Yeng (left) and a couple of the Chab Dai staff
Following that I was off to the bank to finally pick up my local ATM card. It takes about 20 minutes to get a phone set up but 2 weeks to get an ATM card. So now I have a local bank account, a local ATM card and for those who are planning any trips to Cambodia, our Canadian ATM cards also work here. I hear you will be charged $3.00 per transaction and the challenge is to take out a lump sum so you don't pay alot of service charges. I haven't tested this out as yet as personally I hate paying service charges. Of course having worked for several banks over the past 16 years, I didn't have to pay any service fees so I am trying to avoid that as much as I can! ;-) But even if your Canadian bank allows you to withdraw large sums, the local ATMs limit the amount you can withdraw so this is just another one of those things that one has to navigate when they move to a new place. If anything, it encourages you to spend less which is probably a good thing!
Tonight I went for my second visit at the Agape Home. This is a spinoff of the Newsong centre (the long term rehabilitation centre that Ratanak has funded since 2006)and is a transitional home run by our partners at AIM for 9 girls ranging in age from 16 to 20 years old. The girls all used to live together at Newsong and as part of their transition into independent living, they have moved into Agape Home with their house mum from Newsong. All the girls work at Bloom in different capacities and they are each discovering the challenges of independent living as they have a curfew to be at home by 8:30pm during the week days. There is a schedule for cooking and cleaning as they take turns helping the house mum with these domestic duties. They all have boyfriends and like typical teenagers, they like to challenge the curfew times and just like teenagers in North America, they are constantly texting their friends or talking incessantly on their cell phones.
Sisarat with the house mum's grandchild called Bebe
Tonight Sisarat, the assistant director at Newsong was suppose to teach the girls a lesson about the danger of drugs and alcohol. But the girls managed to persuade her to postpone it for another night as they already had 2 hours of life skills training at the Bloom centre earlier today and were complaining they were mentally tired. So while no 'official training' occurred tonight, that did not stop Sisarat from discussing some issues with them. As they sat on the floor lined up against one of the walls, she was talking to them about treating people with respect and about being careful with their words since some of them have a tendency to swear. One minute they are like angels and the next, they are a totally different person. Despite their erratic behavior, it is clear that they know they are loved by Sisarat. She commands a great deal of respect from them and while she jokes with them, she challenges them with questions that they are asked to reflect on regarding their behavior. After this time of group sharing and venting, we held hands together and spent time in prayer.
In the weeks to come, I will continue to spend more time with Sisarat and the girls at Agape Home to get a better understanding of the issues they are dealing with as they adjust to a whole new living environment. As I think of the new found freedom that these young women have, I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:23 'Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.' Trying to encourage young women how to be responsible adults with new freedoms is not easy. Their teenage hormones are raging, they want to stay out late, they are earning money and are having to learn how to budget and save in the midst of parental pressures and obligations that require them to support their families---some of whom were responsible for selling them in the first place. These are just a small snippet of some of the challenges they face. Pray for the Lord to bless them with wisdom and discernment as they explore their freedom. Pray that He will help them to make wise choices daily and that the mind of Christ will be upon them so that they will know what is beneficial, what is true and what is appropriate for the challenges they encounter.