The woman sat looking downwards, her hands tucked together in her lap and only glanced up occasionally–revealing a large bruise on the side of her face–when a staff member approached her with food for her and her three children. Though small in stature, like most other Cambodian women, her timid posture of folding in on herself, made her all the smaller on the large green sofa. The two older children sat listlessly beside her. The youngest infant was asleep in her arms. Outside the building, shouts and laughter from children arriving for English class at OM Mercy Teams International (MTI) were a stark contrast to this family’s scene.
“Her husband beat her,” Danya* a staff member of OM MTI whispered in explanation. “She’s come here looking for safety and rest.” OM MTI’s desire is to bring freedom to children, women and families who are caught up in poverty and oppression by providing counselling, social work care, community preventative training and more.
With an estimate that more than half of Cambodians live below the poverty line of 1.90 USD per day, countless children and women throughout the country continue to be sexually and physically assaulted, as well as trafficked for sexual or economic exploitation. OM MTI Cambodia is a presence of Christ in a place that is dark. Abuse, alcohol, drugs, gangs and poverty are the daily realities for many in the slums. Many arrive at OM MTI looking for food, safety, conversation, advise and help.
As the afternoon goes on, the staff continue to engage the timid woman on their couch. Her children are drawn in to play with a few toys, and are soon munching on various snacks provided. Their mother herself eats some food, and then engages in a muted conversation with one of OM MTI’s social workers. By early evening, the woman has decided to return home, not ready to stay at a women’s shelter and leave her abusive husband yet. But before they leave, OM MTI staff gift her a sack of rice to take home with her.
“Many women come [to OM MTI]. Sometimes they want help getting out of a bad situation, sometimes they just need a place to rest,” Danya explained. “People know that we provide a safe place for them and if they are ready to get help, then we will give it.”
Please pray for the situation in Cambodia and for the work OM MTI Cambodia is doing in the slums.
*Name changed for security reasons