It was 4:30a.m., and the darkness of the Cambodian night was still lingering. Yem was nursing her one week-old baby girl before dawn arrived, but in the shadows, her husband’s mistress approached and was about to change their lives forever.
Yem immediately felt the excruciating burning on her face and chest, but thought first of her baby, also crying in pain from the brutal acid attack. It left them with severe burns that disfigured their faces, causing Yem to lose an ear, and led to the partial blindness of her daughter, Sophorn.
“We were living in a difficult time. We were very injured from the acid and we hoped Hagar could help us,” Yem says. “I felt very hopeless in my life. But after we found Hagar I started to feel hope again.”
Yem admits that life was far from perfect prior to that night. She was married to an alcoholic who was frequently violent to her, and destructive of their property. Though he worked, he supported his own pleasures and addiction and never the family’s needs. Yem had to work harder to ensure her children received all that they needed to survive given the absence of a supportive husband and father. This attack took away her ability to work, leaving Yem and her baby girl hospitalized for months.
Initially, two other non-profits helped the family, but ultimately could not meet the complexities the family was facing, leading them to link with Hagar. When Yem and her family first arrived at the center they had no money for food and treatment; they were struggling to manage the challenges of their trauma and medical conditions. Once Hagar started working with Yem, we were able to do what we have been doing so well for 25 years, offer compassion and expertise to help Yem and her family begin to rebuild their lives.
The Hagar team knew that this family’s needs were significant and would likely take many years of services to address their challenges, but our team did not shy away. Yem and her family needed the opportunity to heal both physically and emotionally, and to gain confidence in her own inner beauty to help her to come out from the shadows of the acid attack and violence she had experienced.
“Before, my life was hopeless. I felt so much shame. I could not find a job because my face was not good. I didn’t have a job because I didn’t have the skills and knowledge,” says Yem. “But then I found Hagar.”
Hagar has stood with Yem and her family through the years, providing an array of essential services to help them heal, find hope, and to begin building a sustainable and beautiful future. Hagar’s support allowed them to receive medical treatment (including Sophorn’s eye treatments and her older sister’s care for lupus). They received counseling, daily needs support, assistance for Yem to start her business selling drinks and snacks to earn an income, and Sophorn gained access to an education giving the family a precious chance to build new lives. Despite her scars and damaged hearing, Yem says the worst of her health problems are behind her, thanks to Hagar’s long-term support.
Hagar consistently serves survivors with the most challenging of circumstances stemming from trafficking, slavery, domestic violence, exploitation and abuse. Without Hagar, many would simply not have the opportunity to heal physically and emotionally, nor have access to justice, or to economic empowerment services needed to help them thrive.
Sophorn shared, “Without Hagar, my life and future would not be good. Hagar’s help has made me very happy. They helped me to help myself. In the future I would like to be a doctor because I have met some wonderful doctors and I want to help people as they have helped me.”
At any given moment, Hagar continues to serve hundreds of trauma survivors needing our support. During this Thanksgiving and Christmas season, we need your help. By making an end of year or monthly gift to Hagar, you are helping survivors like Yem and Sophorn on their path to hope and wholeness. Help Hagar USA toward our goal of raising $75,000 this holiday season to ensure that we do not turn away survivors in need and can continue providing trauma aftercare services for years to come.
A generous gift of $100 can provide a comprehensive medical assessment for a woman in the aftermath of severe abuse. Today, Yem’s spirit is strong, her smile is confident and infectious, and her hope for her family’s future is bright. No longer living in the shadows of the past, she is now casting her own shadow and charting a new path for her family’s future.
We need your compassionate support so that more survivors can access Hagar’s life-changing care. With a gift of $300, you could help a woman like Yem establish a small business or undertake on-the-job training in an industry of their choice. Please stand with Hagar as we help hundreds of people like Yem and Sophorn, whose bravery and resilience shine so brightly.