Young survivors of sex trafficking supported by Hope for Justice Cambodia picked up new skills and had a huge amount of fun at their quarterly Sports Day.
The girls spend much of their time at Hope for Justice’s Dream Home – a residential community in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh for girls rescued from sexual exploitation – and studying at Shine Career School. They are also given opportunities to participate in events planned by Hope for Justice staff and volunteers. Sports Day was dedicated to giving the girls time to play outside and learn new sports they may have not tried before, as this short film by Hope for Justice intern Annelise Blackwood shows:
Hope for Justice volunteer Wayne, who is heavily involved in enhancing the active lifestyle of the girls, said: “There was a brilliant atmosphere – it was amazing to see and hear the girls having such a good time. We’re already looking forward to the next one!”
Nourn Vanna, Project Manager, explained: “It is very important for the students to show their capacity to compete with each other so they can challenge each other to make them more confident about themselves.
“They work as a team to win the games; this is positive because it helps them develop team-building. Not a lot of female students do sports in Cambodia, so it’s really nice to motivate our students to join a society of sports so they can exercise and experience new games through Hope for Justice. They incorporated each other and didn’t get upset, they didn’t give up what they were doing. We make them feel confident and feel stronger – this is a form of therapy, they can release the trauma from their lives through sports.”
With braids in their hair and full sports kit on, they were ready to go. The girls picked up new skills, from dodgeball to a frisbee toss, and everything in between. The laughter filled the field as girls crossed the finish line into their teammates’ cheerful arms, celebrating each other after the relay races whether they won or lost. There was such a sense of camaraderie and playful competition that made each moment that much more pleasant.
At the end of the day, each girl was awarded a certificate of achievement and a gift to take home as a remembrance of the day. The winners received a stuffed animal – they all love stuffed animals! Sports Day is such a great experience for the girls to spend some time soaking up the sun, laughing with friends and getting active together.
Ngin Sam Onn, Director of Operations, said: “We show our students here different sports. They tend to only think of sports like volleyball, basketball, and football, so we think this Sports Day was really successful, because we showed them the long jump and dodgeball, which they had never done before.
“We got to educate them and they got to show us what they were good at. We were very proud of them because they showed us their passion and commitment. They like to empower each other by cheering each other on, they told each other ‘you can do it’, which helps build each other up. We also love to let them out of our filter to see the world outside, so they aren’t always indoors all the time. I am really proud of them: they learned to accept the feeling of loss and to cheer on the people that win. At the end of the day they all feel accepted.”
Photography by Annelise Blackwood