When sheep trust the shepherd
When sheep trust the shepherd
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2.1 Background and Objective
This research explores the Housemothers' vision on care at the Assessment Center of World Hope International, where they provide aftercare for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.
World Hope International, a Christian relief and development organization (founded in the USA)
opened an Assessment Center in Cambodia in 2005; A safe haven for female victims in the age
of 5-18 years, whom have been rescued from sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation
(human trafficking). This Center provides short-term crisis-care with basic recovery therapy and
is specialized in the needs-assessment of survivors, in order to coordinate accustomed longterm
aftercare within two months. The Housemothers play a significant role in the daily care for
the girls at the Assessment Center.
In the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime 1975-1979 (still felt psychologically and
economically) Cambodia has become a source, transit, and destination country for trafficking
mainly women and children in to the sex-industry. The poverty, lack of employment, socialeconomic
imbalance between rural and urban areas, low levels of education, ease of migration
and certain cultural beliefs create a high risk of sexual abuse and Trafficking in Persons.
Several local, international and non-governmental organizations in Cambodia, such as World
Hope International, aim to support the government, the community and the victims in their battle
against human trafficking and sexual abuse. Their programs focus on prevention, investigation,
shelter, aftercare and/or prosecution.
In the past decade, efforts have been made to assess the scope of the problem (including pushand-
pull factors and specific needs of survivors) and to develop minimum standards, curricula
and workshops to improve the aftercare programs and educate local caregivers. This process
includes international concepts and knowledge as well as experiences from local program
managers. Less consideration however has been given to the local caregivers who provide the
2.2 Statement of the Problem
This study aims to address this lack of consideration by focusing on the vision on care of the
Housemothers (the local caregivers) at World Hope International. The standard of child care at
World Hope International is informed by western values, knowledge and theories - such as the
Rights of the Child1 and Policy and minimum standard for the protection of the Rights of Victims
of Human Trafficking2 -, but it is the Housemothers who provide the day-to-day care for the girls
at the Assessment Center.
These Housemothers are taught the desired practical outcomes based on the western values
and beliefs, but do not necessarily share the underlying values and beliefs, and consequently
the transmission seems to be limited. The management present themselves as open to
feedback, but it is unlikely the Housemothers see themselves in a position to show initiative in
this way to those who provide protocols and training due to the presence of rigid social
hierarchies in Cambodian culture.
This gap cannot be bridged unless the aspiration and underlying values of the Housemothers -
and where these align with or contradict the prevalent western teaching - are understood. To
develop Housemothers'; vision of care, first of all it needs to be acknowledged and understood in
its cultural and spiritual context.
2.3 Research topic and process
This field research aimed to explore the Housemothers'; vision on care by assessing the
underlying cultural and Christian values of this vision as well as the relationship between these
The specific research questions aim to determine which role the Housemothers most resemble
(according to Ganzevoort and Visser characterizations of Witness, Helper, Companion or
Interpreter), based on an overview on pastoral positions and concepts presented in the pastoral
framework of this study.
A cultural framework was developed to establish an intercultural approach that acknowledges
and appreciates the cultural specific aspects regarding sexual trauma, recovery and care.
Planning and data collection were conducted during the summer of 2011, with analysis,
validation, and write-up taking place over the remainder of the year. With consideration of
several cultural and cross-cultural challenges, qualitative data collection was conducted through
1 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child came into force in 1990.
2 The Policy and Minimum Standard for the Protection of the Rights of Victims of Human Trafficking was
launched in 2009
a combination of: group activities; participant observation; and (semi-)structured individual
interviews, among the 10 Housemothers at the Assessment Center of World Hope International.
2.4 Summary of findings
The intercultural hermeneutic evaluation of underlying values reveal that the Housemothers';
vision on care is foremost inspired by Christian values. The Housemothers place value on the
sexually traumatized girls, who are often rejected by society, based on their strong Christian
beliefs. The Biblical mandate on brotherly love and Jesus'; interaction with people who are
rejected in society inspires the Housemothers'; engagement and respectful approach and even
overrides the cultural norm in which people are valued according to their social status.
Housemothers'; initial focus is therefore to create a safe and loving environment and build
interpersonal relationships by which the girls feel accepted.
However, Housemothers'; objectives in care mainly arise from cultural beliefs. While
acknowledging the emotional state the girls are in, the Housemothers perceive the social needs
of the girls as prior to their psychological and spiritual needs. Their main objective for a social
recovery arises from the set expectations, behavioral codes and a concept of self that follows
from the collectivistic nature of Cambodian society. Within this cohesive social context, sexual
abuse and exploitation reduce a woman';s dignity and value. Besides the consequences of a
traumatic experience in and of itself, shame and rejection in the Cambodian society have a
profound and devastating impact on the victim. Recovery then is achieved once a woman
regains her social value and receives the required respect from other members of the social
group, by behaving conform to the social norm. So Housemothers aspire for the girls to fulfill
their social needs (by becoming resilient and acting according to social expectations) in order to
meet their psychological needs (to regain self-esteem).
These objectives lead to a vision on care that aims to support the girls cope and "cover"; trauma
(not to process trauma) and exposes a relational, intervention and behavioral approach. Once a
therapeutic alliance is established with the girls, the Housemothers'; focus shifts towards
intervention. They express a responsibility to enable transformation and encourage change with
advice on social behavior and guidance towards spiritual growth. In this setting, care focuses on
the individual in relation to the group and offers the victim support and guides in developing
appropriate behavior and attitude, according to the social norm. The pastor in this model takes
on the role of Helper, to supports the client in her existential crisis through personal
involvement, professional (social, psychological, theological) insights, and intervention methods.
This approach emphasizes the strong ties between an individual and environment and
perceives the respondent as a client in need of support towards social value and modification.
The Word of God is shared in order to console the girls as well as to change the girls'; lifestyle
and behavior and therefore has a supportive role to the existential pastoral approach. It is
shared in relation to the girls life experiences, yet transcends these experiences based on the
sovereignty of God. In line with this perception of God and the hierarchical culture the
Housemothers'; vision contains a normative approach. Consequently the pastoral relationship in
a social therapeutic pastoral model contains a fault line between the human encounter and theencounter with God.
Based on the underlying Christian values of Housemothers'; vision, their care can be perceived
as a locally developed pastoral approach. It shows resemblance to the presence based
approach and pastoral role of Companion seen in an equi-human pastoral model; the
intervention approach and pastoral role of Helper seen in a therapeutic pastoral model and; the
normative approach based on the sovereignty of God seen in a kerygmatic pastoral model.
Unification of these elements in Housemothers'; vision suggest that a social therapeutic pastoral
model of care is practiced in World Hope International.
It is in the combination of cultural and Christian values that the Housemothers'; unique and
valuable position in the caregivers'; team becomes most clear: when understanding the girls';
needs in the cohesive social structure of Cambodia, the Housemothers'; personal engagement
and respect, inspired by their Christian values, is seen to be a key element in the girls'; recovery
process. The girls receive the required acceptance for healing and self-actualization in the
Housemothers'; daily presence.
Recommendations of this study aim to empower the Housemothers'; vision and practice with
knowledge and methods seen in supportive group therapies, behavioral therapies and religious
education. It also aims to raises awareness for the specific spiritual questions of trauma victims
in regards to the Housemothers normative application of the story of God and suggests a more
|Partners||NGO World Hope International, Phnom Penh/ Cambodia|