“So often when you do something like engineering, it seems abstract, it seems far away from those lives. But it’s not.
This building, when it is built, will be a safe home. It will be a haven; it will be a shelter from the storm, in so many ways, of this society. And the fact that it is well-designed for them - not only in terms of function but in terms of how they perceive the building, their sense of safety within it - has direct impact on their psychology, their understanding of who God is. Because this is provided by God for them. A safe place to sort of re-align their lives, put things together.
So the role of eMi in creating that space is not abstract for those lives, it is absolutely central in terms of recreating normal and appropriate life for them.”
As Brian explained, it is called the Ratanak Achievement Program because... "...we want to celebrate the girls as soon as they arrive. It's an achievement even to survive and to have gotten here."Brian is a storyteller. Many of our meals during the week were spent listening to Brian’s tales of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge and the issue of sexual exploitation. His stories were fascinating – some were terrifying, some were uplifting and some were, unfortunately, disheartening.
By the end of our first full day in Cambodia, our team had heard many of the sad stories. Brian felt, and we agreed, that before designing a building for Khmer people, we needed to understand more of their history. We spent our Friday learning about the genocide perpetuated by the Khmer Rouge communists in the 70’s, when the entire country was converted to a concentration camp and over 2 million Cambodians were executed or starved to death.
Next, we visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum - known during the revolution as S-21. The school-turned-prison is one of the darkest places I’ve been in my life. As many as 20,000 prisoners had been cruelly tortured in what were formerly classrooms, until they finally confessed (or fabricated confessions) to being involved in anti-revolution activities. In the end, only 7 survived. The victims included women, young children and even babies (the Khmer Rouge saying was, “to dig up the grass you have to remove the roots.”)