As mentioned in previous posts about my time in Cambodia last year, I had the chance to see some really great projects in action. One such project is Daughters, a project for young women located just outside of Phnom Penh and run by the Center for Global Impact. They are doing some great things in providing training and opportunity for work and personal growth for women who may not otherwise have the opportunity. Here is what the CGI website has to say about the project:
CGIDaughters is a division of Center For Global Impact, a U.S. faith-based relief and development organization. It is a two-year residential program. We offer life-skills training, education, health care, money management and professional seamstress training all through the lens of Jesus Christ. Our product line is handmade with fair-trade principles.
I had a great time visiting the project on a few different days. My friends are involved in it on many levels, so I was able to experience the project in a variety of ways. From running errands for fabric and picking up labels for purses to playing a role in English classes and seeing my friend, Katy, lead them in Bible study. I also saw them meet their goal of making 100 clutch purses to receive a reward of Dairy Queen ice cream. It was great motivation for them! CGI is doing some great things to help women succeed in Cambodia!
When I was in Cambodia this past summer, I was able to visit the workshop of byTavi outside Phnom Penh. It was really fun for me to be there and to meet Tavi, since I had attended a trunk show of byTavi products and have since worn an ID card holder made by one of these women everyday at work. Rather than putting it in my own words, I’ll share the Center for Global Impact‘s description of this successful project:
A faith-based micro-enterprise initiative of Center for Global Impact (CGI), byTavi teaches at-risk, impoverished women how to sew handbags and other accessories. Employed by CGI, the women receive fair wages while their products are marketed internationally.
Through this program these women have grown in confidence and joy as they provide for their families in a healthy way. In addition to learning marketable skills, these women are also surrounded by the love of Christ through CGI’s trusted Cambodian Management Team and other international partners.
Founded in 2009 by CGI’s president Chris Alexander and a meek woman by the name of Tavi, this program provides a unique opportunity to empower the poor and prevent human trafficking.
Please click over to the above links to learn more about what Center for Global Impact is doing in Cambodia to help women succeed. Here are some photos from the byTavi workshop. Enjoy!
As promised, this is the last post about the negative things I saw in Cambodia, with many beautiful and hopeful posts coming soon about all the great things happening there. 🙂
As I’ve mentioned before (click here to see previous posts), I was a bit surprised to find that Cambodia wasn’t as much like Thailand as I’d expected it to be. There are a lot of similarities, but I didn’t expect Cambodia to be as underdeveloped as it appeared to me. After learning about the effects of the Khmer Rouge’s rule on the country in the 70’s, it made more sense to me. Cambodia has had a lot to overcome.
Below are some photos of some living conditions I was able to see in Phnom Penh. It is known that some young women from this neighborhood have been sold into prostitution to help earn money for their family. I was able to see some organizations that are working with people from this exact neighborhood, so that was encouraging. I’ll be posting about that organization soon. This web page explains Cambodia’s poverty situation in an understandable way (over 30% of Cambodians live below the poverty line). The rural areas are even more affected by poverty as their traditional agricultural methods that don’t produce for quick profit.
Another sad part of Cambodia’s story is its high rate of human trafficking. Last fall, my friend led a book study on the book Not For Sale by David Batstone. This book is very eye-opening to the problem of present-day human slavery all over the world. The projects I visited, associated with the Center for Global Impact, and many others are working to fight against this problem. Specifically in Cambodia, there is a problem with children being sold into prostitution. Of Cambodia’s 15,000 prostitutes, 35% are under the age of 16 (click here for the source of this statistic and more information). Here are some of the sights I saw that opened my eyes to this heart-breaking problem.
So, poverty and young women being sold into prostitution… sorry about the downer post. However, there’s good news! Organizations like Center for Global Impact, Hagar International, International Justice Mission, and many others are working to both help prevent and rescue women from this modern day slavery. Just last night I heard an amazing woman, Somaly Mam, speak here in Indianapolis about her own experience of being sold in Cambodia’s sex trade as a little girl and now she’s helping save and assist in the recovery of thousands of girls. Learn more about her organization by clicking here or read her book, The Road of Lost Innocence. Stay tuned for more photos of beautiful Cambodia and the great things going on there.
Like ripping off a band-aid quickly, I’ve decided to post all of the sad stuff I saw in Cambodia in a row to get it out of the way. As I continue to share Cambodia through my lens (click here to see previous posts), I do think it’s important to learn from history and not just brush over atrocities such as this. I wanted to get a full look at what makes Cambodia the place it is and this is part of it. Just a couple more posts of the bad and then I’ll post all the great, hopeful, beautiful things I saw. So please stay-tuned! The best is yet to come. 🙂
When I arrived in Cambodia, I was expecting it to be pretty similar to Thailand (where I spent the summer of 2003). I was surprised to find that Cambodia seemed less developed than Thailand overall. After learning more about the effect of the Khmer Rouge’s rule in the 70’s, it made a lot more sense. When almost a quarter of a country’s population gets wiped out in four year period, it’s no wonder that it’s taking a while to get back on their feet.
When in Phnom Penh, my friends were gracious enough to accompany me on a very tough day visiting the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and The Killing Fields outside the city. This post documents what I saw at the S-21 Prison, now called the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Please know that some of the descriptions and photos below could be considered graphic and are very sad.
I am no expert on the Khmer Rouge and I realize that I cannot explain everything about it in this little blog post, so please feel free to do some research on your own if you’d like more information. I read the book First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung and was given a heart-wrenching look into one girl’s experience living through the Khmer Rouge rule from 1975-1979. Netflix also has a documentary on this specific prison. Click here for Wikipedia’s information about the Khmer Rouge. Basically, the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, took over Cambodia to restructure it into a peasant-dominated agrarian cooperative. They had to get rid of much of the population to accomplish this goal. Much of my information about this comes from what I learned from the Lonely Planet Cambodia guidebook, by the way.
Tuol Sleng was Tuol Svay Prey High School until the Khmer Rouge took it over and turned it into a prison in 1975. From then until 1978, over 17,000 prisoners were taken through the school’s corridors before being taken to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek (which I will post about soon) where the majority of those prisoners were killed. Much like the Nazis, the leaders of the Khmer Rouge kept very detailed records of each prisoner who went through S21. The museum was full or photos of men, women, and children who were brought there. Virtually all of them were killed soon after.
I found Tuol Sleng to be a very disturbing and sad experience. It quickly brought to mind other stories of genocide that have occurred across the world and throughout history. The evil human beings are capable is almost inconceivable, yet there are evidences of it everywhere. It’s hard for me to know what more to say about that except that seeing things like this reminds me once again how much we need God and how thankful I am for His work in the world through Christ. As I said before, the positive stories are coming soon, so please stick around!
Until then, I’ll let these photos speak for themselves.
By far, the most heart-wrenching part of this visit was seeing all the photos of prisoners, men, women, children, and babies who came through those gates. Seeing the look in their eyes as they anticipated what to come led me to tears. I can’t imagine the horror they went through.
Just wanted to post quickly and let you know I made it safely back to Indy yesterday evening after 30 straight hours of travel from Singapore. I’ve never been so excited to sleep in my own bed as I was last night!
Now I have some unpacking, photo-editing, and family visiting to do, but I will leave you with a sneak peek of what is to come…
I hope to post a review of my adventures through photos over the next couple months. My friends and cousin were amazing hosts and I saw some beautiful sights in Southeast Asia and while seeing some of the sad realities of what’s happened in Cambodia, I also saw some really encouraging things happening. Stop back on the blog if you can. Have a great week!
Hello again! I’m finally getting a chance to sit down at a computer and thought I’d send a reflection your way via this blog.
I continue to have a really great time seeing the good, the bad, the ugly, and the hopeful here in Cambodia. It’s been an slightly overwhelming time with so much to take in in the short week I’ve been here, but really great overall.
Instead of giving you the play by play on all I’ve seen and done, I’m just going to share some fun tidbits along with some other thoughts on my brief time here. Please note that I realize that I’ve only been here one week and I am a clueless American. Being someone who loves to experience new cultures and knowing that our culture is equally foreign and strange to those who visit it, I hope these comments do not offend anyone and the non-expert source will be considered while reading.
- Gas bottles are sold on the side of the road in old Coca Cola and other clear pop bottles, but they also have regular gas stations. I rode a moto up a mountain to a temple and cave and the guy had to stop for gas. He filled it up with a coke bottle of gas and we were on our way in about 10 seconds!
- They use US dollars here and their bills for small change (no coins). I’m a pretty big fan of not exchanging money and knowing how much things are.
- Walking around a foreign country with a pregnant friend has its advantages: when people stop, stare, and talk about us, I can just assume that they’re talking about the pregnant foreigner and not me. 🙂
- It’s REALLY hot and humid here
- People wear pajama sets as normal clothes here… and you can wear flipflops with everything. This is my kind of place!
- Angkor Wat is actually a temple complex of many temples built in the 12th century and covering tons of land. We explored three temples and barely scratched the surface.
- Khmer is not a tonal language (I thought it was since Thai is tonal. I was wrong).
- Siem Reap, Battambang, and Phnom Penh have many NGO projects that are helping provide livelihoods for Khmer people.
- It’s been a privelege to get to see some of those projects in action.
- The Green Mango Cafe & Bakery in Battambang not only helps train young women in culinary arts, but it also has really good food… I had the fried pickles everyday I was there.
- Today I went to the workshops of the Daughters’ Project and byTavi (www.bytavi.com), two sewing projects of the Center for Global Impact(www.centerforglobalimpact.org). It was so great to see the place where my ID holder and my mom’s purse was made (Buy their stuff, it’s great!).
- Seeing projects like this and seeing women learning about God’s word has been an experience that has left me encouraged and hopeful for further progress in this country.
- A cultural thing that people do here is to get their picture taken at these studios… basically Khmer glamour shots. Since it’s super cheap, I decided to jump in to said cultural experience. Let’s just say that fake hair, fake eyelashes, and a tiara were involved in this process. One of the funniest experiences I’ve had in a very long time.
- Tonight my friends had teachers from their Khmer language school over for dinner. I had a great time talking with three of the young women (in English) about teaching a language and their perspective on refugees as they asked me about the refugees at my school.
- When your main purpose in being in a country is to take pictures to document it, I’ve discovered that you end up without many pictures of yourself due to your big fancy camera being too big and fancy to give to other people for self pics. However, due to the climate’s effect on my outer appearance, I think that I’m ok with this fact. The Khmer glamour shot is the best I’ve looked all trip, so maybe that’s all I need to prove I was here. 🙂
- Have I mentioned that it’s REALLY hot and humid here?
If you made it through the list, thanks for allowing me to share a few pieces of my experience. Tomorrow is going to be a tough and heavy day as I visit the Killing Fields and S21 museum to learn about some of Cambodia’s darker Khmer Rouge history. Tough stuff that I’m not sure how to take in, but I’m thankful that it’s something people are willing to learn from today in hopes that history will not repeat itself.
Thanks again for reading. Until next time…