Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hagar Operations

The last item on our agenda today, before dinner, was a visit to the genocide prison, previously a high school, where over 20,000 people were tortured for months before being killed.  I stood where their blood flowed on the floor. Where their legs were shackled in iron.  Where their bodies were mutilated, both men and women.  Aftewards, I spent an hour and a half before dinner trying to decide how to write what I saw.  I couldn't.  I took pictures which I will never share.  The atrocities carried out by the Kymer Rouge are beyond comprehension.  Maybe in a day or two I will write a little about what I saw.

Otherwise, we had a great day visiting two of the Hagar operations.  The first was a school where they teach about 135 students.  There are two main types of students at this school.  One group is made up of very young children whose mothers are in prison.  In Cambodia, when the father is gone and the mother is imprisoned, so are all of her children under the age of 16 who can't be placed with other family.  The government doesn't provide foster homes or any care facilities for children.  Hagar takes the children and places them in homes and takes on the responsibility for educating them.
The second type of class is made up of students that mostly have never had any education, or very limited, for whatever reason.  These students are put into a three year "catch-up" program.  After three years they are ready for public schools at their appropriate class level.  Without these two programs, none of these kids would ever have an education.  Their lives will still be difficult, but now they at least have a chance.
The second school is called the School of Smiles.  The students in this school have either cerebral palsy, Down's Syndrome, autism, or other physical and mental issues.   Cambodia is a mostly Buddhist country. The Buddhist believe that if you did something bad in a previous life, you are paying for it in this life, and having a physical or mental limitation is one way in which it can show up.  So they believe these children had been bad in a previous life and deserve their current handicap.  These children are ignored by their families who feel they dishonor their families.  Hagar provides an education to these children and attempt to find employment opportunities.  Hagar also brings in the parents and teaches them how to care for their children.  There are currently 118 children in this program.  These kids will break your heart by just looking at you.  They deserve to live with dignity. Hagar provides them that opportunity.

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