Victim to Survivor

Earlier this year, Pat (a member of the WDR committee) was invited to see the a glimpse of the work of IJM [WDR Partner] in Cambodia. 

My time spent in Cambodia with International Justice Mission (IJM) was very busy! Our journey took 24 hours and although we were only there for only five days, it was a very encouraging time spent with such professional and caring staff in the IJM office. 

Pol Pot and the legacy of Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia for almost four years. He tortured and killed so many, particularly anyone educated such as doctors, lawyers, teachers and engineers, in fact even if someone wore glasses they were also killed as he saw them as educated. He was ousted by the Vietnamese in January 1979, however a civil war continued for another two decades, eventually coming to an end in 1999. Most hospitals and education facilities are headed up by foreigners.

The IJM team of staff consists of lawyers, investigators, social workers, community activists and other professionals. So, what did I see in the Cambodia office and throughout Cambodia?

For over a decade the IJM office in Cambodia had been working to reduce the exploitation of children in the sex trade. There were approximately 15-30% of minors, many of them 15 and under, throughout the country and in 2013 this was reduced to 0.1%. 

We were driven down a street which is now full of shops, offices and houses that once were almost all brothels.  Sex exploitation of children has plummeted, thanks to IJM and other organisations. 

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IJM staff are now mainly focussed on labour trafficking, particularly with men exploited as slaves in the Thai fishing industry, and women being taken to China by 'bride traffickers'. They are also involved, alongside WorldVision, in the training of police officers on the issue of trafficking. There are senior police officers who have a passion to drastically reduce this crime. 

While we were there we sat in on a training session for police officers, had a private meeting with the Chief of Police in the North West of the country, and visited the court where victims give evidence and where many traffickers have been prosecuted. We also got to visit and be part of devotions in a church where the IJM staff are involved in community engagement, led by a young Methodist man. 

We spent a full day meeting the staff at IJM HQ; a non-descriptive building with no signs outside- safety and privacy of staff is paramount. We didn’t get to meet the investigators as they had travelled to Thailand to train staff in a new office. We did however get to meet most all others.  

We heard from the legal team, finance, translator, investigation department, community engagement and, an area I found extremely interesting, the aftercare team.

I was inspired by Saroeun. He previously worked in a nightclub and was asked to help IJM to investigate those exploiting people into the sex industry. He started studying law and was successful at university. Now he is head of the legal team and an extremely influential, respected and well-known lawyer throughout Cambodia.

The aftercare team is very much involved in caring for those who have gone from being victims to being survivors. They help them when they return home, assist them in any way possible, including helping them to seek employment - the reason why a large number are trafficked in the first place.

I was upset yet inspired to hear the story of ‘Sam’ (not his real name we never got to know that or take photos of him) who had been taken to Thailand to work on a fishing boat. He lives very close to Thai border, and as work is scarce he was ‘taken in’ by an unscrupulous person offering him a job in the Thai fishing industry. He was on a boat that was fishing illegally and was never brought to harbour. The men lived in cramped conditions and were fed little food. They were terrified of the Captain who had a gun, knowingthey could be shot or thrown overboard at anytime so they just kept working. They received no money even though they had been promised a salary, no contact with anyone off the ship. For 6 years, Sam did not see land.

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His story was told directly to us with the use of an interpreter. He felt he had been sold however now feels he has been given life again.He has a family and IJM are trying to assist him to secure work. The staff continue to work with those who have been victims and now survivors for a minimum of two years.

I am writing this blog on International Trafficking Awareness Day.  Although the stories of victims are difficult to hear and to understand, know that the work done by IJM is truly changing lives.

 

Your kingdom come

In June 2018, WDR convenor Rev. David Nixon, WDR Officer Tim Dunwoody and WDR Admin & Comms Officer Laura Kerr, gave the following report to the Methodist Church in Ireland's annual Conference. 


There is great need and hardship in the world.

“Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.  And he stood up to read.  The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him.  Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind.  To release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”  He rolled up the scroll and said; “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  Luke 4:16

The work of WDR is part of God’s mission to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and release the oppressed  in the world. It is a privilege for us to work with people like Nader Abu Amsha in East Jerusalem, Rev. Joseph Donkoh in Ghana or Thokozani Poswa in Phakamisa who are working together with others to bring reality to the words: ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…give us today our daily bread…”

Our Methodist understanding of God and our commitment to good development practice means that there are several principles to which World Development & Relief is committed.

Firstly, we are committed to ‘transformational development’ which goes beyond material and economic well-being. Our motivation is clear to partners and local people. We do what we do because God has blessed us and because God loves all people and wishes their potentials to be fulfilled. WDR witnesses to these truths in life, word and action on your behalf. Our hope is that people catch a glimpse of God in it all.

Secondly, we are committed to a style of partnership that is relational and is based on shared Christian values. Such relationships develop trust, accountability and transparency that is genuine and welcome.

There are other mechanisms to ensure we are all doing the best we can. Every partner submits reports to the committee every six months. This helps with monitoring and evaluation. You may be interested to know that, in those report templates, partners are asked to evaluate WDR’s performance within the partnership during that same period. On the basis of these reports, we learn, dialogue and chart the best way forward; together. We co-fund four partners with Christian Aid Ireland and All We Can. In those cases, it our larger sister agencies who monitor the work.

Thirdly, we are committed to a long-term walk with partners and the materially poor. We ask “Why is there poverty or injustice?”. In other words, with our partners, we try to tackle the causes. We believe that local people are better placed to identify the problems and solutions and it is local people who take the lead. In our logo, you could imagine that it is their foot that is leading.

Fourthly, we are committed to the idea that everyone who contributes, is a partner. The committee, the staff and volunteers of the implementing organisation, the local people who put in labour, skills and knowledge (and often some money), Irish supporters who give funds, skills and time and any other individual or body that contributes to positive transformation. We each play our appropriate part. None is greater than the other. We need each other to be effective. WDR is the glue that holds this network together. If you’re involved you hopefully feel that you are part of something that is good, effective and Godly.

We would have a hard job doing what we do without our supporters. Whether by giving of  time and skills, giving financially or by covering WDR and partners in prayer, our supporters are key. In recent years some of our key supporter groups have been those who trekked the Himalayas for Kopila-Nepal, those who purchased a Gift for Life and those who took part in the Belfast Marathon. 

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Our fundraising at this year’s marathon was in aid of our partner in Zimbabwe, Dabane Water Workshops. In 2017, we had 50 people take part and this year we had 84. Together, this brilliant group of 84 people raised over £22,000 for Dabane! Money which will be used to develop clean, safe water supplies which will help ensure health & wellbeing of resource-poor families through the supply of uncontaminated water. 

Of course it is such an encouragement to see the number of supporters and the fundraising total grow each year, but there is so much more to take from this. 

Irish Methodists, often with friends and family, are choosing WDR as their development agency. They’re recognising the need and are taking the opportunity to make a difference. They’re giving their time to walk alongside WDR. 

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We, as Christians, are called to serve, to speak up for those without a voice and to stand up for the poor. 84 people took part in the Belfast Marathon wearing a green bib with ‘Irish Methodist World Development & Relief’written on the front and the words ‘WE'RE TACKLING POVERTY’ on the back. To those watching the race or running alongside, what our presence said was that we as Christians, and as the Methodist Church in Ireland, care that 33% of our world lives in poverty. We, as Christians, don’t opt-in to caring about the poor- it is our call and it is our duty.

Why? Because it is God’s heart for his people. 

We’re showing that our Church is not willing to sit back and let things stay as they are. But rather that we are active, we are working and we will not accept the poverty status quo. 

Some people say that our God is irrelevant to them or that what we do on a Sunday, is a mystery to them, BUT they see the sense and goodness of doing something or giving money to help those who are materially poor. Perhaps that’s when our faith makes most sense to them.

We are seeing more and more people engaging with the work of WDR. Mainly Methodists of course but also those outside our church. What an opportunity to show the best side of faith – helping others.

Giving has increased so much in the last couple of years that we were able to allocate an extra £82,000 to your partners in 2018, extra work that neither we nor they had budgeted for. Fantastic.

Regular giving via Standing Order is still the best way to give. It probably means you can give more, once set up you have no hassle and it enables WDR and its partners to plan ahead. 

Most people wish to help the poor. The big problem is, with so many organisations, who do you give to, who is the most effective, who do you trust? WDR works. It is effective and built upon your values. Let us manage your giving for you.

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As a result of the increase in giving, more children are being taught, more patients are being seen, more clean water is pumped, more harvests are reaped, more people are understanding their rights and claiming them, more of the homeless are obtaining homes, more children are hearing, more marginalised women are developing livelihoods, more are being rescued from slavery and being rehabilitated.

In order to continue these aspects of bringing His Kingdom to Earth, we need you to engage and commit. 

There are children, women and men who are not being reached because we don’t yet have the capacity. 

So, I would say God is doing something special through World Development & Relief.

If not already, would you like to join in us?

What a privilege to be involved in the work Jesus started! Preaching good news to the poor, proclaiming freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind releasing the oppressed, proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour…

Alan McIlhenny, of WDR partner, Open Schools Worldwide, wrote recently: “Thanks Tim and please thank the committee on our behalf. We really appreciate your support and encouragement, not just the financial donation but knowing you all care really helps."

So I want to finish by saying a huge THANK YOU for being involved in this aspect of the mission of our church. 

Made for more

Recently I read an article on the Guardian website titled, “British public bought £14bn of goods made by slaves in 2017, claims  report”.  

 Photo: The Guardian

Photo: The Guardian

£14billion. In case, like me, you can’t comprehend that number, it’s £14 with nine 0s after it… £14,000,000,000.  

The article went on to say that according to a UN report, it is estimated that today 40.3 million people live in conditions of slavery.  

40.3 million people are living right now, as you read this, in slavery. Living without freedom, trapped by violence, fear and corruption.  

I can’t get my head around either of these numbers. They’re too big.  

For the British public to have spent such a colossal amount of money on items which have been made by slaves highlights that there are people in forced-labour, working like slaves, in a huge number of companies and industries around our world.  

The article listed “electronics, garments, fish, chocolate and sugar” as some of the most commonly bought goods which will potentially have come from slave labour.  

I think the reason I can’t fully get my head around the numbers in the article is because the 40.3million isn’t just a number or a statistic. 

It’s a group of people.  

A group of people with names, families and friends.  

People created by God.  

People created by God, with gifts, talents and skills.  

People created by God so that they might live life to its fullest.  

They were not created to live a life of darkness, fear or pain. This is not God’s plan for His people.  

I came across this article on Twitter. A few tweets after it, I saw news from one of WDR’s partners, IJM UK: “A family of 11 has been rescued from slavery after being trapped on a farm for four years.”  

Yes, 11 is a small number against a backdrop of 40.3 billion, but isn’t it a start?! 

IJM are able to share news daily of people who have been rescued from slavery. They are at work around the world to challenge the root causes of injustice and corruption which is often so entrenched in political and judicial systems.  

WDR’s vision is to see all people fulfil their God-given potential. With such a huge number of people trapped in slavery, it is great that we (WDR) can partner with IJM in the fight. Together continue to seek after God’s heart for justice and to see His people free.