The Fat Lady

Dear Internet,

We’re baaaaaaack!  Having been stuck in a rut of non-communication since January due to limited internet access in Cuba, and, consequently, paralyzed by how much there is to share about the last six weeks, we’re working hard on Candy Crush to process and sort through everything. So much to tell. So little blog space. So much magazine to write.  Continue reading The Fat Lady

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Gate F12. Don’t tell.

HEY! We are at the airport in Miami, and after fielding phone calls from worried family members, I thought I’d share a little about what we learned this week, what we’ll be doing, and how it’s all going to work.

To travel to Cuba, we needed two permissions—one from the US government, and one from the Cuban government. Through our host ministry (the org we are writing about for World Next Door), we got a religious license from the US government to travel to Cuba, and this involved one of our Cuban host pastors writing a letter of sponsorship.

Entering Cuba has nothing to do with the religious license from the US, and in fact we have to just sort of conceal the religious license and enter Cuba through the tourist visa we applied for and received from the Cuban government.  The Cuban government is not so into our host ministry due to their work toward religious freedoms and bypassing the Council of Churches which confiscated 8 of 10 containers of Bibles the last time they came through, so if we entered Cuba on a religious visa as other sometimes do, we’d likely be watched or followed, potentially putting the ministry at risk on the ground in Cuba. Continue reading Gate F12. Don’t tell.

Land of Extremes: Valleys and high places

Due to internet speed, this post will be illustrated with *awesome* iphone pics only. Additional images of Nepal can be found here, though I’m about 3 weeks late in edits and uploads. Sigh.

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Flying into Kathmandu, I could see the tips of the Himalayan Mountains peeking through the clouds. Fascinated by top-of-the-world snowy peaks, prayer flags and Sherpa communities, I’d dreamt of visiting Nepal for years. I couldn’t imagine what the Himalayas might be like, twice as high as the Colorado Rockies I’d only seen for the first time three years ago. (I am a reformed beach vacationer.)

And Kathmandu? So exotic per all my pretend (now REAL) friends in House Hunters International- tune in Nov 15th  :)

From the sky, the city seemed sleepy and peaceful. I could never imagine the bustling, crowded, loud and fragrant streets, the pounding heat, or the black puffs of exhaust that would infiltrate the valleys below. The dreamy place of my imagination turned out to be worn and vulnerable—a parallel I would eventually make with its youngest and least educated inhabitants. The brick and stone buildings looked equally a million years strong and on the brink of toppling any second. Homes precariously perched on the sides of slopes could just slide right off tomorrow, it appeared.

On only the clearest day, beyond the ten-thousand-foot hills that surround Kathmandu valley, the Himalayas can be seen from the streets below, creating an excitement around town. An audible gasp can be heard on mornings when the fog lifts or a cloud dissipates revealing a massive, sparkly peak—like an unexpected royal breakfast guest. I could never anticipate the stirring I would feel inside, a tiny speck on one of those crowded streets, when the clouds cleared and I looked up to see the peaks in the distance. A glimpse of the high places. Real, I was sure, but from where I stood, unreachable.

Kathmandu Valley

Our royal breakfast guest
Our royal breakfast guest

Nepal is a land of extremes, and as high and bright as the mountains above soared, so deep was the darkness hidden from the high places, lurking in provincial villages and alleys. We had come to Nepal to write about sex trafficking.

I was prepared to hear the story of an individually trafficked girl. I was prepared to write about the micro-oriented work I thought Tiny Hands Nepal, our host ministry, was doing at various border stations. I thought I might conservatively marvel at the double-digits being intercepted on their way to India in the face of ten thousand. These efforts would have been commendable in themselves, for I had read that to succumb to the enormity of the problem is to fail the one. So, I would write about the work on behalf of the one, while at the same time myself succumbing to the enormity of the problem.

But Tiny Hands blew me out of the water. Everything I thought I knew about trafficking was flipped upside down and turned around.

I’d learned during my first week that Nepal, which shares open borders with India, is a source country for trafficking through India to the Arabian Gulf—to the tune of about 10,000 girls per year.  India is both a destination for trafficked Nepali girls and a transit route to the Arabian Gulf, where men from poorer communities have been recruited for cheap labor. Women are necessarily imported to meet their needs

What?!

Women are necessarily imported to meet the sexual needs of cheap laborers.

I could just imagine the business owners working out the whole arrangement:

-But where should we get them, boss?
-Oh, I don’t know. Just find a bunch of desperately poor, naïve, uneducated girls and trick them!

And a business was born. Supply and demand. However the girls are obtained—coercion, physical force, drugs, fake marriages, fake jobs—the overhead is cheap and the $32 billion dollar payoff is massive and renewable. It’s a low-risk/high-reward business.

But sex trafficking has been trending for a good few years. Awareness is growing, there are 5ks in every major American city to end slavery, and #anti-trafficking #hashtags all over twitter. I’d heard the stories of rescued girls and brothel raids; I’d looked into the tiny faces of would-be trafficked girls in Cambodia spared through preventative programming and shook my head in disbelief. I mean, I knew it was true, but it just didn’t seem real.

It got real real fast in Nepal.

I realized two things as I began to weave in and out of the programs at Tiny Hands: One, Because of all the exposure I’ve had to the concept of sex trafficking, my heart had been numbed by the language we use and scope of the problem. “Sex trafficking” is just a fancy name for rape business. When I thought of it in those terms, my heart jumped up and reached around for weapons. It’s a rape business! With kids!

Two, I had never seen the trafficking in-progress. I had never seen the collision of deception and naivety until I looked at the confused face of an intercepted 14-year old at a dusty border station. My perspective expanded to include rape business in-progress.

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As I’d read in Gary Haugen’s book Terrify No More that “The infinite distance between the dignified setting in which we talk about the gross brutalization of people and the places where it actually happens suddenly collapsed when the sights and sound of evil incarnate filled the room.”

Yep. That happened. Sex trafficking went from a concept to a person standing in front of me that day.

I began to understand that my previous knowledge of the trafficking industry was like seeing only the tip of a mountain peeking through the clouds, only the visible part of the trafficking enterprise: the commodity and the byproduct. But an entire mountain and valley, I learned, exists below the cloud line—a robust, unseen network.

Where did the girl come from? Why was she trafficked? By whom? How many more girls are there? Where did the traffickers come from? Which routes did they use? What border did they cross? Who funded it?

These are the questions Tiny Hands is asking.

They are not just waiting at the top of the mountain addressing all the things we can see. They’re not even off the side scooping up girls before they’re pulled in. They’re inside the mountain—the rape business in-progress—blowing the whole thing up!

How could they possibly do this, I wondered as I sat down with my pen and notebook across from Nepali staff on our first full day in country. I had come to the premature conclusion that in small niches of the world handfuls of girls were being spared this awful life by prevention, and another small portion was being methodically rescued; but I was not entirely convinced justice would ever find its way up and out to the bad guys or that any of these operations would put a dent in the industry.

Over the course of two days, hidden away in a corner Momo shop, the Tiny Hands staff pieced together for me the story of an inter-country collaboration of skills, expertise and the love of Christ working together to free those captive, dismantle the network and de-incentivise the business.

One-by-one the staff entered the restaurant hot and sweaty, during a government-sanctioned strike that shut down all transportation country-wide. I interviewed the directors, trainers, law personnel and aftercare workers who serve and train the border staff, and monitor their needs and safety.

Particularly striking about the Nepali staff was each one’s humility and willingness to put his life at risk coordinating border work. One described how he keeps logs of traffickers in jail and works hard to anticipate what harm might befall workers at various stations in retribution. All told of their lives being threatened. They weren’t stuffy white shirt guys with slick hair and gadget pens or big burly guys on motorcycles. They were ordinary Nepali men in ball caps and chinos, none over 5’8”, many with wives and young kids, equipped primarily with research and prayer.

Then we met the research guys. They comprise a covert network of Nepali “Justice Operations” expertise.

One guy, who had been part of the dark underworld of drugs and crime, is providing unparalleled information and access to the criminal network after Christ restored his life nine years ago. Saved by grace, he jumped at the chance to use his “criminal mind” for good, and is now in the business of fighting for justice. He also offered us his taxi contact, showed us a picture of his adorable little boy and offered to teach us how to make Momos.

Another would provide the necessary role of setting things up logistically, serving a liaison between teams in the field, and translating when necessary.

These two and several others work under the direction of the Vice President of Justice Operations—an international expert in the field, who was constantly presented to us by all the different staff and volunteers like this: You have to meet Jeff! He doesn’t live here, but he’s the expert training our research guys. He used to work for International Justice Mission, but he’s in Thailand right now on an operation.

Wow. An “operation.” I made jokes about spy pens, but everyone just nodded their heads sincerely.

Jeff had the vision for the Fusion Center, into which all the Justice Operations intelligence is funneled, and where an impassioned twenty-something Johns Hopkins grad makes sense of it. This grad is in charge of research and analysis, and he is self-funded, along with all the other Tiny Hands International staff.

During our sunset interview on his day off, he described how he creates maps showing points of origin for both the trafficker and the victim, the average path lengths and transit routes, funding sources, and final destinations. This, the team believes, will help them understand the methods of recruitment, and more strategically fight sex trafficking on a structural level.

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So, they are at the borders intercepting individual girls on a daily basis, but through the interception, they’re able to gather information for prosecution and de-incentivise the trade. Every successful intervention costs the traffickers money. Every successful prosecution costs them time, commodity, and resources. Every criminal sentenced to jail makes trafficking a higher risk/lower profit enterprise in that community.

A little more comprehensive than I had initially thought.

Here is the body of Christ, I marveled, with its different skills, purposes and nationalities working together toward a common goal of intercepting as many girls as possible, building tight cases for prosecution, and convicting the traffickers.

People constantly ask how God could let this happen. Couldn’t he just rescue the girls? Doesn’t he care?

Uh. Yeah. It was never God’s fault.

God has heard the cries of these girls. God is in the brothel with them. God is at the border with them. God is at the source, God is in the transit routes and God is at the destination. He has given us everything we need to pick these girls up—specks on the dirty, dusty streets looking at high places that don’t quite seem real. He has given us the ability to set them on the high places. Like the ancient-looking brick and stone buildings on the brink of toppling, so the sex trafficking industry would be in Nepal — thanks to the work of Tiny Hands.

This is an excerpt from my feature that will publish in the December issue of World Next Door magazine.  Again, muchas gracias to Beth and mom who helped with edits.

Welcome home!

We have only been in the country for two days, and there’s already too much to write!

Let me set the scene: we flew out of Indy at 8pm on Monday and arrived in Nepal at 7am on Weds with a full day before us. We spent all day doing things like setting up phones and dongles and changing money and meeting our host family, and when we went to bed that night, it had been about 52 hours since we had last gotten out of bed two mornings before. That might be the longest I’ve ever been awake at one time.

One funny note from the airport. Our travel time door-to-door was about 30 hours, so I was feeling a little less than fresh and very sleepy when we lined up for our Nepali visa at the airport. It was one of those quick and chaotic find-the-right-papers-and-get-in-the-right-line-before-everyone-else-on-the-plane-does situations, and we were thrilled to be relatively close to the visa counter when we realized we needed extra passport pics, and I didn’t have one. Jeff saved our place while they pointed me to the photo booth, which was locked and forming a line itself, but a young guy from behind a different counter switched hats, grabbed his keys and ran over to the photo booth, told me to sit on a stool, snapped a pic before I even knew what was happening, and here it was:

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confused, tired, quick and chaotic

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We were greeted at the airport by Sarah, the Tiny Hands Overseas Liaison. She helped get all our phones and dongles set up for us, took us to a guesthouse to shower, helped plan out our week, and hung out with us until our host fam was ready at 3p.

We could not have been blessed with a better host family!

At the family’s gate, a door swung open and a teen girl with a big smile said, Welcome home! Our host family has 14 girls and 4 boys. FOURTEEN SISTERS!!! They range in age from 4-26, and are a combination of siblings and cousins, as their dad’s two brothers, one sister-in-law and one brother-in-law live in the home together. The house is tall and skinny with four levels, maybe 10 bedrooms(?) and bunks everywhere. The host dad, G is a pastor and runs a separate ministry supported by the church and other organizations—his (and his family’s) story is so inspiring, I’m hoping to be able to share more about it later.

Jeff and I are in a room on the first floor, which is where all the kids do their homework.

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Our room

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Homework area outside our room

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Our host home

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Everyone’s shoes all organized outside the door

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The kitchen and living room area are warm and welcoming, and we have felt at home from the very beginning, especially when we discovered a basket of cookies and candy in our room on our arrival. We have Nepali tea with the parents in the mornings and tea on the roof in the evenings, share dinner together as a family in the kitchen, and the kids have come around at different times to talk and hang out one or two at a time. Someone is always home, always friendly and available, and almost everyone speaks English. We are slowly learning everyone’s names, and we’re impressed with how many of the kids come sit with us on the roof to talk or visit, which helps with the name learning one-by-one and is just so darn sweet.

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Family dinner!

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The home has a water filtration system built in, so we’ve had clean water, and there is a solar panel on top to heat water for showers! Which brings me to my favorite room of the house: the roof!

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Evening tea on the roof

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Looking West down our street from the roof

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Our little friend practicing her English homework at dusk

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Some boys playing volleyball on the street below

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Facing south, looking out over the neighborhood

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Looking North

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All the tomato and chili plants- the potatoes and garlic are kept inside because the monkeys steal them!

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The little chili plants

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Hanging the chilis to dry

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The water tank and solar panel

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Our home is a five-minute walk from both the main Tiny Hands Nepal office and the Freedom Operations office, not to mention a restaurant with delicious momos for a dollar. [More on momos later!]

We’ve spent the last two days at both offices meeting and getting to know the Nepali staff, learning a ton about the border monitoring process and the local church’s involvement, and trying to understand things like Bandh- a government issued political strike where no vehicles are allowed on the road at all and nothing is open. Kids are out of school and the only transport option is walking, or sometimes bicycles. Our first morning in the Tiny Hands office was a Bandh day, so people trickled in one-by-one over the course of the morning fanning themselves and gulping water after having walked, some of them, two hours to get to the office (what?!). Our host fam dad, G, had to officiate a wedding that day and had no choice but to walk with several of the kids to the church 5 miles away. All the guests had to walk, so the wedding, which was supposed to start at 11a didn’t start until 1p, and then a second round of guests began to arrive at 5p, so they did another round!

Also tricky are the intentional rolling blackouts. I think there’s a schedule, but I haven’t seen it yet. Wait, I just googled it and found this. Hmm.

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Electricity in certain seasons can be out for up to 16 hours per day. Right now it seems to go out at 8a and come back on around 3p. Some places have generators, and at our house, each room has one working light during blackouts, so that’s nice.

Weather right now is pretty awesome. It’s hot during the middle of the day, but 60s in the mornings and evenings. It hasn’t rained yet so far, and we’re looking forward to doing some cultural things in the city this weekend, before heading down to the borders and to Pokhara with Tiny Hands next week.

We are so impressed with Tiny Hands, it’s difficult to figure out how to fit everything in our short time here, and how to best share everything through World Next Door and on the blog. They are doing SO much SO well, and we’ve already been inspired after only two days.

The International and Nepali staff each have community nights for fellowship and meal sharing, and we’ve been invited to one tonight, which we’re pumped about. We haven’t met the international staff yet, so here’s to hoping we avoid Lost in Translation moments tonight.

Thanks for coming with us via the Internets!

We Harts You.

Hi buddy-ol-pals,

This is one of those lump-a-bunch-of-news-together kind of updates, with one embarrassing picture of our packing status.

We are only 8 hours from flying out for our next assignment in Nepal. We have been home for about 4 weeks and jam-packed a lot of family and friend visiting, although we didn’t see or talk to everyone we would have liked to visit with. We are in a state of constant disconnect it feels like, and wish we could stop time to catch up and share a meal with more people than there are days home. If you’re wondering, yes, we mean you!

World Next Door just released our 6th magazine issue this month (the 3rd for Jeff and I) and have seen growing success with increasing in downloads and readership each month!  We have also discovered many personal stories of individuals and families getting involved with different organizations, kids getting sponsored, trunk parties hosted, inspired US teens diverting birthday gifts to other teens in faraway places, etc. and have started a new section of the magazine called “Wild-eyed”. This section tells stories of ordinary people who have gotten personally involved in the fight against social injustice after reading an article in the magazine.  It’s how we’ll begin to share the effectiveness of the magazine with those who have invested in our mission of engaging others to action. We continue to be inspired, and we’re more excited than ever to get to Nepal and produce our next magazine with Tiny Hands International, scheduled for publication in December.

While CGI in Cambodia focused primarily on the prevention and re-integration of sex-trafficking, Tiny Hands actually intercepts girls being trafficked from Nepal to India through 26 border stations, and partners with International Justice Mission to build a case and prosecute. Each station has the capacity to rescue up to 130 girls per year if fully staffed. Tiny Hands also has several children’s homes staffed by a local married couple, a prayer initiative, and are in the middle of establishing a Dream Center and a US-accredited School of Injustice. Below are two behind-the-scenes videos about the Tiny Hands border stations and how the interceptions work.  The first video is embedded, the second is a link called “Trafficked” you’ll to click through. I was floored:

Trafficked: https://vimeo.com/45765371

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At the end of our six weeks, we’ll be spending time with a different organization called Nepal Outdoor Adventures, a Nepalese owned and operated trekking company who who are passionate about reaching young people in Nepal for Christ. They have developed a business model to help keep youth workers in their community called, Nepal Outdoor Adventure Treks and Expedition. Every 10 trekkers that use Nepal Outdoor Adventure Treks and Expedition will employ a full-time youth worker in Nepal for a year.  We will be going on a 10-day trek to the Annapurna sanctuary with this organization for an article or two.

The next six weeks will be packed! I sure wish we were packed.

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Now for the goods.

Below are the pictures and links for the iPad version of the Cambodia issue that came out last week, and the online version of the magazine for those who prefer to read the content online. We’ll also list the specific articles Jeff and I wrote for easy access, though I recommend reading the three features by our summer interns- SO good.

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Online content (click the image below to go to the table of contents):

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Our specific articles this month, with most of J’s photography scattered throughout the sections in the iPad version:

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Thanks for following along and for all your support, love and prayers. You guys carry us! Feel free to follow along while we’re in Nepal via:

Twitter.com/brooky

Facebook.com/brkhartman

Instagram.com/brkhartman

And the ol’ blog: www.brkwilson.wordpress.com

The Lottery: Princess puzzles, poverty and a globe-spanning sisterhood

I have three nieces: ages three, four and five. They adore tiny stuffed bunnies and princess puzzles. They sing Call Me Maybe from the backseat of the car in pink booster seats and star-shaped sunglasses. They carry zip-lock bags full of goldfish and kid-sized aluminum canteens of clean water. Their tiny fingers can pinch and zoom on an iPhone to my wonder and awe.

Girls

They are brand new to the planet, relatively speaking, and are totally oblivious to the winnings they hold of the highest lottery never played: they are among the 5% of little girls born into education, healthcare, independence, relative equality and material wealth inside the freedoms of the United States.

Before coming to Cambodia, I watched the documentary Half the Sky. I saw the little faces of three, four and five-year-old girls, the tiny lips and squishy fingers moving in a traditional Cambodian dance rhythm – little painted toes, tiny gold-plated earrings and a miniature strand of fake pearls. These preschool and elementary-aged girls had been rescued from the sex trade and were being cared for by a formerly trafficked woman at a safe house. A giant crack formed right in the middle of my beating heart.  I immediately thought of my nieces. Each one could easily have been born a baby girl in Cambodia.

If you are born a little girl in this world, you arrive with a lottery ticket and low odds. Somewhere in time and space, knit together in the wombs of oppressed women worldwide, these little girls burst forth brand-new and fresh-faced not into pink booster seats and princess puzzles, not into tiny stuffed bunnies or aluminum canteens of fresh water, but into ownership and disease. Into shanties and civil war and violence. Into refugee camps and brothels. Sometimes they are the result of violence perpetrated on their mothers. Sometimes they are born and then disappear. 107 million girls are currently missing in the world right now. Vanished! 107 million.

Even as I sit in Cambodia face to face with these realities, I can’t comprehend them. As a lottery winner, I could easily have lived my entire life squandering the winnings, unaware of what I so narrowly escaped. But I do know, and the aunt in me wants to scoop all the girls from the corners of the earth and kiss their faces, give them nicknames and star-shaped sunglasses. I want to play the game I play with my nieces: “Who loves you? Daddy loves you, yes! And Mommy? Mommy too! And who else loves you? Auntie and Uncle and Grandma and Papa and Mimi? And who else loves you?” On and on we play until she has named every single person who loves her, which takes forever.

I wonder if anyone plays this game with any of these little girls, and I wonder how long the game would last. This girl whose value is based on how many cows a family can get for her dowry, on how much her virginity will generate in dollars, on how light her skin tone is because it determines how many times they can re-sell her to purchase a new TV— it is too much for me. I am overwhelmed, and I know I can’t begin to fix any of it. The problem is too big and too deep.

Hopeless?

The easiest thing to do when I feel hopeless about the state of humanity is bury my head the Target dollar spot, a House Hunters International marathon and a DQ mini blizzard. These are the mind-numbing benefits to my winning lottery ticket.  But what if I could use the winnings to actually make a change in the lives of one of these girls?  What if I didn’t have to bear the burden alone or solve the problem myself? What if others were already working against these injustices, and I could pour into that bucket with lots of others to form an entire network to end—and even prevent—the injustices from occurring in the first place?!

Guess what. No, really. Guess.

I can do each of these things, and there is an organization in Cambodia working against these injustices! The organization is called The Center for Global Impact (CGI), and CGI’s sole purpose is to function as a vessel for each of us with skills, talents and resources to help others worldwide. Right now, as a result of the ideas of skilled and inspired people in central Indiana, CGI is working with girls and women in Cambodia through several vocational and micro enterprise programs to both prevent girls who are at risk from being trafficked, and to reintegrate formerly trafficked girls into the community with self-sustaining sewing and culinary skills. They’ve also started a brand new community-based outreach program in Kien Svay, a small community outside Phnom Penh, working to alleviate the effects of poverty.

As I prepared to leave for Cambodia, balancing my heart between my nieces at home and the kids I’d seen and heard about, I couldn’t wait to see CGI’s work firsthand. Would the issues be right out in front of me, or tucked below the surface? What would the helping look like, and how would I fit in? Would my skills and interests be used? And finally, how in the world would I manage the heat and the spiders?! They eat spiders in Cambodia, you know.

It took about thirty hours of travel to chill me out and a cold shower every 25 minutes to mitigate the heat upon arrival, but I finally settled into my (mostly spider-free) host home and embraced the chance to roll up my pants—literally, it’s rainy season here—and find out what CGI was all about. We had previously talked about my interests (adorable kids) and skills (social work), so I quickly linked up with Kien Svay Kids and a children’s home they partner with called Enzo Tina.

I’d heard that in Cambodia, students are ranked by performance, with the highest raked students promoted, encouraged, and given seats up front, while the lower ranking students are penalized, kept at the back of the classroom, and often-times ignored. Kien Svay Kids is using the primary school as a gateway into the rest of the community by identifying the three lowest performing students in each class, visiting those families, and assessing their needs.

Each morning I met Srey Leak, CGI staff, at the Machem Vorn primary school to speak with the teachers in each class. Usually we were greeted by excited and squirmy students, and the top one or two were selected by the teacher to stand up and perform a song or greeting, which was adorable. But we had come in search of the lowest-ranked students, who  were sitting at the back with embarrassed smiles and very little eye contact.  We walked home with a different struggling student every day at lunchtime to visit with the families and learn what might be keeping each child from being successful.

I realized early on that each situation was infinitely more complicated than it looked from the surface. No two stories of poverty were the same; no two barriers to education would have the same fix; no two kids at risk of exploitation follow the same formula.

We went home with students whose parents were fighting or divorced or used drugs. Our hearts broke with a student whose siblings were killed in a car accident and who was being called “a gentleman’s boy”—the equivalent to being called gay—by other kids in the class. There was a little boy whose parents had each abandoned him, leaving his two grandmothers in a deadlock over whether or not to sell the little boy to ‘His Excellency’, another term for rich man.  There have been orphans and single parent homes and homes with disabilities. We’ve seen families of four living in 10×15 sq foot rooms, and four families of too-many-to-count living in a four-bedroom house. We’ve seen families who simply don’t have the means to pay for afternoon classes or for lunch. We’ve seen kids who live too far away to walk back and forth every day. And we have visited with kids whose families can’t care for them at all and have arranged for their stay at a Children’s home, which most refer to as an orphanage.

The stories not told, however, were those things that happened when the poverty became insurmountable. When the snails didn’t sell, and the fish didn’t bite, and the kids had already dropped out of school, and there was nothing left to eat. In that tight spot, I found the underbelly of poverty. It wasn’t hunger or filth or lack of education—though these things are difficult enough. For some families, there is one last option, one final economic recourse: selling or renting out a child. The underbelly of poverty in this neighborhood was the sex trade.

It’s what happens when there is simply no other solution.

In the middle of this dark realization, however, I met two girls whose stories are living proof that hope exists here. For these two girls and their families, CGI has provided an alternative.

I first met Sreyka (not her real name) when I was visiting a yellow-washed bright and airy local Children’s Home, just a block from the primary school. Kids sang, jumped and played around the compound freely and happily. Sreyka was quiet at first, often looking back and forth to see what others around her were doing, but reciprocated any greeting with a bright and inviting smile—perfect teeth and long bangs that swooped down across her eyes.  We played classic hand-clap games we both knew in different languages and marveled at each other’s chipping nail polish. At 12 years old, her clothing and stature reflect a nine-year-old, but her beauty and culture would soon push her over the cusp of childhood into adolescence.  Although Sreyka’s family lives just two houses down from the children’s home, she stays at the children’s home, sponsored by CGI, for access to two things not available to her at her family home: safety and education.

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Sreyka is the fifth out of six girls, and, based on the secret lives of her mother and older sisters, would have been next in line to be sold for prostitution to meet the basic needs of the family. A few years ago, CGI began building a relationship with the family, and while the oldest daughter remains an active prostitute, CGI was able to draw the next two sisters into the organization’s vocational and rehabilitation program, now known as Imprint Project, to provide skills, value, and an alternative income for the family. One of the sisters graduated the program and now works at a factory; the other sister ran away and returned to the lifestyle of abuse, cash, and pretend value—having been previously abused and having grown up with this as the norm. Sometimes the smokescreen proves more lustrous than the work of recovery.

We met with Sreyka, her mother, and the runaway sister at their family home—a small tin shack with tarp and fabric draped for walls and overhangs, and a short wooden ladder leading to the interior two bedrooms. The kitchen and sitting area were outside, surrounded by piles of dishes, clothes, baby chicks, dog food bins, flip-flops and ceramic water basins, and we sat together with the family on top of the dual purposed bed/table. Although happy to be home with her family and giggling with her sisters, Sreyka mentioned, “At home I could not go to school. I could only cook and clean.”

After years of missing school on and off due to the inability to pay school fees and following closely in the footsteps of her older sisters, Sreyka could have easily become another rescue and rehabilitation story. But CGI, having already invested in the family and community, took notice of Sreyka’s vulnerability and the high risk of her being sold, and they began to provide for her needs through the Kien Svay Kids program.  Now, with her mom’s agreement and admitted desire for Sreyka to do something in her future and to “get more learning”, Sreyka lives at the Children’s home where her meals and clothing and school fees are paid for by CGI, relieving the burden of care from her family while protecting her at the same time. She is working hard to slowly rise from the lowest class ranking as she has difficulty reading and writing, but gets daily lessons and homework help.

I asked Sreyka what she hopes to be when she grows up, and she shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. She lives day-by-day, our translator explained, and all she can see are the lives of her family members. “I think I want to do the work of my sister,” Sreyka said, “but I don’t know what my sister does.”

And there, again, came the urge for face kisses and the Who Loves You? game. Left in her family environment, she could easily end up standing in her runaway sister’s exact footsteps. She has the potential right now to be so much more than her sisters, but she has no idea! Fortunately, CGI knows.  And they’ll hold onto that vision for her until she’s able to see a future for herself.

While we interviewed Sreyka, another sweet face kept popping around the corner. It was Sokha, another CGI sponsored girl living at the Children’s Home with the same needs as Sreyka – safety and education – but with an entirely different story.

Sokha, thrilled with the opportunity to go home and see her family, grabbed Sreyka’s hand (it was clear the two were becoming close friends) and we all hopped into a tuk-tuk for the 40 minute ride through the Cambodian countryside, through rice fields and farms, to Sokha’s family home.

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There, we saw the farm her family maintains on the land they rent for $100 per year and the factory where her four siblings work. As her dad cut corn from the stalks for us to eat, her mom began frying some eggs and rice to serve us for lunch. We sat on the floor of the family home and learned about sweet Sokha.

She first came to CGI about ten months ago when her mom approached the Children’s Home in desperation. Sokha’s three cousins, whose mom had died and dad had left, were living there, and Sokha’s mom knew there might be a chance for the same graces to be showered upon her youngest daughter, who was forced to quit school and work on the family farm. The youngest of five kids, the family had simply run out of money for Sokha’s school fees.  Even more concerning was Sokha’s vulnerability. At 14, she was becoming older and more beautiful, and with fair skin in a rural community, her parents began to fear letting her ride her bike to or from school in the country as she would be an easy target for kidnapping, rape, and trafficking.

“It’s dangerous to be born a beautiful girl in Cambodia,” our translator told us, Sokha’s mother nodding in agreement.

Because of the money and fear, Sokha had missed so much school she had to repeat a grade when she first arrived, but is now the top in her 6th grade class. “I want to complete my studies, so I can work in a bank!” Sokha told us, smiling.  “When I was 11 or 12, I saw the girl at the bank, and I noticed her beautiful uniform and hair. I knew she made lots of money, and I knew I wanted to be like her someday.”

Sokha’s mom and dad looked at her proudly and stroked her hair.

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When Sokha’s mom approached the Children’s Home, last fall, they contacted CGI as they had before for other partnerships. The two organizations came to an agreement that the Children’s Home would house Sokha if CGI paid for all the expenses, including food, clothing and school fees.

“It’s safe and easy for her there. She can go to school, and she has enough food,” Sokha’s mom said. “We used to be a poor family, but now we are a normal family.”

Her parents gave us hugs and sent us back to the tuk-tuk with a bag of corn from the farm, and in front of us walked Sokha and Sreyka, hand in hand. I was certain Sokha could rattle off an endless list of those who loved her, and now Sreyka could list Sokha.

As I watched them giggle and run toward the tuk-tuk, I was reminded of my last niece, Rachel, who’s 13. She has a compassionate heart, is artistic and fun, loves glitter shoes and creative baking. I rode back to the Children’s Home with 12-year-old Sreyka and 15-year-old Sokha and thought if Rachel knew about the lives of her peers on the other side of the world, she would want to help. But how? I could hear her asking.

How can kids help kids?

That’s where the CGI Kids movement comes in. CGI Kids in the US exists to encourage and equip kids to use their God-given passions and abilities to make a positive impact in the lives of children around the world. Kids have all the creativity and none of the barriers of “grown up” practicality!

Take Mackenzie and Zachary. When they saw a picture of a dirty water bottle, they asked their dad, “Who would drink that?”  A conversation followed about kids all over the world drinking dirty water, and Mackenzie and Zachary were inspired to do extra chores and set money aside to help provide children with clean water for drinking, cooking, and bathing. They talked with CGI President Chris Alexander as he was getting ready to leave for Cambodia, and Chris explained that he was going to visit little boys and girls that live on an island with no access to clean water. Two families who live on an island halfway around the world now have a clean water filtration system because two kids from central Indiana wanted to make a difference.

While here in Cambodia, I learned about another group of kids in Fountaintown, IN. They heard a presentation about CGI’s work with kids in Cambodia and went nuts! The kids emptied their wallets and piggy banks raising enough money to fund new school uniforms and school supplies for 200 kids, which were being delivered on the days I was at the primary school.

A couple of other kids set up a lemonade stand in their neighborhood, earned $25, their mom matched it, and they sent $50 in cash on the next trip to Cambodia to meet a need of a kid who was struggling.

One last group of kids in Indiana gathered together at a park with buckets donated from Menards and tomato plants. CGI Kids hosted a gardening workshop for the kids, everyone took their tomato plants home to raise throughout the summer, and as the tomatoes become ripe, they’ll be sold and the money will be collected to help CGI’s culinary training restaurant, The Green Mango.

As I heard story after story about kids here and kids at home, it hit me: CGI Kids is the intersection of pink aluminum canteens and dirty water bottles; of stuffed bunnies and child labor; of Call Me Maybe from a booster seat and the lonely singing of a kid in Kien Svay who works a farm because she has no money for school. CGI Kids is the intersection of Rachel and Sreyka, a meeting point for little ones who won the resource lottery and want to use their grace-given winnings to help those who simply missed the odds.

Some adults and kids and entire families can drop their lives for a few weeks or a few months and fly over to provide the hands-on work of whatever inspires them and with whatever skills they have for the kids of Kien Svay. Others don’t have the flexibility or means to do the direct work, but they can educate the people around them about the invisible lottery that exists, about the vulnerability of kids on the other side of the world, and about the value they can add to a little life by pouring time, energy, skills and resources in to CGI, already forging the way.

I’m not sure how I managed to get a winning ticket, but I am a part of this sisterhood of oppressed women worldwide, and I have to do something to make life better for all of us.

I can’t scoop up all these girls and kiss their faces, I can’t rattle off an endless list of people who love them, but I know that CGI is doing this, providing each one with value and love, and I can pour into CGI my time, skills and money. I can sponsor one of the girls. I can give up a summer to run a kids camp. I can purchase my bags or clothes from byTavi. I can simply tell others about what I’ve seen and learned.  One thing is certain: I can’t just sit on the winnings.

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From the July 2013 Issue of World Next Door Magazine
More articles like this? Want to DO something about this? Visit http://www.worldnextdoor.org/magazine or click here to read the July Cambodia issue online.

Highlight Reel from the ‘Bode

Jeff and I have been back in the country for about a week doing things like not eating rice and sleeping in our own dreamy bed.

Never have I loved home more than right now, and it turns out, when you travel exotic places for your job, staycations feel magical!  We are finding magic in morning coffee on our deck and Einstein’s Bagel runs and Old Navy if the mood strikes and sharing almost every single meal with a person we missed.  We’ve got about three weeks before we leave for Nepal, and we’re trying to streeeeeetch the time to fit in all the visiting and unpacking and packing and coffee-drinking and nothing-doing.

But, Cambodia!

July Ad

The July issue of World Next Door from Cambodia is out and ready to download! Click on the photo above for download instructions or past issues. As opposed to the Rwanda issue, where Jeff and I were embedded alone and responsible for all the content, this issue was written by our team of 7 people, and we love it!  Although iPad viewing is the BEST way to view the magazine- video, music, live language lessons, dancing j.pegs and interactive maps and photos- all the content is available online, too, for the grandparents. We love the grandparents.

*If you are not a grandparent, borrow yourself an iPad and get to downloading!

 

Here is a link to the online content:

Cambodia Overview July

And links to our specific articles this month:

  • Redefining Normal  More Than Good Enough: How a successful private chef ended up in small town Cambodia teaching at-risk girls how to cook. Click here
  • The Lottery  Princess puzzles, poverty and a globe-spanning sisterhood. *Guest starring my little noopy nieces in this one! Click here
  • History Lesson  A (Brief) History of Cambodia Click here

___

Our second Cambodia issue is scheduled to be out in the next couple of weeks, so while you wait, I’ll give you my top  Wait, What? moments in Cambodia:

  • Things Mamsung did today: took me off my bike, tucked my shirt into my shorts, went up through the leg opening to pull the shirt tight from underneath, pulled my unders down instead, laughed so hard, and went right back up there for the shirt. Why can there not be secret cameras on us at times like this?!

 

  • Four of us from Phnom Penh took the bumpiest 6hr bus ride to Battambang this morning to meet the rest of the team. It wasn’t bumpy from the road, but from the hydraulic shocks bouncing up and down like a roller coaster bus. Weird. Anyway, it aggravated that inner ear thing I developed in Rwanda, and I started to feel dizzy about an hour after we got off the bus. I went back to the guesthouse to lay down, and two seconds after my head hit the pillow, music started from downstairs through, like, a megaphone, and I can’t even tell you what the instrument was. It sounded like an organ mixed with xylophone mixed with hand bells. The lineup? Silent Night, followed by Joy to the World, and finally Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. This, while I’m lying in bed wrapped in yards of cheetah fabric, because Pisei got to sewing again and made me a giant tent-shaped cheetah shirt. Is this my life? Dizzy, covered in Cheetah fabric listening to Christmas Carols on the 4th of July in Cambodia?!

 

  • Church this morning: hour-long van ride to the bank of a river with wooden steps leading into the water, a boat appears and ferries us to an Island, we remove our shoes before entering the church, sing worship songs in Khmenglish, then vote on 2 of 4 singers who compete in a singing contest to be the new worship leader. Kids around us want #2 and #3 to win, so they take our #1 and #4 slips, but somehow #4 wins, who was definitely in last place. All this followed by a sermon and kool-aid communion, my legs lifted off the floor the entire time due to 3 big spiders roaming the tile, and with a couple of 4-year-olds sticking their little hands through my chair to tickle my armpits. Door to door? About 5 hours.

 

  • If the electricity goes out, don’t worry. The house down the street has a generator or something and is able resume the karaoke through the loud speaker to entertain the village in the dark

 

And if those didn’t tide you over, here are some friends who want to say hi:

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Link to additional pictures from Cambodia: here, here and here

Thanks for following along! Here is a compelling video about the org we’ll be embedded with next in Nepal:  https://lovefoundme.org/

Insomnia, Insanity, and the ‘Bode

So far today: I woke up at 3a, then 4a, then finally got out of bed at 5a to do I-Candy, which is my own personal version of Insanity. I named it Brooke-CAN-ity (because I CAN do it, right?), then changed it to I-CAN-ity (to make it universal), and then shortened to I-Candy (because this is what everyone thought I was saying). It’s a little cardio/resistance circuit that represents my new attempt at routine and consistency in life, and it usually feels awesome. But today I lost half my weight in sweat during the first 20 minutes since it was 94 degrees at, like, 6am.

Oh yea. Which reminds me: WE’RE IN CAMBODIA! We made it safely here via Seoul after about 30 hours of travel to embed with our host ministry Center for Global Impact [http://www.centerforglobalimpact.org/]. We spent today doing things like eating tropical fruit, Thai noodles and Vietnamese coffee, visiting a riverboat village, meeting Tavi of byTavi(!), getting chopstick lessons, setting up all the phones and data stuff, banging my head against the wall when the phones and data stuff wouldn’t work, sweating, trying not to nap, singing If you’re happy and you know it with a bunch of kids at the children’s home, and listening to the kids sing a song back to us in French which none of us, not even the kids, knew the meaning of. We also visited the Phnom Penh programs each of us will be working with this summer: byTavi, Imprint Project, and the Enzo-tina Children’s Home.

From here our team will divide between four different programs in two cities to work alongside and document CGI’s mission for justice within the sex trade industry.

Some basic info:
Sex trafficking is transportation across international borders for the purpose of sex.
Sex slavery is when someone (usually kidnapped, tricked or coerced) is held against her will for the purpose of sex within the borders of her own country.
CGI deals with both.

The sex trade is divided into 4 categories: prevention, rescue, recovery (safe houses), and reintegration. CGI works primarily with the prevention and reintegration pieces. CGI believes that poverty + crisis = risk for trafficking. The solution to poverty in some families is to sell their daughters for weeks at a time to feed the family due to the high economic value of young girls. In this way, girls can be sold over and over as a source of income for the family.

One of our interns is embedded with ByTavi, a prevention program that empowers girls and young women to earn an income in safe ways by first learning how to sew bags and purses, and then being provided with an international market to sell the items they’ve made. A talented team in the US sells the product, and this allows the women to earn 4x the poverty level income in Cambodia. They are then able to provide for their families outside of the sex industry. ByTavi was named after Tavi, one of the women workers who was formerly trafficked and now able to provide a legitimate income for her family. We met her today! ByTavi info here: http://www.bytavi.com

Another intern and one of the other year-long fellows are embedded at the Green Mango in Battambang. There, orphans, girls-at-risk, and formerly trafficked women are enrolled in a two-year culinary training program that will prepare them to work in high-end restaurants all over Cambodia. http://www.greenmangocgi.com/

Our third Intern is embedded with the Daughters Project (currently being renamed the Imprint Project- girls who can’t read or write use their thumbprint as a signature, the program is named after that imprint). The Imprint Project is a two-year residential program pairing high-risk or formerly trafficked teenage girls with social workers who provide life-skills training, education, health care, money management and professional seamstress training. Initially the program was aimed at developing the girls inside the residential program and after the two years, the girls would return home. However, after discovering how the families adapted to life without the girls at home and how quickly marriages were arranged once the girls returned home, the program is has shifted to include the entire family, even providing them with land and a house to go through the program as a family. http://www.cgidaughters.com/about

Jeff and I will be living at the Daughters/Imprint house at night, but embedded with CGI Kids during the days. In Cambodia, the most educated and most successful students are given priority in school with front row seats, attention, and encouragement while the poorer, less successful, struggling students are ignored and fall behind. CGI partners with a children’s home down the road and goes into the schools, asking each teacher for a list of the least-performing students to work with, encourage, develop and come alongside. CGI also works with the younger siblings of the girls from the Imprint project who are living at the children’s home. This is all I know about CGI kids, but that’s our job. To find out more! I know one of GCI’s goals is to engage kids in the US to get involved helping kids all over the world.

Some photos from today- meeting the Imprint/byTavi girls at the shop, the WND dudes at the pattern-cutting table, and the riverboat village we visited:

Imprint girls IMG_3822 IMG_3836

MAGAZINE!
We are so excited, because this week or next (we’re not sure when it will be released) the June issue of World Next Door magazine will be available to download and JEFF AND I WROTE THE ENTIRE ISSUE! This is our first content for World Next Door, and we have seen some of the article designs. Our graphic designer continues to be *awesome* and we can’t wait to see the whole thing. Hope everyone loves it :)

So. Thanks for following along. Updates from our trip will at http://www.brkwilson.wordpress.com, and you can click “Rwanda” for the last trip or “Cambodia” for updates on this trip from the menu along the right side of the screen.

Direct links to those categories are here:
Rwanda- https://brkwilson.wordpress.com/category/world-next-door/rwanda/
Cambodia- https://brkwilson.wordpress.com/category/world-next-door/cambodia/
World Next Door- https://brkwilson.wordpress.com/category/world-next-door/

FOR THE FUNDERS:

You guys are the best. Once again- THANK YOU for your support of Jeff and I with World Next Door. The sharing of your resources is what allows us to continue to do this work, and there are no words for how grateful we are!

I have received some emails with questions about how to maintain your monthly giving amount and want to try to help clarify! If you set up an automatic bank payment, you should be able to choose this to be a recurring check sent out from your bank account to WND each month on whichever date you choose just like a regular online bill payment. That’s one way.For those mailing in hand-written checks each month, we have an office staff of 1 (the graphic designer) while we’re out of the country, although we are desperately trying to hire an office manager, so we do not have a system that distributes reminders or bills or invoices, so sorry about that :( If you have committed to supporting us on a monthly basis, please be sure to send those in each month (or whichever interval you checked on your pledge card) and Tara, our graphic designer, will collect and deposit the checks. We will be reviewing the total amounts collected quarterly to evaluate the total amounts coming in.

The third way is to do an online paypal payment at the World Next Door website once per month. All giving instructions/directions are here: http://www.worldnextdoor.org/join-us/give/

Thanks again guys! Miss ya’lls…

Confessions. Blast!

So, I’ll just get to it.  Lots of things are a little bit off. For starters, I am having a hard time balancing. It’s (surprise!) difficult to experience, article-write and express my own sentiment all at the same time. I sort of thought this would all be in the bag. For optimal quality, each task requires being fully present, and my brain is evidently only capable of two things at a time. I can experience and internalize, but not fact-gather. I can fact-gather and express, but without much sentiment. I can internalize and reflect, but I can’t, in that moment, be experiencing. We are always experiencing, and I am totally backlogged.

Here’s the kicker: I process through writing. So backlogged means I am currently a jumbled mess of girls’ schools and street kids and TV antennas made of metal padlocks and vocational centers and genocide and escape stories and reconciliation stories and coffee communities and traditional dance and outdoor kitchens and church services and landscapes and moto bikes and rainy season and memorial sites and stretchy green bread and music and orphans and polygamy and widows and ancestral spirits and gorillas and laundry and language and ways in which the ancestors screw up fertility.

Plus, when your job becomes your former hobby, you get kind confused about which content belongs where. I feel safe writing about scarves and Wait, what? moments, but I haven’t even told you the basics like where we’re living, or who we’re with, or the type of work we’re doing, or what we’re eating, or what the weather is like!

To make things even more complicated, the World Wide Web is— as you might have guessed— worldwide. Everyone is on Facebook and WordPress and twitter. Gone are the days when I could see something and throw it on the Internet for all 8 readers to vicariously experience without risk of harm. Today we’re all right here in the same space—you, me, and the person or community I’m writing about. I post a story, WordPress publicizes it to Facebook and twitter, and my host sister is reading it ten seconds later in the next room. This takes a special kind of crafting, understanding, permission and respect. I refuse to be a reckless observer.

And a layer below that? It’s about to get real.

Because I refuse to be a reckless observer, I don’t feel competent. What can I possibly offer that hasn’t already been written or expressed about Rwanda? How can I share these things—the history, issues, people, stories—accurately? I can’t wrap my head around the genocide. And, once I stop trying to put that piece together, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that life continues on the other side. That people are working and eating, walking along these same streets and attending these same churches, that kids play and women do hair and taxis commute and bikers bike and people laugh and sing and purchase data plans and watch 24. All this with an entire ethnic group almost entirely wiped out of the population, resting in mass graves under this very ground.

Everywhere I look I can see the stories I’ve heard playing out in my mind’s eye. In my field, we call this vicarious trauma. A tiny corner of my heart feels bruised every time I walk out of the house and look around me at the land, while the rest of it functions as normal in present day.   I just can’t make sense of it.  The only two thoughts I have, and they’re not fully developed, are this: here is an entire country demonstrating the reality of post-traumatic growth.

If you look at the Disaster Response Phases graph below (provided by my pal Mary, who teaches the Foundations to DMH class at the Red Cross in Indy) you can note the different responses a person or community has pre, mid and post disaster. There is a new term emerging, though, after a post-traumatic event called post-traumatic growth, wherein the person or community, on the very far right of this graph, actually ends up at a higher level of functioning than they were before the event. So, the person reaches a level a growth that would not be possible had that event not occurred. This country is living out that term.  This doesn’t mean things are spectacular.  There are still—and will always be—triggering events and memories generations deep, but I have met people coping and forgiving at a level I am not even able to comprehend. They are not doing this in spite of the event, but because of it.

God restores, is my point.

DMH Graph ARC

My second thought is the truth in this statement, which was originally printed in my NOLA church bulletin on the 5 year anniversary of hurricane Katrina, adapted for Rwanda as we head into memorial month: We will remember [the genocide] and give sacred honor, but in worship we inherit all things anew for this day.

Yeah, you do, Rwanda.  I am so thankful for all things newly inherited by you today.

…And then (you thought I was done?) someone posts this article, which cracks open another forgotten corner of my heart, and I remember where I was and who I was three weeks ago, which seems like at least ten years ago. That familiar ache returns for a minute, and I can’t find the words for the prayer.

The world spins, I can’t make anything fit into any categories, my brain and heart are totally unorganized, and I am tethered by a poem shared last week by my friend Kim (I’m always snatching content from her, but God uses people, I think):

You can only pray what’s in your heart.

So if your heart is being ripped from your chest
pray the tearing

If your heart is full of bitterness
pray it to the last dreg

If your heart is a river gone wild
pray the torrent

Or a lava flow scorching the mountain
pray the fire

Pray the scream in your heart
the fanning bellows

Pray the rage,
the murder and
the mourning

Pray your heart into the great quiet hands that can hold it
like the small bird it is.

-Elizabeth Cunningham

2013: World Next Door

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So. I’m not really sure how to lay this out, because normal 30-somethings with a mortgage and stable employment don’t up and join a non-profit for a year to advocate for and work alongside social justice organizations around the world.  But you’ll never believe what Jeff and I are about to do…

Yes, okay. You might have just guessed it. 

In March 2013, Jeff and I will be putting our lives on Pause to join an organization called World Next Door. It is a Christian-based non-profit that seeks to inspire and mobilize people here to work alongside and support international mission organizations fighting injustice all over the world—something Jeff and I feel passionate about.

We will be traveling to four different countries, beginning with Rwanda in March and Cambodia in June. We’ll be working hand-in-hand within different social justice missions and capturing their work through writing and photojournalism. In Rwanda, we’ll be working with ALARM (African Leadership and Reconciliation Movement) on leadership development, reconciling relationships, and transforming communities through economic empowerment, education, health promotion, and orphan care—among other programs.  In Cambodia we’ll be working with the Center for Global Impact to combat sex trafficking through a dress-making program called The Daughter’s Project, a culinary training center, and a micro-enterprise initiative called byTavi. Our goal through the writing and photojournalism piece is to bring people to places like Rwanda and Cambodia so that they (you?) can get an inside look at what is happening and how to fight injustices that exist all over.  

If you know us a little, then you know that Jeff and I have passions for social justice, photography, and writing, and we are both inspired by our faith. So, this is a perfect fit!  Also, as you might already know via FB and blogs, we’ve been through two years of infertility, and this is the first thing that has given us excitement and purpose beyond having a family. We still hope and pray that God will give us a family someday, but right now we believe we are still living a life of adventure and purpose, just in a different way.

We would like to partner with others who feel inspired to join this mission- in prayer and/or program costs- to offer a bridge from your home to the other side of the world. We would like to put together a prayer support team, and a fundraising team. We are required to raise half the cost of our year-long mission for World Next Door and are looking for 35 people, families, or groups to contribute $100/mo for a year (2013). This may be the most intimidating part in the whole endeavor. Taking leaves from our jobs, deferring our school loans, and leaving our families is nothing compared to raising a year’s worth of money in three months!

Although we know this is mot the majority, there are individuals and families who set aside a designated amount of monthly or yearly funds to contribute to missions or charity organizations. Maybe that’s you, and you feel inspired to support us individually. Or maybe you know of friends or family members who support different missions you could pass this info along to.

Another option is to pool money in groups (friends, co-workers, life group, small group, Sunday school class, etc.) to donate $100/mo? There are creative ways this could be done, but, given the challenging economic times, maybe you are just not in position to support us financially. We definitely understand and your thoughts and prayers would be much appreciated.

Thank you so much for reading and considering, and if you have more questions, let’s talk! My cell phone is (260-249-9068) and my email address: brkwilson@gmail.com

Here are several links to the organizations we’ll be embedded with: 

World Next Door: http://www.worldnextdoor.org/about/
ALARM:
http://alarm-inc.org/
Center for Global Impact:
http://www.centerforglobalimpact.org/projects.html

TO DONATE (tax deductible):

If you want to contribute financially, just let me know, and I’ll email you a pledge card. You can fill out the pledge card, attach a check, and mail it to World Next Door.

Checks are made out to “World Next Door, Inc.” and designate “Fellowship 4” in the memo line. Mail it to:
World Next Door

5501 N College Ave
                                          
Indianapolis, IN  46220

To Give Monthly (Automatic Bank Payments)

Did you know that most banks allow you to set up automatic monthly payments for free? 

By entering World Next Door as a recipient with your online banking service, your gift can be automatically sent straight to WND mailbox (5501 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN  46220) without you having to ever lift a finger.  How cool is that?

Check out your online banking website for more information (if your online banking service requests an account number, please use the phrase FELLOWSHIP 4).  *You can also donate Monthly on PayPal by visiting www.worldnextdoor.org/give

Love & Hugs, 
Jeff & Brooke

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