Empower At-Risk Girls in Cambodia

by Senhoa Foundation
(*Note: Names have been changed to protect the girls' privacy)
In 2010, Tida* was a slight, fearful and anxious girl who rarely spoke and always looked to the floor, averting others’ gazes. Her stepfather routinely beat her and her mother when he was drunk and kicked Tida out of their house. One month, he kicked her out 20 times. She could not sleep, had trouble eating and carried a chronic cough from untreated Tuberculosis. She had never been to school a day in her life.
Tida’s mother helped the family get along by traveling around Siem Reap and offering to
do people’s laundry and providing “cao gió,” a traditional Vietnamese medical
treatment in which the skin is scraped to produce light bruising and, as it is believed in
popular tradition, to release unhealthy elements from injured areas and stimulates
blood flow and healing. Tida’s stepfather took on odd jobs, just as fishing or driving
moto-taxis, when he wasn’t drunk, which wasn’t very often. Tida herself worked long
hours in the heat doing construction manual labor for $2 a day. With her frail body and
declining health, it was a wonder how she managed it.
One day Tida’s friend Dara* referred her to Senhoa’s social worker. Dara told us that her
friend desperately needed a safe job that would pay her more money to help out her
family and also a safe place to stay when her stepfather would kick her out of the family
home during one of his drunken rampages. Our social worker met Tida on a
blistering day in 2010 and it was determined that Tida was a good fit for our Lotus
House and Jewelry and Life Skills Training programs. Senhoa helped Tida receive
immediate medical care of her TB, she moved into the Lotus House and started training
to become a jewelry artisan at OOH, and the rest is history...
Today Tida is Senhoa’s top-paid artisan. Although she is somewhat slow in her work due
to her past trauma, she loves to make jewelry and the quality of her work is impeccable.
She is very diligent about creating high-quality work and is a talented designer. Her TB
has been treated, she has gained weight and appears more healthy and vibrant and has
started learning how to read and write Khmer. Tida now raises her head when she
speaks to others and exudes more confidence; she does very well in her Life Skills classes. She has since moved out of her abusive family home and now rents a room on her own. Tida wants her mother to move out of the house and stay with her, but her mother is reluctant to leave her husband. For now, Tida will continue to work hard and save money to be able to help her mother, hopefully someday soon.
Artisans at work
Artisans at work

In early 2013, Senhoa carried out vigorous Monitor and Evaluations (M&Es) of our programs in Cambodia to ensure that they were delivered to the service users’ satisfaction, as well as adhered to our core mission. Today, we share with you here our M&E results for the Senhoa Jewelry Program and their follow-ups.

The Senhoa Jewelry Program (lovingly named OOH – Our Own Hands) was initially conceptualized as a shelter-retention program. Very early on when we did our needs assessment, it was decided that a vocational training program was needed where the women could gain instant skills and quickly have access to income-generating opportunities, all while they were receiving social and therapeutic services from our shelter partners. Jewelry making and beading were chosen for  ease of skill acquisition, as they required little to no education. This was befitting because many of the women in the program lacked formal education and literacy. 

During the M&E sessions for the OOH program, there was an overwhelming request for full time employment from the service users. Many of the women in the program expressed a desire for viable employment and an opportunity to enter into full-time work as Artisans. 

To respond to these concerns, over the past six months, the OOH program has functioned as a training and transition program to recruit and prepare Trainees to become Artisans for Senhoa Social Enterprise. At the end of the program, Trainees will have a command of basic to intermediate jewelry making skills and knowledge about being good employees. The training period has been used to transition Trainees/Artisans from “service users” into “full-time/part-time employees” for Senhoa Social Enterprise.

On January 1, 2014, we officially started Day 1 of the social business in Cambodia. Our former service users are now full time and part-time employees of the social enterprise, with access to an array of employee benefits and entitlements like access to a health fund, sales bonuses, annual leave and compassionate leave. Furthermore, the artisans work in a safe and secure environment with fair wage salary and educational opportunities. And last but not least, proceeds from the sale of Senhoa jewelry go back to supporting Senhoa Foundation’s community development programs in Cambodia. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Senhoa Social Enterprise is now able to focus on designing, manufacturing and retailing high quality fashion accessories for the Senhoa brand, the OOH by Senhoa brand (a lower-priced line available for sale in Cambodia), and partner labels. Our dream is to be able to have our jewelry sold around the world in department stores, to be able to subcontract to make jewelry for private labels and most importantly, to be able to provide jobs for vulnerable women. We do this with the unfailing belief that access to dignified and safe employment is the most powerful armor to protect women from exploitation and human trafficking.

Artisan at work
Artisan at work
Charmed by Senhoa pendant necklace
Charmed by Senhoa pendant necklace
Tara Teng, Miss World Canada, in Kelly necklace
Tara Teng, Miss World Canada, in Kelly necklace


There is much exciting news from the last quarter regarding our programs in Cambodia!  First of all, the Lotus House is at full occupation.  The Lotus House is a safe house for young women who have been subjected to violence or exploitation.  With a focus on restoration and reintegration, Lotus House primarily receives referrals from NGOs or relevant bodies after a woman has received initial crisis services, such as legal support and health checks.  We are so happy to be able to help the most women to our capacity at the time being.

A second Lotus Kids' Club has opened in October.  We serve an additional 25 families with this second location, now helping a total of 68 families (with the first LKC). Our early-intervention on human trafficking and education program has grown considerably since 2010 and includes a Pre-School Program, a Sponsorship Program, a Family Program and a Community Drop-In Program.  We also underwent a Monitor & Evaluation with This Life Cambodia to evaluate the program and also identify areas in which we are succeeding and areas we still need to improve upon.

The evaluation findings are here: The cross-cultural component of the LKC program, which involves bringing together Vietnamese and Khmer children and their families to learn and socialize, has proven highly successful.  Although this aspect of the program has created some challenges for staff, it has also been one of the most rewarding aspects of the program, with most LKC staff and parents praising this component of the program for creating more harmony and solidarity in the community.  Furthermore, the Pre-School Program appears to be very successful in terms of preparing children for entry to primary school, and providing nutritional supplements and health care.  The Sponsorship Program, on the other hand, while successfully providing opportunities for Pre-School Program children to continue their schooling, has been shown to require extra resources and support for children and their families to ensure children can stay at school.  The Family Program was reported to be very successful in terms of education sessions being useful for participants, and all families appreciating the 16kg of rice provided monthly, however, all parents reported they would continue to attend education sessions even if they weren't receiving rice.  The Community Drop-In Program whilst successfully providing recreational activities for up to 50 children four times a week, does however, have many issues that require addressing in order for this component of the program to be delivered successfully for program beneficiaries.  It is recommended that Senhoa and LKC should spend a considerable amount of time and energy focused on clarifying the purpose of this aspect of LKC, to ensure the best possible outcomes for children attending this program.  Finally, in terms of program beneficiaries, this evaluation has highlighted how important health care checks have been in determining health issues and prevention, with more than 2/3 of children showing dental decay issues, and 1/3 requiring vision re-testing.  Ensuring health check processes are consistent and tailored to the needs of program beneficiaries would however improve the outcomes for children.

Our third field program, the Jewelry/Life Skills Program, is a holistic rehabilitation program that prepares survivors of human trafficking and other marginalized women for reintegration. We offer two components of training: Jewelry Vocational Training and Life-Skills Training.  This program is now moving forward to become a social enterprise.  We have partnered with Siem Reap hotelier Shinta Mani to staff 15 full-time artisans (who will also receive health and paid holidays benefits) to create beatiful jewelry for the Senhoa LLC line, co-brands, and the Our Own Hands line (orginal pieces designed by the artisans themselves as opposed to our Creative Director or collaborators).  We are very excited as we take on this new project.  We are so happy to be able to provide full-time employment for all of the trainees and artisans in our program (the trainees will graduate from their program to become artisans and/or supervisors in December 2013).  We look forward to further building the jewelry program so that we can continue to provide employment and benefits, education and scholarships to private school for the girls in the program.

Hello, Senhoa loves,

Here are some updates in photos:

Senhoa was featured in Australian airline Qantas’ award-winning inflight magazine The Australian Way:

Senhoa volunteers preparing and packing the beads for our 700-unit order from The Fancy!

The Fancy is a social networking webstore, self-described as “part store, blog, magazine and wishlist.”  Users connect through shared tastes of products and can purchase these wish items on the website.  They offer a monthly subscription service in which users pay $39/month to receive a package of cool, interesting products.  Our champion Coco Rocha was commissioned to curate a box, and she asked Senhoa to design earrings for this project.  We are excited to share our beautiful jewelry and story with The Fancy fans!  “Discover amazing stuff” at http://www.fancy.com/!

Our Creative Director Jenny and her volunteers made cute gifts for the artisans in our jewelry program :) :

Senhoa at Phnom Penh Designers Week in Cambodia!  Here is our Jewelry Program Director Linda with our Southeast Asia Swarovski Elements team:

Goodies from Phnom Penh Designers Week:

SNEAK PEEK: Sangita Patel, co-host for Entertainment Tonight Canada, wearing a beautiful necklace from our Grace collection, which will launch at the end of the year, at the Monte Carlo Television Festival Awards 2013:

We just received our copies of This Is No Ordinary Joy: How the Courage of Survivors Transformed My Life (written by founder of Made by Survivors and our land-standing partner Sarah Symons) yesterday, and I already started on this amazing read.

Sarah: “My journey has taken me to some of the darkest places on the face of the earth, and brought me into contact with the most depraved elements of humanity, as well as the most courageous and beautiful. Along the way, I’ve spent long hours sitting on the dirt floors of shelters and red light districts, I have feared for my life, scattered my wallets, keys and other belongings across South Asia, met heroes in the most unlikely places, re-envisioned my marriage, flirted with despair, and helped thousands of survivors rebuild their lives…”

Learn about Sarah’s discoveries, struggles and triumphs on her journey into the darkness of modern slavery in Southeast Asia and how it led her to start her international charity to provide economic opportunities for survivors. Get your copy on Amazon.com today!  http://www.amazon.com/This-Ordinary-Joy-Survivors-Transformed/dp/0615820980/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1370976664&sr=8-1&keywords=this+is+no+ordinary+joy

<3 S

Dear Readers,

We have some awesome news!  Our Lotus Kids’ Club got a brand new playground–the first the kids have ever seen!  Steve, our project consultant, talks about the amazing gift below:

  LKC Wins the Lottery:  Ok, the Lotus Kids Club has not actually won a lottery, but that’s what it felt like after Lisa and I met with Solera.  Solera is a company based in Dallas, Texas who has taken an interest in Senhoa’s community program the Lotus Kids Club and wants to help in a big way.  They have already provided the funding for a playground that we desperately needed for the children we serve.  And the playground is built!  It has truly enriched our program and provided hours of fun for all ages of the community of kids we serve.  I should mention the proposal was submitted by Daniel, owner of Tangram Garden restaurant in Siem Reap, through Trails of Indochina, a unique tour company.

  The playground came out of a proposal written explaining our need for a space so our young children could develop their gross motor skills and the older children could participate in active play promoting cooperation.  Without seeing the LKC program Solera decided to fund the playground construction.  We were thrilled because it was a dream come true for us.  We had to start the ball rolling quickly because we were told they wanted to come and help with the construction, @ 20 folks.  Of course I thought “sure they’re going to help in 99F/37C  heat”?!  No way.  How wrong I was because when they arrived it was indeed HOT and HUMID but they got to work digging, hauling bricks, and doing whatever was needed.  I was duly impressed.

  And Tony the founder/CEO was right in the thick of it, though I think he enjoyed more his time playing with some of the kids.  His assistant Katie was clearly having fun with the kids.  After a few hours we met with Tony and Katie before they left and they expressed interest in continuing to help LKC.  The meeting was short but it seemed a strong connection was made.  They are very honest and down to earth folks.  They said they would return in a couple of months and I put them in contact with Lisa.

The playground (sorry the picture is from a bad angle)

  Fortunately they were returning when Lisa was planning a site visit to Senhoa in Siem Reap.  I was thrilled that would be the case as I thought they really needed to meet Lisa.  So in April we all got together and when Tony and Katie began talking about what they hoped to accomplish for LKC I felt like they were reading our minds.  Much of their vision of how to best help us was in line with what we have always hoped to accomplish if we had the resources to do so.  They want to provide us with those resources.

  So now the work has begun.  We are drafting and submitting plans for professional staff development, a focus on the children’s health and continuing education, a family development approach, vocational training, micro loans and finding ways to involve the community as a whole in helping themselves escape the cycle of poverty.  We are realistic and realize the challenges we face yet optimistic because we have seen change and know it can happen.  It will be a group effort from Senhoa HQ, the LKC staff, the youth, the families and the community we serve.  I believe we are on a path to bring significant change that will continue to grow through generations.  Wish us luck.


Sylvia Dang


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Organization Information

Senhoa Foundation

Location: Artesia, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​senhoa.org
Project Leader:
Lisa T.D. Nguyen
Executive Director
Artesia, CA Cambodia

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