My husband, Jon and I have been on a two month sabbatical (October - November) we are now in Cambodia visiting Love146's prevention projects for the month of December. These next bloggings will be from the field.
There is a phrase mainly in the NGO/Human Rights Org. world about being a "voice for the voiceless." I don't like this phrase. These children (and women and men) aren't voiceless it's just that no one is listening or knows to listen or the children have been silenced through various inhumane means or, fill in the blank but their voice is still there.
THE FAMILIES LIVE IN THE SHACKS IN FRONT OF THE LARGE NEWLY BUILT BUILDINGS BECAUSE THEY CAN'T AFFORD THE RENT IN THE NEW BUILDINGS.
Just a couple of days ago I visited our "bike project." This project serves children in a community that once lived in the city of Phnom Penh. The families in this area were desperately poor but a few people saw the land they lived on could make them (not the families living on it) very rich. So, they bulldozed these people off the land and "relocated" 500 of the families to a small area of land far from the city.
I will not get in to the many areas of injustice involved, but one of the ramifications of this relocation was that the families where moved to an area far from a school for the children. Our Director of Prevention, Glenn Miles realized that with bikes, bike helmets and school uniforms the children would be able to get an education despite their location. The thing I was thinking about while visiting this area was of course the children. I looked at the shacks/tents they lived in, the trash and excrement on the ground and I wondered what they would say to us (you and me) if given a chance. And then it happened.
I sat in the middle of a make-shift meeting room with Glenn, community leaders and four children who agreed to be interviewed. I watched them sit silent and shy and then I watched Glenn ask them about their life, their thoughts, their stories. I watched as voices found space in the face of respect and equality.
She was the most stoic of the group respectfully answering questions about her life as each child did. Then Glenn asked the four "what does your community need?" By this time many of the community had gathered in this room. And there she was the stoic, quiet one, the one with a soft careful voice. Given space and freedom, respect and equality her quiet voice filled the room and in front of everyone she began to speak on behalf of her home, her people. She listed needs (a health clinic, access to healthcare, education for every child). Her dreams weren't for riches or even a well built home, she raised her voice to speak of health and education for everyone. She spoke on behalf of herself and her people.
So no, I don't believe these are the voiceless ones, their voices might be quiet but when they reach partners, educators, advocates, abolitionists the collective shout will be deafening.