Somphors is a woman in Hagar Cambodia's care. She is a shining example of the empowerment of women and girls in Cambodia. Thank you for helping empower her to be proud to be a girl!
Somphors’ life hasn’t been easy. When her parents divorced, her father remarried. With his new family established, her father decided to sell Somphors to a farming family in Kampong Cham province to work as their buffalo herder. But shortly after that, her new owners sent her to work as a housekeeper for a family in Phnom Penh. She was made to work very hard. This new family mistreated her violently.
But one day, a woman working in a health center in Phnom Penh rescued her and Somphors was referred to Hagar for safe shelter.
In 2012, Somphors was transitioned into semi-independent living. In addition to her studying – grade 11- she worked as a waitress part time in order to earn some money to complement the support she received from Hagar. It was then that she started a short-lived relationship with her co-worker. But a few months later, she discovered she was pregnant and dropped out of school. Her Hagar case manager along with other Hagar staff explored options. The decision was taken to refer Somphors to Mother’s Heart, a Phnom Penh based organization providing support and services for pregnant women in Somphors’ situation.
Somphors is now 24 years old and she now lives independently with her 2 years old daughter. And this is greatly thanks to close support provided by her Mother’s Heart and Hagar case managers. A better suited job was identified for her to support her and daughter and their living costs. She is now working in one of Phnom Penh’s bakery shops earning a good salary.
Somphors loves her job because she sees in it the opportunity to grow in future. She is happy to share about her experiences to encourage other clients to work harder in life. Future dreams are now possible because of her new job.
When thinking back on her childhood Somphors remembers her father taking her to live with a family that they knew. But at the time she didn’t realise she was being sold by her father. Life with that family was very hard, and she was forced to work long hours under the beating sun and monsoon rains in the fields with the buffaloes, from dusk to dawn.
“I never imagined I could escape from that place where it was nothing but suffering, to a place as good as where I am currently living.” She added that she would thank Hagar for all their support, how they never gave up despite challenges. If she hadn’t joined Hagar’s program, she doesn’t thing she would be here today and wouldn’t have understood the value of her life.
Your support has provided so much help to women in Vietnam. In November alone, your support allowed Hagar Vietnam towelcome three new clients and four dependents. There are two clients coming from domestic violence, of whom one came to us with bruises on her face caused by her husband. The third one is a survivor of complex circumstance of human trafficking, sexual abuse and violence. Hagar Vietnam’s support has come to these clients and their children when they need it most. With Hagar’s commitment to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, the women and children are ready to start their whole journey towards recovery and write a different chapter of their lives.
As part of the process to wholeness and empowerment, your support allowes Hagar to provide counseling. Apart from providing individual counselling service, Hagar Vietnam continues to organize therapeutic activities for clients such as: colouring, doing exercise, going out for sightseeing in Hanoi. Some women and children went to a street music show the 25th of November – the International day on eliminating violence against women.
The women you are support want to share their thankfulness themselves:
“I am willing to share my story to help raise awareness on preventing human trafficking. I know I need to contribute by raising my voice in addressing this issue. I hope that my story is heard so less people become victims of modern slavery.” Tien, a survivor of human trafficking, now working hard to make her dream of being a social worker come true.
“I cannot be more than thankful to have Hagar with me to heal my scars and rebuild my life. Hagar appeared when I was most desperate taking my child to run away from my violent husband.” “If I don’t find this house (the support of Hagar), I really have nowhere else to go to.” Tra, a survivor of domestic violence
“If I had not been given Hagar Vietnam hotline, I would have nobody to call for help when my husband kept drinking and beating me to release his anger.” “I never imagined there could be such a safe place like this house. All of you treat me kindly & gently. Thank you so much for helping me and my children” Hau, a survivor of domestic violence, who has come to Hagar recovery center with 3 children.
“I really love staying at this house. Here I can freely draw without being scared of my father.” “I like staying here. I don’t want to go back home because I’m scared of my dad’s beating me” Survivor Hau’s 4 year-old child speaking about Hagar Vietnam recovery center
“I don’t remember much, but I remember when he forced his cap into my mouth to muffle my screams. It tasted of dust. And then, the rest is just a painful haze.”
After morning school, Srey Mom’s daily task was to cut grass in the fields for the water buffalo. She would always go with her younger brother and his playmate. And then one afternoon, the neighbor appeared from behind the trees and grabbed her arm. Scared, the two little boys ran to get help. But it was too late.
Srey Mom was only 10 years old when she was brutally raped. “I don’t remember much, but I remember when he forced his cap into my mouth to muffle my screams. It tasted of dust. And then, the rest is just a painful haze.” Said Srey Mom.
Her parents didn’t believe her. They chose to turn a blind eye because they feared public shame. They didn’t want the village to look down on the family because of a shameful act. Thankfully, Srey Mom’s grandmother believed her and took her to see a doctor, who encouraged them to take the case to the local village chief.
The local village chief did not want to take any action so they went to the local police quarters who referred her case to Hagar. For safety reasons, Srey Mom was taken to Phnom Penh, a few provinces away from her hometown.
Her physical wounds took six months to heal but her inner wounds were deep. She felt broken. Back in her hometown, mouth to mouth had spread gossip and everyone knew what had happened to her. She felt dirty and shamed, and thought she would forever be considered a worthless girl.
“Spending time with my counselor at Hagar was what made me whole again. I felt safe and felt like she could help me focus on the future and hope.
Srey Mom’s journey was a long winding road of healing, self- acceptance, countless sessions with her counselor and hours spent expressing her pain through music and the arts. But it is a beautiful path of restoration of brokenness. Srey Mom has created many beautiful art pieces reflecting an array of emotions. “Music and dance at the CLC helped me externalize my feelings. I didn’t know music could be a tool to heal”
Srey Mom is now 21 years old and studies accounting at university. She has big dreams. Dreams of becoming a rock star, of dancing for the king. Realistically, her goal is to earn a good salary working as an accountant in the city. She will be able to send money back to her parents in the province.
“I want to have three children” Srey Mom says laughing. “Two girls- twins preferably- and one little boy. And there is something really important I will teach them from day one. How to be good, how to respect your neighbor but most importantly, how to not speak to strangers or open the door to anyone they don’t know. I wasn’t taught this, and was very naïve growing up. I want to help educate children in the Province one day on basic personal safety”.
Srey Mom is HOPE, she embodies the full journey of recovery at Hagar.
In Cambodia, sexual abuse is likely to occur multiple times in childhood: more than 7 in 10 females and nearly 9 in 10 males who experienced sexual abuse experienced multiple incidents prior to age 18. Of those who first had sexual intercourse before age 18, one in four females and 1 in 11 males reported this intercourse as unwanted, meaning they were forced or coerced into sex.
More than 6% of females and 5% of males aged 13 to 17 in Cambodia reported at least one experience of childhood sexual abuse, according to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, UNICEF Cambodia, 2014