Marvelous Blessing to Those Who Are Mourning
Pleroma Home for Women is a place that provides a safe haven and holistic restoration to women. Our clients are women who are struggling with mental health symptoms, lack of soft skills, broken relationship/support systems, and poverty.
Adding to this kind of unfortunate life, 2020 is the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. People around the world are facing crises such as losing a loved one, financial hardship, and emotional tension. Similarly, our women are also facing deteriorating circumstances of life.
Fortunately, there are some blessings. As our friends and donors share their love through merit grants during this hardship, our women in the community have received a helping hand.
One of our women, Sunshine*, was living in bitterness and hopelessness. It seemed like darkness covered her without even the hope of seeing light. She was at a critical time in her life, facing the loss of her brother. At the same time, the main breadwinner of her family, her mother, also lost her job, leaving them penniless after the funeral. Sunshine also has mental disabilities, which is hard for her and her mother. She was in the community trial period before all these tragedies happened. Her mother was stable and claimed Sunshine back into her care, but after only a week, she sold everything she had in order to treat her suddenly ill son, but he died anyway. To the mother, Sunshine is the only one that she insists on keeping next to her even during this hard time. They are each other’s support system, so being in the community is needed.
“I had no money to even come back home for my son’s funeral in my hometown. All I have remaining is only debt. I went blank and numb. I could not even cry because it was too overwhelming. However, receiving a call from the PHW that there is a COVID-19 supportive fund makes me excited in the sadness,” Sunshine’s mother said.
Life in the city (Phnom Penh, Cambodia) after she came back was harsh. She had no job because most of the jobs were taken when she was away. The job market was so limited for her labor field because of COVID-19. There was a lot of dispute and fighting. Many times, she was wrestling with the days remaining in the month because there was nothing to eat and no money to pay her bills. She tried her very best every day to find a job, but at the same time, she needed to fill her stomach. Neighbors were helping but it was not enough. “I am so happy to receive a support fund even if it is not fully enough but it is helping me during my desperate and critical time – the money keeps me alive to fight for my living,” the mother said. She added, “That money so far keeps me being a mother to my daughter. Without it I am not even a mother to my child as I can’t even feed her when she is with me.”
At present, her situation is improving. We give thanks to God for the ability to offer support when she was in desperate need. She can now stand more on her own. She got a job and can earn monthly wages, and although it is not much, she can feed and take very good care of Sunshine. Sunshine is now very happy being with her mother in the community.
Your love offerings have played a big part in lifting our women downfall back to their feet.
* Sunshine is her false name to provide confidentiality to PHW’s client.
A Way Back Home
Many women in Cambodia are suffering from domestic violence. The root cause varies from poverty to lack of education to trauma. The traumatic events in their life result in attachment injuries that make them have destructed behavior such as unhealthy decisions, low self-esteem, emotional disturbance, and self-blame and/or blaming others. Trauma that these women have suffered from are often violent and usually pass on cyclically from generation to generation.
These women usually do not know the proper way to express and protect themselves or leave the situation. There are a lot of emotions and challenges that they would face if they left the violence without preparation and help. These challenges include the feeling of helplessness, shame, stereotypes of widows, caring for children while trying to make a living, and fear of being found by their husband, so it is a very difficult decision to make.
Min* was one of our clients who used to live in a domestically violent family and when she grew up, she married a few times and had violent husbands. She had moved out from her hometown for more than 20 years, leaving all her memories and relationships with her relatives broken. She kept moving from one place to another to work in the labor field without a regular income. Her last marriage was also violent but she thought she should hold on to her kids and her unborn baby.
But at last, she used all of her courage to leave her husband and everything behind. She walked out of her home rural village in the middle of the night, through the wild bushes and trees. Min began her walk at midnight and arrived at the village before sunrise. She asked for help from the villagers to stay for a while until she came to the Pleroma Home for Women (PHW) in early 2019. She was emotionally and physically wounded. She had nothing apart from a small package of old tearing cloth for her farm work. She was 6 months pregnant at the time and had her two girls with her: a 9-year-old and 15-year-old. The 15-year-old girl was sent to Pleroma Home for Girls (PHG) to receive her care there.
She has been with the PHW for almost 2 years and even had her baby delivered in its care. She has now acquired a job and since she is able to have regular income, she can manage living on her own. Min recalled, “I was working on the farm all day long, very tired, and I sometimes had to sleep in the farmland when I couldn’t go back home. The work was no rest but still I could not afford proper meals for my family. But now I got a job that not only can feed my family, but people respect me. I got a lot of love from all of the people who work with me. They support and help me out even in some part of my life apart from work.” Her daughters also enrolled in Pleroma School for Girls (PSG). “My girls got to learn in a good school which I can’t afford if I didn’t know of PHW. They enjoy their studies,” Min said.
It has been a long time since she left her hometown and escaped from her husband, which makes her feel there is nowhere to go or return to; She rents a room near her workplace. Although it is a rented room, she feels at home and she feels good to return there after work. “I was helpless and didn’t know what to do. I was pregnant and had no money even to eat. I have to take care of my girls. PHW helps me find my value and rescue me from my true reality. My baby girl is safe and now I can stand strong as a mother to my children although I don’t have a man with me,” Min said with a smile on her face.
We hope PHW can further reach out to many more women who need help and restoration. We pray to create a way for our clients to find a place they can call home. We want to work as a transition for the client to step away from their current dark situation towards a brighter future and towards a better version of themselves.
Pleroma School for Girls
Groundbreaking Ceremony for Secondary School
By Chhourn Bun Hoeun
October 24, 2020
Chhourn Bun Hoeun (Philip) is one of the directors of the Pleroma School Board and a devoted Christian. He is the director of HRDI (Human Resource and Development Institute) in Phnom Penh. Philip received his Master of Education at the Royal University, Phnom Penh in 2010 and Doctor of Education at Assumption University, Thailand in 2019.
Good morning brothers and sisters!
On behalf of the school board of directors, I would like to give much appreciation for your presence in this ground-breaking ceremony for the Secondary Pleroma School for Girls (PSG). Thanks to God for answering our prayers and thank you very much to all of you, both missionary and local people, for taking part in praying to make this wonderful project happen. I would also like to give much appreciation for all of the PSG staff who have contributed greatly to the development of the PSG high school level.
Pleroma School for Girls has been established in order to contribute to the long-term development of the human resources in Cambodia. We learn that education can be the mechanism used to help girls live their lives violence-free and through it, girls can become better mothers to raise better children, and lead their families more effectively. The following rationales passionately contribute to the establishment of the PSG in Cambodia.
We would like to see girls receive equal rights to quality and holistic education that they would better contribute to the development of the country of Cambodia and lead their lives more abundantly as promised by our Lord Jesus. According to the report issued by the Parliamentary Institute of Cambodia (2019), the school enrollment rate for both boys and girls has increased from 2011 to 2016 but there was a big inequality between boys and girls in school, especially in master and doctoral programs. Moreover, the dropout rate for all grades between 2007 and 2017 decreased but in high school, the dropout rate fluctuated. In the academic year 2007-2008, the dropout rate was 13.1% and decreased to 9.8% in 2011-2012 but increased to 24.4% in 2013-2014 and continued to decrease to 17% in 2016-2017. The statistics showed challenges for girls in pursuing their education. Moreover, a high dropout rate of females at the upper secondary school level put Cambodia at risk of having more women with lower education than other countries in ASEAN (Kem, et al., 2019).
The report states clearly the factors hindering gender equality in education in Cambodia:
• Social and gender norms: Cambodian women are still constrained by social and gender norms to continue their study at a higher level. This may be because of their parents’ lower level of education and their lack of the awareness of long-term benefits of education for their children.
• Poverty: Poor families could not send their children to school. Some families had to migrate from place to place and to other countries to earn their living that left their children with limited access to education.
• Parent and community engagement in children’s education are still limited: Parents’ involvement in education is very important, but their engagement in children’s education is still limited. The engagement does not mean to have them present physically but their belief system that values the importance of education for their children.
• Violence on Women
A report released by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in 2016 stated that more than 30% of Cambodian women have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence from their intimate partners. Intimate partner violence continues to be a significant public health problem for women in Cambodia. The report recommended that to reduce violence, it is necessary to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. This report and the report of a research on Women’s Health and Life Experiences (2015) conformed to the international evidence that where a woman has more resources available, she is less likely to have experienced violence. It is recommended that empowerment opportunities are needed for women including ensuring adequate education, and access to income generating employment and contraception.
God’s Love for Girls
PSG is a Christian school which was established by missionaries from America and Hong Kong. They have received God’s grace, love, and blessings and want to share them with girls in Cambodia, particularly in the field of education. We want to empower girls through quality and holistic education that they would have an abundant life, which includes the eternal life God has promised to give to the girls. John 10:10 (b) states that “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” We would like our girls to know Jesus and expect them to receive Him so that they would have an abundant life.
These above-mentioned rationales moved our missionary people, including the local staff, to establish Pleroma School for Girls in Cambodia. We believe that our contribution to the long-term development for girls through quality and holistic education empower girls (women) with more resources that can be used to lead their lives wisely, healthily, and abundantly.
Today, this groundbreaking ceremony indicates that the construction of the PSG high school has already started. We need your continuous and persistent prayers for the construction to go smoothly and safely. Pray that everyone is sharing each part for the project to be completely done as planned.
Once again, thank you very much for your time and presence in this wonderful event this morning. May God bless you all with health, strength, and safety! Thank you
On behalf of the School Board of Directors,
Chhourn Bun Hoeun (Philip)
Esther Mok, Director of Pleroma Community Center
May peace be with you all in times of the pandemic! Because of COVID-19, my colleagues and I have returned to Hong Kong and resumed normal life after self-quarantine. I was not too used to the humid and cold weather here in the beginning of quarantine and really missed the sunny and dry weather in Phnom Penh.
The Situation in Cambodia
After my return, a lot of you have asked, “what is going to happen to the children now?” It is true that schools and religious gatherings are suspended in Cambodia and the Pleroma School for Girls (PSG) and the Pleroma Community Center (PCC) are unable to operate. I have shared the detailed PCC prayer items in May and the present situation is similar. But we have started inviting youths back to talk to them about their mental state and family needs. They were very bored at home and wanted to go to school. Some of them were worried about their parents’ relationship as they were always arguing after losing their jobs. Some of the children have to work to help out at home. Our colleague, Bopha, regularly shares with me their situation and prays with them. I miss them very much, but I know I have to trust that God will provide for them and He cares about their needs more than we do. I would like to thank our brothers and sisters for their offering, so that we can buy food supplies for them and help them through this difficult time.
Aside from the children from the PCC gatherings, we have also met with the students from our community tutorial classes and children that received our school sponsorships. Originally, we were going to organize the PCC Tutorial Classes Graduation Ceremony in July and invite parents to see the cute performances of their children and to witness their growth. It would have also been a good opportunity to introduce the PSG to them. Sadly, the ceremony has to be cancelled now. But the most important thing is to maintain contact with the children and to give them worksheets for revision at home. The epidemic has put all ministries on hold and we can utilize the time to process our past experiences and pray to God about the situation of the children and place our hope in resuming our ministry and our work in the future.
I am very happy to start studying again after returning to Hong Kong, as it is not easy to find a suitable course as a missionary given the limitation on the mode of teaching, duration, and location; It is a real joy to study again. I have chosen a course about children’s holistic development at the Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary. Online classes commenced last month and it is very challenging and interesting to learn with students from other countries online and to experience foreign cultures again. I hope that I can develop a broader vision on children development and leadership and hope that I can focus more on children ministry. I am very grateful for the support of our organization, so that I can study without worrying about money or time.
Thanksgiving and Prayer Items
1. Although we returned to Hong Kong due to the epidemic, I am grateful to be able to spend more time with my mother. May God continue to bless her health.
2. Although we are not in Cambodia, my colleague Bopha and I are still planning ways to serve our community together. Her ability to work and execute duties independently and responsibly greatly reassures me – thanks be to God!
3. May God grant us wisdom so that we can help the low-income families in the community. We wish to set up a small workshop once we return to Cambodia, so that the women can earn more by processing garments.
4. Due to unemployment, many parents can no longer sustain living in Phnom Penh and have returned to the countryside to find work. May God protect the villagers and children and deliver them from evil, so that they will not encounter human traffickers and will be able to continue to study and go to church in the future.
5. At last, please pray for all of our missionaries who have returned to Hong Kong that they can smoothly go back to Cambodia for work, as their return relies on flights and Cambodian entry policies. May God prepare a suitable time and way to return for the missionaries, so that they can continue their work in the country.
Thank you for remembering us!
Standing with their Heads Held High – the Daughters of Pleroma and Cambodia
By Heather Hui, Missionary and Assistant Field Director
April 13, 2020
How can a woman in Cambodia hold fast to her faith in a family that does not believe in God and in a society where Christians make up only 1% of the population? How can a village girl find her place and find work in a society that is male-dominated and has always trampled on the dignity and basic rights of women? It is the hardest ministry to change lives; more often than not, disappointment outweighs satisfaction. How has a girl persevered with this ministry for nine years?
This is why I interviewed Kimsang, a social worker who joined the Pleroma Home for Girls (PHG) nine years ago, a wounded healer and the Director of PHG.
Her Family – Because He Walks with Me
Kimsang’s husband – like all Cambodian men – thought himself superior to his wife, could do whatever his heart desired and enjoyed, and did not think marriage should be exclusive or that he should apologize for his mistakes. In the early days of their marriage, Kimsang suffered greatly and often cried about this. But she prayed to God for wisdom and courage, as well as His guidance in their marriage.
Gradually, Kimsang started sharing her thoughts with her husband, and even confronted him. Bit by bit, her husband started to understand and respect her and even promised that he would not be with any other woman and she would be his only wife in this lifetime.
Even though her husband was not a Christian, she shared with him biblical teachings about family. Praise the Lord that her husband was willing to listen to her. She even told her husband, “If I did not do as the Bible has said, please remind me.” Sometimes, when Kimsang fell short, her husband would be the person to remind her of what the Bible said. In the process, her husband has gradually learned to express himself and started helping out with housework. He would give most of his time to his family, treat it as his priority and even apologize to Kimsang when he did something wrong.
Christians in Cambodia are lonely, and at times, they have to pay a heavy price for their faith. I once met a young family who were living with their parents and they were kicked out because of their faith. As none of the family members of Kimsang’s husband were Christians, she faced a lot of pressure every time she visited them. For example, during Pchum Ben in September, all families had to pay respect to their ancestors at temples. However, Kimsang insisted on following the teachings of the Bible. The stress and tension she faced were indescribable.
A few years after they got married, Kimsang had not been able to have a baby. Her husband’s family were worried because it was embarrassing in Cambodia to have no children after marriage. Her parents-in-law had offered many times to bring Kimsang to temples to ask for blessings for a child. But Kimsang did not listen to them, which made them very unhappy. Nevertheless, Kimsang stood firm and prayed to God, surrendering it all to Him. At last, God blessed the couple with a son so that he could be a proof of God’s grace for her in-laws and proclaim that “I have triumphed with the grace of God.” In remembrance of this, she named her son Victory.
After giving birth, Kimsang did not stay home to take care of her son as a traditional Cambodian woman would. In the beginning, she was worried that her husband’s family might not be happy with her decision. Besides psychological stress and the change in role, she was thoroughly exhausted as she also had to work. But she discovered that, through working, the couple could take better care of her in-laws and provide for them. At the same time, her in-laws began to see that, although Christians did not worship at temples, the couple still cared for them and stayed by their side. They have now changed a lot and are starting to agree with the couple; They even support their decisions and their lifestyle and have gradually accepted Kimsang’s Christian faith.
Her Work – Because He Motivates Me