After nine hours of riding in a bus that reminded me of the Taj Mahal (purple curtains included), our entire team has finally arrived in Poipet, Cambodia. The bus ride started out a little rough. Unfortunately, the fire extinguisher fell from one of the overhead shelves and exploded as soon as it hit the ground. The white fumes started spreading everywhere, so we quickly pulled over to air the bus out. After that little hiccup, we were smooth sailing. And by that I mean the bus ride felt much like a wooden roller coaster at an amusement park.
After arriving in Poipet, we checked in to our hotel and headed straight to dinner. We were all starving and in desperate need of some nourishment. One of our hosts took us to a casino on the Thailand border and we ate at the restaurant inside. For the past week, I’ve been on a hunt to find something green to eat (coming from the girl who eats spinach out of the bag like chips). Lucky for me, the restaurant had broccoli! I was on cloud nine to put something green and tasty in my mouth.
On the way back to the hotel, our host and a few of the translators that will be working with us at the clinics tomorrow told us about Poipet. We drove by a street that had building after building of massage businesses with young girls sitting out front. I thought to myself how strange it was to have so many places to get a massage all lined up together and how it seemed awfully late to be going to get a massage. A second later, our host turned to me and said that the girls sitting outside were probably somewhere around my age. He added that the store fronts say that they offer massages, but their real business of prostitution is in the back of the building.
At first, I didn’t really comprehend what he was telling me. How could these young, pretty girls be caught up in such a horrible cycle like human trafficking and how did they get into this situation in the first place? It hurt my heart knowing that these girls were around the same age as me and didn’t have an escape route from their present reality. As I thought more and more about it, I started to realize a few different things. Human trafficking effects all countries and it does not discriminate against race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. There are many factors that perpetuate the cycle and a few that are especially unique to Cambodia. The country continues to rebuild itself after the mass genocide that occurred in the 70’s under the Pol Pot regime. With high levels of poverty, few job opportunities, and a broke justice system, trafficking and exploitation in this vulnerable country continues to persist.
Over the next couple of days, our team will be working with an organization called Freedoms Promise as we set up clinics and see patients in different provinces around Poipet. Their mission is to free those who are caught in the cycle of human trafficking by restoring communities, empowering leaders, and sharing their vision of freedom from oppression through the love of Jesus Christ. Please continue to pray for our team as we treat and educate patients over the next couple of days and love on the people of Poipet.