as a response to difficult situations has become common and accepted in Cambodia.

Do you know anything of the Pol Pot regime? 1975-1979. Millions murdered. Nothing about Cambodia will make sense if you don’t know something of the loss and the trauma of these and subsequent years.

PB2One of the first things we did was to go to the Killing Fields. I call it the Killing Fields Memorial because in reality the whole country was covered with Killing Fields. You can see one of my photos. A tree where innocent children were smashed to death. This is one of many horrifying monuments. The red that you see are bracelets of visitors leaving a remembrance.

From there we went to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21). A former school, it was institutional grey, and another place of imprisonment, torture and death. Records meticulously kept by the regime. Photographs. Face after face of prisoners. Room after room. Young. Old. Male. Female.

2014-10-04 15.14.48Peace Bridges is working to train ‘Peace Builders’ to overcome the effects of their turbulent past and bring peace to Cambodia.  Peace Bridges works by providing long-term training to key people. Peace Builders work at the grassroots level with people in their community, be it their own family unit, or an organisation.

I was able to observe some training taking place, and got to interview many of the trainee Peace Builders. I spoke to a Buddhist monk, a prison guard and a Christian pastor. We heard stories from the CEO,  and then from some who had completed the training and were implementing it in their sphere of influence. We listened to someone from Prison Fellowship Cambodia, and some Bible college principals. All of the stories had the same theme: the training had helped them personally, and then they were able to teach others the skills they needed for non-violent conflict resolution.

PB4I was really encouraged to see Peace Bridges as a unifying force among the Cambodian Christian Community. I also learned the importance of good governance in a country where corruption is so prevalent and tempting. I was surprised that they welcomed and appreciated the scrutiny about such by members of the team.

I’m really happy to continue to support this project. They are doing an incredible work!

 

Light of Hope

PNKS1

By: Diane Harvey, our fearless justice leader from Perth, Australia

I had the opportunity to go to Cambodia in a team of six from Perth, Australia. We went to visit two projects, which are supported by Baptist World Aid Australia. Lisa has allowed me to write three posts for you. This one will be about PNKS, the second will be about Peace Bridges and the last one will be about two other organisations doing great work that I found while I was there.

I really didn’t know what we were going into. This was my first trip to a third-world country. I shouldn’t have worried. My team leader and the partner organisations did a great job of planning the itinerary and showing us around.

It was called an “Exposure Tour”. We weren’t there to do anything as such, just to observe, listen, learn and ask questions. It wasn’t all hard work either. We did some sightseeing on tuk-tuks, took a ton of photos and were able to Skype the kids at home every night from the Wi-Fi in our comfortable hotel room.

PNKS2The first organisation we visited was called PNKS (light of hope). They are a Cambodian Christian NGO working in community building, agriculture and livelihoods training and health. We were out in the rural areas, guests to their community meetings and got to observe some things that PNKS have introduced to help build the communities.

Climate change is a big issue in these communities. Rainfall used to be predictable and the rice harvest as a result used to be predictable, but now late rains could mean poor crops. PNKS is working with the locals to teach/share farming practices, skills and techniques, work towards diversification of crops, so families might plant vegetables and have a fish pond as well as just the rice field.

Communities were also taught in monthly meetings about various topics such as health care, civil rights, domestic violence, and other things. The communities also had the opportunity to have a shared savings account, which had lower interest than what was offered by the microfinance institutions. We heard one example of this being used when the community needed funds for a funeral.

PNKS4You’ll see in two of my photos that there is plastic sheeting and plastic bottles being used in agriculture. This is to avoid evaporation during the drought. The locals have to endure both droughts and floods in a year and often lose everything they have gained during the drought. We heard that there isn’t enough water for their animals to survive the drought. Fish, however can be kept in plastic bags.

I really loved visiting the rural communities and having the chance to talk to some people who were happy to show us the improvements that PNKS had brought to their communities. In one community meeting I asked what was their greatest need, and they said that they needed consistent rain for the remainder of October for their rice crops. You can imagine our collective joy when it started to pour down!

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This photo is of me talking to the community ladies. I am wearing a blue blouse and the translator is on my left.

The other photo is of the savings group. If you would like more information on PNKS, there is a good article here.

 

He gave you the goods

breathe(Kristine, me, Amelia, Amy)

This weekend I attended Breathe Christian Writers Conference in Grand Rapids.

My dear Amy Sullivan (newly published!) trekked all the way from North Carolina. I met the talented Amelia Rhodes (the mastermind behind Praying A-Z) in person finally! I also met a writer that I have followed for a long time Chad Allen in person. He is truly just as encouraging and genuine in real life. I grew to know other talented women from the area like Melanie, Kristine, Catie and Jenna. I love that in a crowded and enormously competitive field, I have only met generous and encouraging people.

Amy stayed up until 1 am with me, getting me on track and brainstorming. God is so good to give us special friends to journey with us in our lives. I think He knew I would need someone to kick my butt, but love me all the same. Also nachos can come with waffle fries instead of chips?! Who knew.

 

The key note speaker was Julie Cantrell. I can’t wait to read her books. She has a beautiful story of faith despite enormous loss. She could not be humbler (hello, New York Times Bestselling Author.) Check her out.

 

This is what I want to share with you. Whenever I go anywhere or do anything, I feel so inadequate… like I so do not belong at a writing conference. Why in the world are these people friends with me? I am the worst. I have imaginary conversations constantly.

 

Another presenter Tracy Groot shared this:

God is the ultimate gift giver. 

The gifts God gave you are not broken. 

The anti-thesus of creation (satan) wants us to believe we drive a gutted car. 

 

I waste way too much time buying into this lie. I think I have some major stock in it.

 

So, this day I want to extend this encouragement. He gave you the goods. Beautiful, unique, utterly you gifts. He poured them out with generosity like no other. Own them, they are yours and yours alone to live out for him.

I think that covers our ordinary days with a layer of joy and bright and purpose, for that I am thankful. I am thankful for all of you and the way you reflect that gift giver.

What lie do you buy into? What are your gifts? Share what you do best! 

 

listen

listen

Listening at the Margins.

I love this article from Do Justice.

Our best service comes when we listen.

A number of CRC agencies have come together to listen to stories from people who are marginalized in various ways, whether because they are disabled, Native American, refugees, undocumented immigrants, survivors of domestic violence, etc.

Sign up here, to receive an email story each day in November that positions us to listen.

Once a week over at Amelia Rhodes online home, you can follow her Pray A-Z Community Prayer Guide series. She’s getting practical by offering stories and prayer for needs in our communities.

I’m excited to be in proximity and to kneel.

How do you truly listen? 

burning warm for the hours

burning warm

At church there were moments that the sun peeked through the stained glass window, beautiful on a gray weekend. Last weekend we were at eighty and beside Lake Michigan, this weekend the temperature was forty. The weather moves like that here. The sun shone so brightly through the top amber panes, I almost needed to shield my eyes.

In a pew Bible I found a slip of paper. Psalm 23 was written in neatly in childlike form.

thermynaThe Lord is my Shepard, I shall lack nothing. he makes me lie down in Green pastures, he lead me beside quiet waters he restores my soul. he guides me in paths. no lo thermyna. :(

not thermyna.

 

Sometimes, I don’t feel as though I deserve those words either.

Like when I hesitated to turn left on a blinking yellow and the SUV behind me laid on the horn. In horror, I watched my right middle finger fly off my hand squarely to the rearview mirror. And afterwards… I realize yes, I really did that with my kids in the backseat.

Or the tantrum on Sunday afternoon about the burnt rice that resulted in an apology to all three of the other people in my family.

 

Only I do deserve Him.

So does Thermyna.

 

God’s brilliance is like the sun shining through that amber glass. It burns warm, simply because he loves us. He knows we are never going to be so bright on our own.

I am in the hallway at my job. A friend stops even though she is pushing a baby stroller, and she puts her hand on my shoulder. ‘I’m praying for you today.’ I want to say, oh, everything is fine. In reality, that day it is not. She knew somehow. Her voice was the warm love I needed for the hours.

I need.

Thermyna needs.

We all need that burning warm. Love. Forgiveness. We are messy, messy people.

 

This week I will think of the amber colored stained glass,

burning warm in sunlight,

covering.

 

and also I will pray to remember to be that burning warm to others.

like Thermyna, a child… longing for the comfort of Psalm 23.

There a million and a hundred thousand trillion of her in this world, in need for the hours.

 

When have you felt that burning warm of God’s love? Who can you offer hope for the hours?