Living and working in the Kingdom of Wonder has been the most fulfilling and worthy experience I have had. Despite considering myself reasonably “well-travelled”, nothing compares to living and settling in a country so vastly different to home. The initial month had its challenges – a million miles away from home with no friends, zero grasp of the Khmer language and being completely submerged in a brand new culture. These challenges however were soon very quickly overcome, eased by the caring nature of Cambodians and the superb Hagar staff who are always full of enthusiasm. Before I knew it, I had fallen in love with Cambodia.
I was drawn to Cambodia because of the traumatic history these people have suffered under the Khmer Rouge genocide and civil war. The country’s trauma is widespread and is still being passed through generations. We are onto the third generation of trauma and without the consistent rehabilitation organisations such as Hagar offers, this trauma will continue to trickle down through future generations.
Hagar International provides trauma informed care to men, women and children who have suffered the gravest abuses of human rights. Sexual exploitation, gender based violence, domestic violence, rape, human trafficking… the unimaginable darkness that survivors of these violations must face. You can almost feel the trauma in the air in Phnom Penh, but the spirits of people are so warming that this aspect is not uncomfortable or scary. It has provided me with a huge amount of admiration and respect for these people.
I have been living in Cambodia and volunteering for Hagar for five months. Moments of my time so far that have stayed in my heart all involve our clients. Hearing the traumatic and extraordinary struggles ordinary people have suffered, and seeing their resilience, is beyond inspiring. Having studied International Development with my focus on gender based violence, I considered myself to have a well-rounded understanding of this issue. I was wrong. My understanding and passion for this issue has sky rocketed after being surrounded bythe country’s trauma, seeing daily the poverty which people live in and meeting clients who have personally experienced all of these unimaginable things that I had only read about from the comfort of my privileged home on the other side of the world in the U.K.
Hagar staff work tirelessly, without any complaints and never without a smile, to help hundreds of people that need support. Hearing the personal accounts of some of our staff has been very difficult at times, there have been tears shed. But, these stories are so inspiring. I feel so proud to see how they have overcome their own trauma and are now dedicating their time to help others in similar situations. Everyone has their own part to play in the bigger picture and we must never forget that each one of us does make a difference. I am bursting with pride to be part of this organisation and I am honoured to say that I have been part of Hagar’s mission in my own little way.