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.
Jacqueline Lee is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout Southeast Asia. Her “Postcard” from the visit in Vietnam:
On the morning of April 11, I visited Hagar International’s office in Hanoi, Vietnam and was hosted by Kelly, Program Development Manager, and staff. The day started off with visiting Hagar’s main office and meeting staff. We sat down to discuss the staff’s backgrounds, current work, and challenges. I learned about the impact of Hagar, the spearheading of Hagar’s case management and social work within the field for future social workers, and goals for Hagar.
I asked the staff to share the most rewarding part of working at Hagar. One said working with the women, and when the survivor shares that it is the first time someone listens to her. Another said that Hagar is a place people can be and can cultivate themselves - where one can be authentic. Working there makes them feel proud - where each person feels like they are making a difference. Another staff member said being part of a learning organization. It’s not just about the numbers, but about each individual client.
Next we went to visit Joma Café, where Hagar survivors are able to receive on-the-job training in hospitality, and met some of the empowered women. I met with 2 women – one who had been with Hagar for about 1 year and half and another who was with Hagar for about 10 months. Let’s say their names are Sara and Mary (to protect their identities).
I asked them both why Joma and hospitality? Sara said she thought it was popular, easy to get a job and opportunity, and to meet people. Mary said she liked cooking. Before she cooked at the shelter and was good at it. I then asked if they would like to continue at Joma, and Mary said she hoped to work in her hometown to open a small business. Sara said she wanted to stay with Joma to increase experience and English. Finally, I asked if they weren’t with Hagar and Joma where would they be? Mary said it would have been difficult to find a job because she lacked skill sets. Sara said before she wasn’t able to learn life skills, vocational training, and not able to be recruited. It would have been way more challenging. Without support like this from Hagar, they don’t know where their future would be.
After, I asked if they had any questions for me, and both shrugged. Then Mary stopped, looked at me and said “I never thought I would have an opportunity like this. I want to thank GlobalGiving.”
Through protection, personal well-being, economic empowerment, and social capital women are able to not only survive trafficking but be empowered in their lives to move forward, create a positive and thriving life, and not be a victim.
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.