From an initial fear of the task ahead of them, Peace Team Cambodia’s volunteer mentors have grown into their roles, and are helping to turn children’s broken hearts into hopeful ones, as Khun Sokhem explains.
When we started our anti-trafficking programme in 2017, there were many challenges facing our volunteers. They were afraid that no-one would listen to them and concerned that they were unable to deal well with children who suffer so much. We asked them very straightforward questions: “are you willing to act on your calling from God and, if you don’t go to help those children and people, who will?”
Through our training, the volunteers came to realise that they wouldn’t face trouble from anyone for sharing ways of protecting children from abuse and trafficking. They learned that co-operation with government at all levels is important, and that they should explain everything clearly with community leaders, parents and children.
In the child mentorship project, there are ten mentors from different churches and ten children for each mentor. The children all came with difficult circumstances – some have no food to eat, some are from broken families, some have no school uniform and materials, some are regularly beaten by adults.
As the children shared their heartbreaking stories and situations with mentors, it was a very emotional time – but as the mentors wept with the children, this created a bond which inspired them to want to help even more.
The mentors have been able to teach the 100 children about how to protect themselves from trafficking, to stay safe from landmines and to get practical support for home and school life. Mentors are loving and encouraging these children, and helping to turn broken hearts into hopeful hearts. A strong trust has grown between children and from child to mentor.
The next phase of this project will see these children trained to be advocates.The mentors will teach children about leadership and identity, and empower them to speak up on behalf of other children to advocate against abuse.
Through their experiences so far, most of our volunteers feel very encouraged, empowered and want to continue their mission to help their community and children. They are thankful for the support of the government and of our network for allowing them to teach and help their local community, schools and churches.
Khun Sokhem is Executive Director of our partner network, Peace Team Cambodia
This article first appeared in Life magazine, issue 11