‘If you can remove the hazard, do it. If you can’t do that, do what you can to minimise the impact of the hazard. If you can’t do that, prepare for recovery in the aftermath.’ (Bill Crooks)
That was a proud moment. I stepped into the lift in a Phnom Penh hotel and there, blazoned on the wall, was a poster with a stark warning, ‘Don’t even think about it.’ It was a campaign against the child sex tourism trade, led by international Christian NGO World Vision and the Cambodian police. I had just arrived there on assignment with World Vision and, seeing its logo displayed alongside this message, it gave fresh inspiration and passion to my own work.
Later that evening, I was taken by World Vision activists into a dark city alleyway to meet with some street children. The workers brought lanterns, food, drink and first aid kits to meet the children’s immediate needs before sitting on the ground to chat with them. I was amazed by the kids’ bright spirits, laughing playfully as they spoke with us. The activists opened picture books and talked the children through how to avoid the dangers of sexual exploitation.
It was sobering at the end to watch the children drift off back into the mist and darkness, still smiling and waving at us as they went. I wondered what their lives must be like, eking out an existence by scavenging and begging, and I felt deeply affected by this encounter. I noticed my instinctive desire to rescue these children who were clearly so poor and vulnerable. I was struck, by contrast, by the activists’ approach to developing the children’s own resilience.
On asking about this later, the activists explained to me that the scale of the challenge is so great that it dwarfs the physical resources they have to meet it. They had chosen a strategy that enabled them to reach the greatest numbers of children – recognising the hard realities of these kids’ worlds and enabling, where possible, their safety and wellbeing within those contexts. It was protection by preparation and mitigation, by standing alongside in the midst.
This agonisingly difficult choice enabled the activists to focus their more intensive support and care on children who were the most vulnerable among the vulnerable; for instance, those who were sick or dying or living with severe disabilities or mental health issues. They partnered with the children, local communities, civil society organisations and central government agencies to catalyse and sustain an effective response. Love in action. We can be hope.
20/9/2022 05:57:58 pm
Hi Nick. The quotation from Bill Crooks fits well with a Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) approach: mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery.
20/9/2022 06:03:25 pm
Hi Alan. Yes, Bill Crooks was one of the thought leaders at Christian NGO Tearfund as it developed its own disaster management philosophy and approach. For anyone interested to learn more in this arena, this Sphere briefing is worth a glance: https://spherestandards.org/wp-content/uploads/Sphere-ThematicSheet-DRR-EN.pdf
20/9/2022 06:05:07 pm
Hi Nick. Thanks for sharing this. Very sad and moving. Isn't it terrible what some people have to face in this world? It puts my own life into perspective.
20/9/2022 06:07:58 pm
Thank you, Carol. You may find that this short piece resonates too? It's an intentional challenge I posted during the early days of the Covid19 outbreak: https://www.nick-wright.com/clash-of-realities.html
20/9/2022 07:50:04 pm
Es ist so traurig, zu sehen, dass die Kinder allein sind, Hunger haben und Hilfe brauchen. So tut es gut, für eine kurze Zeit bei ihnen zu sein und ihnen Nähe zu geben.
20/9/2022 08:25:21 pm
Hallo Jens. Ja, es ist traurig zu sehen, wie Menschen in solch schwierigen Situationen leben. Ich fühle mich jedoch auch privilegiert und ermutigt, erstaunliche Menschen gesehen zu haben, die den Armen und Schwachen zur Seite stehen, um ihre Unterstützung anzubieten – in so vielen verschiedenen Ländern auf der ganzen Welt.
21/9/2022 09:17:09 am
Very good blog. Unfortunately the abusers have gone high tech. Saw this article a couple of days ago:
21/9/2022 12:40:16 pm
Thank you, Lilin. Yes, I saw a harrowing TV documentary on the same heart-breaking issue a few years ago now. The online dimension raises all kinds of issues for NGOs as well as local communities and government agencies.
21/9/2022 12:45:03 pm
Hi Nick. I just read your response to Lilin. What kind of 'opportunities' do you mean?
21/9/2022 12:49:21 pm
Hi John. Here's an example: if an organisation creates the opportunity for a person or group to support another person or group in a different part of the world - what happens if the two (or more) parties concerned subsequently make direct contact with each other, e.g. via social media? It means the organisation holds an ethical responsibility for creating the possibility of a relationship, yet it has no control over how that relationship may evolve. This is one reason why, in organisations like World Vision, safeguarding is now a key issue of concern and practice.
22/9/2022 03:18:14 pm
Hi Nick. I like the optimism in your blogs along with the realism about such difficult situations in the world. You inspire me to keep going and to not give up!
22/9/2022 03:19:39 pm
Thank you for your encouraging feedback, Sandra. I like Greenpeace's former strapline: 'The optimism of the action is better than the pessimism of the thought.' It helps me to keep going too..!
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