TEAM MEMBER: Linda Ruth
Hagar. A woman used. A woman controlled, with no say over her own body."Go, sleep with my maidservant," said imperious Sarah to Abraham; "perhaps I can build a family through her." Even her children were not to belong to her.
Hagar. A woman mistreated. A woman scorned. "Get rid of that slave-woman and her son," said Sarah to Abraham; "that slave-woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son."
Hagar. A woman not even addressed by name ... except by God. The angel of the Lord calls Hagar by name. Two different times, in her distress, the angel of God finds Hagar and calls her by name. And both times God not only sees her, comforts her and assists her, He also promises her that her descendants will be too numerous to count and will be a great nation.
Hagar. The name of an organization dedicated to caring for outcast women and children. It was our very great privilege to spend an entire day at Hagar Cambodia.
The Hagar motto is: "Whatever it takes for as long as it takes to restore a broken life." The Hagar committment is to take, nay, to WELCOME, the hard cases that other NGOs won't touch. The Hagar vision is lives restored from brokenness to wholeness: strength and resilience, independence, health, justice done, sustainable income, connection with God. The Hagar cheer is "We believe in the unbelievable."
The day we spent at Hagar was a day of inspiration and joy. We met a number of the local staff who shared with us the details of their responsibilities, their challenges, and theri stories of lives transformed.
Hagar operates four recovery shelters to house women, girls, boys and children who have suffered sexual abuse and exploitation, trafficking and domestic violence (a huge problem in Cambodia). It provides safety (the security was impressive), health care, confidentiality (there is much stigma in Cambodian society for those who have been abused), counselling, legal support to rectify the wrongs done to them and seek justice, love and acceptance, career path support for adults, and schooling for children. The children's schooling is intense, as it is "catch-up schooling." Many of the girls and boys at Hagar come from poor families and have had little to no schooling. Hagar's program allows them to cover two years of school in one.
Hagar's aim is to reintegrate its clients into the community. If returning to their family of origin is an option, Hagar facilitates this with investigating the family, helping the client and family re-establish contact, and helping with the transition. Where this is not an option (because, for instance, the child was sold by the family of origin), the client can be placed with a caring, loving foster family or, for Hagar clients who have attained the age of majority, in a group home.
The Hagar staff we met radiate the peace of Christ. Their love and compassion for their clients is plainly evident. Their competence and professionalism and dedication to excellence are unrivalled. We were privileged to hear story after story of Hagar clients whose lives had been restored - stolen land returned, predators prosecuted and in prison, medical care restoring function and healing, clients going on to study medicine, social work, theology ...
At the end of the day we were invited to play games or dance with the students. I went to the dance area and we learned some Cambodian steps. I was hopeless at it until one young girl took pity on me and patiently walked me through it, staying close to me to make sure I got it. One of our team members is a dance professional and the children were delighted with the moves she taught them. It was a time of fun, joy and laughter.