More than 100 survivors of trafficking have had their futures transformed by being welcomed into care at Hope for Justice’s Lighthouse Assessment Center in Cambodia during its first year in operation.
At a special birthday event held for staff and clients, the charity’s Country Director for Cambodia, Stacy Biggs, said: “I am grateful and humbled beyond measure to work with such a dedicated, compassionate, and forward-thinking staff at Lighthouse. What our staff has built in one short year is nothing short of unbelievable. I am proud to know that survivors of trafficking have the opportunity to begin their journey of restoration with Hope for Justice.”
Of the 106 girls cared for at Lighthouse during its first year, 77 were involved in sex trafficking cases (of whom 38 are under 18), and 29 were involved in labour trafficking cases (of whom 25 are under 18).
These survivors have begun to regain an essential sense of safety and empowerment as they address their traumas for the first time and work towards positive futures, thanks to Lighthouse’s nurturing environment.
Amy Turner, former Clinical Director at Hope for Justice Cambodia, highlighted the significance of the restorative care on offer: “Having the opportunity to learn about what therapy is, how to function in a group setting, and overcoming the shock of everything that has happened takes time. Lighthouse offers the opportunity for that to happen.
“I am so proud of the teams and leadership at Lighthouse that make this it functional every day. We have made a lot of really great community relationships and our team is really strong. We have learned some hard lessons and also enjoyed major successes.”
At the birthday celebrations on September 2, staff and clients held a large party in the building’s main entrance hall. With traditional Khmer music in the background, pretty streamers adorning the walls, beautiful flower arrangements on the tables, and a large red and white creamy birthday cake in the middle, the room was buzzing with celebration and excitement. The girls took part in fun team-building activities, from paper crown decorating and karaoke to ‘pass the parcel’ and a traditional egg-and-spoon race.
Although newcomers to any residential program are vulnerable, the care offered at Lighthouse teaches them to better advocate for their own needs and to stand up for themselves, as well as helping them learn to trust again and safely express themselves.
Amy Turner explained: “They are able to come to terms with their emotions, how to manage them, and how to talk about things that they don’t understand that are going on inside of them. Trauma is so complex, and I think that Lighthouse allows the girls to understand that they are okay and what they are feeling is okay.
“Although we are only a year old, it feels like we have already hit so many milestones. It feels like every day is a success.”
To find out more about the success of the Lighthouse Assessment Center, and Hope for Justice’s other projects in Cambodia, click here.
Words and photography: Josephine Rees and Adam Hewitt