Last month, 18 girls from Hagar's Recovery Program visited Bokor Mountain, a two hour drive south of Phnom Penh, in Cambodia. The field trip was designed to fresh body and spirit, and to help the group grow as a team. Here are what a couple of the girls had to say:
"I really loved being at the top of the mountain. I thought I was in paradise. It was very cool, but I felt warmth. I felt the warmth of being in a family." -- Srey Phreak
"I felt so excited on my way to the top of the mountain. I felt like I was on the way to heaven. I loved the fresh air, the clouds, the flowers that I could touch. I felt so refreshed." -- Kanga
Modern Vietnam is often considered an economic success story. However, at Hagar we know that things are very different for those on the margins. The overall poverty rate is 12%. But, for ethnic minorities, rates are 50 to 70%. Experts estimate that within five years, poverty will largely be an issue of ethnicity.
This future is part of Hagar's current reality. Over half of our newest clients served by this project are from Vietnam's hill tribes. Few have had access to school. Few have received healthcare. Most have been trapped in deep poverty and severe abuse. Through your support, women in extreme need are becoming empowered. They are becoming whole again.
Here's a quote from one woman you've helped:
"I have cried out my tears. I have felt sorry for myself and my children. What I got from my husband was always violence. But when I found Hagar, my son and I were rescued. The doors are gradually opening for a better future. This is waht I feel in my heart. This is my second chance."
Badal, A Marraige Swap
When Belour was 14 she became a victim of a harmful traditional practice in Afghanistan, known as ‘badal.’ ‘Badal’ is an exchange of girls between families, in which each girl is married to a male member of the other family. This practice is often agreed on when the girls are very young. This custom usually takes place against the girl’s wishes and generally is used to strengthen the families’ power and wealth.
Belour objected to the match and initially her family supported her decision; however the impending husband’s family became furious. When they heard that she’d ran away to escape the union, they began looking for her, threatened her family, and threatened to kill her once they found her. She’d brought shame upon their family. If Belour returns home, she will most likely face severe violence or even death.
Belour Finds Refuge at the Lighthouse
Just a few months ago, Hagar welcomed 19 year-old Belour to the Lighthouse Transitional Care Center. Currently in 7th grade, she is far behind in school, but she is very bright and consistently claims the first position in every class. Education is her main focus and she dreams of becoming a journalist!
Of course, being forced to leave your family at 14 and enduring 5 years in a shelter leaves its mark. Belour is scared about her future and of being alone. As a young Afghan girl, without family to rely on, she understands the implications. Who can she trust? Will she have to live in a shelter forever? How will she support herself? Will she ever reach her dream of becoming a journalist?
Slowly, Belour is learning that she will never be alone. She is realizing that family sometimes comes in many shapes and sizes, and that the Hagar family will not abandon her. She can trust them.
“I use to feel so scared waiting for you to pick me up after school,” said Belour recently. “But now I sit quietly and wait – I know you will never forget me. You care for me like I’m your daughter.”
This month Belour began English classes. Soon, she will have the opportunity to join Hagar’s innovative programme, whereby she can learn new skills, join a journalism class, partake in a work mentoring programme, and enter into Hagar supported job placements. She knows she will be encouraged and supported as she pursues her dreams. And one day, Belour will be able to stand on her own - sustainably supporting herself in a safe community.
Your gifts allow us to provide ongoing support to women and girls like Belour. Thank you.