Jacqueline Lee is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout Southeast Asia. Her “Postcard” from the visit in Vietnam:
On the morning of April 11, I visited Hagar International’s office in Hanoi, Vietnam and was hosted by Kelly, Program Development Manager, and staff. The day started off with visiting Hagar’s main office and meeting staff. We sat down to discuss the staff’s backgrounds, current work, and challenges. I learned about the impact of Hagar, the spearheading of Hagar’s case management and social work within the field for future social workers, and goals for Hagar.
I asked the staff to share the most rewarding part of working at Hagar. One said working with the women, and when the survivor shares that it is the first time someone listens to her. Another said that Hagar is a place people can be and can cultivate themselves - where one can be authentic. Working there makes them feel proud - where each person feels like they are making a difference. Another staff member said being part of a learning organization. It’s not just about the numbers, but about each individual client.
Next we went to visit Joma Café, where Hagar survivors are able to receive on-the-job training in hospitality, and met some of the empowered women. I met with 2 women – one who had been with Hagar for about 1 year and half and another who was with Hagar for about 10 months. Let’s say their names are Sara and Mary (to protect their identities).
I asked them both why Joma and hospitality? Sara said she thought it was popular, easy to get a job and opportunity, and to meet people. Mary said she liked cooking. Before she cooked at the shelter and was good at it. I then asked if they would like to continue at Joma, and Mary said she hoped to work in her hometown to open a small business. Sara said she wanted to stay with Joma to increase experience and English. Finally, I asked if they weren’t with Hagar and Joma where would they be? Mary said it would have been difficult to find a job because she lacked skill sets. Sara said before she wasn’t able to learn life skills, vocational training, and not able to be recruited. It would have been way more challenging. Without support like this from Hagar, they don’t know where their future would be.
After, I asked if they had any questions for me, and both shrugged. Then Mary stopped, looked at me and said “I never thought I would have an opportunity like this. I want to thank GlobalGiving.”
Through protection, personal well-being, economic empowerment, and social capital women are able to not only survive trafficking but be empowered in their lives to move forward, create a positive and thriving life, and not be a victim.
For a child in a Cambodian courtroom, the experience can be harrowing. Child witnesses need to testify while standing right next to their abusers. The same ones who sold, raped them for profit, or exploited them. Then, sometimes the judge laughs at a young child's testimony. Sometimes the perpetrator’s friends or family jeer. Children may be told that it is their fault. It's in stark contrast to child-friendly practices common in developed countries.
At Hagar last year, 38 clients—most of them children – were involved in court cases in Cambodia.
We’re committed to make the situation better. We launched two initiatives in 2011 to help support clients through the legal process. A new Hagar Legal and Protection Unit includes a Cambodian lawyer and expatriate advisor, who ensure that clients are informed and supported. They accompany clients on appointments. They prepare them for court. Because, when a young girl stands up in court, speaks the truth, and is believed, it is a key part of the whole journey, from victim to survivor.
Also, Hagar and two other organizations began collaborating with the Cambodian Ministry of Justice to increase the child-friendliness of the system. Along with an art therapy consultant, we are designing a waiting room with the goal of providing a sanctuary. Children will be brought to the courtroom only when it is time for their voices to be heard. They will be exposed to less trauma, accusations and chaos. Last year, all concluded Hagar Cambodia legal cases resulted in a positive outcome. The perpetrator was convicted, sentenced, and fined. These results are not just a testament to good legal support. They reflect inner strength, good recovery services, and each person’s resilience.
Sometimes it’s the small things that make all the difference.
Hien came to Hagar broken and neglected. Years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse from her family made her feel useless, unwanted, and lost. She always wanted to learn and make her family proud, but trauma and torment from her parents made succeeding seem impossible.
Hien has been with Hagar for 2 years, and has been an exceptional case. Personal development, intensive counseling, and the love and commitment of Hagar staff have helped her to face her past. Now she is thriving as an employee of JOMA Bakery. But that’s not the only reason her case is successful.
Hien loves to learn and educate others, and has always wanted to return to university to complete her degree. Hagar staff recognized this, and recently gave her an opportunity to become a teaching assistant for Hagar’s ESL program. Hien jumped at the opportunity, and has been thriving while working to improve her English as well as teach her peers.
“Her confidence has increased so much. She is so happy now that it shows in everything that she does," stated Hagar staff.
Hagar staff members continue to work with Hien developing her long-term career and personal goals, but they know that this small opportunity has made a huge impact. For so many women recovering from trauma, it’s a small opportunity – a new friendship – a kind word – that brings hope back into their lives.
All the small things help them feel whole again.