Give Trafficked Girls a New Future in Cambodia

Mar 7, 2012

Postcard: Project Site Visit

Transitions Girl Caricature 1
Transitions Girl Caricature 1

Jacqueline Lee is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout Southeast Asia. Her “Postcard” from the visit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia:

On March 1, 2012, Summer, Clinical Supervisor, and Merry, Country Director, welcomed me to their "Dream Home" to meet staff, experience the first step to their healing program, and learn about innovations in trafficking victims’ rehabilitation care.

Dream Home is Phase I of the rehabilitation process. Girls are referred to Transitions in extreme cases after rescued and then welcomed here to heal. This home is for their safety, security, and rehabilitation after severe trauma (the girls age 13-18 are rescued from sex-trafficking). When I entered the Dream Home, it immediately felt like well… a home. There was a comfy living room, an area with board games, and a box of different types of nail polishes. Summer mentioned the girls love to braid hair and do nails.  In the entry way were beautiful traditional Cambodian portraits. Upon arrival, each Transitions girl is able to do a “glamour shot” to have a chance to play dress up, have her pictures up in the home (like a regular family) and relax.

Beyond the entryway, I was able to visit the kitchen, kitchen staff, and see the chores board. Just like in a family the members have responsibilites to take care of themselves, each other, the house – each girl becomes a part of the Transitions family. It is a rotating board with names and items to do for each week – this is to teach hygiene, create responsibility and ownership in their home, and train how to take care of themselves for after they transition out of the program and are on their own – the basics that parents teach teenagers.

We went upstairs and I was able to see the rooms and then the computer and classroom. It was great to see the girls’ personal touches – everything from pictures, to stuffed animals, and stickers filled the rooms.  The computer and classroom consisted of computers for the girls to access, get computer training, and play games in free time. Some of the girls had just returned from school, were at the computers, giggling, and looking for games like Angry Bird, a local favorite.

After a tour of the Dream Home, I was introduced to the rest of staff and sat down to learn about the remaining phases the girls go through after Dream Home in addition to the support they get here. Not only do they get to go out on excursions like weekend trips and shopping with supervision, they get counseling, dental care, health care, yoga therapy (and for exercise), life skills education (like the responsibilities board), education, literacy, and vocational training when not in school.

Through Shine Career School, the girls are asked what they would like to do, and Transitions provides training in any career field they can dream of – stepping out of that boundary that society has implemented such as making handicrafts. These girls gain access to learn anything from cooking, to graphic design, and even social work.  This is to provide an opportunity for income generation after they have completed the program with Transitions and are ready to move on to support themselves and their futures. 

I have added only caricature drawings of the Transitions family because Transitions is part of a movement to stop encouraging the exploitation of trafficked victims, making them re-traumatized by facing their stores and photos in the media, and potentially exposing them to their former pimps and traffickers if recognized. To represent their girls they have now switched to beautiful caricature drawings in order to share the stores and victories, but also to protect their identity and dignity.

Remember those summers at camp where you would come as strangers, scared and alone, then leave as family, confident and happy singing campfire songs… well that applies for what my experience at Dream Home is for these girls who arrive lost, victimized, and alone – and leave confident, empowered, and hopeful. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, an American Psychologist, once said “…our future will be determined in large part by our dreams and by the struggle to make them real.” And that is what Transitions is providing these young women – an opportunity to dream and a future to look forward to. 

To learn more about my experience with Transitions as well as other GlobalGiving site visits please visit: JacquelineInTheField

To learn more about Transitions programs and impact please visit: Transitions Global

Transitions Girl Caricature 2
Transitions Girl Caricature 2
Mar 1, 2012

Shine Career School - A Dream Realized

Shine Computer Lab
Shine Computer Lab

At Transitions we believe every girl in our program deserves the highest level of dignity and opportunity we can provide. We also believe every girl is capable of achieving her dreams with the right support and encouragement.  We don’t allow girls to settle for what society has told them they are capable of, like sewing and handy-crafts; we know they can do so much more. While every girl in our program studies English and computer technology, sometimes the advanced training she needs to begin the career of her dreams doesn’t exist in Cambodia.


Shine Career School is the realization of six years of dreaming on our part! Shine provides a firsthand opportunity to train girls in any career field they choose, and will serve to overcome the gap in training choices, by providing a high quality learning environment.  Shine will facilitate teaching opportunities for professionals around the world, in a variety of fields, to come to Cambodia and teach, while empowering survivors with the skills and knowledge they need to take control of their lives.


Shine will mirror our current program model and be fully social work focused and trauma-informed, toward healthy reintegration into Cambodian society. Our goal is to give girls the best opportunity to achieve their dreams and  have a successful future, while assisting graduates in job placement or business start-up, ensuring the highest chance of success.  We hope you will join us in supporting this vital new project and maybe even consider coming to Cambodia to teach some day!

Setting up the reception area....
Setting up the reception area....
Ready for books!
Ready for books!
Oct 31, 2011

An Exciting Fall!

A new arrival at the TLC.
A new arrival at the TLC.

Exciting new things are happening at Transitions this fall! We just received a new referral, which means we have a beautiful new young lady to love and help build a future. This coming week, two more new girls will arrive. Time to dream!! Another young lady who is a graduate of our program is seeing her dream come true this fall as well. She wants to be a social worker, so she can help girls who have gone through the same things she has. The incredible part is she has come back to train at Transitions as we have just opened up social work internships with the Royal University of Phnom Penh. Our Clinical Team, which is supervised by Summer Twyman and Dr. Wend Freed has opened up training in advanced trauma therapy and case management to University students and now, our graduate! She will learn and grow in the field she wants to serve in and end up highly trained and filled with insights and compassion others can’t know. We are so proud of her for her dedication and hard work.   

Aug 1, 2011

A Weekend Adventure

This summer the Transitions Global girls took an amazing weekend trip to Kirirom, Cambodia. Not only was it a lovely get away from school and training, it was a journey into the forest lands of their country, a place most had never seen. Thanks to the generosity of a donor, we were able to stay at a hillside resort, giving the girls a chance to be pampered with special meals and amenities that most of us take for granted. The resort had so many activities for the girls, including a zip line over the forest that taught the girls about trust and the benefits of trying new things, even when it’s scary. They spent the weekend kayaking, zip lining, bicycling, playing games and we even had a bonfire with roasted marshmallows! The highlight of the weekend was a climb up Kirirom Mountain to the huge and beautiful waterfall there, which is a landmark of Cambodia none had ever dreamed they would see. It was a wonderful trip filled with beauty, adventure, friendship and growth ending with one girl summing it up perfectly, saying, “this was the best time of my life.”  Thank you Transitions Global donors for your faithfulness; none of this is possible without you!


May 10, 2011

A Family Reunited at Transitions Global

The ride home in the van.
The ride home in the van.

We call her Hope. When Hope first came to Transitions, this would be the last name you would have given her. Sold, trafficked and abused at a young age, Hope was treated horribly. The agency that referred her told us that she had not spoken, engaged in activities, or smiled in the time that they had worked with her.

When Hope came to the TLC, she didn’t smile, talk, or show any emotion. We were concerned at the level of trauma she had experienced and what this would mean to her ability to heal. Our staff went to work – ample love, a sensitive approach, and some strategic therapy. Within months, Hope began to smile and occasionally laugh, though not around strangers and definitely not around men.
Hope slowly began opening up and eventually became a new girl, arguing with the other girls, clowning around at the TLC, and having fun. Her laugh was so rare, we all cherished seeing her giggle at things she found funny. Her first trip to the beach was great – seeing her run in the surf with her friends.
 A little more time passed and Hope began to express a desire to go to school, so she began attending a private school and is now catching up to her grade level. She still had no memory of family or much of her childhood. We continued to work with her, when suddenly, during a therapy session, she had a breakthrough. She recalled having a sister.
She could remember the details of a place where she had seen her sister, but it was random. One of our staff knew the place. So, the investigation began. Our social workers asked neighbors and people in the community if they had seen her. Following each lead, they moved from place to place – and a pattern emerged. This young girl had been sold, over and over – being moved from place to place.
Within a month or so, they located her. A man in a community was holding her about two hours away from the city. We immediately contacted SISHA, an organization that does quality investigative and rescue work. They worked with our staff to conduct the necessary investigation and determined the best way to get her out. The date was planned and SISHA’s staff coordinated efforts with our staff to get the girl free.
A tough decision was made. Do we tell Hope that we found her sister with the chance that we might not be able to rescue her, or not? After heavy consideration, plus the fact that SISHA felt confident they would be successful, we took Hope with our staff. Summer Twyman, our Clinical Supervisor escorted Hope to ensure her emotional well being and to have some oversight. The rescue went flawlessly; though the trafficker screamed and yelled, drawing more attention to the fact that he was guilty.
The girl was now free and reunited with her sister, Hope. The two girls hugged, giggled and with tear filled eyes, climbed into the Transitions Global van for the ride – home. The two girls cuddled up, holding hands in the comfort of finding the one link to family and a new future – together.

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Project Leader

Athena Pond

Cincinnati, Ohio United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Give Trafficked Girls a New Future in Cambodia