"My motivation lies in supporting my Cambodian colleagues"

As part of our #10yearsofChabDai series, we asked Esther Pastores of World Hope International for her thoughts working in relief and development in Cambodia on and off for more than twenty years. One of our member NGOs from the very beginning, WHI Cambodia also celebrates a decade in the fight against human trafficking and exploitation this year.

Can you give us a summary of your work in Cambodia since the 1980s and how you came to the position of Country Director at World Hope International?

My initial experience working with Cambodians was in 1987-89: coordinating mother, child health and community services in Site 2 South refugee camp, Thailand with Christian Outreach Relief and Development (CORD). Following this I had the opportunity to help establish primary health care programs in Kampot and Prey Veng from 1990-93, during the UNTAC era.

After a few adventures in other countries I returned to Cambodia in 1998 as Country Director with CORD and subsequently worked with Hagar Women’s Shelter as Operations Manager. I really came to work with WHI by default, having initially agreed to evaluate the assessment centre (AC) program, was then invited back to implement the 40 or so recommendations for improving the work. And I’ve remained with WHI ever since!

What is your motivation for working in the – often harrowing – field of human trafficking aftercare and prevention?

Speaking personally my motivation essentially lies in supporting my Cambodian colleagues, in whatever line of humanitarian work they are engaged. Over the years it has been a privilege and a joy to walk alongside and share in their learning.  At the AC my colleagues are the ones doing the real work of ministering to abused children – they are the frontline folk dealing with issues and restoring broken lives; I’m happy in the knowledge that by ensuring they are provided the best work environment possible, through strong team relationships, learning opportunities, adequate staff care, pastoral care (and benefits package), that this will ultimately contribute to an effective ministry.

What prompted WHI to join the Chab Dai coalition?

WHI and Chab Dai have very much ‘grown up’ together, both organisations this year celebrating our respective 10 year anniversaries. At one time our organisations shared a common office, as a result of which we developed close relationships between staff and shared knowledge of each other’s programs and priorities.

As Chab Dai, WHI believes strongly in the significance of partnership, shared learning, pooled resources and all the other benefits of working collaboratively – joining the Coalition was therefore a given for us.

How has Chab Dai membership made a difference to WHI?

The list really is quite extensive – from the different forums to the Charter project we wouldn’t have become the organisation we are today without Chab Dai’s input. Personally I have found the various research projects commissioned to be particularly helpful. One may often have hunches about certain aspects of the work, but research really provides the evidence needed for developing sound programs.

What changes have you seen – both on the ground and governmental – to do with the human trafficking issue in Cambodia since 2005?

Probably these are best summarised in the Journey of Change documented by Chab Dai in 2013 – I would say a growing maturity of organisational capacity, but also perhaps a waning emphasis on real engagement between partners.

And what changes do you hope to see in the next ten years?

Better education systems, especially for girls; more jobs and opportunities, particularly in rural Cambodia, to lessen the need for migration.

Thanks to Esther for talking to us. If you want to know more about World Hope International and its work, take a look at their website here.

Story by Laura Gavin. Images courtesy of World Hope International.