Around the World: Cambodia

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Oh hello everyone. Today I get to introduce you to my friend Marla and her heart for Cambodia. I’ve known Marla for a little while now – maybe half a year? Something like that, since August anyways. I had the opportunity to meet her at the Christian Family Planning Network Retreat I had the opportunity to attend (which trust me, I’ll talk about at a later date – another post for another day). Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know her, her family, and her heart for Cambodia. I asked her tonight to speak a bit about the situation there and her time there and everything like that. You will find that all below this lovely line. My questions (and thoughts) will be in bold and what she said will be in italics for the sake of following along! The links will take you to pictures – I’m not embedding them to preserve the copyright, but if you want to see them, that’s where you can do.

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Okay, so tell us a little bit about the situation in Cambodia.

First of all, I didn’t even know where Cambodia was until a few years ago. And even when we got back from our most recent trip last year, we had people say, “So, how was Africa?” I’m sure Africa is great, but Cambodia is in Southeast Asia. It borders Thailand and Vietnam. It’s a poor, poor country with a history of genocide (less than 40 years ago) and a corrupt government. Human trafficking is a huge, huge problem there, specifically the buying and selling of very small children. It’s maddening and heartbreaking. And pure evil.

See the girls together at the orphanage

How did you and your family end up in Cambodia?

In 2008, we started going to a new church, and they sponsored an orphanage in Cambodia through an organization called Asia’s Hope. My husband Gabe and I took a 10-day trip to visit those kiddos in July 2010, and while we were there, we got to meet a lot of amazing people fighting human trafficking on the front lines.

See Marla with Sophea, Longdich, and Cheata

What is it about Cambodia that tugs on your heart strings?

The kiddos. Little babies, just four and five years old, being sold (often by their parents) by the night to foreigners (and locals) for sex. These sweet, precious children are being abused over and over and over again, and this is the only life they know. No more innocence, no more value (or so they think), no more hope. I can’t sit back and let this happen, not when it’s in my power to help.

See Eden excited for Camera

Tell us about one moment in Cambodia that made you heart go “This is it. This is real. This is where I need to be helping.”

On our first trip, we visited what used to be a child brothel. There was a big bust (Dateline NBC did a special on it and everything), and the pimps and owners were driven out. When the building was put up for sale, a Christian organization called Agape bought it. We walked into the building that used to house stall after stall where young girls were kept chained to walls. The new owners had left one stall–Stall #9–as a reminder of what God had redeemed these children from. When I opened that door to the stall, the tears just gushed. My own daughters were 9, 8, and 4 at the time–the same ages as so many of these girls. The thought of them being chained to the wall in that dirty stall was more than I could take. And while they were safely back home in America, thousands of other beautiful little kids weren’t.

See Livi with Srey Rose and Rebekah

What can other people do to get involved in helping in Cambodia?

You can pray. You can give. You can tell other people what’s going on and get them involved. Our family of five spent 5 weeks in Cambodia in December 2011 and January 2012. Since we’ve been back, we’ve helped raise thousands of dollars to send to our friends who are fighting this evil day after day. We spent much of our time at Punlok Thmey, a center for boys who are in danger of being trafficked (it doesn’t just happen to girls). The staff at Punlok Thmey is dedicated to educating these boys, telling them about the love of Jesus, and protecting them from those who would do them harm. Agape International is another organization we support. They’ve started a school right in the middle of the worst village for child sex trafficking.

Below is a video that I’ve shared before which gives even more background on the situation in Cambodia and on Punlok Thmey and The Hard Places Community which Marla mentions. 

Our girls make and sell Prayer Bracelets and all kinds of other crafts to raise money for these organizations. And our whole family takes part in Traffick Jam each year. Traffick Jam is a 10-mile walk to raise money for The Hard Places Community, the folks who run the Boys’ Center. Even our six-year-old walked 10 miles last year to help these sweet kiddos in Cambodia.

See Gabe with boys at orphanage

Anything else you want to add?

Our family is praying about the possibility of moving to Cambodia long-term. My husband is a photographer and web designer and has a vision for helping young boys (and girls) learn skills that will help them carve a path out of poverty. Our girls love and miss Cambodia like crazy and keep in touch with all the friends we made while we were there.

I write about Cambodia a lot on my blog and love sharing it with anyone who asks. Thanks so much for this opportunity to share, Melissa.

See Nina surrounded by boys

Thank you so much Marla for sharing! She doesn’t know this, but I’m going to get some prayer bracelets to share with you. It’s my small way of helping. I wish I could give one to everyone  but I don’t have those kinds of funds. But leave a comment on this about your thoughts about what you’ve read (and seen) in this post and I’ll randomly pick three of you next week and give you prayer bracelets. My gift to you 🙂 

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