Chab Dai Prelude - Part 1: 1999-2001

In February 2012, Chab Dai’s leadership team took part in a series of interviews discussing the origins and development of the organisation and its various projects.

As Chab Dai celebrates its 10-year anniversary, we look back on these interview transcripts in appreciation of our beginnings and fruitful journey, starting by exploring the very early foundations of Chab Dai with International Director, Helen Sworn.

The First Feet on the Ground

The context of Chab Dai’s origins is fascinating and extensive, dating back to 1999, when there were a just “a few faith based organisations and some other UN lead agencies who first saw the emergence of human trafficking”. Human trafficking was indeed an issue that was just coming to light, and few organisations had tangible knowledge on the phenomenon. “The early responders were those already on the ground who were doing related work but not direct work”, something that illustrates how interconnectedness with other social issues is a core element of trafficking. Helen was one of these early responders, first coming across the phenomenon while working on a baseline research with a team in Poipet, on the Thai/Cambodia border, with children who had been deported from Thailand.

An Unexpected Beginning

In 2001, Glenn Miles of Tearfund spearheaded the first conference on the Christian response to sexual abuse and trafficking, which was a catalyst for faith based organisations coming together to share and discuss these issues. Helen and Glenn had no intention of starting an organisation, “we had no plans to set up anything, we just wanted to talk about it”, but the conference would become one of the most initial steps in Chab Dai’s journey. 

Helen and Glenn quickly became a much needed information point for those looking to do anti-trafficking work in Cambodia. “We started getting a reputation as an informal information clearing house for these organisations coming in – they found us through Tearfund and through word of mouth - some saw us as informal point for Cambodia but it was never official. We told them how it was, no sugar coating. We presented the complexities and roadblocks, then stepped back and asked them if they were still interested. Sometimes people would leave us and never wanted to come back, but some who had the money and the heart stayed”.

A Coalition Forms

After talking to a number of small organisations, Helen and Glenn saw the need for funding as, due to their size, they were completely overlooked by government and institutional donors despite their crucial work. “Their problem was that there was too much admin to fund small organisations unless someone else was willing to do it for them, which was the catalyst for our decision to submit a joint proposal”. Glenn and Helen discussed this with the group of organisations, and decided they wanted to see the group work together in some kind of network or coalition. “We wanted to do some kind of joint advocacy, research, and to help these organisations build capacity, so we added a training component”. Thus, the core foundations of Chab Dai began to form. 

Blog post by Hannah Sworn.