In Gear | Rotary in Southern New Zealand In Gear - Issue 3 - Page 58

How can we help? During the trip, David was joined by Tith Lim, Cambodia’s United Nation’s Anti-Child Trafficking co-ordinator, on a visit to the deputy head of Phnom Penh’s anti-trafficking police squad, Captain Keo Thea. The Kiwi Rotarian found an office adorned with commendations and awards from the likes of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. He and Tith also had a meeting at the Ministry of the Interior, and were joined by an audience of Cambodian government officials involved in the police anti-trafficking squads. Georgia says the day before the event, the Rotarians were invited to a Hagar-hosted dinner, and heard how many of those the organisation had rescued from sex slavery David Black with Captain Keo Thea and other forms of exploitation were now thriving, and either studying or training. The major issue that arose was around the horrific revictimising of those who have been abused. “To the extent, if the perpetrator’s off to court, they and the victim will often travel in the same vehicle. Over there, in a lot of cases, the victim is seen as the bad one. “There is no barrier to protect them from the offender in the court, and there isn’t even anything to stop the victim being intimidated into dropping the charges, which may come as a result of the offender’s family going to the victim’s home. “We have the likes of Rape Crisis and Victim Support in New Zealand – we have In one of the most inspirational experiences, the Project Starfish contingent competed in the annual Angkor Wat International Half Marathon, encompassing a 10km event, in Sam Riep, Cambodia. They were part of a team organised by Hagar International’s Phnom Penh office, which included survivors of various forms of abuse and exploitation. “The Hagar clients found the experience immensely helpful – being part of such a large event, and having so many supporters,” David says. “Another part of the healing and rehabilitation process.” “I’m thinking: ‘This is pretty cool’,” David says. “I explained to them – through Tith’s translation – that we have a global network of over 1.2 million Rotarians, and we also have close ties to the likes of the United Nations ... what can we do to help you guys?” those sort of frameworks in place here, where we could help Cambodia replicate that, and, I’m sure, within our global Rotary network, we’ve got enough people who have legal skills and backgrounds who would be prepared, on a pro bono basis, to help them set up a better structure.” “One of the girls shared her story, and it was pretty emotional for her to stand up in front of a group of international people and tell her story, and just how thankful she was to Hagar. “One of the things that really stood out to me was how she felt that, from talking to us young people, she felt normal again. “And, they get called ‘victims’. We can forget they are normal people who have been exploited, and that they need long-term support and counselling. Quite often, yes, they are out of the situation, but people tend to forget how easy it is for them to fall back into those situations. “They’re just so vulnerable … some of them don’t know any different. For some, prostitution has always just been a way of life, and a way of income. If they’re suddenly stuck for money again, and they can’t get the training or jobs straight away, they know that’s a source of income, so they’ll go back to that.” As well as the humanitarian support the trip provided and the invaluable fact-finding undertaken, the publicity Page 58 | In Gear - Rotary in southern New Zealand - District 9980 |