Fresh Start. What does it really mean, to have a “fresh start”? No one expects a life without pain or unexpected suffering. But what if that pain and suffering is thrust upon us, willful acts by others, purely for their gain…and utterly at our expense? Packing anger, hurt, guilt, pain, and resentment down, deep inside for years often forges incredible hardness and profound hopelessness. What chance is there for hope, what hope is there for change, and what change can bring restoration?
Change. Change is never easy, even when change means turning away from pain, because change often means moving toward the unknown, and perhaps a worse situation. When all one has heard and experienced for years are lies, to even recognize hope, sparked by a new promise, can be difficult. So, when women who have suffered abuse for years give hope a chance by entering the Ratanak Achievement Program (RAP), they have already “achieved”; they have taken the first and difficult step to embrace change.
Challenges. However, even when those trapped in exploitation and human trafficking make a decision to seek wholeness and restoration, heart-break can still await. Years of subjectation can still trap both mind and body. A long anticipated reunion with family, following years of separation and suffering, may only bring scorn if returning home means failure to have gained financial security for the whole family.
RAP. Understanding this, Ratanak International created RAP to be more than simply human effort or mere acts of kindness, as even the best of human intentions cannot heal what’s most deep inside, the human spirit. Instead, Ratanak staff love each woman deeply, as an expression and an extension of God’s love, and in recognition of her value as one who is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Through advocacy, counselling, and vocational training, each woman can regain her bearings as an independent, productive member in society, and where RAP ends with the practical and the tangible, God’s promise of full restoration continues the work of healing the spirit.
Partnership. In February of 2016, Ratanak International hosted an eMi team to come alongside, learn about Cambodia and Ratanak, gain an understanding of RAP, and design a facility that will help women in their journey through RAP. The facility is to embody an understanding of their circumstances, facilitate their physical needs, and provide spaces where healing and change will take place. Some of these spaces will be private and quiet for counselling and grieving while other spaces will nurture community and mutual support. All together, the facility will provide and embody dignity, privacy, and security.
The Facility. From absorbing the context that is post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia, visiting the current make-shift RAP facilities, listening to the leaders of RAP, and investigating various buildings under construction, the eMi team developed an understanding of the challenge and began to put pen to paper. As the facility took shape, the team integrated the characteristics of the property, accounted for privacy and security issues, and carefully arranged spaces for counselling, seminars and administration. Practical issues like making provision for back-up power generation, ensuring a fresh water supply, proper sanitation and storm water handling, and designing an efficient, economical building structure given localized conditions, were addressed.
Next Steps. With the Final Presentation completed and members of the Ratanak staff satisfied that all key needs have been addressed, the eMi team has now returned to their respective homes to work remotely but together through communication toward a final Project Report and set of design drawings. Coordination will include the construction manager who will manage local building authorities in Phnom Penh, prepare the property and construct the building. For their part, Ratanak has quickly begun its fundraising efforts to see this proposed building become a reality as soon as possible.
A Final Thought. The imminent challenge is both sad and wonderful; many internationally trafficked Cambodian women will return home in the coming days through repatriation agreements and RAP will be pushed to its limits. Though its need arises from crisis and the challenges are great, the opportunity for restored lives, to bring hope where it was essentially snuffed out, is exciting and a blessing.
Photos. A new set of annotated photos has been placed in my Flickr Photo Gallery with various options to view it. If you want to browse the set, click here.
Thank you to all who make this work possible through your encouragement, prayer and financial support; you have been a part of making this project, and the resulting touched lives, a reality.