Chantrea’s Crusade

photo-20180806154657691

“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

Advertisements

The Plight

She sat on the plane, heartbroken

the faces of the girls she photographed

etched on her mind.  Child brides.  Girls

married off as young as eight.  She knew

child marriage existed in India but now

it was there in front of her face.

 

A photojournalist living in Nepal, she traveled

back and forth between there and New Delhi,

using her camera to tell about the plight of young

girls forced into marriage due to poverty

and lack of education. Mothers, former child

brides themselves saw their daughters doomed

to the same fate because of lack of viable

options.

 

Girls too young to get married or to

have kids were forced to become women

before their time. How she wished she

could do more.  She sighed, looking out

at the overcast sky.  For now she would

continue to turn her lens on the communities

where this practice continued to flourish.

 

149 words

This was written in response to the flash fiction challenge, Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers.   For more information, click HERE.

Source:  National Geographic

The Best Feeling

When they met she was in a fashion show,

dressed in a spotted fur Coat and a crown

of flower jewelry around her head.  She

was doing it as a favor to a friend in the

fashion business in support of a girl’s

right to education in Africa.

 

He was there sitting in front and when

she strutted down the runway, he took

notice.  Their eyes met and held for

several minutes before she turned

and walked off.  After the show, her

friend introduced them.  It turned out

that he was Rémy Vasseur, the name

behind Vasseur wineries.  He was a

household name in Provence where

his vineyard was situated.  He owned

a chateau there as well as in Nice.

 

He was a very attractive and charming

man in his early fifties.  Widowed with

a twenty-something daughter, he had

not shown any interest in dating until

now.  Without wasting any time, he

invited Marcelle to lunch.  Flattered

and completely enamored of him,

she readily accepted.  He took her

to an expensive but cozy restaurant

and over a gourmet lunch, they got

to know each other.

 

She enjoyed his company so much

that when he asked to see her

again, she agreed.  So, lunch that

day led to more lunches and dinners.

Then, they took impromptu trips to

Rome, Barcelona, Athens, Montenegro and

Turks and Caicos.  They stayed in

separate rooms and so far, he hadn’t

kissed her or made any advances.

 

Things were moving at a

comfortable rather than a rapid

pace which suited her.  They went for

walks after dinner, sightseeing and

dancing.  By the time he took her to

his chateau in Provence, she was in

love with him.

 

What she loved about him was that he

didn’t flaunt his wealth.  It was just a

part of him and he carried it with such

humility, always mindful of those who

were not as fortunate as he and loved

to give to charities.  He was deeply

religious too and always credited God

for his wealth and good fortune.

 

It was when they were sitting on the

stone bench in front of the fountain

that he proposed to her.  Her eyes

almost popped out of her head when

he got down on his knee in front of

her and opened a little black box.

He took out the most exquisite

ring she had ever seen.

 

His eyes met hers in a steady gaze as

he said, “Marcelle, I never thought that

I would fall in love again until I met you.

When I first saw you I felt as if time and

my heart stood still.  I had to meet you

and when I did, I had to get to know you.

These past months that we have been

together have been the happiest for me

but they’re not enough.  I want to spend

the rest of my life with you.  Will you

marry me?”

 

“Yes,” she cried and watched through

her tears as he put the ring on her finger.

 

He stood up and pulled her to her feet.

“I love you,” he whispered as he put his

arms around her waist and drew her

closer to him so that their bodies were

touching.

 

She smiled up at him, his face blurry.

“I love you too,” she murmured and

watched in anticipation as he bent

his head, her heart thudding.  They

were about to kiss for the first time.

As their lips touched, she thought,

The best feeling in the world is kissing

someone for the first time when you’ve

really wanted to kiss them for a long time.

Source:  Pinterest

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

national-native-hiv-aids-awareness-day

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

Women’ s History Month

I learned today that March is Women’s History Month and it is a celebration of women’s contributions to society.  Before Women’s History Month, there was Women’s History Week, the birth child of the school district of Sonoma, California which participated in Women’s History Week, an event designed around the week of March 8 (International Women’s Day).  From 1978 to 1979, the idea to secure a National Women’s History Week lay incubated until February 1980 when it was born, thanks to President Jimmy Carter who issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980, as National Women’s History Week.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the law which was passed making March Women’s History Month in the United States.  This year’s theme is “Nevertheless, She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination against Women.”  What a great theme.  Like warriors facing bitter battles with ferocious armies, women face societies, communities, institutions and governments that would deny them their rights.  Nevertheless, like phoenix rising from the ashes, women all around world are rising up, joining together and fighting for what they believe in.  Their voices are raised in unison, refusing to be silenced, in spite of the draw backs they face.  Silence is not golden.  Using one’s voice to be heard is golden.

Throughout history, women have had dreams, hopes, plans and visions which they had to fight hard to realize.  No amount of discouragement, obstacles, nay-saying, discrimination or opposition could quell those dreams, hopes, plans, visions which had taken shape.  Women clung to their faith that one day they would be able to vote, own businesses, own homes, land, get an education, work in jobs and play in sports that were predominantly male oriented.  They had to have the courage and the faith to step out, speak up and conquer a world that had long denied them and still does in some cultures, equality, recognition for their accomplishments and basic human rights.

However, despite the strides women have made in their fight for human rights, they still face mountains like human trafficking, modern slavery which target young girls, child marriage, FGM, access to safe water, realizing their self worth and potential in societies which favor boys over girls, pay equity, access to safe water and quality education.  Just this month, the organization, Freedom United is calling for action for the following campaigns:

Show solidarity and tell Uzbekistan to drop all charges against Malokhat.

Malokhat is being targeted because of her determination to expose human rights violations and forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry.

JOIN THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM FOR GIRLS

The fight to end modern slavery today in order to help girls like Phoebe, forced into the commercial sex trade at just 15 years old.  Women and girls make up 71% of all modern slavery victims. 

These girls should be in school getting quality education so that they would have a bright future.  Sex should not something that they engage in until they are adults and married.  Sex came from God was never meant to be exploited or forced on anyone.  It was meant to be a physical and emotional expression of a husband’s and wife’s love for each other.

Help End Forced Marriage in Lebanon

Momentum is growing to repeal laws that enable convicted rapists to marry their victims to avoid punishment. As well as the horrors endured by victims, this law means many women and girls where these laws exist are then forced into marriage against their will

Marriage was meant to be between a man and a woman not a man and a child.  And any law which allows a rapist to marry his victim to escape justice, should be done away with.  It is a disgrace to human decency and dignity and it violates the victim’s rights.  Marriage is a holy institution and is meant to be entered into with the consent of both the man and the woman.

Call on Niger’s President to outlaw child marriage.

Three-quarters of girls in Niger are married before they are adults. Child marriage often amounts to slavery, for example, when girls have not given their free and full consent, are subjected to control, exploited and unable to leave, so outlawing it is an important step towards protecting Niger children.

Imagine you have a young daughter and that a Nigerian girl her age is being married off to an older man.  At the age of twenty, Fati Yahaya has been married twice, divorced once, suffered a postpartum hemorrhage after giving birth to her first child.  I didn’t have a child until I was 41 years old!  It’s so hard to fathom a young girl going through two marriages, one divorce and suffering excessive blessing following the birth of her first child.  I don’t know how many children she had afterwards or if she suffered any more hemorrhages.  And I can’t imagine giving my consent to have my daughter marry at the age of consent which is 15 or even younger when she should be in school.  I can’t imagine subjecting her to a life of “abuse and unrealized potential”.

End sexual exploitation of children in Kenya

The last place you should expect to find a child is in a brothel; yet for 17-year-old Phoebe from Kenya, this is her life.

Phoebe comes from a poor family. When she dropped out of school, she went in search of a better life – instead she has been forced to have group sex with tourists for no money.

Reports indicate that more than 50,000 children are involved in different forms of commercial sexual exploitation.  It is most common along the Kenyan Coast where the majority of tourism activities take place – in fact sex offenders travel to Kenya for this very reason: to prey on these vulnerable victims.

It’s sad that Phoebe had to dropped out of school and instead of finding a better life, she found herself plunged into a world of sexual exploitation.  A brothel is no place for anyone, especially children.  Sex offenders who travel to prey on young girls should be prosecuted and the brothels should be put out of business.  Basically, the Kenyan government needs to do something.  They need to protect the vulnerable.

Help end domestic slavery

Women and girls leave their homes every day to find jobs as domestic workers in the cities of your country.

But when they show up for their first day of work, some find out they’ve been deceived. Locked inside the homes of strangers — no contact with their families, and often beaten and sexually abused — they are caught in the nightmare of modern slavery.

What a nightmare it must be for women and children to go to what they believe is a job which will help their families only to be faced with brutality and sexual abuse.  They are cut off from their families and forced into a modern slavery.  People are not property and slavery should not have any place in our society.  There need to be tougher rules for domestic workers and anyone caught exploiting their rights should be imprisoned.  It’s time to get tough on those who exploit others.

Women’s History month is not only a celebration of the difference women have made in their communities but it is also a reminder that we still have a long way to go and that raising awareness is key.  When I shared these stories with my husband, he commented that there is a whole different world out there that we are not aware of.  And he’s right.  If it weren’t for organizations like Freedom United, Equality Now and many others we would have no idea of the realities that many women and girls are facing.

Sources:  Wikipedia; AJC.com; Freedom United

Drinking With Mom

As parents and stewards of God, it is our duty to provide for, care for and protect our children.  We are to impart wisdom and knowledge to them that will keep them safe and grounded in a world where they will encounter hardships, trials, temptations and challenges.  We are to teach, guide, counsel, encourage and support them.

Most mothers try to be positive examples for their children, teaching them right from wrong and to how to develop healthy habits.  They teach them how to be kind, loving and considerate toward others.  They help their teenagers with their studies and transition into young adulthood.  In fact, they do their best to raise their children to be upstanding citizens of society.  Unfortunately, this was not the case with Sahdev’s mother, Vahini who spent her time drinking with her son.

Alcoholism became Sahdev’s vice.  It consumed him to the point where he spent all of his earnings on alcohol and it his habit grew with such force that his mother was disturbed by it.  She began to wonder if a wife would temper his addiction so she set about looking for someone for him to marry.  She kept his drinking a secret while she arranged marriage between Sahdev and a young woman named Tanu, however, the bride soon discovered the family’s dark secret.  From the beginning of their marriage, she was victim of verbal abuse and brutal, drunken beatings.

Vahini’s hope that marriage would soften her son was squashed but, sadly, she didn’t support Tanu’s efforts to change Sahdev.  This was the opportunity to do what was right for her daughter-in-law and the grandchild that was on the way but Vahini sided with her son.  This only made his alcoholism grow worse, resulting in liver damage.  While Tanu braced herself for raising her child with a drunken father, her mother-in-law tried to find proper treatment for him but two months after his son was born, Sahdev died.

Instead of taking responsibility for her part in her son’s death, Vahini blamed Tanu. Tanu, now a widow with a child, received no comfort or support from her mother-in-law. When Vahini ordered Tanu to leave the house and she refused, she was beaten. Then, faced with raising a 2 month old child and no other options, the young mother returned to her parents’ home in the slums.  This was the last place she wanted to be but her parents comforted her and encouraged her to stay.

Things were tough for Tanu.  She found it hard to find a job to support her son and her family’s social caste limited her to jobs with long hours and low pay.  Thankfully, she wasn’t under any pressure.  Her father was a real trooper, very supportive.  He provided for her and his grandson by working as a daily wage laborer.  When the time came to put Aakar in school, the cost of his education was too much for the family.  And Tanu hadn’t found a good job.  She and her parents struggled to make do with what little they had. Aakar was enrolled in a free city school but the costs for his supplies were tremendous.   And there was the nagging thought that if anything were to happen to Tanu’s father, the family would have nothing at all.

Unless something was done, six year old Aakar would be forced to drop out of school. Help came when Tanu talked to her neighbors about their children’s education.  She learned that they were receiving help from Bridge of Hope, a Gospel for Asia sponsored program.  The program supported, educated, tutored, provided meals and medical care for children from needy families like hers.  Not wasting any time, Tanu enrolled Aakar at the centre.

Their lives changed when the staff not only provided for Aakar’s needs but showed compassion and kindness to him and hope sparked in Tanu.  She saw that there was a very great possibility that her son’s life would turn out very differently from his father’s.

“I can see that my child is improving in his studies and learning good habits through the Bridge of Hope center, ” Tanu said.  “I only wish that my child will grow up to be a good companion and never ever become addicted to alcohol or any kind of bad habits.”

Aakar is off to a really good start.  At Bridge of Hope, God is working through the staff members to give him a better future–one of hope.  Surrounded by people who love the Lord, Aakar stands a better chance of growing up to be a good man who loves the Lord and others.  He has a heavenly Father who loves him.  He never knew his own father whose life was a tragic one because of an evil influence.  Unlike his father, Aakar has a mother who wants what is best for him.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope – Jeremiah 29:11

Thank God for stepping in when things were looking dismal for Aakar and his family. Through Bridge of Hope, God has transformed their lives.  Tanu didn’t know it at the time but the best thing she did was moving back home with her parents.  It was while she was living there, that she experienced the love and mercy of God through a program which offered her son more than an education.  It offered him a chance to have a quality life.  Had she stayed at the home she once shared with her husband, life for her and Aakar would have been unbearable at the hands of her mother-in-law.  God brought them out of that toxic environment and into a place where their lives have changed for the better.

Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, Just as we hope in You – Psalm 33:22

Tanu’s story has a happy ending but there are other mothers who are struggling to raise their children.  Faced with extreme poverty, their lives are filled with hopelessness.  And many children in Asia never experience what it’s like to have a normal childhood.  Instead, they are faced with situations and decisions that we can’t even imagine or have ever had to deal with.  Please pray that God will intervene in their lives as He did in Tanu’s. And you can help to Aakar and children like him by sponsoring a child.  If you are interested in doing so, click here.  Help to transform a family’s life.

Tanu and Aakar

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia Canada