Monday, February 17, 2014

# 4 A fourth attempt to get answers from the Global Development Group re Citipointe church's 'SHE Rescue Home'

Chanti, Chhork and baby Srey Ka in Nov 2008 - happy, now that they have a home,  a 'safe environment' that they will be able to get Rosa and Chita returned to them.

Directors of the Global Development Group Board
Unit 6
734 Underwood Road
Rochedale, QLD 4123                                                                                               

17th Feb 2014

Dear    David James Pearson
Geoffrey Winston Armstrong
Ofelia (fe) Luscombe
Alan Benson
David Robertson

It is now five days since I supplied the Global Development Group with both my Cambodian telephone numbers; five days since I suggested that representatives of GDG meet with me whilst I am in Cambodia; five days since I suggested that GDG meet and talk with the parents (Chanti and Chhork) of the girls that I allege Citipointe removed illegally from their family. My phone has not rung. This does not appear to be as matter that warrants the urgent attention  of the Global Development Group.

Chanti and Chhork's rented house boat

Chanti and Chhork are waiting in Phnom Penh to speak with representatives of GDG and I have cancelled my flight back to Australia and will wait with them until someone from GDG meets and talks with them, answers our questions and either declares or withdraws its support for Citipointe church’s actions.

I have started to publish my letters to the Global Development Group, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and ACFID online. I will continue to do so. I do not wish there to be any doubt, further down the track, that I gave GDG every opportunity to distance itself from Citipointe church and its illegal actions. If GDG decides that silence is the best policy it will be up to viewers and readers to decide for themselves what this silence suggests.

What level of funding does the Global Development Group provide to the ‘SHE Rescue Home’ each year? If you divide the sum provided by GDG to Citipointe by the number of girls resident at the ‘SHE Rescue Home’ you will arrive at a dollar figure of the extent to which GDG is sponsoring one child. If you multiply that by two, you will arrive at the sum GDG gives to Citipointe church each year to keep Rosa and Chita resident in the ‘SHE Rescue Home’.  And absent from their family, as they have been for half their lives now.

GDG funding does not, of course, take into account the revenue raised by Citipointe from other sponsors and donors. Does GDG know, is it aware, does it care, how much money is raised by Citipointe through sponsorships and donations by presenting Rosa and Chita and other girls acquired by the church under similar circumstances as ‘victims of human trafficking’? Is it of any concern to the Global Development Group that there are girls in the ‘SHE Rescue Home’ who are not victims of anything other than their parents’ poverty and of Citipointe church’s deceptive recruitment practices?

Chhork and Srey Ka in Nov 2008

Getting back to the question of the extent to which, in dollar terms, GDG is supporting Rosa and Chita on an annual basis. I am curious to know if this figure exceeds $3,600? If it does, the Global Development Group is contributing to Citipointe double the sum of money to keep Rosa and Chita resident in  SHE than it would cost GDG to support Chanti’s entire family (including Rosa and Chita) in Prey Veng.

Let me repeat that, lest you think I have made a typographical error: Chhork and Chanti’s annual income is in the vicinity of $1,800. This is the amount it costs to feed and clothe the family in any one year. This works out at $5 a day to support an entire family? Yes, it is very difficult; sometimes close to impossible. Yes, the family undergoes a financial crisis each time a member of it gets sick or in a bad week when Chhork does not earn $5 a day driving his tuk tuk. Chanti and Chhork’s family survives, however, as do hundreds of thousands of other similarly poor Cambodian families. Ask each and every one of these impoverished families if they would like some financial assistance from a GDG-funded NGO and they would all respond, I think, with “Yes, please.” Tell them that GDG funding would be contingent on giving up their eldest daughters to an NGO to live in Phnom Penh and be brought up as Christians and how many of them would say yes?

Nov 2008. The main deck of Chanti and Chhork's rented house boat. Citipointe church declared that the new family home was not a 'safe environment' and so refused to return Rosa and Chita.

The way around this recruitment problem, for unscrupulous NGOs such as Citipointe’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’, is to trick and deceive materially poor parents such as Chanti and Chhork into giving up their daughters. This, as I am sure you will be aware, is a tactic used by brothel owners to recruit young girls from rural areas to work as prostitutes in Phnom Penh. The recruitment dynamics are the same in both cases. However, where the GDG, quite rightly, works to prevent the recruitment of young girls into the sex trade, it appears to be either incapable of addressing (or not interested in do so) the same recruitment processes when applied to an NGO such as Citipointe’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’.

If this is an unfair representation of the Global Development Group, why has my phone not rung? Why has there been no attempt made by anyone representing the Global Development Group, to speak with Chanti and Chhork? Why has Peta Thomas not responded in any way to the serious allegations I have made? If they are correct, and I have the evidence to present to Peta and anyone else from GDG who is interested, GDG has a very serious problem on its hands – its own complicity, through its ineffective assessing and monitoring processes, in the illegal removal of girls from their families.

Nov 2008. Chanti has a stall down by the river - selling drinks, fruit, snacks and cigarettes. By Cambodian standards she and Chhork are earning good money but Citipoite refuses to return Rosa and Chita.  citing the 'contract' that Chanti has 'signed' - giving the church the right to hold the girls until they are 18. When Chanti 'kidnaps' Rosa, her visiting rights to her daughters are cut back to 2 hours per month or 24 hours per year.

Leaving aside any human rights considerations GDG could fully support Rosa and Chita within their family, (both nuclear and extended) and within the community for much less than it costs to support them living in an institution. I am not suggesting that GDG or any other NGO fully support a family such as Chanti and Chhork’s. This would not help them become self-sufficient. It would only lead to a form of economic dependence that is unhealthy for both the family and the country.

The problem here (one of many problems) is that in the past five years not one dollar of the money the Global Development Group has given to the ‘SHE Rescue Home’ has been used to help make Chanti and Chhork’s family self-sufficient. Not one dollar! Is this an appropriate use of the funding the Global Development Group provides to Citipointe church? Is GDG even aware that this is the case? The lack of any support at all to help Chanti and Chhork’s family become self-sufficient works to the church’s advantage, however. By doing nothing to lift the family out of poverty Citipointe can justify to itself and its funding partners (GDG amongst others) in  its decision not to return Rosa and Chita to their family. However, despite Citipointe’s refusal to help, and as a result of my own assistance, the family has been lifted out of extreme poverty and the parents want their daughters back. And, as you would discover if you spoke with Rosa and Chita, they want to be living with their family and not in the ‘SHE Rescue Home’.

Vanna uses a broom several times a day to keep the area in front of Chanti's stall spotlessly clean. All 8 of Vanna's children died of starvation and disease during the Khmer Rouge years. Chanti, born 7 years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, is her only living child from 9 births. She is heart-broken in Nov 2008 to have lost her two beloved granddaughters to Citipointe church.

If there is no response from GDG in the next 24 hours, no attempt made to meet with Chanti and Chhork, no interest shown in the evidence I have of Citipointe’s illegal actions I will, tomorrow, make a formal complaint to the Australian Council for International Development about the GDG’s failure to adhere to the ACFID Code of Conduct.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Chanti in Psar Thmei 1995

Rosa, 2005

Chita and Chanti 2005

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