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.
During Human Trafficking Awareness month, we want you to know that you've made a tremendous impact on the girls in Cambodia who come from backgrounds of human trafficking. To show our appreciation, we've created a special thank you video for you directly from Cambodia. Watch Hagar's thank you video (one minute).
We look forward to our journey together in 2012.