Thursday, June 26, 2014

Partnership and Capacity Building

One of the hallmarks of Ratanak is our desire to be a blessing to other organizations who work on the ground here in Cambodia. Recently, my colleague Brian McConaghy wrote the following: Ratanak is directly involved in many projects but part of our DNA is to support others… In the past people have said "Ratanak is the only NGO we know of that funds the competition" (their words not ours). In so many ways they are right. We will seek to bless and empower other Christians who love and serve Cambodia and who do it well. It is not about empire building but rather maturity in missions demands that we put our natural human desires aside and focus on one thing… serving in anyway possible to assist Cambodians. This can sometimes feel counter intuitive but genuine cooperation and the support of others is often where we encounter blessing and where the riches are to be found.

We have seen the truths of this statement on so many levels over the years as we have sought to work with others who are doing amazing work here in Cambodia. With so many NGOs on the ground, it is easy to be in our own little silos, doing our own little thing, building our own empires---but, we run the risk of missing out on alternative ways and opportunities that are only possible if we share information and learn from each other. We have always believed that collaboration and working together is what God demands and desires. Unity and diversity is important and is evident in  1 Corinthians 12:12-20 , we read the following: 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
Shine Training: Photo courtesy of Auscam

Recently, as part of our desire to be a blessing to other organizations and to enlarge the capacity of staff who work in these organizations, we have joined hands with other NGOs. AusCam Freedom Project offered their offices to host a train the trainer of Shine Program for the Counselors, Social Workers and Caregivers from AusCam, Ratanak and Destiny Rescue.  For us at Ratanak, we provided the funding for the trainers fees and materials. 
Group work: Photo Courtesy of Auscam

Staff capacity training: Photo Courtesy of Auscam

All three organizations as with many other NGOs here, are committed to empowering and equipping their staff with the right skills and tools in order to bless the young women in our programs. This particular training is called  Shine and it is intended to be a Personal Development Group Work Program for young women developed in Australia. The Shine Curriculum Pack provides unique personal development and group mentoring tools that use an inspirational, practical and experiential approach to learning. The program is founded upon the premise that every life counts and has intrinsic value and fosters an awareness of this belief.Sessions aim to develop a strong sense of personal identity, confidence and hope. These program objectives are achieved through 3 foundational concepts: worth. strength. purpose." (quote from Julie Dowse, Founder of Auscam)
Photo: Courtesy of Auscam

For all of our organizations, our plan is to invest in our staff, providing materials and essential tools that they can incorporate and implement in our respective programs. Ultimately we believe that it is our Cambodian staff that will have the greatest impact on making a difference in the lives of their fellow Cambodians. We are privileged to come along side them and use our gifts to bless them so that they can be directly involved in transforming this nation by teaching and encouraging the young women we serve about their value and worth in Christ. 

In another few weeks, we will be having another capacity building training with our partner Hagar. Specifically, the Psychosocial Capacity Building Project is part of the operations of Hagar Cambodia and was developed to provide training and mentoring in Trauma Informed Care relevant to all organizations working with clients from backgrounds of trauma. Under the direction of Hagar staff Sue Taylor, this 4 day interactive workshop will be for all staff to develop their capacity to understand the impact of trauma on the lives of their clients. We at Ratanak are keen to continue to develop our staff capacity at all levels and so this training will include our drivers, home advisors, social workers, counselors and program manager. At the same time, we have taken the liberty of inviting the staff of one of our newest partners Mother's Heart ---an organization that provides pregnancy and crisis care counseling to single mothers to join us as they seek to equip 7 of their staff in Trauma informed care. While Ratanak is not a large NGO, we have been blessed with a committed funding base that enables us to encourage much smaller NGOs who simply cannot afford such training events on their own to participate and join in with our staff. This facilitates greater networking and cooperation between our respective organizations but also strengthens our relationships with each organization as we seek to work more closely together. 

In all of these activities and training, we are grateful for the ongoing journey that we share with many partner organizations here to invest in our staff. While much of the focus is often on caring for the needs of the clients, we equally share the same goal of caring and equipping our staff so that they too can develop and strengthen their God given abilities and bless those who are entrusted into their care! To that end, we are thankful to the different parts of God's body that operate here in Cambodia, as we work together, we trust that we will have a greater impact in making a difference in seeing lives healed, restored, transformed and redeemed for Christ!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cambodian Migrant Workers - Humanitarian Crisis

Its been a while since I had a chance to write on this blog but over the past day or so,  as I have been reading news from a variety of sources including IOM (International Organization for Migration), and other media reports, we are learning of the humanitarian crisis that is occurring along the Poipet border. Just a few days ago the Thai Junta government made a surprise announcement that it would arrest and deport all illegal migrant workers. 
Photo courtesy of Radio Free Asia

Photo: Courtesy of IOM

 As a result of Thai Military Junta's annoucement, this past week thousands of Cambodian migrant workers have been crossing the Poipet border back into Cambodia. According to IOM reports, 60,000 workers crossed the border this past week and 37,500 arrived yesterday. The vast majority work in construction and agriculture, where they are paid about USD 10 per day. Most are male, but about 30 per cent are women, while some 2,000 children are also part of the exodus.(IOM). As one report said, Poipet is starting to resemble a refugee camp. As thousands of Cambodians flee across the border, the town is shrouded in panic.Nearly every kind of bus, truck or military car that can fit more than 10 people is packed with poor Cambodian labourers desperate to get home. To add to their pain, Poipet has experienced blackouts and torrential rain, turning the streets into muddy tracks and hampering soldiers, medical staff and aid workers who are trying to help. The Cambodian government is doing its best to provide transportation to these migrant workers back to their home town. 
Photo: Courtesy of IOM

Photo: Courtesy of IOM

We are grateful to NGO partners and friends on the ground who are seeking to help coordinate Emergency relief efforts with IOM and other agencies. Ratanak is in consultation with them so that we can provide assistance to this emergency. As I reflect on what is happening on the Thai-Cambodian border, once again, I am reminded that Cambodians continue to suffer simply for trying to eek out a life where they can provide for their families. Many of these migrant workers were seeking to earn a living. Now as they return home, displaced and jobless, several of them if not all are vulnerable to other forms of exploitation. This situation creates a perfect storm for traffickers who would happily take advantage of the situation to advance their agendas. Once again, those who are vulnerable find themselves placed at the mercies of those who would so willingly oppress them and treat them as disposable property. Given that the numbers on the border are swelling, we would ask that you would pray for the following:

  • Pray for the safe passage back to Cambodia of all its migrant workers as there are unconfirmed reports of alleged abuses and violence against these migrants
  • Pray for the NGOs and Agencies on the ground in Poipet: IOM, Samaritans Purse, the Cambodian Red Cross, World Vision, friends from New Life Fellowship and many others who are joining in this effort, that together they can all make a difference in supporting and ministering to these migrants who now find themselves in very vulnerable situations
  • Pray for protection of all migrant workers that they would not fall prey to the tricks of the traffickers
  • Pray for the Cambodian government that the Lord will bless them with ways on how best to support and provide for these returning migrant workers
  • Pray for God's provision that He will raise up many to respond to this emerging crisis who will give their resources to meet the emergency relief needs of the migrants.
As I think of these Cambodian migrant workers, it is Psalm 121 that I am praying on their behalf:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harmhe will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

May this be so Lord Jesus, may this be so for Your Name sake and for these your precious sons and daughters who find themselves in the most vulnerable situations of their lives. May you rend the heavens, intervene and send your Holy Angels around each and every person and may you raise up many who will be your hands and feet to bless and restore hope and dignity to these who are never forsaken or forgotten by you, but who have been engraved in the palm of your hands for eternity!