Restoring hope to trafficked girls in Cambodia

 
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Two Girls Playing on Hagar
Two Girls Playing on Hagar's Playground

Arriving at the Shelter

When a girl comes to Hagar’s Shelter for girls, they are often traumatized and terrified. Many have been conditioned by their traffickers not to trust organizations like ours. Others are still traumatized by their rescue.

The girls arrive at our shelter accompanied by Hagar case manager and a counselor. The girl is shown her room, the playground (pictured above), and her daily schedule is described. She is introduced to her house mother. To create as close to normal living situation as possible, the children’s shelters have house mothers, who act as primary caregivers for five to six girls each.

Sometimes, with serious trauma or very young girls, the housemothers have to help a girl get dressed, wash herself, brush her teeth and wash her clothes. Some clients have never done these things or are so traumatized they cannot.  In this case the housemother will help the girl until she is able to do it on her own.

The First Day of School

The first two to three days the girl is not expected to attend school, even though it is right next to the shelter. She decides when she feels ready.  In the meantime, she may relax, help her housemother around the house, and join in activities with the other girls.

When she does decide to go to school the housemother will go with her the first day and stay all day with her.  This helps each girl adjust to being at school and demonstrates that she is not alone. When she’s ready, the housemother will stop going to school with her.

Soon, the girl will begin following the same routine as the other girls in the shelter, who also attend school. She’ll share responsibilities with them, like cleaning after dinner and keeping her room tidy. Meeting other girls that have experienced similar abuse and making friends will help her heal. Counseling sessions will help her heal. And the love of a housemother will help her heal. We know that through your support, she’ll become a strong and confident young woman.

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Priscilla Chan, Hagar
Priscilla Chan, Hagar's New Legal Advisor

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.

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Watch Hagar
Watch Hagar's Thank You Video

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.  

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Girls Recovery Shelter in Cambodia
Girls Recovery Shelter in Cambodia

“I did not choose the darkness. People tricked me. They brought me to a place and locked me inside a small room. They forced me to take a pill.  Darkness surrounded me like a blanket. I was lost and confused. Even when I was rescued, I felt the same. Like I could not escape.”

Kyky's story echoes the experiences of so many other young girls who have suffered the trauma and violation of sexual exploitation. Kyky is the whole reason Hagar walks the entire painstaking journey to wholeness. Because of your support we can provide the long-term aftercare that girls who have survived human trafficking need.

Now, after seven years of aftercare at Hagar, Kyky is strong. She has courage and hope for the future. With big dreams in her heart, she has finally escaped the darkness.

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Rous Thavy
Rous Thavy's dream for the future

Saved from a life of slavery, every girl has different needs.  But one need is always the same.  Education. Hagar's catch-up school in Cambodia teaches two grades per year.  Once students are caught up to their age peers, they are integrated into a private school.  

Last month, students at Hagar's School shared their dreams for the future with their teachers.  It is our priveledge to share the girl's dreams with you:

  • "My dream is to be a good hair dresser and I want to run my own business so I can train young poor children, who are victims of abuse to be experts in this skill. I am happy because at Hagar I can learn these skills."      - Rous Thavy, 16 years old, Grade 1A
  • "My dream is be a senior bank manager, because I want to be a reputable person in society.  I can also help my family and those who are poor and abused like me."  -Pov Lina, 8 years old, Grade 1A
  • "My dream is to be a manager at an organization, because I want to help abused victims like me rebuild their future."  -Ny Theary, 13 years old, Grade 1A
  • "My dream is to be a doctor, because I want to cure people who are ill.  I also want to help my community since there are not many doctors there."        - Mol Sonita, 9 years old, Grade 3

We know that education can make dreams happen.  Thank you for your continued support.

The Playground at Hagar
The Playground at Hagar's School
Mol Sonita
Mol Sonita's Dream

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HagarAdmin Admin

Hagar USA, Inc.
Eau Claire, WI United States

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