Cambodia (MNN) — Cambodia is known to be a hotbed for sexual exploitation and trafficking. According to the Not For Sale Campaign, "Cambodia is a destination for child sex tourism." Many tourists visit for the sole purpose of raping a child or a young virgin at a brothel.
After working for years in after-care for women and children who had been trafficked, World Hope International discovered some interesting news about the sex trade in Cambodia.
"We learned that a lot of the girls that we were working with came from rural areas," says Heather Beatty, coordinator of World Hope's Adelphe program in Cambodia. "Traffickers were specifically targeting girls and women in rural areas for a couple of reasons: families in rural areas have a more severe case of poverty…and they also are less informed on what human trafficking is." This combination of disadvantages makes it easy for a trafficker to lure a young woman or child from her family with the promise of a job.
When World Hope realized how vulnerable rural women and children are, they began a sponsorship program called Adelphe to educate and empower women in order to prevent them from ever getting trafficked.
Adelphe is currently working in a district where many of the women in their after-care program originally lived. The program goes into the poorest communities to work with women who have often been widowed or abandoned by their husbands, and who typically make less than 45 cents a day.
When Adelphe enters a community, "We just start meeting with the women," says Beatty. "We talk to them about what their needs are, and what they would like to see differently in their lives. And that's where it starts: listening to them and what they would like to accomplish with their family and in their community, and then we just start working together from that point."
Based on those conversations, Adelphe places each woman in a program that will harness her skills. For instance, one woman, whose husband had left her, was trying to feed her three children on the five cents a day she earned to care for someone's animals. She farmed a little, also, to feed her children.
When Adelphe staff sat down with the woman, she said she just wanted to be able to feed her family and send her kids to school–an option which had previously been financially out of the question. Adelphe enrolled the woman in training to learn more about agriculture and animal raising. With her new knowledge, she is now getting three times the yield on her crops. She can now not only feed her family, but sell some food as well. In addition to this success, at the end of her program she will be given a few animals of her own.
"She by no means is going to be wealthy, but she is definitely on the path not only to provide her family more food, but also to be able to afford to send her children to school and to provide for their basic needs."
As women are trained in the program, they are also educated about human trafficking. In fact, Adelphe staff, all of whom are native to Cambodia, include the families and the entire communities in the education. Because the status of women is so low in the country, there are purposeful Christian male staff with the program who set a better standard for the men who are present when it comes to treating women with dignity and respect.
Throughout the two to three years while the women are being trained and empowered, the Gospel message is central. "If we help them provide for their families and if we tell them that they are a person of dignity and of value and should be treated with dignity, and we don't share with them the love of Jesus Christ, we really have not done much for them," says Beatty.
The Gospel is spoken and lived by Adelphe staff. Home churches are started in communities that don't have a church to attend. The livelihoods of these women change through the program, but the way they view themselves and their lives changes when they hear the Gospel. Many have not even heard of Jesus Christ before participating in the program.
"They have not heard a Gospel that offers them hope for the future, a Gospel–particularly when it comes to women–that they are daughters of God, that they are children of God or made in the image of God. When we first share that, there's complete disbelief in that message, and understandably. It goes counter to anything they've experienced in their entire life, but to see the Holy Spirit start to work over time and to see the transformation take place in the women's lives and in the families' lives is absolutely amazing."
It costs $32 to not only empower a woman, bring her out of extreme poverty and keep her safe from ever being sold as a slave, but to, in turn, empower and educate her children and her community. Each sponsor has the opportunity to correspond with her Adelphe "sister" and is encouraged to tell her more about the love of Jesus Christ. Sponsors can even take a trip with World Hope to meet their Adelphe sister.
To learn more about sharing the love of Christ in this way, visit worldhope.org, and find Adelphe under "Our Work."