May 17th marked the beginning of Chab Dai’s annual Member’s Meeting. Bright and early at 8am over 170 individuals from 61 organizations met in a sprawling meeting room on the second floor of the Cambodiana Hotel. The morning began with a devotional focused on the importance of working together and the part each person and organization plays in the fight for human rights.
From there a variety of topics were covered: the introduction of Freedom’s Promise and XP Missions, Chab Dai Coalition’s newest members. After, Chab Dai’s international board was introduced in prelude to the announcement of Chab Dai’s expansion into the West as founder Helen Sworn moves back to the UK.
Advancements in technology were announced as the Global Learning Community introduced their new mapping program. The improvement allows organizations to see a visual of the anti-trafficking and exploitation movement within Cambodian boarders. It also allows for organizations to map out whom they work with and see connections their partners have made in an effort to further collaboration.
The Chab Dai Butterfly Research Project presented their top ten findings following lunch. Over eight years of interviews with survivors of exploitation and trafficking went into the recommendations. These findings outlined what client’s themselves had to say about their time in recovery, their reintegration process, and suggestions for the improvement of care.
Chab Dai National Director, Yeng Ros, was next up with a presentation on the changes in visa procedures. Marked alterations in requirements for NGO visas and business visas was covered as well as announcements for trainings on these changes.
Staff care grant opportunities were announced thereafter. Five $2,000 (USD) grants are being offered for the express purpose of supporting staff self-care. Asian Hope, the recipient of one of these grants, shared their story about its impact. A video of their spiritual retreat showed the bonding and healing that took place when their staff left the office together. They happily announced prolonged improvements with their staff’s personal self-care habits as well as reinvigorated motivation at its conclusion.
The organization Mission Alliance announced its social enterprise initiative. In hopes of addressing the root issue of migration, they are starting to focus on job creation in provinces outside of the main city areas. The investment they are offering will be awarded in the coming months.
Social media’s influence on trafficker’s recruitment methods was the next topic of conversation. Ros Vibol, case monitor for Chab Dai Coalition, shared his story of how social media had come to his attention as a means of identifying victims of trafficking and exploitation. He covered how since 2017, 129 international cases of trafficking were discovered via social media. He encouraged other organizations to be aware of the dangers that accompany social media use for their clients and strategies to help those that are using the platform to ask for help.
Announcements bookended the day, allowing for organization like Nomi Network and Garden of Hope to give updates and advertise upcoming events.
This meeting also marked Helen's last time as a resident of Phnom Penh. She still will be attending all future meetings, making at least two trips to Cambodia every year. Our friend Lisa Cheong shares a great encouragement from Helen's last meeting:
"Just dropping into the Chab Dai Member meetings as Helen Sworn makes opening remarks and her farewell speech! She encourages those of us as foreigners to step back as she believes its the season for Cambodians to lead this stage of the Anti-Trafficking movement in Cambodia!
Wise words from one who has model this at Chab Dai with national leaders overseeing the organization! But this is also reflected in Chab Dai’s international board which includes Cambodian representatives as well as expats!
How can we say we are walking alongside Cambodians or empowering them when our international boards and committees only have foreigners and there are no national representatives of the local country we are serving in at those senior levels? After all, research shows, board diversity is paramount for achieving diversity related benefits! How much more so in a country like Cambodia where many Cambodians are qualified to lead but not given the opportunity!
Thank you Helen for modeling and being an example through Chab Dai of what key elements of Sustainable development looks like by intentionally positioning national leaders to lead and influence at all levels!"
Helen has returned to her home in the U.K. to work on international projects and share the lessons learned from almost 20 years in Cambodia. Member Meetings have played an important role in helping Cambodia being a model of collaboraiton.