A DEARNE Valley woman’s dream of helping sexually abused children in Cambodia by training up desperately needed counsellors has come true.
Lynne Barnett, of Sprotbrough, has set up the first counsellor training course in the country during her latest mercy mission to the Far Eastern land.
The course at a private university has 25 people on the books.
Cambodia is still dragging itself out of the horror of Pol Pot’s Year Zero genocide in the 1970s – in which millions died – and which left the country in grinding poverty.
Many families still sell children into sexual slavery and Lynne, a freelance therapist from Sprotbrough, has visited the country 17 times to try and help.
She has lived there for three-and-a-half years now.
She hopes the training course will mean more children get the support they need because she cannot help them all on her own.
Her efforts over the years have been supported by parishioners at Sprotbrough Methodist Church and All Saints Church in Darfield.
Lynne gave up her work as a freelance therapist in the UK to help the children in the Siem Reap region in the north of Cambodia but now she will be working in the country’s capital Phnom Penh.
In setting up the course she has had to encourage administrators to see the benefits of training counsellors, which she said can be a difficult concept in Cambodia.
Previously, Lynne has shared her difficulties of getting positive change in the country due to official inaction and poverty, as well as the trauma left over from past horrors.
A lack of books and journals written in the native Khmer language has been a difficulty, as has finding suitably qualified teaching staff.
Developing an accreditation acceptable to the authorities was also a headache.
Lynne, speaking from Cambodia, said: “Cambodia is a post-Holocaust nation with enormous trauma fall-out. This of course means there is a great need for professional counselling, but services in this developing country are minimal and dependent on NGOs (non-government organisations).
“Counselling is also a concept not fully understood in Cambodia, as it generally means being told what to do. It was apparent that a sustainable accredited and professional counselling educational programme was crucial to help in the healing process of the inter-generational trauma.
“Following a year of meetings, workshops, business plans, curriculum development and recruiting of Cambodian psychologists trained overseas, the course begins at a private university in the capital city in October. This two-year part-time accredited diploma health counselling course will be the first in the country.”
Lynne said that the students will each access a minimum of 24 hours’ personal therapy and be supported by a professional supervisor on a monthly basis when on their placements in year two.
Lynne said that those taking the course are making a difficult personal commitment.
She said: “This is no mean feat for the students, as due to economic issues they will also hold down full-time employment, working these hours around studies.”
The counselling team consists of seven sessional teachers and four counselling psychologists offering personal therapy or supervision. There have also been offers of overseas online workshops from highly respected university professors.
*If you would like to support Lynne’s work, this can be done via Helen Smyly of Sprotbrough Methodist Church at firstname.lastname@example.org.