Every time Dr. Hendrie travels back from Cambodia, we have a special briefing meeting for the Sharing Foundation volunteers and board members. We had that meeting over the weekend and Dr. Hendrie, had almost literally, just stepped off the plane.
The Sharing Foundation accomplishes so much! There's so much to write about .. so I'll be blogging about it over the next few weeks. I did want to report on how we're beginning to put the generous dollars you all contributed (matched by Yahoo) to work.
Dr. Hendrie passed around this photo of the 600 kids who now be able to attend school because they have school uniforms.
Violence against women and children (rape and sexual abuse, domestic violence, and sex trafficking) is a very serious problem in Cambodia. The Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC) is one of a number of NGOs in country addressing this problem (Stop Exploitation Now is another). The organization recently launched a new web site intended to promote their programs and help educate people about the serious violence issues, particularly sex trafficking, that are rampant in Cambodia. CWCC also works to advocate with the Cambodian Government for legal and structural reforms.
The CWCC was founded in 1997 by a small group of women concerned about the issue and the lack of services to care for victims. Since its openining a crisis center Phnom Penh, CWCC has expanded its services to include sheltering, counselling, medical assistance, literacy, vocational training, monitoring and reintegration of women who have been trafficked, training, community organizing, research, and much more.
Oung Chanthol, is the organization's executive director and co-founder. She was one of 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She shares why she help start the program which in its ten-year history has served over 50,000 female victims of violance, rape, and trafficking in its drop-in centers and shelters. "The suffering of women encourages us to work, to do more to help. We are human beings. We cannot ignore their situation.”
Born to an upper class Cambodian family, the young Chanthol dreamed of becoming a journalist. But without a journalism school in her country, she developed an interest in law. As a lawyer, she puts her journalistic skills to work. She visits the rural areas where she encounters all kinds of issues that she informs the media about.
With her social and educational background, Chanthol could have lived the good life of the rich and powerful in Cambodian society. However, the suffering of women victims of physical violence guided her towards co-founding CWCC in 1997. Within a week, they were overloaded with cases that needed urgent attention. “We intended to provide a shelter for about 20 women per day. In just one week, it was full. From word of mouth, hundreds of women came.” she notes.
Today, the Center offers a mix of research, advocacy, and direct services to victims. Its direct services fall into two key programs, Assisting Women in Crisis and Girls Access to Education. The organization also provides services and has done considerable research and education on the whole issue of sex trafficking. Though it is not known exactly how many people are trafficked each year from Cambodia, it is estimated to be in the tens of thousands according to PACT Cambodia.
Many victims come from poor rural areas in Cambodia where people are largely uneducated about the true intent of the traffickers. Women and girls are thent raded across land borders in Thailand, Malaysia, and Taiwan. According to the CWCC web site, once a child's virginity is sold for $500, she is traded on to a brothel as a virtual sex slave. Many victims are subsequently detained by the authorities in other countries and sent back to Cambodia. One of CWCC services is a reintegration program that helps women get back their former lives and is provided along with vocational skills training, medical treatment, counselling, and other support.
Recently, three different people sent along information about their blogs that chronicle their experience in country working on projects. I'd thought I'd pass this along to you for your enjoyment:
Kari Grossman, an adoptive parent, recently wrote me about the publication of her book, Bones that Float. Purchases of the book benefit the Grady Grossman School project she has been working on a few a years. She is just now concluding a trip in country and you can read about it at her blog.
I received an email from Jonathan Lacocque who is producing a documentary film in Cambodia called Year Zero. At the project blog, you can read abou the production is unfolding.