For some time the Trustees of MSAVLC have been concerned about the appalling sex-trade that exists in Cambodia. Their particular concern is centred in Phnom Penh, which the Trustees have visited many times.
In Cambodia, one of the poorest nations in the world, the sexual exploitation of children is a thriving business, especially in the capital Phnom Penh and increasingly so in urbanising border areas…
Studies show as many as one third of sex workers in Cambodia are children under 18 years of age, and more than half of those forced into the sex industry are lured or sold into it by people they know.
Thousands of children and women are lured, sold and kidnapped into the sex industry each year. They are often betrayed by their neighbours, friends, relatives, guardians and even boyfriends or parents, and they are tricked with false promises of a better life or well-paid work. They are then forced to pay off ‘debts’ for transportation, health and living expenses, subdued with rape, violence and torture and sold from brothel to brothel. The sex trade feeds on the despair, ignorance and poverty of those it seeks to exploit.
Children on the Edge – unicef
The Trustees felt compelled to help in some way, and met with Ruth Elliott, a Cambridge University psychologist, who founded ‘Daughters of Cambodia’ in 2007. Daughters of Cambodia is a non-profit organization working with survivors of sex trafficking who have elected to leave the sex industry, but need assistance in order to do so.
Daughters helps young women and men escape the horrors of sex trafficking and start sustainable new lives for themselves, by providing dignified, rewarding employment, paired with vital health and support services, needed to aid their physical, psychological and social recovery from exploitation. They reach out to those who are trapped in the sex industry and offer them opportunities to walk free, start a new life and learn how to sustain it within community settings. Daughters operate non-residential centres in the heart of Phnom Penh’s red light areas, where young women, or young men, wishing to leave sex work are taught how to change their life-styles. They are provided with employment at one of their seven fair-trade businesses along with a range of social and psychological services.
Daughters of Cambodia has helped hundreds of girls to permanently walk free from sex-work and to experience psychological healing and improved quality of life. However, numbers are now capped due to lack of funds, which is their only limiting factor in terms of numbers.
They also have a program for male trans-sexual sex workers called Sons of Cambodia. As recovery takes place, many clients at Daughters become leaders and managers within the organization and are employed in roles including Business Managers, Head Chefs, Quality Control Managers, Order and Dispatch Controllers, Production Technical Trainers, Counsellors and Receptionists; many are found employment within the community. Daughters is a faith-based organization, and clients are offered opportunities to learn about the love of God at Daughters’ weekly Christian church, if they wish, but that is entirely voluntary.
Daughters run the Sugar’n Spice Café, which is based in their visitors’ centre in Phnom Penh, where delicious food is served. The visitors’ centre also incorporates a Hands’n Feet Spa and a boutique where products made in the Daughters’ workshops are sold. The girls are taught cooking, waitressing and customer services. They have also opened a Hotel near the Russian Market in Phnom Penh, called the White Linen Hotel, and this incorporates a café inside.
They have 3 workshops; a sewing room where clothes and furnishings are made, a silk screen workshop and a jewellery workshop. Here boys and girls are employed and taught a trade with good working conditions and wages, and they live independently within the community.
Most of the girls are aged from 18 to late twenties. They have little education so are offered educational opportunities and creative programmes such as music, art, photography, dance and design, which encourage self-confidence and self-esteem. There are medical clinics and antenatal clinics, and psychological counselling is available, as well as social workers who visit the girls in their own homes.
Trustees from MSAVLC visited Daughters of Cambodia in 2015 and were moved and humbled by the dedication of Ruth and her staff who are doing an incredibly difficult job with care, compassion and essential practical aid.
It was agreed to fund a proposal put forward to us by Daughters to support for a year, two councillors, a midwife and a security guard, food and medical supplies, and referrals, transportation and operational expenses.
MSAVLC hope to continue to support the vital work that Daughters doing, well into the future.
In 2016 funds were sent to Daughters to help towards the setting-up of their new visitor’s centre, where goods made in their workshops are sold. There is a cafe supplying delicious homemade food, a boutique, and a ‘Hands’n feet’ spa.
The Health and Wholeness project has been funded annually since 2015, providing holistic recovery through the activities of the medical, counselling and social work departments. Daughters’ medical clinic treats basic conditions, provides health prevention education, and makes referrals to external specialist partners for medical treatment. The counselling team provides counselling to reduce trauma and psychological distress.
Regular financial and narrative reports have been received, along with newsletters outlining their work and progress. We are delighted with the vital work that Daughters is doing.
2020 – UPDATE
Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, Trustees were not able to visit Daughters of Cambodia this year as planned.
Unfortunately, due to a huge rent increase and the lack of tourists as a result of the pandemic, the Visitors Centre had to be moved to smaller and less expensive premises. However, the move was remarkably successful, and Daughters has been able to continue with its vital work.
The Health and Wholeness Project continues to operate and MSAVLC continued to sponsor this splendid work, enabling more young people to escape from the sex trade and start sustainable new lives for themselves.
An emergency fund was granted to Daughters to help buy food and provisions for girls at Daughters during the pandemic.
Regular narrative and financial reports were received during the year for inspection by the Trustees and were most satisfactory.
2023 – UPDATE
In March, Trustees from MSAVLC were delighted to be able to visit Daughters of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. We were met by Ruth Elliott, the Director, who had a full schedule arranged for us. We visited the new Visitor’s Centre where there was a boutique shop, spa, medical clinic, prayer room, social-work room, and a jewellery-making workshop. We also visited the nearby Operations Centre where we saw the girls working at their sewing machines, and we visited the cutting room, woodwork and screen-printing rooms. All were very impressive.
We met with the Finance Officer, and thoroughly checked their accounts and accounting procedures. We talked to staff members, and to some of the girls and boys. We heard harrowing stories of how they had been rescued from the sex trade, and the abuse that they had suffered from the men, and sometimes their families too. Some had been sold into brothels by their mothers and many of them had been raped by members of their own families. Nearly all of them had suffered abuse from the “clients” at the brothels, been beaten and even threated with guns if they did not comply to their wishes! Unfortunately, there was no one to complain to, as we were told that some officials were also clients! They were all grateful to Daughters for their rescue and were now happy and relieved, although many of them were still receiving counselling. We were also taken to visit two clinics where the girls are referred to for medical treatment, if necessary.
Ruth and her team are doing an incredible job under difficult circumstances, and we were impressed by their organization and the compassion shown to their clients. MSAVLC hopes to continue funding their medical programme, to allow them to continue their vital work.