Cambodia

Women's History Month: Choosing to Opt-In

Unidentified Khmer girl in Kampong Phlukm, Cambodia. Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock
Unidentified Khmer girl in Kampong Phlukm, Cambodia. Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock.com

My difference catches me off-guard. Entering into new situations, I’m just being myself — not suspecting anything, doing the things that I do — when an odd, slightly off comment, a stray remark makes me realize that the person across from me is not interacting with me. Instead, they are interacting with a perception of who they think people like me are: Asian, woman.

And usually that perception does not include “leader.”

I’m different sounding. I’m different looking. I’m different leading.

As a leader, one question has helped me try to stay in my sweet spot and stick to my true voice, even when it’s different from those around me. What is the unique joy that I bring to God’s heart? When I feel the blister forming from too many frictional interactions, it’s this question that takes me back to my center.

Embracing the differences God gave me to steward, to shelter in my body, I continue on, knowing that perhaps for someone, somewhere, this will be a good fit.

This Is What It Looks Like to Help End Human Trafficking

Home office concept. Photo via David Pereiras / Shutterstock.com

I am co-owner of an online boutique store that empowers survivors of trafficking with employment.

I am a social entrepreneur.

I am an abolitionist.

I am…uncomfortable with these kinds of labels.

Because at the end of the day, I’m very ordinary, and these descriptors seem to imply that I’m not.

I live an ordinary life. I wake at the crack of dawn to drive my kids to school and then return home to work, trying to get most of my business done during the hours that my children are at school. Snow days and random holidays are the bane of my work life, and the words, “Sorry, hon, I’m working right now. Give me a minute?” come out of my mouth more than I’d like. I spend the lion’s share of my days on my laptop, troubleshooting, responding to emails, thinking about future lines of clothing, and making sure that the expenses won’t be more than that month’s income. Sometimes, in the midst of the daily humdrum of life, I forget that what I’m doing really does make a difference, half a world away, in the lives of survivors of trafficking.

'Cambodia: Losing Ground' — Stories of Land Grabbing

Brandon Hook/Sojourners
Oxfam displayed images telling the story of Cambodian land grabbing. Brandon Hook/Sojourners

Photographs tell stories. At least, good ones usually do.

And there were some good pictures on display in Washington, D.C., for Oxfam America’s pop-up photo exhibit from acclaimed photographer Emma Hardy, whose work is regularly featured in The New York Times magazine, TIMEVanity Fair, and Vogue.

The images tell the particular stories of Cambodians directly affected by land grabbing, the buying or leasing of large pieces of land in developing countries, by domestic and transnational companies, governments, and individuals, which in turn displaces the poor and vulnerable.

Four Quesitons for Sophoan Rath

Sophoan Rath. Photo by Dawn Araujo.

Bio: Tour guide in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime

1. Tell me about the day the Khmer Rouge came to your town.
When the Khmer Rouge came—Thursday, April 17, 1975—I was living in Wat Botum Vatdei monastery in Phnom Penh. Khmer Rouge soldiers with dirty black uniforms, guns, grenades, and shooting fire rushed to force the innocent people to move out of the city. The monk who was taking care of me was sent to his camp, and I was sent to the children’s camp. I did not have any family to live with. No mother, no father, no sisters, no brothers were with me. With a few hundred other 11-, 12-, and 13-year-olds, all boys, we lived like animals or slaves. Working in the rice field, hungry. Diarrhea, headache, malaria—I carried them with me.

The worst part was when soldiers came to the camp to investigate the background of each child. I was brought to the education center and interrogated. From that day I was frightened about what was going to happen to me. I lived in the children’s camp from 1975 to 1979. I lost four brothers during that regime and hundreds of relatives.

2. Do you think it is important for people to visit the scenes of the atrocities?
Of course, it is important for people to visit the killing fields. But today, the area becomes a political area, for a political purpose. The innocent in the country of Cambodia know and learn by life’s experiences a lot about the Khmer Rouge already—but the Khmer Rouge in power today want people to forget. Otherwise we will go to war again. How can we decide? What can we do?

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