Saturday, November 19, 2011

RATANAK UK - The Final Chapter

The Final Chapter

The last night of the 2011 Ratanak vision trip has arrived and with it the final blog. Today we met with Adam from Prison Fellowship Cambodia (PFC) at the rehabilitation centre, the only one of its kind in Cambodia. Here Prison Fellowship carry significant influence which has developed over many years of hard work and determination. Success stories like the one from Correctional Centre 3, funded by Ratanak Canada, do not happen by accident. Here, with a prison population of 1500, over 900 have received Christ. The consequences are quite staggering which have not gone unnoticed by the authorities both in the prison itself and the wider circle. A full programme of vocational training, language classes, healthcare and rehabilitation programmes have changed the face of this prison. The governor insists that any prisoner who is to be promoted is a Christian; he himself has remained in post for a much longer time than usual due primarily to the changes seen.

This programme is now duplicated at Kampong Thom prison supported by Ratanak UK. Having only begun last year the impact of the work by the PFC team are already being noticed. This is a part of a programme to adopt a prison incorporating church partnerships both in Cambodia and outside. For just over $2 per month per inmate we have been able to provide the outlined services. For more information of what this entails and how to get involved in this please drop me an email.

This afternoon a funny thing happened. We dropped into the local market for some last minute shopping before heading for the mandatory chocolate brownie at CafĂ© Yejj! As I crossed the road I was followed by a small girl aged around 10 – she was in fact begging. I had no small change so, knowing it was my last time here, gave her $1 (this is actually a huge donation here). Time passed and a lady arrived with her young some also begging. Feeling a little obliged I again placed a dollar into an empty bowl whilst the same girl smiled at me from across the road. It was then I discovered this was a tag team of mother and daughter! I finished my coffee and saw across the road the little girl appear. She wandered across to the middle of the highway to show me a bag of fruit and snacks which she pointed out were bought with the dollar. As she walked back away she turned again, smiled and mouthed ‘thank you’ before waving and disappearing from view.

Statistics show that 70% of this country exists on less than $2 a day and 33% on less than 50 cents. Today I witnessed the reality of that where a mere dollar (65 pence) gave a child a meal she may never have had. I guess I tell you this to try to explain how far finances can stretch here and what a significant difference even the smallest donation can make whether it is educating a prisoner, feeding a child or providing refuge for a victim of sex trafficking.

I thought that the first trip 2 years ago was life changing and that this time it would be about building on relationships. Whilst that has definitely been the case – it has also been life changing. From being told you will never be forgotten by an 8 year old victim through the celebration that is Daughters shop to the child on the street being thankful for a meal, this trip has served to set my determination greater than ever to work for and alongside the people of Cambodia to effect changes that will last. I have seen Gods hand at work in very young children to a group of old ladies in a Ratanak funded night shelter. And – by no means least – I have spent time with some people who are beyond description. People who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice in so many ways to show the love of Jesus to the Khmer in deeds and words. I am greatly humbled by each of them and count it an absolute honour to be called their friend.

Thank you to everyone for following this journey and being patient with me through the tough times. I have had the support of a great team from Northern Ireland, Canada and Australia.

In closing I read a quote from Sydney J Harris – ‘Regrets for the things we did can be tempered by time: regrets for the things we did not do – that is inconsolable.’

To God be the glory.

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