Chab Dai took its first steps as an organisation in 2005, when the coalition’s first staff came on board. Helen recounted Chab Dai’s first hires, including Chab Dai’s current National Director Ros Yeng: “I had sent out a number of ads for someone to apply for the position of national coordinator, because from the beginning I had a five-year plan to hand over leadership – I wanted to get hold of that person to take over at the beginning. I couldn’t find anyone, then a contact at another NGO said to me that they had so many applicants for one of their job postings that I should look at some of them, and pulled up Yeng’s CV. So I looked through, and rang him up to ask him to come for an interview. The interview went well - he’d worked with street gangs, he’d been a monk and a pastor, and there was so much potential in him.” In 2007 Helen met Tania DoCarmo, Chab Dai’s current Board Secretary and Research Advisor, and shortly after Financial Director Muylen also came on board.
The priorities of Chab Dai’s members began to emerge, alongside gaps in service provision and some of the more formal aspects of the coalition. “We agreed on having Child Protection Policies, then we started talking about some of the gaps and needs: this is when the Vietnamese issues started coming up. It was a few months later that we developed the member form, before that it was very informal.”
The catalyst for Chab Dai’s first research project on the exploitation of Vietnamese girls came before the coalition was even formed, when Helen heard from various sources how bad the issue was in Vietnamese communities and how high the proportions of Vietnamese girls were in brothel raids. After further identifying the need to explore this issue further with the Chab Dai members, “We found someone with a real heart to do the research (Kila Reimer), and that was that.”
The core ‘Learning Community’ activities of Chab Dai also got off to an early start, including “different trainings on working with traumatised children, working with families, drug addiction training, and then we started the forums.” The Vietnamese forum was first, as it arose in response to the emerging Vietnamese research (At What Price, Honour?), then the pilot prevention forums with pastors in Battambang and Siem Reap, which Yeng conducted.
A FOUNDATION WAS LAID
These initial pursuits formed the basis of Chab Dai’s future undertakings. Research continues to be a key priority for Chab Dai, with the 10-year Butterfly Longitudinal (Re)-integration research entering its 6th year of documenting the voices and reintegration experiences of a cohort of survivors of sex trafficking. Chab Dai’s Learning Community also continues to be an essential component of Chab Dai’s work, both in Cambodia and globally, with the formation of the Global Learning Community project.