Peace Corps Moldova

Peace Corps Moldova, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

The world is a small place. This old adage is gaining more truth as technology grows. But, even beyond that, I would say that Peace Corps makes the world a small place. Since leaving Peace Corps, I have met volunteers that I knew in Moldova over a year later, by chance, in a small bar in Croatia. I also have had a Moldova volunteer, who came after I left, show up at my place of work and school (Hi Darcie). She even knew of me.

Then I came to Cambodia. Here I met up with my old Peace Corps director, who is now running a program here, another Peace Corps volunteer from my group in Moldova who was visiting, and another person I knew from Moldova when I was a volunteer (she is now in Kosovo). Saturday night I went out to dinner with these people and some of the new Peace Corps staff and PC staff families (all returned volunteers). We had Russian food, which was appropriate considering the large Moldova representation at the table.

Over the course of the meal, I was speaking with several other people at the table about their Peace Corps experiences. It turns out that one of the guys served in Thailand with my friend Kelley from school. See? Small world!



I have always complained that data on human trafficking is a little screwy.  I mean how do count hidden slaves? How do you measure secret border crossings? How do you even define who you are going to count?  However, this really takes the cake…

A couple weeks ago I went to visit a shelter that takes trafficked children as well as other vulnerable and abandoned kids.  They do not focus on trafficked children, nor do they want to.  When I talked to them about their difficulties, the biggest problem was trafficked children running away from the center.  I asked if they have special programs or counseling for the children? No. Why? They run away. I asked if they have a plan on how to keep children’s interests or understanding of why they run away? No. Why? They run away.  I asked if they could work with a current trafficked child to see why he/she has stayed? No. Why? They run away?  All of them? Yes.  Granted they have had less than 15 trafficked children; however, they have a 100% runaway rate for this population.

Okay. So that in itself is shocking.

But more so was today’s conversation where I learned that these children’s cases are then closed and transferred over the a central body that keeps data on the kids and classified as ‘successfully reintegrated into the community’.  This data is then used to show the outcomes of child victims of trafficking and for research.

Like I said: Research on human trafficking is screwy! 

Innovation #2:

As part of my job here is to understand the local context and the counter-trafficking programs and interventions, I have taken some time to visit organizations (coalitions, shelters, outreach programs, government offices, etc.). While visiting them, I have seen many good practices, some bad practices, and a couple very innovative strategies. For now, I have decided to share a couple of those practices which are of particular creativity or interest.

Chab Dai, a coalition of Christian organizations committed to ending sexual abuse and human trafficking, was given 2 video presentations that are stories about 1) a daughter victim of incest and 2) a boy being abused by a pedophile. The organization had the DVDs translated into Khmer. They have great graphics and are really empowering stories about getting help, getting out, and helping others. The DVDs are meant to spark conversation and have children, who may or may not have been victims, begin to question themselves in a non-offensive way and also think about what they can do and their rights.

It’s a good program; but like so many other, it is impractical in the Cambodian context because once you get out of the main cities, organizations and schools do not have the DVD players or TVs to show this kind of document.

Unlike most projects I have seen that would just look away from this problem and continue on with the program, Chab Dai did something different. They took still frames from the DVD and created a large flip chart book. The books are made so that they can stand on their own with one page facing the audience and one facing the trainer. On the back of each chart is a prompter of questions that the facilitator can ask when telling the story. The questions are phrased about the child in the story so as to be less traumatizing to possible victims. Then, Chab Dai went even further; they refuse to distribute the story books to anyone who has not completed training on how to help a child who decides to confess a current or past personal case of child sexual abuse. In this way, they are guaranteed to have the facilitator be able to respond and willing to respond.

Once a child has gone through learning about the stories, they are more empowered to speak up for themselves and for others. Each child is given a business card with a picture of the two main characters and phone numbers they can call for help. The organization has done some checks back with street children who have gone through the training; many of them, several months later, still carried the cards with them.

Nytimes piece on Phnom Penh

My dad just sent this link to me ( Update: although it was my mom who found it in the hard copy originally) . It’s a good description of the city. I am not sure how long the link will work though– I think after a period you have to pay for archived articles.

TRAVEL | February 11, 2007
Next Stop: In Phnom Penh, Hopefulness Replaces Despair
A vibrant city embraces the future while not forgetting its past.

Innovative strategy #1:

As part of my job here is to understand the local context and the counter-trafficking programs and interventions, I have taken some time to visit organizations (coalitions, shelters, outreach programs, government offices, etc.). While visiting them, I have seen many good practices, some bad practices, and a couple very innovative strategies. For now, I have decided to share a couple of those practices which are of particular creativity or interest.

Innovative strategy #1:


Mith Samlanh (Friends) has a program called child-safe where they work with moto-drivers, tuk-tuk drivers, and cyclos (the bicycles that peddle people around) to combat sex tourism. To a lesser extent the program has been expanded to hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and bards. Therefore, anybody in the aforementioned population can sign up and be trained to 1) understand what sexual abuse is and how it negatively affects the child, 2) how to recognize when it is happening and identify sex tourists, and 3) what they can do to stop it. After they have completed the program and agreed to participate, they get a bumper sticker to put on their vehicle saying that they will not support sex tourism or sex tourists (it has a picture of a thumbs-up sign). Then, if they see something irregular or are approached, they can call a hotline to Mith Samlanh who then works with the policemen to enforce child protection. They are reimbursed for their call. Also, if they see a child who is hurt they can be reimbursed for transporting the child to an ER. The group also has regular follow-up with the drivers and with time they can advance and be given a shirt to wear that says the same thing as the bumper sticker. Personally, I try and choose people wearing the shirt or with the bumper sticker. I like this program because it puts so many more eyes out on the street and has managed to help some children. Also, it is awareness raising in a strata of society that is not reached by other media and educational campaigns.

Pedal revolution

Pedal revolution, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

Last week I had the privilege to meet Wilhem and Gillian. They have spent the last 4 years biking through 18 countries! Whenever the can, they stop in the countries and speak to school groups or other groups. A friend of mine who works at the International School of Phnom Penh invited me to come to their talk. Although disappointing how few people showed up, apparently the meeting conflicted with American Idol, the talk was fascinating. We heard about about biking through the Sudanese dessert, difficulties obtaining a Libyan visa, how cold it got in the Himalayas, and so much more! For amazing pictures of their journey please visit

Is sex trafficking sexier?

Recently, say, in the past 10 years, people have suddenly become very interested in human trafficking. The counter-trafficking movement has been getting major funding around the world; in fact, some friends in the humanitarian community complain that it is the only thing besides war that the current US administration will fund. It has also been highlighted in such shows such as CSI, Law and Order, Law and order SVU, and others. Plus, of course, the made for TV movies. There are all kinds of racialized theories that I have about why this upsurge in popularity and visibility is so—and I am sure that someday I will write about these as well. But for today, my question is:

Why is it that people find sex trafficking so sexy?

Human trafficking, just like slavery, is a horrendous phenomenon. And, like a car wreck, people are drawn to it. More and more, I realized, people are only drawn to learning about sex trafficking. Research also is mainly focused on sex trafficking. Funders ask how many of the girls were sold to brothels; people lose interest when I say I work with men or with children forced into begging. Most of the TV shows that show human trafficking depict scenes of children forced into pornography or sexual exploitation.

Why do we forget about women in sweatshops? Why are the children begging on the street not quite as important? Why are men so often left out of all programs, and even in some countries, the laws on human trafficking? What about people whose organs are sold? Are these crimes not just a gruesome?

At the time I write this, however, I am torn. At the same time that I revolt against the general population making a hierarchy out of pain, I am appalled at how little is done to combat sex trafficking. Perhaps, it’s because there is more at stake when a child is taken from a brothel, then when they are taken from begging on the street. For destination countries, the sex industry is a big money maker; those who have kids begging on the street do not pay taxes, buy permits, or attract rich tourists. On the other side, the health costs associated with treating victims of the sex trade may be higher if they come home infected with disease. Apparently, all the hype about the need to stop trafficking is a media myth, not a grass roots reality.

*** For the record, my organization works with child victims of all types and laments the fact that we cannot reach the Cambodian children trapped and exploited inside Vietnam and Thailand’s brothels. This is more just a reaction to the reactions I get from people around me, funding sources, and, of course, the media ***

Recipe: Pumpkin pudding (Bobo La’pov)

This is the most delicious thing I have eaten while here. I had it while visiting one of the shelters for trafficked children. Beyond the taste, think of all the additional nutrients the dessert gives you!

Most of Cambodian desserts are usually made from our garden. This sweet treat is inexpensive and is very delicious.


  • 2 Cups cooked pumpkin.
  • 1 Cups cooked Jam. ( or Sweet potato)
  • 1 Cups cooked Cassava ( yucca)
  • 1 Cups cooked Taro root.
  • 1 ½ Cup sugar.
  • 1 Cup coconut milk.
  • ½ Teaspoon salt.
  • ½ Teaspoon vanilla.
  • 1 pack 3.5 oz dried tapioca. Soaked in hot water till soft. Drained.
  • ¼ Cup unsalted roast peanut. Crushed.


Using a non-stick pot. Put cooked pumpkin, cassava, jam, tarot and tapioca in the pot. Pour coconut milk and cook in medium heat.Stirs well. When tapioca cooked, add sugar, salt and vanilla. Serve hot or warm with crushed peanut on top. NOTE:
The pumpkin, jam, taro root and cassava (yucca) in this recipe, were peeled, cubes and pumpkin seeds were removed before measured

*** Thanks to

Recipe: Caramelized pineapple and tofu (Namor Kho To Hu)

Here is a vegetarian recipe for those out there. Also, I am excited about experimenting with fried rices that have pineapple and other ingredients (for example, carrots, lime juice, hot pepper, cashews, etc.)

Caramelized pineapple and tofu is delicious and very easy to cook.


  • 1 Piece fried tofu. Cut in to bite sizes.
  • 1 Cup chunk of fresh pineapple or 1 small canned chunk pineapple.
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce (mushroom sauce).
  • ½ Cup water.
  • 1 Clove garlic. Minced.
  • 1 Teaspoon sugar.
  • ¼ Teaspoon salt.
  • ¼ Teaspoon black pepper.
  • 1 Stalk green onion. Chopped.
  • A handful of fresh cilantro. Chopped.


If using canned chunk pineapple, drained juice.
Put pineapple, tofu, garlic, vegetarian oyster sauce and water in a small pot.
Add sugar, salt, black pepper and green onion. Stirs well.
Cook in medium heat till the water reduced.
Top with cilantro.
Serve hot with rice.

Recipe: Coconut fish curry parcels (Amok Trei)

This is a very traditional Khmer recipe. It is also quite tasty (although I have not tried to cook it by myself). Sometimes, instead of being served in the banana leaves, it will be served inside a coconut. This recipe serves four.


  • 1 Garlic Clove, chopped
  • 1 Red Onion, chopped
  • 5cm/2-inches fresh Root Galangal, chopped or 1/2 teasp Ground Galangal
  • 2 tbsp chopped Lemon Grass or 2 teasp Ground Lemon Grass
  • ½ teasp Ground Turmeric
  • 1 teasp Paprika
  • 2 tbsp Fish Sauce
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • ½ teasp salt
  • 1 x 400g/14oz tin Coconut Milk
  • 450g/1lb White Fish Fillets, e.g. (Catfish, Sole, Orange Roughy)
  • 4-8 Banana leaves (depending on size) or or 8 large Dark Green Cabbage Leaves


1. Place the garlic, onion, galangal, lemon grass, turmeric, paprika, fish sauce and sugar in a blender or food processor and process until well blended. 2. Add the coconut milk and process again until thoroughly mixed.

3. Transfer the coconut mixture to a medium saucepan and bring to simmering point, stirring. Continue to cook gently for about 10 minutes until thickened.

4. Meanwhile, if using cabbage greens, place them in a large saucepan, cover with boiling water and set aside to soften. If using banana leaves, cut into pieces about 20cm/8-inches square.

5. Place the fish in a bowl, season with a little salt then pour over half the hot coconut sauce and mix well. Set the remaining sauce aside.

6. Place 1/8th of the fish mixture in the centre of each leaf and fold the edges over to form secure parcels, making sure you tuck the edges under.

7. Steam the parcels for 1 hour.

8. 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time, gently reheat the remaining sauce.

9. To serve – make a small opening down the centre of each parcel and spoon the remaining coconut sauce into the opening. Serve immediately with rice.

** Thank you

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