Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Road of Lost Innocence

The Road of Lost Innocence, is the autobiographical tale of Somaly Mam, a Cambodian woman who has experienced situations and horrors beyond what most of our nightmares take us. She was an orphan whose "grandfather" came for her one day and after using her as a personal slave, he eventually sold her to a violent soldier as a bride and then when he disappeared, he sold her into the sex trade. She has overcome more than one can imagine and now runs the Somaly Mam Foundation whose goal is to get children/women out of the cycle of poverty and provide them not only with safety and security but also with life and job skills so that they are taken out of the circle and so are their children.
Cambodia is a country that has been in our hearts since we started the adoption process for Doodle and Meesta back in 2001. After our first trip there, we knew it would forever be in our hearts and while we donate to a few other organizations and buy things from time to time that are Cambodian, our devotion to the people of Cambodia is mostly exhibited through our work with Tabitha USA. I had heard of Somaly Mam though and once I became aware of her book, I ordered it and this past week I had a chance to sit down and read it, and it only took about 3 hours as I was totally absorbed.
This book is disturbing on so many levels, but in the end, it is a story of hope. Somaly's description of many Cambodian men and their complete and utter lack of concern for women was shocking and her description indicates that it is a pervasive attitude across the country and women are pretty much property and of little value. What is even more disturbing is that she describes women, mothers of precious little children, who knowingly have their daughters working in brothels to bring in money.
Let me share with you a very disturbing paragraph, not to shock you, but to give you a flavor of what happens, what evils some children face:
"From time to time I am engulfed by rage at what I see around me. Recently there was the case of one young girl called Kaseng. Her parents were out one evening, and she was wandering in eh streets when she was captured by a group of sic or seven drunken men in their fifties. She was eight years old. They took her to a house and raped her one by one. Since she was too narrow, they took a knife and cut her vagina. Someone brought her to us. I took the child to the hospital to get her sewn up and then to the police to make a report. She began to recover. Her mother, who was very poor, said that ever since the child had been born she had brought nothing but bad luck, and she refused to take her back."
This story goes on to say that at the trial of these men, they claimed that this 8-year-old child had dressed provocatively and they were set free!! It goes on,
"We have laws in Cambodia, but everyone ignores them. The law of money prevails. With money you can buy a judge, a policeman - whatever you want. There are moments when I want to throw in the towel and stop doing all this. It feels too big for me to fight - the pimps, the corruption, the judges who aren't even for sale because they were bought long ago."
The issues with Cambodian adoptions are many and the fact that they remain closed and that Laurel and Lily will likely never be our daughters and that they very well may be used in a perverse manner is something that I must always block from my head. The psyche of this country was forever altered by the Khmer Rouge and the contrast between the expectations and laws of the US and Cambodia is extreme. How can the gap ever be bridged to allow for children who need safe and loving homes to find them in the US or other countries? This book has given me so much to ponder and I would love to sit down and talk with Somaly, first to share my admiration for her courage, both in surviving and thriving, but in putting her experiences to print so that we all might learn and understand. I would love to know just how pervasive the attitudes are across the country. What are her thoughts on "selling" children for adoption as opposed to "selling" them for sexual slavery?
These are all such contentious topics, but ones that I must ponder. I believe that we are all put on earth to share our gifts and talents, to show compassion and to make the lives of all those we can better because we cared. How much of a role does poverty play in the general mentality of children as property? I truly think that getting people out of the cycle of poverty is KEY to solving so many problems globally. Will is solve everything? Will it make everyone nice? Will is stop the power hungry souls from evil? No. Sadly no. However, I do think that it is a start and so many lives can be changed for the better because of it.
I became a monthly donor to the Somaly Mam Foundation, you don't have to sign up for much, but doing so will help Somaly in her amazing efforts, which have risked her life and that of her family on multiple occasions. I honor her efforts through my donations and know that the children of Cambodia who land in her care will make it. If I can play a role, regardless of how small, into helping her to do that, then it is my privelege to do so.
May God pour blessings out on Somaly and all those children who are experiencing horrors beyond our imagination. It is my prayer that those who are rescued can put it behind them to the best of their abilities and move on to live a life of relative peace.
I hugged my children extra tight when I finished reading the book that day and can't help but look in Doodle's eyes and PRAISE GOD that she is our daughter and safe with us. Her biggest challenge is getting yelled at for not listening and maybe not getting dessert if she doesn't eat any vegetables...but every single night she is put to bed with love, with prayers and her list of things she is thankful for that day, with a kiss, a slathering of vaseline for dry lips, and a "sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite", and a wish that she have sweet dreams.
Being aware of the atrocities that exist in the world is the only way that we can help eradicate them. This book changed me, educated me, terrified me, sickened me, and inspired me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I never knew how full of greys the world was until we got to know Cambodia. The black/white of our comfortable lives here just doesn't hold up there. I think it is amazing what Somaly has accomplished - coming through all those traumas to turn around and help others. It's hard for me to think about that stuff, but I agree, we have to open our eyes and see, so that we can reach out and offer our help and support.