Julie & Geoff Dowse
"Through both their professional and personal experiences in their first year in Cambodia, they felt they couldn't walk away...
they were compelled to do something and so AusCam Freedom Project was founded."
October 2010 my husband and I arrived in Phnom Penh full of excitement and enthusiasm about our new life here together. We felt strongly and with conviction that God had great things planned for us. I had been offered a one year contract to work with an organization, Hagar Cambodia, as a Technical Advisor for their Social Work team to develop a model of case management for over 300 women and children in their program. A huge task which I totally embraced.
As much as we thought we were prepared for our journey here… within our first week we were faced with the reality of a country ravaged and tormented by genocide, civil unrest, extreme poverty and a country rife of trafficking of children for sex and labor.
On a daily basis we see small children, barefoot and carrying a basket on their back filled with books hoping to appeal to a tourist to buy their books…. For maybe a profit of 25 cents! They spend 12-14 hours a day desperate to earn enough money to contribute to their families living expenses. Then there are the young women roaming the streets every day with babies tied to their backs crying out for food or milk for their baby. A sight that continually rips at our heart. The Phnom Penh streets are filled with dirty, hungry people who find shelter each night under a tree somewhere or outside a local Wat (temple). How can anyone prepare themselves for this? Where does one start? We are challenged every day by the sights we see.
18 months later, after finishing my contract both my husband and I knew that we had to stay here.. Our hearts were Captured…..
Not long after we arrived here we were led to a ramshackle property on the fringe of the city housing 73 adorable children and young people ranging from 3- 20 years. We totally fell in love with the children and spent every spare moment visiting them. We were naive about the realities of orphanages in Cambodia. What we discovered over the next 18 months is that many children are bought in to orphanages for what their families perceive is “a better life”... this is not necessarily the case.... We learnt that young people have little or no options available to them once they reach pending adulthood... how will they integrate back in to community after spending many years tucked away in an institution? No life and social skills, poor self esteem, inability to trust and fractured family relationships... It was through our relationship with this orphanage and the beautiful relationships we developed with the young women living there that they became the ‘seeds’ of AusCam Freedom Project.
Geoff and I realize this is now a ‘life-long commitment’... but we feel privileged to serve these beautiful young women...
We look forward to bringing you on our journey to bring hope, healing, love, opportunity, choices and ultimately FREEDOM to the many young women who we will have the pleasure to walk beside...
Julie & Geoff
Compliance meeting with the Ministry of Social Affairs 2012
Signing our Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation 2012