Today we started feeling like we’ve been in country for nearly two weeks. Woke up with mild headaches, differing levels of stomach excitement throughout the day, and overall just a touch weary. However, we still have another day of work and the workers in the two Agape employment centers will get our best care. I write it so I’ll read it and be intentional about it.
We spent the morning at the restoration center. Like I said yesterday, it’s the first stop after being rescued. Literally the first stop. A raid was just conducted last night and eight more girls will be coming there tonight or tomorrow. The restoration center is at capacity but the director says they’ll make it work.
Since last year, I forgot how young the girls are. As we were seeing the girls I asked the director if some of them came from high-risk situations. It was my own way of saying “this can’t be real.” “Nope. They’ve had trauma.” Which means rape, forced prostitution and the like. After the Somaly Mam revelations earlier this year, I’ve been careful to sensationalize things. For one, these are not my stories to tell. They are each individual girl’s. For another, sensationalizing one thing means another horrible story/incident becomes somehow less horrible. Suffice to say they are way too young and have been through way too much.
Like yesterday I’ll single out one patient. She’s moderately nearsighted and functions sort of OK without glasses. She doesn’t drive a moto and the classrooms are seldom longer than 10 feet so she really doesn’t have to look super far away during her day. However, she’s missing out on the world. Stacy put glasses on her and she gave a big smile. ”Cheebah” or clear in Khmer let me know we did good. Success!
The ARC director was helping this young lady leave and paused, then turned toward the girl, then paused, then turned to me, and in a slightly hushed tone asked “does HIV affect the eyes?” Obviously not just a question of curious inquisition. The implication was simply heartbreaking.
The afternoon was spent seeing more Agape staff and students. As we were driving home with the gals, one of them mentioned they wished we could have seen Dari, but she just had a C-section and is still in the hospital. I said hey we’re mobile and if she and dad are OK with it we can stop by. So we went to the nicest government run hospital in Phnom Penh.
C-section and 5 days in a VIP room will end up costing around $900. Sounds great until you think about the average Cambodian wage. We walked by a non-VIP room that had 5-6 patients in it and is about the size of an average American bedroom. Add in the fact that it is customary for many family members to not just visit but stay and help out and it looked pretty crowded.
Dari and Ratanak were awful cute with baby Manna and I felt really honored to be there. It’s such a special life event especially for new parents and was also the first grandchild so grandma was uber proud too. We’ve heard stories but it was amazing to actually hear Ratanak say, “if we knock on nurse’s door, they no come unless we pay.” If I heard correctly they pay about $5/day to make sure the nurse actually comes when they need help. Otherwise they wait a few hours.
We didn’t necessarily do it in order but tomorrow will complete the tour of the holistic approach of AIM: prevention, rescue, restoration and reintegration. It sounds like fun to kick down doors, beat up pimps and rescue girls but then what? Well thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit and many of the incredibly devoted people we’ve met it doesn’t end there. Tomorrow we finish our time here by going to AEC 1 and AEC 2. These are employment centers where they make the bracelets we’ve been wearing for the past year as well as screen printing tee shirts.