HOPE FOR A TROUBLED LAND
– Agape International Missions
I want to leave my posts on Cambodia on an uplifting theme and what better way than to talk briefly about the work of AIM – Agape International Missions – and Melissa Stock’s dedicated team, who have worked in Svak Pak village for 15 years.
Back then Svay Pak was a hellhole, a slum of some 4000 people, where children as young as 3 years old were sold for sex to paedophiles who travelled from around the world to rape them. Far from hidden, these children were openly trafficked from Vietnam, kidnapped from rural communities, sold by impoverished family members or exploited by members of their community. About 90% of the 2000 children in the village had been sold for sex or sexually abused.
AIM founders back then risked their lives almost daily from the pimps and gangs getting rich from the child sex trade. They fought for years to rescue these children and what they accomplished is no less than heroic, and a story deserving of much more than a Facebook post.
Let me just say, they eventually moved permanently into the “Paedophile Hotel” – yes, there was a hotel built for paedophiles complete with rack beds where dozens of frightened children waited to be selected for rape – and continue their work from this place to this day.
Today the transformation I saw on the streets is incredible. Rather than being peddled for rape, children are accessing educational opportunities, health services and community building activities, from art to gym. AIM have built a school and provide education, trade skills and even run a shop selling products made by the children.
AIM provides a 24-hour shelter for very young, and older, children who are at risk at home and still rescue children from harm – Svay Pak is not without its risks – but their steadfast commitment to its children has created a vibrant sense of hope and brought back life to a very dark place.
I came home from Cambodia emotionally drained but knowing the task I have set myself is not hopeless as long as there are heroes and goodwill in the world. And I found many heroes in this troubled and beautiful land.