Restoring hope to trafficked girls in Cambodia



  • Cambodia was invited to provide training to over 3,000 Singapore police on how to recognize trafficking for labor and for sex.
  • The staff at Hagar Cambodia were able to work with the Ministry of Education to create sustainability for catch-up teachers.  They are now under the Ministry of Education, meaning they will continue to teach the most vulnerable and those who have been trafficked, but won't be paid for by Hagar anymore.
  • Hagar partnered with UNICEF for a study, the first study of its kind documenting the experiences of child victims in Cambodia’s courts and recommendations for developing a child-friendly system. More than 90 government officials, NGO partners and media representatives attended the launch event.

Key Research Findings and why your support is so important.

"The police extorted us, demanding money before they worked.

A System Just for Children highlights police treatment of child victims and witnesses. While children generally felt the police behaved ‘normally’ toward them, 10 respondents said they were treated disrespectfully or were mocked or ignored by the authorities. In 11% of cases, the child met the perpetrator at the police station and 20% of respondents reported paying money to police before the case moved forward.


The Courtroom Experience

The study found that the court process was rarely child friendly. Strangers were often present in the court room and in one instance, media representatives were in attendance during the trial. Children often had to sit through other cases, sometimes being exposed to violent crimes. No participant reported seeing or using a child-friendly waiting room.

“Being in the same room is too close. I was afraid immediately when I saw the perpetrator.”

Nearly every child interviewed found themselves exposed to the perpetrator on the way to or in the courtroom. In most cases the child was two or three meters from the perpetrator during the hearing and in some cases, even travelled to the court house in the same vehicle.

“I do not know what is happening in my case”

Many children were given little information about what was happening in their case and 10% of the children interviewed did not know clearly if their case was finished or not.  It was rare for children or their guardians to get copies of their statements or any other documentation relating to the case. 


Demeanour of Judges and Lawyers

While social service and legal aid staff largely agree that judges’ demeanour towards children in court has improved over the years, there is still room for improvement. The court environment remains frightening for children and in some cases, the judge asked inappropriate questions or laughed at the victim, particularly if the witness was an older girl or boy. Defence lawyers sometimes acted inappropriately, including trying to confuse, trick or intimidate child witnesses. Often, it was the child’s lawyer, not the judge, who requested such behaviour stop. 

“I am still fearful that the man’s relatives will take revenge on me for sending him to jail.”

The research demonstrates the safety concerns children and their representatives have after the trial. There were apprehensions about whether prison sentences would be served and when the perpetrator would appear in the community again. Court authorities provided no comment about this and there seemed to be no clear responsibilities for child victim or witness safety during or post-trial.




20 Participants from nine families were trained to be foster parents.  This will give trafficked girls in Cambodia a chance to lives, safely, in a family setting while on the journey of restoration.  

Country Director

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Steve Penfold as Country Director, Hagar Cambodia. Steve is both a leader and public health professional with more than 17 years' experience in NGOs. “Hagar has a track record of reaching victims of extreme levels of gender-based violence, abuse and trafficking. What I see deeply ingrained in Hagar is the patience, compassion, professionalism and innovation needed to enable vulnerable women and children to rebuild their lives and stand on their own two feet." Steve is looking forward to leading the team and working with donors, beneficiaries and partners to develop programs, research and social enterprises to enable that to happen as well as building local capacity, working to maintain a 97% local staff rate.

Your Support Gives Kalyan Hope

With her black sharp eyes, Kalyan is a friendly and energetic woman. It is hard to believe that she has had such a dark past. When she was 15 years old, she was trafficked for sexual exploitation by her mother. Now, aged 18, she is a beautiful young woman living in a group home project supported by Hagar. 

Kalyan is grateful to Hagar for providing her with a range recovery services, in particular counseling. “When I came to Hagar, I learned a lot, the programs made me feel relieved and happy until I forgot all the painful memories,” she said. Hagar has changed her life completely.

Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 5.11.10 PM

Despite Kalyan experiencing serious trauma, she has enjoyed success in Hagar’s educational programs. She achieved an outstanding study record in Hagar’s Community Learning Center while she was living in the Girls Recovery Shelter. Kaylan was loved by all the teachers and was seen as a top student. Although studying Khmer language was challenging for Kalyan because her mother tongue is Vietnamese, she can read and write Khmer well now. “I am always the number one student in the class, or sometimes I am number two, but I had never gone to number three, so I get a reward every month,” she said.

For the past 12 months, Kalyan has been living in a group home. She prefers life in the group home more than in the shelter because she has more freedom and independence. She has her own room and can go out alone after informing her caregivers. “Living together with other children in the same home is fun, yet sometime we also have arguments. Luckily we have good caregivers who always help, give advice and solve problems,” she said.

In her group home, Kalyan receives food and daily accessories. She also receives a monthly wage for her own personal spending and is able to supplement her income by beading creative art products (pictured). Kalyan is now studying grade seven in Beltei International Institute in Phnom Penh. She goes to school on a bicycle provided by Hagar’s Education Assistance Program. In secondary school, her study record is not quite as good as her primary results because she is competing with affluent class mates who can afford extra classes and tutors. Kalyan believes that she is also disadvantaged by being the oldest in the class and is subject to further discrimination for having a Vietnamese name.

Kalyan still loves her study but feels that it will take too long to finish high school. Consequently, she plans to join the Employment Empowerment project and train to work in a hair salon. “I know that I am completely adult now, I want to have one particular skill for myself, before I leave Hagar,” she said.

Once she learns the job skills, Kalyan would like to go back to live with her mother who has just been released from prison. She forgives her mother for what she did to her, believing the law has punished her enough. Hagar will work closely with Kalyan through the reunification process.

Cambodia Programme Updates


Two girls were admitted to Hagar and began to receive counselling this month.·

Hagar house mothers were taken out for a day of fun and relaxation together. They expressed that they felt respected and valued this Mother’s Day by the expressions of love that were shown to them by Hagar managers and leadership.

One Hagar client, an asylum seeker, was finally given official refugee status by the Refugee Office of the Cambodian Government, after three long years of waiting.

3 children reintegrated into kinship care or families of origin

17 CLC clients began attending music classes conducted by the creative arts team twice every week

Clients participated in a Legal and Protection orientation to prevent criminal activities, fighting and conflicts

158 Follow-up visits to Hagar clients were conducted by the case management team

Rany’s Story

My name is Rany. I am sixteen years old. I am originally from Prey Veng province, but for most of my childhood I have lived in Phnom Penh city. I remember many things from when I was young. My life was very difficult and the memories are hard to forget. My father never allowed me to go to school. He forced my sister and me to beg for money at the Russian market while he spent most of his time drinking alcohol. Luckily, Hagar found us. They gave us a safe place to live and the chance to receive education. Life at Hagar was easy and I was able to study very well. I even went on a trip to the beach with other kids. I had never experienced life like this before. I was eventually transferred to live in a community in Takeo province with a foster family. My father has continued to look for me, so it is important for me to live in a separate community until I grow up and can live independently by myself. At first, I didn’t want to come here to the foster family. I didn’t have any friends here. I used to cry while I was all alone. I am trying to fit in with my foster family and I always help out with housework after school time. Over time, I have started to feel at home in the community. My foster parents usually encouraged me to continue studying until I finish my education. They care for me, and when I was sick, they looked after me. My neighbors are also good to me. Even though they know about my background, they don’t lookdown on me. They have shown me sympathy. I am in grade 10 now, and I have my own goals. I want to study tourism and be a tour-guide. I especially hope to work with tours from Korea, and to know the Korean language. Every day, I wish for time to fly by so that I can graduate from high school, go back to Phnom Penh and pursue my goals. I have always encouraged myself by remembering that every person has their own value. I believe that as long as I pursue higher education, nobody can look down on me. Now I know that I can make my own good choices for my future. I believe in God because He has raised my up. Now, I feel like I am a beautiful lotus that has grown out of the mud.





Cambodia Highlights 

257 Clients received counseling services in January

8 women and 14 children are receiving care in recovery communities

85% of our students took their second term catch up exam and passed

Following the opening of Hagars Joma café in Phnom Penh, 3 of Hagar’s clients have been placed in jobs with Joma. Five other clients have also been placed in jobs – 4 at Hagar catering and 1 as a hair dresser


Marry’s Story

A 13 years old girl named Marry is in love with the Creative Arts programme. She is an outstanding student at Hagar’s Community Learning Centre.

Marry says she likes playing football very much and is always excited for football class. She says that football makes her stronger, healthier, and allows her to sweat out all the stress of school as well as her past experiences.

“I love the feeling of hitting the ball and many people come to cheer me on, and it makes me want to play nonstop,” she said.

Besides football, Marry enjoys hip-hop dancing. She likes watching and practicing hip-hop dancing to songs on TV. She would like to perform some day in the future.

But there is more to the Creative Arts programme than just fun and entertainment. Marry says she can use her beading skills to earn some money as well.

“I earn some money, about 3 USD, whenever I bead products,” she said.

The Creative Arts Programme provides a variety of arts opportunities to clients, including drawing, painting, sewing, designing, beading, etc. Clients are able to focus on what the skill they enjoy. Some students enjoy drawing while others enjoy sewing.

Creative arts plays an important role at Hagar, encouraging client productivity as well as creativity. Clients have the chance to show off their talent through different performances. Marry hopes to see all children at Hagar pay more attention in creative art classes. She wants them to stay away from trouble by being involved in creative arts.


BPR clients created bowls from strips of magazine paper and paper mache masksl A client has started running a small business early this month in Kompot province after succefully completing motor repair and maintanence training provided by Hagar.

 This month, four local businesses visited hagar to build a relationship around future partnership related to job placement and training.

 On October 8th, Hagar client Yong Sokchea travelled to Kompon Som province for a court date wich was delayed to the end of the month due to an absent witness. As part of the Refugee Projects “limited strategic interventions” initiative to support refugee clients whohave chosen to pursure their own small business enterprise, Hagar provided one client with materials to expand his food cart business.

Huys Story

 I never knew what was wrong with my grandson, Huy. Although he was old enough to go to school, he still couldn’t dress himself. He had trouble going to the bathroom alone and would break dishes when he was frustrated.
I tried sending him to public school, but he had to drop out. He was having diculties learning and none of his teachers knew how to help. Because he was dierent, the other children would tease and bully him.
One day at the market where I sell vegetables, my neighbor told me she also had a disabled child who was receiving help from a non prot organization called Hagar. She claimed her daughter had already improved and hoped the same for Huy.
I contacted the NGO and after a brief interview, Huy was accepted into Hagars House of Smiles programme where I learned for the rst time about autism. Here Huy receives the attention he deserves and gets the specialized help he needs to succeed not only in school but also in life. Within a few months he was able to eat and make his bed and do all sorts of things on his own that I never thought possible.
Each month I meet with Hagarsta to discuss Huys progress and also his weaknesses. He continues to acquire necessary life skills but traditional learning remains a struggle. Together we nd solutions to all his problems.
My hope for Huy is that he will continue to mature and that one day he will even be able to support himself since I know I am old and won’t always be with him. Despite what my culture suggests, I don’t believe we should ever give up on our children. When we help them step by step, our eorts won’t be worthless.
Country News:Flood kills about 100 people in Cambodia this year.
Malaysia has not yet received draft agreement on Cambodian maids protection. Cambodia government urges to enforce women right again violent and other legal aids.

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