Chantrea’s Crusade

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“Thanks for doing this interview, Chantrea. It can’t be easy for you.” They were sitting by the lake just steps from the organization where the Cambodian woman worked as a social worker.

Chantrea smiled slightly. She had sad eyes and although she was in her late thirties, she looked much older which wasn’t surprising, considering the kind of life she once had. “I don’t want to do what’s easy for me,” she said. “I will do whatever is necessary to help the children.”

“What’s your story?”

“I was eleven when my father put me in an orphanage because they promised him that I would receive a good education and opportunities for the future. Instead, I was beaten, raped, starved and forced to work on the orphanage director’s rice paddies and farms without pay.

“And now you’ve dedicated your life to fighting such institutions.”

“Yes. I’m fighting to prevent the separation of vulnerable children from their families and orphanages that attract funding, volunteers and donations from well-meaning tourists.”

“What’s your biggest goal?”

“Shutting down these orphanages.”

 

175 Words

This story is inspired by true stories of children who are taken from their families and homes and placed in orphanages “where they may be exploited, even abused, malnourished, forced to work, and sometimes trafficked to other orphanages and forms of exploitation in order to repeat the cycle and elicit further funding.”

Written as part of Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers hosted by Priceless Joy. For more information visit Here.  If you would like to read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Sources:  Freedom United; Cambodian Children’s Trust

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Ashanti’s Dilemma

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Photo by Michelle De Angelis

It was a lovely summer day in the park.  The heady fragrance of the flowers drifted in the air and she inhaled deeply but nothing seemed to quell the uneasiness she felt.  Ashanti was about to end a relationship with a man she never should have gotten involved with but the attraction was so strong and she owed him so much…

A couple strolled by, the man sheltering under an umbrella.  Her cell rang.  It was him, telling her where to meet him.

Ten minutes later, she was sitting at the back of his car.  “I can’t continue seeing you.”

“Why not?”

“You’re married with children.”

“You knew that when we got involved.  What’s changed?”

“I’ve changed.”

“If it weren’t for me, your brother would be in jail.”

“I know and I’m grateful—“

“I don’t want your gratitude.  I want you.”

“Commissioner—”

“One phone call from me and your brother gets arrested.”

“Please, don’t.”

“Your place tonight?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I love you, Ashanti.”

She didn’t answer but after they kissed, she left.

 

174 words

This was written in response to Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers.  For more information visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Walking Away

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? – 2 Corinthians 6:14

There signs were there but either she was blind to them or she didn’t want to see them.  They spoke at odd hours.  She never met his family or any of his friends and he didn’t seem keen on meeting hers.  She had no idea where he lived. He never invited her to his place and always ended up at hers. They never spent the holidays together or attended special events.  Once when she got tickets to a play she had always wanted to see, he told her that something had come up and he couldn’t go. She had to ask a friend to go with her.

He never used his credit card.  He paid everything in cash.  He took her to lonely and secluded places.  And whenever they were in public, he was different, not showing any display of affection.  To the casual observer, they were just friends, nothing more but behind closed doors, it was a different story.  He couldn’t seem to get enough of her. And then there was the wedding band line although he hadn’t mentioned anything about being married.  And on more than one occasion she had invited him to go to church with her but he always had an excuse why he couldn’t go.

Her gut told her that something was not right.  It kept nagging her driving her to pray about it.  God led her to two passages:  The first was: 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 which said, For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;  that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,  not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.”

And the second was Hebrews 13:4:  Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

God was telling her plainly that her boyfriend was a married man and that she needed to end their relationship.  After she closed the Bible, she collapsed on the carpet and began to cry.  The pain was unbearable.  She loved him and he had been lying to her all this time.

Hours later when she was composed, she called him on his cell.  It rang a long time and just as she was about to end the call, he answered.  “Sorry,” he apologized.  “I was in the middle of something.”

“I need to see you,” she said simply.  “Can you meet me this afternoon?”

“I can’t this afternoon.  How about tomorrow afternoon around 4?”

“Fine.  I’ll meet you tomorrow afternoon at the entrance of Craigleigh Gardens Park.”  They had been to the park before because there was an air of secrecy about it and not many people were around.  Whenever they were there, they felt as if they had the place all to themselves.

“Why I see you at your place?”

“I prefer to meet you in the park.”

“All right.  I’ll see you then.  I love you.”

She didn’t say “I love you” as usual but, instead mumbled, “Bye” and ended the call.  She went out onto the terrace where she sat for a long time, dreading the inevitable.

As she stood at the entrance to the park waiting for him, she prayed and asked God to give her the strength to do what she must do.  And she had this assurance, fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Knowing that God was with her gave her comfort but it was going to be hard and very painful to say goodbye to the man she loved.  How she wished he weren’t married or lied to her about it.  What else did he lie about?

Five minutes to four, he showed up.  Her heart leapt in her throat and she had to fight the impulse to throw her arms around him.  He wouldn’t have minded there wasn’t anyone around.  He looked handsome in the expensive looking striped navy blue suit, snow white shirt and no tie.  His thick, silky bronze colored hair was neatly combed as usual.  He exuded sophistication and virility.  As he approached her, she felt her resolve weakening and she frantically said a silent prayer.

She saw his eyes travel over her in the yellow top and black skirt and the desire in his eyes.  She tried to ignore her body’s reaction.  Not seeming to notice that something was amiss, he said, “Hello, Erika” and was about to take her in his arms when she stepped back.   Frowning, he asked, “Is something wrong?”

“Let’s go inside and find a bench,” she suggested and turned away.  She went through the entrance and he followed her.  Nothing was said until they found a bench.  He waited until she was seated and then he sat down.  After taking a deep breath, she said, “It’s over between you and me.”

He looked startled and for a few minutes, he was at a loss for words and then he finally asked, “Why?”

“You’re married, Cyrus.”

“How did you find out?”

“The signs were there but I didn’t want to see them.  When I see you it’s usually at your convenience.  I have never met your family or your friends or been to your place and we only go to certain places.  Things haven’t been adding up and my gut kept telling me that something was wrong.  And your finger,” she said looking down at his left hand.  “has the mark of a ring.  When you’re with me you don’t wear it.  How long have you been married?”

He sighed.  “Ten years.”

“Do you have any children?”  She fought to keep the tears back.

“Yes.  Two.  A six year old boy and a four year old girl.”

She buried her face in her hands and groaned.  He was married with children.  All those times when they couldn’t spend Christmas or New Year’s together, it was because of his family.

He reached out to pull her towards him as he muttered, “Erika, I’m sorry.”

She pushed his hand away, the tears rolling down her face.  “You’re sorry,” she cried angrily.  “Sorry that you lied to me or sorry that I found out?  All this time you and I were seeing each other, you were really cheating on your wife.  If I had known that you were married I never would have gotten involved with you.”

“That’s why I didn’t tell you.  I didn’t want to lose you.”

“Am I your first affair or have you had others before me?”

“No.  I’ve never cheated on my wife before.  The thought never occurred to me but that changed when I met you.  I knew it was wrong to get involved with you but I couldn’t help myself.  I wanted you so much…”

“I fell in love with you, Cyrus, not knowing that you had a family.  When you were with me, did you think about them and how this would hurt them?”

He ran his fingers through his hair, his face pale.  “No, I wasn’t thinking,” he admitted tightly.  “All I could think about was you and how much I loved you–”

“Please, don’t tell me that you love me.”

“But, I do.  I love you more than I love my children.”

“What about your wife?  Do you love her?”

“No.  I stopped loving her after our daughter was born.”

“Why are you still married?”

“Two reasons are preventing me from getting a divorce–my religion and my children.  So, I’m stuck in a marriage to a woman I don’t love while I’m in love with a woman who doesn’t want me anymore.”

For a brief, maddening moment, she wanted to put her arms around him and tell him that she still wanted him, desperately.  But, as a Christian, she couldn’t stay in a relationship that wasn’t right for her.  She loved him so much that it hurt but she had to obey God’s Word.  Sometimes, you had to walk away from love.  She stood up, her heart breaking and the tears streaming down her face.  “Cyrus, I’m sorry that you are stuck in an unhappy marriage.  I hope and pray that things work out for you and that you find happiness but it won’t be with me.  I have to find my own happiness.”

He stood up, anguish marring his features.  “What are you saying, Erika?”

“I’m saying goodbye.  I’m saying that it’s over between us.”

“But, I love you.”

“And I love you but you’re a married man.”

“So, it’s really over?”

“Yes.” The word was choked sob.

“Could I at least kiss you goodbye?” he asked thickly.  “Please?”

Against her better judgment, she allowed him to take her in his arms and kiss her.  When she felt his lips on hers, she put her arms around his neck and eagerly kissed him back.  They exchanged passionate kisses for several minutes and then she pulled away from him.  She turned away, gulping for air.

“Erika…”

“Please go,” she begged, still with her back turned to him.

There was a brief pause and then he was walking away–out of her life for good.

To truly love is to have the courage to walk away and let the other person who wishes to be free go no matter how much it hurts – Taylor Swift

Photo by: blogTO

Source:  Belief Net; BlogTO; Bible Gateway; Culture Hook;

Praise

I will always praise the Lord.  With all my heart, I will praise the Lord – Psalm 34:1, 2

King David was always praising God.  Every opportunity he got, he praised Him for who He is and what He does in our lives.  Do we praise God?  Do we take the time to praise Him for who is He is?  Or do we spend most of our time asking Him for things?

Instead of asking God to bless our children, we should say, “Lord God, we want praise You for the many blessings You have poured out on our children.  We want to praise You for Your faithfulness and goodness.”

When God answers our prayers, do we praise Him?  David did.  “I praise You, Lord, for answering my prayers.  You have helped me and I will celebrate and thank You in song” (Psalm 28:6, 7).

Even when we are hurting, we ought to praise God.  “Lord, even though I am feeling low today, I want to lift up Your name.  You are my Rock and my refuge.  I know that this sadness will not last because You will send joy my way.  You will lift me out of this valley and place me back on top of the mountain.  You will make my heart glad because of Your goodness and kindness.  Lord, even when I don’t feel like singing, Your put songs in my heart.  Even when I don’t feel like smiling, You put a smile on my face.  Today, Lord, I praise Your name because You deserve to be praised.  Honour and glory belong to You.  I praise Your name because You are good.  You have rescued me from all of my troubles.”

I find that when I am feeling down and I start to praise God and sing songs of praise, my spirits are lifted and the sadness vanishes.  When we focus on God instead of our troubles, it makes a world of different.  Let us get into the habit of petitioning God less and praising Him more.

Keeping Them Safe

Childhood is the most beautiful of all life’s seasons – Author Unknown

Remember when you were a child how you used to blow bubbles and your face lit up with excitement when you got really big ones?  Oh, the simple things in life that children enjoy.  If only they could remain in their little world of wonder, exploration, discovery and innocence.

As a parent, I wish I could keep my son in a bubble where evil people didn’t exist.  I wish he didn’t have to be told not to talk to or go anywhere with strangers.  Growing up in Guyana, children could play in safety.  When their parents weren’t around, neighbors would watch out for them.  I lived in a bubble. There were so many things I didn’t know about or was exposed to.  I never knew that sexual predators existed or ever heard about pedophilia until I moved to North America.  Maybe those things existed but I wasn’t privy to them and I’m thankful for that because I don’t know how the knowledge would have affected my childish brain.

Is it foolish or naive to want to protect your children from what is out there?  Are we helping them when we put off telling them about the dangers that exist?  There are things I wish I never knew about but would I be any better off living in ignorance?  Is ignorance really bliss?  Not in this age when lack of knowledge and little or no awareness can make the difference between our safety and harm.  Our children need to know that there are dangerous people out there who wouldn’t think twice about harming them or worse…

How do you tell them?  You can do it in such a way that they don’t get scared or anxious.  My ten year old suggests that the parent tell the child a story because a child would rather listen to a story than hear the message spoken plainly.  This reminds me of Jesus who spoke to people in parables when He wanted to teach them valuable lessons.

Other ways to keep our kids safe when they are away from home, school, in the street, the park or playground are colouring pictures, quizzes, activities or stories.  Having your child practice ‘Just say NO to strangers’ rule particularly through supervised role play gives him or her the confidence to deal if a stranger approaches and tries to trick them into getting into a car or pretends to have a lost dog or gift for the child.

To find websites that may help parents, teachers or caretakers to teach children about stranger danger and child protection, please click on this link.  In the News clip featuring Safety Now – Stranger Danger, parents were disturbed to see how a friendly stranger was able to lure some children away to help him to find his lost dog.  At the end of the video, the following tips are given:

  • Don’t take you eyes off the child
  • The child should back away
  • The child should yell and run to a parent

Dr. Phil said that there are steps we can take to protect our kids without scaring them.  Here are the steps:

  • Talk to your kids early and often. Teach them to self-protect. Don’t be afraid that you’ll make them paranoid. Children actually feel empowered when they feel understand that they have the power to protect themselves.
  • Don’t ask children to deal with adult issues. Explain things in terms they can understand, such as good and evil. Don’t share the gory details with them.
  • Tell your kids to avoid strangers. Adults just don’t ask kids for directions.
  • While it’s important for children to respect adults and those in authority, give them permission to act impolite, rude, or scream and yell when they feel that something’s not right. It’s OK for them to make a scene or to yell for help, and let them know they will not get in trouble if they were mistaken.
  • Teach kids to yell with specificity: “This is not my Daddy!” or “Somebody help me!”

The safety of our children is our responsibility.   They have a right to grow up and feel safe.

Sources:  Free for Kids; YouTube; Quotey Quotes; Dr. Phil

World Water Day

Photo:  Hope Spring Water

Imagine this is your daughter fetching water in the container on top of her head.  It’s heavy and who knows how long she had to travel to find it.  This is the reality of girls in Africa and Asia.

Today is World Water Day and this year’s theme is:  Nature for Water exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.

According to the World Water Day Organization, “damaged ecosystems affect the quantity and quality of water available for human consumption. Today, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water at home; affecting their health, education and livelihoods.  Sustainable Development Goal 6 commits the world to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water by 2030, and includes targets on protecting the natural environment and reducing pollution.”

Preserving nature will keep our water clean and that will benefit us.  Polluted environment leads to polluted water which leads to poor health or death.  Water is something that many of us take for granted which is a shame in some countries, many people face a water crisis.  For them, clean water would be their talisman because it would protect them from diseases which could lead to death.

Water connects every aspect of life. Access to safe water and sanitation can quickly turn problems into potential – unlocking education, work opportunities, and improved health for women, children and families across the world.

Today, 1 in 9 people lack access to safe water; 1 in 3 people lack access to a toilet. More people have a mobile phone than a toilet. We can change this.

Check out this video.

I cringe when I see how people waste water.  One of my relatives lets the kitchen pipe run while she is busy doing other things.  Once when we were visiting her and my husband saw her doing that, he turned off the tap.  All that wasted water going down the sink and there are families who don’t have any running water for bathing, washing or cooking.  Tap water is better than no water and it can always be boiled.

 

The water crisis is a women’s crisis.  And here’s why:

Photo:  Getty Images

Women are disproportionately affected by the water crisis, as they are often responsible for collecting water. This takes time away from work, school and caring for family. Lack of water and sanitation lock women in a cycle of poverty.

Empowering women is critical to solving the water crisis. Involving women can make water projects 6 to 7 more times effective. When women have access to safe water, they can pursue skills outside of their traditional roles and experience greater autonomy and independence.

Women and girls spend up to six hours collecting water.  They travel long distances to find it and then have to retrace their steps back home, carrying heavy containers.

It is a health crisis because many don’t have access to safe, clean water and as a result, many die from water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases.  Having access to safe water will reduce child and maternal mortality rates, improved health, reduced physical injuries from constantly carrying heavy loads of water and reduce the risk of rape, assault and danger and increased safety for women and girls face when they have no choice but to go to remote and dangerous places to relieve themselves.

The water crisis is an education crisis because it is the responsibility of the children to collect water for their families.  It reduces their time in class and being able to play. And 1/3 of schools lack access to basic water and sanitation.  Can you imagine this happening in your child’s school?

It is an economic crisis.  Without access to safe water, families are unable to pursue education and work opportunities that would break the cycle of poverty.  The loss of money due to lack of basic water and sanitation is staggering.  It is simply amazing how much of a difference access to clean water would make in the lives of so many people.

We are encouraged to take action because everyone should be entitled to safe water.

ADRA Canada is changing lives by providing people with new ways to access, conserve, purify and use water. With your partnership ADRA is able to provide families with life-giving water. You can help provide water to those without.

Watch this video and think about how you would like to help ADRA Canada to give the gift of water.

Sources:  ADRA Canada; World Water Day; Water.org

National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

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Courtesy:  Indian Country Today

It was just few days ago when I learned that March was designated as Women’s History Month.  Well, today, an identical thing happened to me which prompted me to put this post together in a hurry.  I found out just a few minutes ago that today is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  I also discovered that my ignorance of the day is not surprising given that it is a little known observance day.  NNHAAD is a day geared toward drawing attention to and building support for HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care among American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian populations.  Here are some facts, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN), women account for 29% of the HIV/AIDS diagnoses. 
  • For Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NH/PI) populations given a diagnosis, 78% were men, 21% were women, and 1% were children (under 13 years of age) in 2005.
  • From 2007 to 2010, new HIV infections among AI/NA populations increased by 8.7% (CDC).

While these percentages may seem low, one must remember to take into account the size of these populations compared to more populous races and ethnicities in the U.S. For example, according to the CDC, in 2005 American Indians and Alaska Natives ranked 3rd in rates of HIV/AIDS diagnosis, following blacks and Hispanics. To put this into numbers, the rate of new HIV/AIDS infections in 2008 per 100,000 persons were:

  • 73.7 Black/African American
  • 25.0 Hispanic/Latinos
  • 22.85 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders 
  • 11.9 American Indian and Alaska Native 
  • 8.2 Whites
  • 7.2 Asians

Given that many of these populations live in rural areas, access to health care services can be difficult. Not to mention other roadblocks to obtaining needed services such as language and cultural barriers. Native communities have some of the shortest survival times after diagnosis of HIV/AIDS of all race and ethnicity groups in the U.S.

The report also showed that Native communities are not accessing the much needed care and attention after being diagnosed with HIV.  I also learned that about 26% are living with HIV and don’t even know it.  So, this means that since they don’t know that they have it, they wouldn’t seek medical help.  On the other hand, those who know that they have it, take steps to protect their health and take action to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Thankfully, there are public services like the IHS (Indian Health Service), an agency whose mission is to raise the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level.  Our goal is to assure that comprehensive, culturally acceptable personal and public health services are available and accessible to American Indian and Alaska Native people.  The IHS operates within Department of Health and Human Services.

The IHS National HIV/AIDS Program is committed to partnering with communities to create lasting change in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We provide programs to assist individuals, families, communities, and health care providers to:

  • Understand how HIV is spread, and share knowledge about HIV with others
  • Get tested for HIV
  • Put policies and procedures in place to offer a HIV testing as a routine part of all health care
  • Improve access to care, treatment, and prevention services needed by people living with HIV and AIDS

IHS providers throughout the country are offering screening more often, collaborating with communities to increase education, and offering care or referrals where direct care is not available. We can all help to reduce the stigma within our culture and among health care providers regarding HIV/AIDS.

I was shocked to learn that March 20, 2016 was the tenth anniversary of this annual awareness day.  I wonder how many people out there who even know that it exists.  Awareness, education and access are key.  And I applaud the many dedicated organizations that are currently working hard within the Indigenous communities to break down barriers and to promote HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.   

The theme for 2016 was:  “Hear Indigenous Voices: Uniting the Bold Voices of American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders.” Last year’s was:  theme is “Unity in CommUnity, Stand Strong to Prevent HIV.” On this day, we recognize the impact of HIV/AIDS on American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.  The theme this year is “Unity in CommUNITY: Stand Strong for HIV Prevention.

It is my hope and prayer that long after this year’s National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day passes, that more people will find ways to stand strong for the Native communities.  We have heard the Indigenous voices, stood with them as we recognized that they are impacted by HIV/AIDS and now we must stand strong for prevention.  We have heard the voices, now it is time to be united in the fight to change the tide in this epidemic which discriminates against no one.  The HIV/AIDs is not one group’s or community’s fight but everyone’s fight.

Sources:  Humanitas Global Development; Indian Country Today; Indian Health Service