Where the bedroom is a battleground… – Fighting against Domestic Violence with WAO Malaysia

“Violence Against Women is deeply embedded … so much so that millions of women consider it a way of life.” – Women’s Aid Organization

In a country where 1 out of 10 women are affected by domestic violence in a population of 8 million adult women, WAO is meeting a need to not only support these women to get out of their situations, but also spreading advocacy and awareness about the reality of domestic violence through campaigns such as these…

Ads in partnerships with DDB International Malaysia and WAO

On April 17, I was welcomed to Women’s Aid Organization’s main office and women’s refuge shelter in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.  At the office, Vivian, Projects Executive, gave me an introduction to WAO, its programs, and its goals and challenges.

Vivian and I looked through some of the press and advocacy campaigns. WAO partners with other local organizations, larger international organizations like UNHCR, and corporate partners to spread awareness about domestic violence as well as improve support and services for survivors. Vivian said the community wants to be a part of this movement because hey want to make a change.  WAO is promoting the new mentality from a “closed door culture” to one that “everyone can help”.

Next we went to visit the refuge, which is located at an undisclosed unlisted address location in order to protect the women. I found out that often these women’s past abusers come looking for them so this center is equipped with cameras, security gate, and emergency numbers. I asked her how these women escape their situations, and Vivian said they either come up with the idea on their own or it suggested by friends to seek help via WAO.  The women are referred to the shelter when they have nowhere to go – some even have to bring their children to escape the violence.

When we arrived I noticed the security and safety, but inside beyond the gates was a bright home that I could hear children’s laughter. Once inside, I met the staff and counselors that work at the refuge to provide constant access and support for the women.  As I walked around, I saw artwork posted up by the kids, and was introduced to the women residing there. There were women of all different backgrounds, religions, and cultures all under one roof – all supporting each other escape the abuse to start a better empowered life.

The refuge provides many activities like tutoring, English classes, daycare, skills building classes, and yoga. The staff also provides other outings and activities by request of the women.

It was wonderful to experience the work and impact of Women’s Aid Organization in supporting these women, but also to meet the committed and dedicated staff behind the scenes working not only at the shelter but as advocates for human rights, as well as see the strength and courage of the women who escaped violent situations to create a better life for themselves and their children.

WAO is working on a public education campaign which wiill feature men calling out men to stop violence against women. I am very excited to see this launched because stopping domestic violence involves not just public policy and women… but it involves men as well. We are all in it together.

To find out more please go to: http://www.wao.org.my

My Day with Lotus Outreach addressing Cambodia’s Sex Industry and Women’s Rights

On March 14, Alexis and I visited Lotus Outreach’s Non-Formal Education program. Bright and early we met up with Raksmey from Lotus Outreach. First, we attended a sewing training. This training is part of the non-formal education classes providing life skills, basic education, and small business training so that the girls have necessary skills to survive outside of the karaokes, massage parlors, and sex industry. These women are the most vulnerable group because some are illiterate and a large majority never completed higher than an elementary school education.

With Lotus Outreach Sewing Class

With Lotus Outreach Sewing Class

One of the sewing class trainees explained to me that she hopes to open a small business in her hometown someday. Another said she worked in a karaoke bar and found out about the training, so joined to have her own business one day. A third girl said she might not be able to work in a karaoke forever, so she needs more skills to prepare her for another job. I asked her why she worked in a karaoke and she said she could not find other work to support her child. The instructor’s assistant said before she was illiterate, but now she can do calculations, read, and write since she joined the NFE program.

Following the sewing class, we visited a non-formal education class at the housing accommodations of girls that work in a local “karaoke”. These karaokes serve as locations for men to enjoy the company of women with the option to gain more.

The challenge is that the families of these girls demand money and support so the girls not able to make enough money in traditional jobs have to take alternative forms of income generation that is quick and provides large sums – income generating activities such as selling their bodies. They often lack skills to gain more secure and higher wage jobs in places like the garment factories, so Lotus Outreach is providing the training and skills as well as job placement for girls in their NFE programs. Providing a sustainable and feasible alternative to the sex industry – a job that the girls can be proud of. Finally, we ended at another “karaoke” where Lotus Outreach provides Non-Formal Education and vocational training classes in beauty like hair, nails, and makeup for the girls to get out of the sex industry.

The trainer and trainees were busy practicing on each other – creating beautiful nail and hair designs. One of the trainees had barely received any formal education growing up, but now had skills that she could make a living for herself outside of the sex industry.  Soon after, the first customers began to arrive… and we knew it was time to leave. These young women were so inspiring to meet and hear their stories because despite their hardships, they still have hopes and dreams they are working to achieve. These young women live in such harsh conditions, but at the end of day still wake up to attend the basic education classes, to study, and to practice their vocational training to have another life.

with Non-Formal Education Class

with Non-Formal Education Class

After, Alexis and I visited recipients of the Lotus Pedals project. The recipients were 2 young girls who received a bike from the Lotus Pedals program.  Before they had the bikes, these girls would have to walk an hour just to get to school. Now the bikes cut the time in half, and they have more time to study in between school and work. Where do they work? The rubbish heaps nearby to earn extra income for the family. They pick things like plastic bottles and items that can be sold to recycling plants. The average income is $1.25USD per day picking rubbish.

The Louts Pedals project goal is to not only provide bicycles to young girls but to increase awareness about the importance of education for the family as a whole. Lotus Outreach works with families and the schools, before enrolling in the schools Lotus Outreach staff meets with parents to identify needs and challenges for the kids to get to school. Lotus Outreach also helps to decrease the gender gap between girls and boys.

Lotus Pedals recipients with bike

I asked one of the sister recipients what her favorite subject in school was and she said science because she loves the environment. The other said her favorite was social studies and Khmer traditional dancing class.  The father said he hoped for the future of his kids involved getting a good job and to stay in school as long as they could afford it.  I turned to the girls and asked what they wanted to be when they grew up – one said a primary school teacher and the other a doctor.


Happy Earth Day!!!

How do you give back to “Mother Earth” on this once a year event? Some volunteer, some plant a tree… I decided to support organizations ALREADY doing something about it and making a real impact. Today I added a few more projects with an EarthDay Theme to my fundraiser through GlobalGiving…

Check it out HERE and..


2. Tweet about WHY you gave for Earth Day and include #GIVE25 and #EARTHDAY

3. Share my post with your friends, family, and networks

If you don’t have time to DO something…. with only 24 hours in the day.. and 6 days left of my fundraiser… why not give $25 to organizations doing impact work for the environment, rescuing wildlife, and supporting economic development.

Today I am celebrating my friends, family, and environment around me…

Case on Scholarships for Students – Breaking the Cycle of Poverty w/ CCEF

On March 21, Alexis and I visited Cambodian Children’s Education Fund scholarship recipients’ schools, and we had dinner with a recipient family of CCEF’s scholarship program. A quick note before I share about the site visit… since the Khmer Rouge, education in Cambodia is basically starting at square 1. The Khmer Rouge killed/wiped out anyone who was educated in order to destroy the social class system/rich vs. poor – they murdered an estimated 1/3 of the population. The country is now in a state of re-building its education system, educated citizens, and even re-teaching and preserving its cultural heritage (all of the former documents were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge party). The importance of education in a country where every highly educated citizen was murdered or fled the country is EXTREMELY vital and organizations are now working to ensure that children are able to COMPLETE their education since a large number of the population cannot afford for the kids to finish schooling much less afford books and uniforms. The children normally have to stop going to school in order to start working some at the age of 10 to provide additional income for the family. On to the site visit…

The first stop was New York International School in Siem Reap, Cambodia where 12 students are being sponsored by CCEF. Alexis and I were able to observe a class with some of the sponsored students and then meet with the staff and principal.  The school has grades kindergarten through 12th grade.  We asked what the difference is between the public and private schools and the staff explained: security, holding students accountable (for example when they are absent the school calls the parents), and number of students per teacher and class. The students were getting more 1-on-1 support and courses in both English and Khmer (the local language). Later in the day, we visited Sunrise Children’s Village where CCEF sponsors 10 students. This is an orphanage that takes not only children without parents but also children whose families who cannot afford to take care of them or provide education – “economic orphans”.

That night we had dinner with Somalin, the first scholarship recipient, and her family.  Somalin, received a full scholarship since she was 3 to attend private school, and now has amazing English skills. Her dad often stopped to ask her how to say a word. Her dad said that she is determined to do well, doing more homework than is required and studying more than necessary every night.  Somalin’s father is a tuktuk driver – a common form of transportation in Cambodia which barely provides sufficient income for an entire family. Because of her education, her father now learned English too, and they both teach the whole family at home. Her dad also stays up late to help her with homework and says sometimes he has to keep the dictionary out to be able to complete it with her when it is very difficult.

Somalin’s education has installed the importance of education in their family. She was the first to receive formal schooling, formal English, and math training. It was incredible and inspiring to meet the children who can afford to go to school now, receive an education, and contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty.

Alexis and I at dinner with Somalin and her family

“If only heads could bounce”- my day with AIP Foundation and Helmet Safety in Vietnam

“Every year over 12,00 people die on roads and 30,000 are seriously injured..most of these cases could have been prevented by simply wearing a helmet…Wear a helmet. There are no excuses.” – 2007 Public Service Announcement by Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, Vietnam Helmet Wearing Coalition, and National Traffic Safety Committee.

This was a public service announcement by Asia Injury Prevention Foundation in 2007 to spread awareness about the life-saving impact of wearing helmets. Instead of 12,000, now 11,000 people die per year on roads. Created by Greig Craft, AIP Foundation (501c3) was established to compat epidemic levels of road traffic fatalities and inuries in developing countries. On Friday, Apri 6, I was able to spend the morning with Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, meet staff, and see their programs in action.

Before reading on …watch THIS to get a glimpse of what traffic is like in Vietnam. This video gives a great insite into WHY helmet safety is so important.

Traffic in Frenetic HCMC, Vietnam from Rob Whitworth on Vimeo.

Aaron, Development Coordinator, and Hong, Program Coordinator accompanied me to a school in District 9, Ho Chi Minh City, where the students participate in the “Click On Safety” project, “Safe Routes to School “ program,  as well as are recipients of “Helmets For Kids”.

Immediately on arrival, I was greeted by the principal and vice-principal. They accompanied us to a classroom where the teacher was about to start “ClickOn Safety”, an e-learning program teaching road safety for 1st grade students. This program is in pilot phase. The kids were excited, engaged, and interacting with the e-learning program – playing educational games, answering questions, and cheering when getting questions right.

While observing the class, I noticed  all of the children had their uniforms, backpacks, and HELMETS which were strapped to the sides of their desks thanks to AIP Foundation. In 2011, 6,680 helmets were donated in Vietnam, 2,542 in Cambodia, and 260 in Thailand through Helmets for Kids. Since the program started in 2000, around 500,000 helmets have been donated.

Kids in class with helmets at their sides

Kids in class with helmets at their sides

After, we sat down with the principal and vice principal. They explained that they have been working with AIP for 2 years. At the beginning, students did not like the helmets because they were not attractive, but after they were made colorful, the kids began to like them. Before the helmets, they had an incident of a father of a student dying and only 20% of the student population wore helmets. Now 80-90% of the students wear helmets to school, and there are still a few traffic accidents but that number has decreased and the injuries are not as serious as before.

AIP now has a university team doing research on how to better engage families and parents in the helmet safety program.

Promoting helmet safety at the school

Promoting helmet safety at the schools

How does AIP Foundation choose its schools? First the Department of Education provides of list of schools where a majority of the parents are laborers, poor, and or government workers. Then AIP hosts interviews and surveys the schools to find out the number of students that are currently wearing helmets and number of accidents. Finally, AIP launches the programs involving teachers, school staff, and of course the students.

Next, I witnessed the “Traffic Corner” being used by one of the physical fitness classes outside.  The “traffic corner” is a portion of the playground or courtyard turned into a mini-interactive 4-way traffic stop complete with crosswalks and working lights. Kids are able to practice safe ways of crossing the streets and reading stop lights.

Finally, I was able to sit with Executive Director, Mirjam, and Development Coordinator, Aaron, to learn about all of the projects, public awareness campaigns, successes, and challenges of AIP Foundation.  AIP Foundation was able to accelerate approval of the Vietnam Helmet Law and because of this, helmet wearing has increased 10% to 98% by adults. AIP Foundation now works with the mass media to create awareness campaigns about how wearing a helmet can save lives.

I was able to learn more about Protec, a non-profit arm of AIP Foundation that is increasing quality and standard in the helmet industry in Vietnam. Protec helmets are the “world’s first “tropical” motorcycle helmet designed…low cost, lightweight…appropriate for warm climates” via AIP brochure. Protec is a social business that reinvests all profits back into AIP Foundation to help create self-sustainability as well as hire disabled workers to provide opportunities for the disadvantaged.

Protec helmets - improving quality and standard

Protec helmets – improving quality and standard
With my very own Protec Helmet

It is unfathomable to understand the importance of helmet-wearing unless one has been to Vietnam and driven through traffic on a motorbike. Motorbikes are the main means of transportation for people in Vietnam. The law currently only requires adults and children over 6 to wear helmets, but many kids older than 6 still do not wear helmets and the law is not effectively enforced. This was similar to my experience in Cambodia, where I saw a majority of children AND adults not wearing helmets. I now own my very own helmet for the remainder of my time in Southeast Asia with GlobalGiving – and it’s a Protec helmet.

To give a helmet go here: http://www.globalgiving.org/4954

To support the campaigns go here: http://www.globalgiving.org/7585

We detonated a landmine: a tour of HALO Trust in Cambodia

As featured on GlobalGiving’s Blog:

landmine clearance in cambodia: a tour of the halo trust’s work

Posted by Alexis Nadin on April 4th, 2012

Gearing up for the field

This is a guest post by Jacqueline Lee, an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving with support by Alexis Nadin GlobalGiving Program Associate. Jacqueline is currently making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

Today, across the world, governments, organizations, and individuals are commemorating International Mine Awareness Day. It is an important opportunity for victims of landmines to speak out, and for all of us to build awareness about the effects of landmines long after conflicts have ended. Here at GlobalGiving, we are proud to work with numerous organizations that are clearing minefields around the world, including The HALO Trust, an organization working to clear landmines in 13 countries around the world.

There are still hundreds of thousands of landmines in Cambodia; not only were they laid by the Khmer Rouge, a brutal regime that ruled Cambodia in the late 1970s, but also the Vietnamese army, in its efforts to contain Khmer Rouge forces, and later, the new Cambodian army. Since 1979, there have been more than 63,000 landmine casualties in the country.

My Visit to The HALO Trust


Recently, my colleague, Alexis Nadin, and I had the chance to receive a real-life tour of a minefield being cleared by The HALO Trust’s field team in Cambodia. We visited a minefield that is part of the infamous K5, a large swath of densely-mined land stretching across 21 northern border districts in Cambodia.

On our way out to the field, Alexis and I were surprised by the number of yellow sticks we passed on the sides of the road. Stanislav Damjanovic, HALO’s Deputy Programme Manager in Cambodia, explained that each stick represents a destroyed landmine. I deemed them “life sticks,” what could have been tombstones are now indicators of lives that have been spared.

Cambodian Deminer

By the time we arrived at the site, HALO’s field team had already found 6 landmines that day. As we walked towards the makeshift field office, the local field officer signaled for us to wait for a blast. We were taken aback by the loud BOOM of a landmine being exploded by HALO’s expert field team in the distance. It was at that moment that Alexis and I looked at one another, thinking about what we had gotten ourselves into.

Alexis and I geared up, having received in-depth security and safety briefings, and then were off to experience a day in the life of a de-miner. We followed HALO’s staff as they navigated the field, weaving between yellow sticks, and being careful not to cross any red sticks, which signaled uncleared land.

Destroying a landmine…

Well-trained deminers, hired from local communities, were carefully scanning grids with specially-designed metal detectors. And as the afternoon sun beat down on us in our Kevlar vests and massive helmets, we began to truly appreciate the dedication and resilience of HALO’s team.

Stanislav asked Alexis and I if we would like to destroy one of the mines – so we had the opportunity of a lifetime to press the button that would prevent a future tragedy.  It was an intense thirty seconds waiting for the explosion… then BOOM, a loud jolt went off that shook even my camera while I was filming. This was a small mine – I could not imagine standing next to it when it accidentally goes off or even when coming across a larger tank mine.

Later in the day, we traveled to one of the many fields that The HALO Trust has not been able to clear due to funding limitations. We stood in the backyard of a small family home and looked out into a minefield. It was here that the true implications of HALO’s work sunk in. Although The HALO Trust has cleared over 17,350 acres and destroyed more than 245,700 landmines, the risk is still high in rural Cambodia.

Standing in the backyard of a family home looking out into a minefield…

Children still play and walk to school on paths that wind through uncleared minefields. Parents and grandparents still take daily risks, farming on land that has never been cleared.

Our day with HALO was incredible. The work they are doing on the ground in Cambodia is crucial to the continued development of the country. Having witnessed for myself the harmful impact of minefields first hand, I would like to invite you to help clear another landmine in Cambodia this Mine Awareness Day.Consider making a donation to HALO Trust’s project in Cambodia.

Check out GlobalGiving’s other mine clearance projects:

Into the wild… with Wildlife Alliance

This is a photo and video account of my day with Wildlife Alliance in Cambodia… I was able to visit 2 of Wildlife Alliance’s projects: preventing illegal poaching through ranger patrol and re-foresting destroyed land while empowering and educating local citizens on the importance of protecting and living off of the environment. It was an exciting visit facilitated by knowledgable, committed, and passionate staff.

The Wildlife Alliance bus for youth program to environmental awareness and animal protection activities such as the animal rescue rehabilitation center.

I received a formal full-military salute and welcome to the Ranger facilities. Currently the patrol stations are strategically placed along the water transport and road transport areas, but with increased control, those who are willing to break the law are trying to find creative ways to avoid the authority of Wildlife Alliance.


Confiscated motorbikes from poachers –  for example when they are caught taking out a protected wood that is worth a LOT on the market … risking class 1 misdemeanor and thrown into jail immediately.

Confiscated trappings

The Rangers and Me – I asked one of the rangers what brought him to Wildlife Alliance, and he said his “love of forest, animals, and conservation.” I responded if he was not with WA where would he be – and he said he was previously with the Cambodian Royal Embassy Military.

Patrolling the jungle and “Viper Valley” for poachers and illegal activity, ambushing culprits, and releasing trapped endangered animals back to their homes – all in a normal day with Wildlife Alliance’s Rangers.

Coming across a fishing boat – checking for illegally stored animals/plants

One of the newer rangers manning the boat and Eddie

Past the ecotourism village and the windy roads lined by houses now growing sustainable farming (not slash-and-burn farming) thanks to Wildlife Alliance, deep into the forest and over a small river – we arrived at the re-forestation nursery and staff house. There we were welcomed by the 2 live in staff overseeing the re-forestation – Annette and Ariel. They were warm and welcoming sharing stories and experiences, along with challenges and hopes for the project and living so far separated from the city.

Next morning arrival of the nursery workers from the local town – this is a typical mode of transportation for workers here in Cambodia

Preparing the locally sourced (scavenged, tested, and researched from the local forest) seeds for planting

Misting the babies/seedlings

Once the seedlings have graduated, they are moved to larger plant holdings under the shade-nets

With Wildlife Alliance Staff at the Nursery

At the time there were 22 workers but I was told that during planting season there could be as many as 80 – all from local villages. It was wonderful to learn that the villagers felt invested in the land that they previously used to burn and take from, now working to create and plant back into. This program was changing the mentality for local villagers because they now could identify with not only the hard work that went into re-creating the forest but also taking care of it and sustaining… with a reward of all the fruits and vegetables it could provide. And what’s more- once these were planted… the land became officially protected even by government from development and destruction. So far this project has plotted over 37,000 trees and almost 500 hectares to date.

To learn more about the nursery click here.

To learn more about the Ranger program click here.

GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here.