Thursday, April 11, 2013

Khmer New Year

This coming weekend Khmer New Year begins (April 13th to April 17th)  and here in Phnom Penh, people have started to vacate the city for the provinces as many Khmer head home to their provinces to spend time with their extended families and relatives for the next week. Leading up to this weekend, there have been sales at the local stores as the Khmer are busy shopping to take gifts home to their family. In some ways, this is equivalent to our western Christmas holidays as the events leading up to such dates usually entail a lot of shopping.
RAP Social worker meeting with the local authorities and government authorities  at the family home of one of the RAP young women

For our young women at the RAP home and our staff, it has been a busy time. This past week, different young women depart to the province with our staff acting as chaperones to escort them to their family homes---in many ways that's the easiest part. The more challenging aspects of preparing the young women to spend time with their family began a couple months ago as our staff went to each of the home provinces of the young women to do family assessments to determine if it was safe for the young women to go home during this Khmer New Year. In some situations if the parents or relatives have been complicit in the sale of the young women, then it is clear that it is not safe for them to stay for an extended period during this holiday season. In other situations, their perpetrators are still living in the community and so once again that is taken into consideration. These family assessments are done by our Case Management Team (Social workers)  and involves quite a bit of paper work as we are required  to meet with the local authorities and a government agency in each province so that they are aware that Ratanak is now the organization responsible for caring for these young women. As well, these meetings allow the government authorities in those provinces to advise us on the family situation. This week, as some of our young women head home to the their provinces, we once again meet up with the local authorities to sign certain documents which highlight that during this holiday time, it is the local authorities responsibility to ensure the safety of the young woman.

While most of our young women are off visiting their families, we have three who will not be able to spend time in the province. So we look for alternative ways to encourage them during this time. Most of our staff are also off on holiday time and so four of us will be ''on call'' including two home advisors as we will be taking our young women for a brief holiday trip to one of the nearby provinces. Psalm 68:6 says ''God sets the lonely in families.'' While we can't replace the birth families of our young women, we act as surrogates during this time, providing a place of safety and a sense of family to these who do not have the benefit of spending time with their blood relatives.

As for the other young women who are away, pray for them that this time with family will be a time of joy and blessing. So often that is not the case and in fact, time with their families can trigger past pain, trauma and brokenness that often has a way of undoing some of the healing that has occurred prior to the visit.   Pray for the Lord to be a shield and refuge for all of the young women who live at the RAP home that this holiday season will be one in which they are not only blessed as they reconnect with their families but it will be time of healing and a time of joy instead of a time of pain and sadness. Pray for protection over them that they will not be tempted to join into activities that could be detrimental to their journey to wholeness. So often during these holiday times, there is lots of revelry, lots of drinking, lots of gambling and even the potential to be actively involved in taking elicit drugs. We thank God that He is sovereign and watches over each one of these precious lives to preserve and keep them and be a shield around them in the midst of challenging environments and circumstances. Pray for our staff who are ''on call'' during this holiday period that in the midst of working, that God will renew, refresh and strengthen each of us as we continue to be His hands and voice and feet to serve the young women He has entrusted into our care.

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