Bloom and Daughters of Cambodia

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

 

A book list from Australia!

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Our “bestie” from Australia Diane Harvey compiled her top ten reading list for us! She wrote me a hand-written book review once, that completely floored me. Not only is she intelligent, but spot-on in her generous faith. She will be traveling to Cambodia with her church group in the next month, and promised to write all about it for us upon her return.

1) The Bible. I use the NIV version the most. You could call it my heart language. Whenever I hear different versions I am comparing it to the version that I know in my heart. There is so much that I love about it. I love all the golden threads linking this with that, sharpening and developing our understanding of things. I love how even though it is made up of different books, it is an integrated whole telling of how God loves and rules the world. I love that people can be saved by God through Jesus, and that this is not earned. It is a gift. I love that God is restoring all things and we have a glorious future hope in him with nothing broken – everything fixed forever –  thanks to the work of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection to life!

2) Seven by Jen Hatmaker. I love the way she calls out to us in the Decadent First World to get a grip of ourselves, reign in our over-consumption, and look out for people other than ourselves. I cheered heartily at her message.

3) Jesus and Muhammad by Mark A. Gabriel. This book was written by a man who was brought up a Muslim and trained in the Islamic faith. The beginning of the book is the first part of his biography, the end is the later part of his biography, and the middle is a side-by-side comparison between Jesus and Muhammad. It was fascinating and well worth a read.

4) Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. This is a fictitious tale inspired by the story of Hosea, which is itself an illustration of God’s loving-kindness despite the unfaithfulness of his people.

5) Hearing Her Voice: A Case for Women Giving Sermons by John Dickson.  Dickson is really clear and focused on his task to understand, “What does the word ‘teach’ refer to when it says in Timothy, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” The topic is controversial, his conclusions are unpopular in his circle but his research is skilful and convincing. If you read any books by John Dickson I guarantee you will not be wasting your time.

6) Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Timothy Keller. The title says it all.

7) The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. This book has injustice as one of its main themes and follows the hero PK who encounters racial injustice as a child and who fights against it as he grows.

8) Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley. Who knew cleaning the kitchen sink was so important? Cilley tries to encourage you to get good habits to clean your house and I appreciate that about her. I am, however, still a work in progress!

9) The Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis. I know this is a series and I’m cheating but they were a childhood favourite and an encouragement to me still.

10) The No.1. Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. Another series and I’m cheating again but, delightful!

Special mention and not on my official list because I haven’t read it yet but I keep meaning to:

A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and his Prayers by D.A. Carson.

dianepicWhich of Diane’s picks have you read? What are your favorites? We love suggestions! 

I Love Your Voice Series

yellow heartMeet Diane Harvey

Her Family: Married with two young children and a black Labrador-cross called Lucy

Location in the World: Perth, Australia (That’s the capital city in the state of Western Australia)

Three favorites: Wow, it’s so hard to think of only three but I’ll get deep and say Love, Clean Water and Hope

DSC00094What is your calling? To learn about Jesus, to teach about Jesus, and to follow Jesus.

How has God has worked through you that has become a part of your redemption story? Slowly, slowly, bit by bit, God has been giving me jobs to do. When I first left theological college I was like an exuberant puppy, straining at the lead, eager to do something, while at the same time feeling inexperienced and insecure. But over the last few years I have found it really encouraging and humbling to be given positions of responsibility. It fills me with joy!

How do you place yourself in the proximity of renewal that gets your heart beating faster? Knowledge is good, and information is good, but it’s what you do with it that counts. I want to have a practical faith: one that hears and understands, and then acts. We all know that faith without deeds is dead. What good is it to me if I agree with all the teachings of Jesus, and then not do anything about it? I don’t want to be just a bobble-headed Christian, nodding in agreement on a Sunday morning.  My desire and heartfelt wish is that I live out my life of faith by actions and not be content with mere mental assent. Unfortunately, my ‘self’ gets in the way. Ignorance and Apathy always fight with me and I regularly let them win, to my shame.  I’m a Pharisee daily. Thankfully – and praise be to God – there is forgiveness, mercy and grace as I keep starting and keep trying.

Knowing my failings, I am so grateful to have an encouraging team around me. We call ourselves the “Social Justice Group”. It’s not a very creative title, but it gives you an idea about what we’re all about. Our mission statement is, “We exist to inspire in our pursuit of following Christ’s command to show love and justice to others.” Jesus’ instruction following the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) is a challenge to me personally:

Jesus asked, Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

We’re involved in a few different things but our main focus for the next three years will be our adoption of the “Peace Bridges” project in Cambodia, in partnership with Baptist World Aid Australia.

Kim Vanden Hengel writes: Cambodians have suffered immensely during decades of war and internal conflict. Many have witnessed terrible acts of violence and suffered significant personal trauma. Over many years, oppressive regimes have crushed any who spoke out against injustice. All this has impacted significantly on the Cambodian people and their ability to deal with conflict. Sadly, violence as a response to difficult situations has become common and accepted, both in the home and in the community. Fear and mistrust have left people feeling powerless to change their circumstances. They are struggling to rebuild families and communities of trust, love and acceptance. With limited access to services, those who struggle most with these issues are often the poor.

Peace Bridges works by providing long-term training to key people, called Peace Builders. Peace Builders work at the grassroots with people in their community, be it their own family unit, a church or an organisation. Peace Builders use their training to help others to deal appropriately with conflict, and ultimately to bring about change for the whole community.

Many Cambodians were killed during the years of strife. Some of those who are parents today grew up without parents themselves, and often have little experience of healthy family life. Domestic violence is very common. Some Peace Builders will be selected for further training in more complex issues, sharing their skills with people living with violence in the home.

Through word of mouth, Peace Builders impart their learning to others in their community to bring about widespread change. Peace Bridges provide support and training on a regular basis to help with this process.

We are planning a trip to Cambodia this year to look at this project, so hopefully I will be able to tell you all about it later in the year!

Thanks for encouraging us Diane! We will love to hear all about your trip. 

i love your voice series

Trade of Innocents

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A big welcome to our guest writer, Diane Harvey. She’s a super woman at placing herself in the proximity of renewal. She’s also our steady friend from Australia full of insight and encouragement. 

I saw the movie, Trade of Innocents last night, starring Dermot Mulroney and Mira Sorvino, which focuses on the worldwide problem of human trafficking. It was powerful and distressing just like I thought it would be. It was a thriller. I felt my heart beating in some places, and spent most of the time with my hands gripping my tissue packet.

The movie is set in one community in South East Asia. The American husband and wife were played by Dermot Mulroney and Mira Sorvino. He was a detective and they were both trying to come to terms with the kidnapping and loss of their own young daughter in an idyllic American suburb.

There was resistance to the investigative operation. The police chief argued that the problem was too big to fix and that they were only after one man, that it was better to agree with the community who see and remain silent. We later found out that he was being paid off and was himself part of the problem as he was gaining financially by tipping the trafficker onto raids and turning a blind eye.

The disturbing trade is highlighted in the interaction between the American tourist, who appeared to be a married businessman and family man, but who wanted to use really young girls, and the brutal trafficker who agreed to supply ‘freshly picked flowers’ for him through kidnapping.

We got a glimpse into the lives of  the women and girls who were already captive, in one scene we saw one lady physically, verbally and emotionally abused by the trafficker who later died of her injuries. The dialogue transitioned to unsubtitled Thai in this scene, which added to the viewer’s feeling of powerlessness, horror and fright.

In the quiet moments we were taken with the sweet American lady (Sorvino) who shared about her story of loss, and helped escaped victims tell their story and begin to heal as they woke up each day in a safe environment. When she began her work, they were wary of her. A local had said to her, “they don’t trust Americans. They come, take their photos and leave nothing (good) behind.”

I have been thinking about this topic for a while so I wasn’t being presented with this grimy reality for the first time. The thing that did shock me was the reference to the practice of sewing girls back up to make them appear as virgins. I knew that women sometimes do this before marriage in some cultures to appear virginal, but it didn’t occur to me that this was being done as part of this evil trade.

At the end of the movie we had various non-profit partners speak to us about what they do in prevention, rescue and rehabilitation and heard some stories of hope. We were encouraged to pray about what part we could play and encouraged that we can act both individually and corporately to fight this trade (which is larger than the arms trade and the drug trade). I signed a petition for our country to have a minister for human trafficking, gathered some brochures, a fridge magnet on a “Walk for Freedom” fundraiser and left with the determination to fight this evil trade.

Will you join with me in my fight to abolish modern day slavery?

The Film Website and trailer

Resource Website

Facebook  and Twitter 

diane profile

Diane Harvey resides in Perth, Australia.  She is 36, has been happily married for 6 years, and has two beautiful children. She has studied education and theology. Currently, she is on maternity leave and serving in her church in the areas of women’s discipleship and social justice.

Building your Social Conscience

(Photo Credit: Vineyard Community Church)

One of the positive things about social media is the connections you can make. I want you to meet my Pinterest friend from across the globe, in Australia. I gather much inspiration and encouragement from Diane Harvey’s pin boards. I wondered what inspired her to create boards to cultivate her social conscience. Check out her boards on Pinterest. Whatever you love; photography, fashion, food, or education, community can be built through like-minded friendships, that makes me happy! 

A Guest Post By Diane Harvey. 

There are a lot of details that I could tell you but I guess the first and most important of all is that I have my faith in a great, big God.

My first exposure to Pinterest was when I was sitting checking my Facebook one day. As I scrolled through the news feed, I saw that one of my friends had stuck a pin on her virtual pin board, effectively advertising that she had one and the sorts of things she ‘liked’ and ‘pinned’. It was just a picture of a lipstick covered mouth. I didn’t think much of the picture, and didn’t think much more of Pinterest.

A little while later, an email arrived for me from Kiva. I really admire the work that they do in the realm of providing loans for people to alleviate poverty. (If you haven’t heard of them – do yourself a favour and check them out!) Anyway – Kiva was advertising that they had just set up a Pinterest account, and because I am a fan, I wanted to set up my own Pinterest account, purely to check them out! As I was establishing my account, I must have made a decision to create a board for social justice. It meant that I had to reject the board names that were ‘pre-made’ – things like fashion and food and make my own.

What were my goals in doing this?

Well, I think I did it primarily for myself, to keep myself in check that I was pursuing good things, that I was steering my life and interests in a direction that was helpful for others. There are other goals too though: to encourage like-minded people to practice the faith that they have, to live it out. I also have a hope that people who don’t share my faith will see my board and that it will have a positive impact on them: perhaps in thinking about doing good to others, not being ‘turned-off’ by faith in Jesus, but hopefully being drawn to him in the hope of putting their trust in him and following him. There are loved ones that I think of as I created my board, and as I continue to create my board.

I want to keep two things in tension: the Knowing (teaching and learning about God, meeting with other believers) and the Doing (loving others and ‘cultivating my social conscience’). I passionately believe that you can’t – and shouldn’t – separate these two things but that they are inextricably linked.

What have I learned from gathering my pins?

I’ve learned that I’ve still got a long way to go, that many of the things that I pin are good ideas which I am still trying to put into practice! It highlights areas that I could improve in, and gives me ideas of things I can get involved with. I’m not discouraged about everything I’m ‘not doing,’ but it keeps certain issues at the front of my mind, rather than pushed to the back, which I find is really helpful in this busy age.

How do I enfold those images into my life?

Well, I think that they help me to be ‘primed and ready for action’ when things come my way. I am more likely to join, or sign, or help or give, or whatever. This is in line with Lisa’s goal: the more we place ourselves in proximity to ways to serve, the easier it is to enfold it into our lives.

Diane Harvey resides in Perth, Australia.  She is 36, has been happily married for 6 years, and has two beautiful children. She has studied education and theology. Currently, she is on maternity leave and serving in her church in the areas of women’s discipleship and social justice.