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Help Cambodians end family and community violence

by Peace Bridges Organization
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Help Cambodians end family and community violence
Mr. Kho is raising cows to support his family.
Mr. Kho is raising cows to support his family.

Mr. Kho lives with his family near a protect forest area. He volunteers to help protect the forest from illegal loggers. He and the other forest protects started to studying nonviolence and conflict resolution  with Peace Bridges. During the longterm trainings, he started to reflect on his relationship to his family.

“I used to smoke and drink a lot of alcohol,” said Mr. Kho. A lot of his money was spent on alcohol, which caused conflicts in his family. When he studied with Peace Bridges, Mr. Kho realized that his own habits were preventing his family from becoming financially stable.

“I realized that my family income was low because I never prioritized my family. I decided to cut back on my drinking and smoking so that I can save money.” Now Mr. Kho has saved enough to buy a small rice mill, water pump, motorbike, and he even built a new home for his family. He built a bathroom for his family, something they never had before.

“I am able to help my family and fellow forest protectors to resolve their conflicts, especially with local authorities and the illegal loggers. People respect me for this. I’m also pleased that I have achieved a better life than before.

“Nowadays, my life is easier and my family is doing well. We have a cashew farm and raise cows. I am more helpful around the house and I don’t drink and smoke anymore.”

Staff reflect on alcohol advertising in Cambodia
Staff reflect on alcohol advertising in Cambodia

Peace Bridges staff have been studying alcohol abuse, emotional pain and trauma, and counseling practices. These issues touch the lives of many people who study peace and conflict resolution with Peace Bridges. In the field, peacebuilders must often address the effects of alcoholism, domestic violence, and trauma in their communities.

Alcohol abuse is closely tied to numerous problems including domestic violence, poverty, traffic accidents, and gender inequality in Cambodia. Cambodian men drink on average 9.7 liters of alcohol, an amount far exceeding Cambodian women. The global average is 6.2 liters of alcohol (Asia Foundation). A UN survey of 2,000 Cambodian men found that 1 in 5 of the respondents had attempted or committed acts of violence against women (UNDP). Though alcohol never makes someone violent, the issues are connected. People often dismiss a man’s violent behavior because of alcohol. Thus Cambodian women not only experience this violence but also the financial consequences of their partner’s overspending on alcohol.

In addition to their own work as peace trainers, the Peace Bridges staff have engaged in many learning opportunities to build their own capacity. In March and April, they studied the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)/Al-Anon model and trauma healing and plan to integrate AA into their trainings. On April 8, they joined the first professional health counseling conference at University of Puthisastra in Phnom Penh. On April 27, 25 women from various Cambodian institutions met at the PBO office to learn and share about self-care.

These and other opportunities are preparing our staff to better engage in complex social and emotional issues. We hope that by improving our own capacity we can heal our own traumas and better serve the people of Cambodia.

Learning about alcohol abuse and trauma
Learning about alcohol abuse and trauma

Samorn is a pastor and leader at the youth center in her community. She studied conflict resolution and peace with Peace Bridges in 2018.

“I’ve had many conflicts with people in my community, especially the people I work with and with the youth. We often bickered and I used hurtful words with them. Inside, I felt inferior to my co-workers who I thought were more intelligent. Sometimes I wanted to take revenge or ignore them."

"Through the training and reflection process, I’ve gained self confidence and now try to tackle these conflicts by improving my communication with them. I ask the person who is upset with me to talk. If we talk, we usually resolve the conflict. But if they don’t respond right away, now I can wait patiently until they want to engage with me.”

Samorn has become an asset in her faith community as a conflict mediator. By studying with Peace Bridges, she learned mediation techniques that she now applies in mediations with people at church.

"We meet in an appropriate setting and pray together. If the people are hostile towards each other, I bring in another person to sit with us. When I mediate, I’m able to mediate and facilitate better outcomes than before because I listen, am patient, and use the mediation process. I encourage people to listen to and try to understand each other. This impacts people at the heart-level and they experience change. People who are suffering inside or accusing each other are able to let go of their pain and need for revenge.”

Another important change Samorn experienced is regarding how she views people who are different. “I used to be prejudiced against Vietnamese people and Cambodian-Vietnamese people. I thought that they were bad people with bad thoughts who did bad things. I thought they wanted to steal Cambodian land and take over our country and get rich off of us. These thoughts kept bitterness in my heart. Now I understand that these thoughts are harming me as well as others. I've decided to let go of these negative and distorted thoughts. I now see the intrinsic value in these and all other people.”

"I want to keep serving and helping people in my country to address conflict and heal their relationships.”

"Peace Begins with Me" shirt
"Peace Begins with Me" shirt

Mr. Set is a pastor in his 50s who serves at a church in Kandal province. His recent participation in Peace Bridge’s Part A “Training for Peace” program has already begun to change how he relates to people in his community, church, and family.

Mr. Set has changed how he thinks about leaders in his community. “I know at all levels of leadership there is corruption and nepotism, and in the past, I was very negative and prejudiced against these people,” he said. Set learned from Peace Bridges that he must seek to understand others, even if they are people he doesn’t agree with. “Now I realize that all people face constraints and want to have a good life for them and their families. I also understand that I shouldn’t hate people who participate in corruption. I can have a positive outlook and not look down on them. Instead, I should be a positive example for everyone.”

In his pastoral role, he often provides counsel to people in his congregation and sees himself as a role model. “I used to look down on people who abuse alcohol and I used to make judgmental remarks about them to other people,” he said. “Now that I’ve learned about peacebuilding and nonviolence, I have stopped using harsh words.” Now Set takes time to ask how people are doing and he listens without judgment.

At home, Mr. Set has noticed his ability to manage his anger and communicate well has improved some of his relationships. “I have eight children who I have to help get up and go to school. In the past, they were always late to school which made me so upset. I used to yell bad things at them and punish them. We were all so unhappy. Then, Peace Bridges taught me about conflict and communication skills. I decided to try to understand why my children were late; it turned out that they were staying up until midnight to do homework, so they were too sleepy to get up in the morning. When I realized this, I asked them to get up at 5:00am to finish their homework and then get ready to go to school. My children agree this is a better way and are happy that I took time to listen and solve this problem. Now I no longer blame and yell, so they are pleased to get up early and leave on time.”

Mr. Set is looking forward to studying more with Peace Bridges. For now, he is sharing what he about stereotypes, prejudice, and nonviolent communication with students, family members, his church, and people in the community.

 

Sokhern and others play a game about prejudice
Sokhern and others play a game about prejudice

When Sokhern* was only six years old, Cambodia collapsed into a state of civil war, commencing years of genocide and extreme hardship for Cambodians. Sokhern survived, but he had lost out on many things, including the opportunity to get a good education as a child.

“[After that time,] I really wanted to learn more," he reflected. When he had his own family, Sokhern tried to give his son a chance to study. "I just didn’t have a chance, so I pushed my son to study hard in order to overcome poverty.” Education, Sokhern claims, is an important part of improving one’s situation in life.

Today, Sokhern is a village security guard and fishery community representative. He acts as a bridge of communication and trust between the village people and the local authorities. When his job was tough in the past, Sokhern used to have trouble controling his anger and respecting people with different opinions. He sometimes let his frustration spill over into his family life, negatively impacting those relationships.

In late 2017, Sokhern was given the opportunity to join Peace Bridges Organization's long-term training program on conflict resolution and transformation. He recently graduated from the “Training for Peace” course and returned to his community to apply and share what he learned with people there.

Sokhern said that Peace Bridges helped him to release his negative habits and absorb new skills and attitudes. "The biggest change I've experienced is my new ability to use nonviolnce to communicate and interact peacefully with people around me," he said.

As a community leader, Sokhern has become a better advocate for the fishery community. He is a more effective communicator and listener, rather than using his position for personal gain. His new skills like active listening, negotiation, and servant leadership have aided in his work. Sokhern no longer lets his anger control him and does not disriminate against people who are different. As a result of his changes, Sokhern has improved his cooperation with the local authorities.

Additionally, Sokhern has strengthened his relationships with his family members. He let go of his habit of using rough language around his wife and children. “Now I know these behaviors are not good for my relationships.”

Sokhern is grateful that he had the opportunity to educate and better himself. He said he will work hard to spread peace to even more people. “Peace begins with me,” said Sokhern, with a smile.

 

*the name has been changed to protect the identity of this individual

 

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Organization Information

Peace Bridges Organization

Location: Phnom Penh - Cambodia
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Audrey Thill
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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