In this newsletter, I will tell you about our main project: "Reintegration of human trafficked girls into society". As a result of a long, dedicated effort and a good relationship with our partner organization, we have now taken concrete steps forward. Much has happened.
But today, just less than 24-hours before the next raid will be completed and new girls will arrive to our shelter, I sat down. I watched a movie that I had planned to watch each night for the last three and a half weeks.
In the yard of the shelter is a beautiful and exiting garden, where many colorful butterflies flit about. It feels like the days and hours have gone by as fast as a butterfly turns its wing.
The rush, like I have never before experienced, began one Friday evening with a phone call. Twenty minutes later I welcomed the first child prostitutes to our shelter directly from the brothel. Each girl had been sold by their own mother for $150 each. They were dressed and made up for the evening. When their mothers left them they were commanded to say they were sixteen years old in order to prevent problems with the police. So upon arrival, each of the girls said they were 16. Now they say "maybe fifteen", some thirteen. It’s a good beginning.
Their arrival was remarkable. (I had hoped that my colleague Tuomo Holi would be there. The previous raid had been unsuccessful and without knowing about the next surprise raid, he had left for a holiday in Finland just two days earlier.) To my astonishment the girls came immediately into the hall. As they looked in amazement at their beautiful new home and their white beds, the girls, who grew up in poverty, looked as if they were in heaven. I have never seen such wonder on a child’s face.
The photo shows Jaya Sry Victor, the shelter directress.
Since then, time has vanished into supporting and encouraging the girls. Taking them for blood tests, to the gynecologist, to the dentist. Planning schedules for therapy, handicraft training, English class, and other studies. Into buying coloring books, lice-shampoo, pyjamas, puzzles, a car. I fired a drunk guard. I hired and trained new staff. Through all this the girls have been involved in legal proceedings and have identified some of the criminals who denied their human rights. Through all of these activities and despite the stress, this has been a good time.
In the brothel, clients visited the girls day and night. When the client decided so, the girls were injected with drugs. So the first night at the shelter the girls did not sleep much. After a week their sleeping patterns began to gradually improve and the girls began to understand that they would have sufficient food every day. Since their hopes were beginning to return, along with laughter and joy, it was a sad day to receive the results of their blood tests. One of the girls had been infected with HIV. Another, who we call Sunshine, had gotten hepatitis. It was many evenings before I told them, together with our psychologist Ean Nil.
For obvious reasons we cannot return the children to families that have sold them. So the first girls who came to the shelter will likely be with us for years. Now is the time to help the girls move forward, regain hope, and heal. Last weekend we fulfilled the girls’ hopes by going to Sihanoukville, to the beach, to swim! The youngest of the girls had never seen the ocean. We all had a wonderful time. On our way back, one girl asked to stop at a temple, where she lit some incense as an offering and prayed.
Children of Cambodia