Growing Safe—Rooted in God’s Love

By Scott Griswold

“Sometimes I’m so angry that I just shake as I hear the children share about the things they have experienced. So many times their own parents take the children out of school and make them go to work to recycle garbage or labor as a cement worker or even a prostitute.”

A teacher from an ASAP-supported school was upset but hopeful at the same time. Julie Griswold had just given her an opportunity to express herself at the curriculum training in Cambodia called Growing Safe—Rooted in God’s Love.

This curriculum is desperately needed in Asia where our students and other children are at great risk of abuse in their homes and even trafficking into slavery and prostitution. More than two years ago, an ASAP donor recognized the great need and pledged funds to help develop a Christian curriculum to keep kids safe in Asia.

ASAP chose Julie Griswold to organize the curriculum. The burden for this work has been on her heart throughout her experience as a missionary in Cambodia and Thailand. Julie felt very inadequate for this job and poured her heart into praying and searching through present curriculums, selecting the best from each and wrestling with how to contextualize the curriculum for the Asian culture.

God raised up an advisory committee to share ideas, do research, and review the lessons. This team included Adventist leaders in Asia, teachers, development workers, and professionals who have spent years fighting trafficking, working towards prevention, and rescuing children in trouble. ASAP board member Dr. Shirley Freed joined Julie regularly, using her expertise in curriculum development. In time, God also helped Julie find translators and an artist for the illustrations.

All this planning came together the week of February 22–25, 2016, as literacy teachers came from all over the country and joined the teachers of the Feed & Read schools in Phnom Penh for a hands-on training.

The training was active and met with a very positive response. The teacher who had started the training so upset said, “I learned good things in our training this week. There were stories to tell and games to play. There were small group activities and lots of good ideas. The children will be really interested.”

Another teacher said, “I’m really interested in this program. It will help children avoid danger, especially sexual dangers. We learned to teach the children to not go anywhere alone. Second, to not go where it is dark. Third, we will teach them to run away from men who try to do bad things to them. Fourth, if a stranger tries to give them some gifts, they should say, ‘No! I don’t want them!’ We must help the children to run from any of these dangers!”

After Julie and the team modeled how to use a couple of lessons, they quickly placed the teaching into the hands of the teachers. For the rest of the week, the teachers did an amazing job of teaching the lessons to each other and then to a group of students. “I was so thrilled!” said Julie. “It was like they had written the curriculum themselves.”

During the week of training, real life challenges came up in conversation, which reinforced our urgency to implement this curriculum in schools across Asia.

For instance, one teacher shared how she asked her students what they wanted to be when they grow up. She turned to Liuhp who is twelve, but looks like a grown-up. What will she answer?, the teacher wondered. She knew the girl’s parents were divorced. Liuhp’s mother had expressed concern about her daughter’s behavior, but didn’t seem to be protecting her at home. Men from the neighborhood would ask Liuhp to go buy cigarettes and alcohol for them. Just by observing Liuhp’s mannerisms, the teacher was worried that the men were drawing the girl into doing them wrong favors.

“So Liuhp, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be a prostitute!”

“What did you say?” Despite her somber reflections, the teacher wasn’t prepared for the student’s answer. “What would you like to be?”

Once again she said, “I want to be a prostitute.”

“Where did you get such an idea?” the teacher asked gently.

“My auntie says that’s how I can get lots of money and have nice dresses.”

The teacher took her hands, silently praying for wisdom to answer this precious girl and steadily turn her to a better way.

Another teacher in the province said that her class attendance went from over 60 to 30 because her school is on the outskirts of her village and parents don’t feel safe sending their children to school. They found that teenage boys were hiding in the bushes and taking advantage of the girls on the way to school.

Julia O’Carey brainstormed how to rectify this problem and you can help with the solution. ASAP would like to purchase a wagon to attach to the back of the teacher’s motorcycle so she can pick up the children and bring them to school. This should cost about $1,500, but it would keep the children safe.

There is such a great need for students to learn how valued by God they are and be wise against dangers. Please pray for the teachers as they work to keep their children safe and as they start teaching this new, Bible-based curriculum.