This October and November two Transitions Global graduates came to America to share their stories of healing and empowerment. Neth and Liya are two very brave young women, who came to us after they had graduated from our program and asked if they could share their stories. These girls have spent years healing and growing and gaining strength through therapy, education and giving back to others. They have risen above the tragedy that was inflicted upon them and have taken control of their lives. In that process they asked us for a voice, a way to share, that could help other girls in their situation or educate people about the atrocities of sex trafficking.
We were able to make that a reality this fall as they toured four states and spoke out to thousands of people at colleges, conferences, small groups, and on television. The girls spent time in Ohio, Florida, New York and Colorado, meeting new people and sharing their story of hope. It was so wonderful to see them gain confidence as they shared the horror of the past and their dreams for the future. They felt empowered and free as they took control of their own story and helped educate others in America. We are so proud of what they have accomplished in their lives back in Cambodia and of all they accomplished in the U.S., giving back and making a difference!
This summer has been a very busy time for the girls and staff at Transitions Global.
Recently, there have been a lot of changes, which are helping girls to heal from the atrocity of sex trafficking. Transitions Global has hired a Director of Operations, Sorida Sbong, who has really taken charge of the facilities and efficiencies in our service delivery. One of her first initiatives was getting the girls new furniture. In early August, we did our own “Extreme Room Makeover”, purchasing the girls new armoires, new bedding, new pillows, and a ton of new room accessories to make life a little more pleasant.
The girls were thrilled, which involved a lot of jumping up and down, screaming, and laughing. Now that things have settled down a bit, the girls are more organized and love their new rooms. Over the next months, we will be continuing to improve the girl’s rooms with artwork and other additions to make their living arrangements more personal.
Transitions Global continues to pioneer the field of aftercare. As an organization, we are constantly looking for new ways to help survivors heal and to restore girls’ dreams. We have hired a number of new staff members, who have enormous administrative, social work, and therapy skills and are helping our organization grow.
This summer, we had a number of long-term interns completing their fellowships with Transitions Global. We have had legal interns, and activities coordinator, and a number of visiting groups come for the summer. After completing their time in Cambodia with Transitions Global, it was a time for celebration. We had a number of parties with the girls, including a group game night, which was a huge success. Twister, Jenga, Uno, and a series of Cambodian games that the girls enjoy. Everyone had a great time and laughed a lot.
The Transitions Global STAR House program has continued to evolve and is becoming a highly successful model for helping girls to have an additional transitional step in becoming independent young women. We currently have four graduates of the TLC participating in this program. In August, we moved the girls into a new STAR House apartment, closer to their work, so they can begin making the adjustments to independence.
This fall, our focus will be on program development in our TLC and STAR House projects. We will be training staff, improving our facilities, and looking for some new ways to address the needs of survivors.
Things at the Cambodia TLC continue to grow in exciting new ways! I recently returned from five weeks in Cambodia where I had the privilege of spending time with the amazing survivors in our program. Everyone is energized about their school and training and I am so proud of how hard everyone is working. We have several girls in private school, working on their high school educations, who were so proud to show me their test scores and show me some of their work. Two girls are now in art school, discovering their talent and creativity, and other girls are studying English and computers. There are constant extra curricular activities going on thanks to a wonderful intern who came to teach the girls fun new skills, and we took an amazing trip to the beach to celebrate a National Holiday.
Our Clinical Director continues to make huge strides in excellence improving our therapy program and the health of the girls, and our staff is learning and growing all the time. We have had a year filled with professional interns and volunteers and even a research project which brought us back together with some of our graduates. That was an incredible day where I was able to hear from girls who's lives we had poured into. They are thriving and building lives for themselves while striving for new dreams. It was the best feeling and I felt so much pride for them and all they have accomplished and overcome.
Bill Brower is a Field Program Officer with GlobalGiving who is visiting our projects throughout Southeast Asia. On January 19 he visited Transitions Global’s Transitional Learning Center in Phnom Penh.
Even among the vulnerable and underserved, there are those who receive disproportionately little attention. For girls that have been victims of sex trafficking and sexual violence, the adolescent years can sometimes be ignored. Transitions Global works with girls in these crucial years—during the transition from being a child to being an adult.
The center where the girls live was clean and seemed comfortable and well equipped for the daily activities of eating, learning, counseling and sleeping. All the dorms were full of colorful clothes and decorations; some girls put up posters of pop stars. In my brief interaction with them, the girls seemed like a tight-knit group—joking around together, greeting me confidently and warmly. I took it as a good sign that many girls who had “graduated” from the center had stopped in that evening to say hello.
In talking with Summer, an American social worker, and Jaya, a Khmer staff member, it seems Transitions Global is dedicated to helping these girls find a sustainable future. Unlike some other shelters, Transitions Global starts off with asking the girls, “What do you want to be?” Summer says such a question is very foreign to the girls at first, having never been asked it before. Transitions Global focuses on getting the girls trained for jobs which pay better than prostitution so there is no financial incentive to go back. Two current popular choices are being a cook or yoga instructor.
It’s hard to think about what went on in these girls’ past, but with Transitions Global they appear to have a stable present and promising future.
Since the Open Challenge, things at the Transitions Global TLC have been going extremely well. We have hired a new social worker, who is doing a great job connecting with the girls, encouraging them, and helping them in the process of healing.
We have brought in a volunteer US social worker who will be training our staff in procedures and interventions to help them become more effective in their jobs. She will be staying in Cambodia for a year with us and working alongside Dr. Wendy Freed, who will be doing supervision for the girls' therapy.
The yoga therapy is continuing to grow and we now have five girls that are completely engaged in becoming yoga instructors and using yoga as therapy to help others. Many of these girls are currently teaching children's classes to underprivileged kids.
Other girls are studying graphic design, English, computers, and anything else their hearts desire.
This next year, we will be developing a new life skills program to help the girls increase their capacity for independent living, as well as, engaging in a new research project with Pacific Graduate School of Psychology to help us in capturing better statistics and results with our program.
We are very excited about this next year - building new lives for survivors of sex trafficking. We hope that you will join us in this journey.
Thank you for your support - we cannot do this without you!
Athena Pond - from Phnom Penh, Cambodia
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