21 September 2017

A Voice in the Wilderness

raChild  abuse is an experience that tears at the heart of its victims. For those of us who come into contact with its horrific reality it is often impossible to comprehend how anyone could exploit a human being in such a way, let alone a child.

Since 2004, Ratanak International has responded to this global issue through working on the front lines in Cambodia to rescue and rehabilitate victims of child sex trafficking.

A recent US State Department’s ‘Trafficking in Persons Report’ identified Cambodia as the source of the most severe forms of child abuse. In Cambodia, many children are treated as if they are a ‘product’ and are trapped in what has become an accepted multi-million pound industry. Within it they are held as slaves in a life of exploitation, abuse and brutality – a life seemingly without hope.

The picture in Cambodia is dark. Yet at Ratanak International we have seen the evidence that God has, is, and will restore hope and dignity to these children.

Through partnering with trusted Christian organisations in Cambodia, Ratanak International aims to empower trafficking survivors with the internal capacity and the external resources to recover and change their lives practically, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Though never forced upon them, we also pray that these children will come to know Christ and learn how He died for them in order that they could experience life in all its fullness.

When first received into care the physical and psychological trauma these children hold is profound. They have no concept of self-esteem or personal identity. They trust no one.

Yet during rehabilitation, they receive extensive therapy and medical care from qualified professionals, and slowly but surely begin to know what trust, security and belonging truly mean.

The road to full recovery is long, but a key part of the healing process is to help those in our care to learn new practical skills so that in the future they can reintegrate into society and be self-reliant.

One recent initiative involved Ratanak International sending a professional photographer, Tim Doak, from Northern Ireland to Cambodia to teach formerly trafficked young women how to take photographs for the first time. These women are currently engaged in Ratanak funded rehabilitation and reintegration programmes run by our partners Hagar and Daughters of Cambodia. The aim was that the photography workshops and local exhibitions Tim organised would be a therapeutic learning experience, helping them build confidence, self-esteem and new skills.

The process proved to be a great success and the photos they took were exceptional. Learning new skills like photography does not suddenly banish the trauma these girls have experienced. However, it is through projects like this that, perhaps for the first time, they have the opportunity to discover their own creativity, joy and the possibility of a future life filled with hope.

Ratanak International has been active in a multitude of projects throughout Cambodia for 23 years. Originally founded in Canada we now also have offices in the UK, Australia, and Cambodia.

Steve Norman

Country Director Ratanak International (UK) If you would like to know more about our work and how you can make a difference, visit our website www.ratanakuk.org or email info@ ratanakuk.org