At 22 years old, Hien joined Hagar's first personal development training group in 2009. In her first session, she tried to paint for the first time. Frustrated, she threw the painting brush to show the facilitator that she could not do it. She was very shy and had low confidence in herself. She rarely spoke in front of the group. After three sessions, she felt safer and started to share more. The other women in the group always listened when she spoke because it was always with deep meaning.
After she completed the personal development and job readiness training, she attended a room service training course for six months. Upon graduation from vocational training, Hagar established an internship for her at the Sofitel Plaza. After her internship, Hagar helped her secure a full time position at a five star hotel. She is one of the extraordinary examples for transformation.
In 2011, Hagar will transform the lives of 50 women like Hien.
The girls in Hagar Cambodia's Aftercare Shelter are getting excited about Christmas. For most of them this will be their first Christmas ever. They will have a small party, receive a gift, and learn the story of why we celebrate.
The 25 girls in Hagar's Aftercare program will join an additional 125 women and children from other Hagar programs. They will sing, dance, and eat a special meal together. We know it will be very festive, and we anticipate the excitement it will bring to all. For girls rescued from egregious abuse, there's not a lot about their pasts to celebrate. It's essential to find ways to celebrate the present and the future: holidays, birthdays, school exams.....any reason at all! Throughout the year we hear, "this is the first time I have every had a party for my birthday." Soon, many girls' "first Christmas" will be a very special day.
At Hagar Vietnam a few weeks back, 13 women stood proudly and confidently receiving certificates and flowers. Each was a survivor of human trafficking or domestic violence. Each had completed an important part of the journey toward wholeness. They were graduating from Hagar's 'Career Pathways' program in Hanoi, ready to begin their first work placements at Joma Bakery Cafe, Hagar's enterprise partner. For most, this would be their first experience with safe and dignified work, earning a sustainable income.
Each woman survivor made a bold statement that night. Their pasts would not define their futures. It was a night to remember, with nearly 200 people watching in awed silence. "The women had no idea that so many people cared about them," said Agnes Lam, Hagar Vietnam Country Leader. "Many of them were in tears at the end of the night, as were many of our guests."
One of the women who celebrated her empowerment was Bih:
Bih grew up always feeling different from others. She didn't feel smart, because she only finished fourth grade. The hardest part was she had the nagging feeling that she would never be a daughter that her parents could be proud of.
When a kind friend of Bih’s asked her to go shopping at the Chinese border, she jumped at the chance. But a fun excursion turned into a nightmare. It wasn’t long before she realized she’d been trafficked. Bih spent three years in a China brothel and was only rescued when a man alerted the police. When she got back home, her family rejected and disowned her.
Now Bih is safe with Hagar. She is learning to take care of herself. A self-portrait painted by Bih was displayed at the Career Pathways graduation ceremony. Bih said, “My portrait reflects the strength I have found in myself, despite my difficult past.”