It’s an exciting Spring at IJM-Cambodia. We’ve had two trials in the last three weeks, and we have another this coming Friday. And we are celebrating some great news! IJM-Cambodia got its first labor trafficking convictions this week, shutting down a network of three recruiters/traffickers and putting them away for 8-9 years each. Here is a glimpse into this wonderful and wacky season.
First, it will not surprise you that Thais is soaring in her work here. In addition to her work on grant applications, reports for IJM headquarters, and talking points for speaking engagements, she has played a central role in strategic planning for our office. It has been fun to watch her shine in her work. I have never met anyone with her gift for hearing a scattered conversation of disparate ideas, and somehow molding and distilling all of the noise and chaos into order and structure. She is phenomenal, and she gets lots of well-deserved props.
One cannot work at IJM without knowing that Isaiah 1:17 teaches us to “seek justice.” That’s what we do here. A courtroom trial is one of the key places where lawyers can help make that happen.
So, how does a random American lawyer show up here and support this work? During trial, it’s necessarily limited. I am not licensed to practice law here, and I do not speak Khmer. I receive real-time translation in the courtroom, and I am able to communicate with our lawyers using written notes. The actual courtroom advocacy is done by our licensed Cambodian lawyers. (And they are terrific.) The vast majority of my contributions are prior to trial – in legal writing and advocacy, case analysis and organization, and helping to prepare clients and witnesses for interviews and cross-examination at trial. It has been the greatest honor of my career to work alongside these real-life heroes at IJM-Cambodia, and I am grateful for the way they have included me and allowed me to be a part of their work.
One of my favorite parts of this job has been the privilege of getting to know and work with our clients. They are true survivors, and it has been gratifying to spend time with them, learn their stories, help them understand their legal rights and the trial process, prepare them for trial, and reassure and encourage them as they courageously stand up for their rights. Such a blessing to be in this place, and with these brave people. I have now met and shared meals with victims/survivors in four different provinces all over Cambodia.
It has also been great to travel with colleagues from work, who have taught and shown me so many things about Cambodia. There is no better way to learn about a country than to travel around it with local people who truly know it.
Now for what you really care about – how’s the family? We are doing well! We recently asked everyone for a self-evaluation – a rating on a 1-10 scale about how each person was feeling about being here. We were pleasantly surprised (and more than a bit proud) with the returns. All responses were 6 or higher, with a couple in the lofty 8-9 range. This crowd has adapted well. All of us are stronger than we thought, and I think we have gracefully migrated out of the most difficult transition phase.
We just returned from a short and lovely break over Mother’s Day weekend. You may not have noticed, but that was also the King’s birthday in Cambodia. We took advantage of the long weekend by taking the nine-dollar bus ride down to the coast. [Note/reminder -- none of your donations to support our work this year are being used for our "excursions." Side trips are at our sole expense.] We stayed in Kep (pronounced “Gipe,” with a hard “G”), a beautiful small town with spectacular views overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. We took a longboat trip to Rabbit Island, where we enjoyed a day at the beach. The next day we toured an organic kampot pepper farm. We also relaxed, slept late, and played at the pool. It was a wonderful getaway.
And now we’re back at it, and on to the next battle! Thank you for your prayers – for us and for the work of IJM. We appreciate you all!