“I used to want to be a superstar model and work in a salon… then I got this feeling that I wanted to help people and go to university to study social work.”
These are the words of Chanmoni*, a survivor of trafficking whose life has been transformed thanks to Hope for Justice’s aftercare and education projects in Cambodia. She will start university at the end of October.
The 18-year-old, who has attended a local public school as well as Hope for Justice’s Shine Career School where she was receiving individual tutoring from the teachers, found out she had passed all her exams and was being awarded a scholarship to continue her education.
Chanmoni said: “Seeing what the social workers do for us here made me want to help people, like they do. I am very happy that I can go to university. It is like the light towards my goal.”
She said: “When I first came to Dream Home I found it very difficult. I didn’t want to study. But I carried on because I saw that some of the staff here had good jobs and that inspired me. I sometimes wanted to give up because I had a lot of problems with my family and I felt very tired, especially before my exams. But I carried on because I wanted to help the people and help my family, and because many of the staff have been working very hard for me. The staff here work very hard and have compassion for the clients.”
Chanmoni would one day like to use her skills to help poor communities in the countryside. She recalls that on a visit to see her family, she watched children attend a school “where there was just a roof and no walls and the students sat on the ground”.
“It made me feel sad,” she said, “although happy that they were at school. That’s when I decided I would like to help people like that.”
Chanmoni said she was grateful for how her life had been turned around.
“I want to thank everyone who has supported me and Hope for Justice,” she said.
“They have brought me into light from darkness. I think they must want to help people like me a lot, so they work hard.”
Chanmoni is the second girl from Dream Home to go to university. She hopes that she will be an inspiration for the younger students at Shine.
Andrea Bailey, Career and Education Director at Shine school, said: “Chanmoni has been a great example of perseverance when it comes to pursuing her goals and keeping the eye on the prize. A lot of survivors can easily get distracted by the urgency of meeting their own needs and those of their families, leading them to focus on immediate employment rather than the long term commitment of pursuing higher education. Although there is no right or wrong to either choice, we are glad to see Chanmoni have grit, and focus on the big picture of how she sees her future. Her efforts have led other students to keep their fire for learning.
“It is exciting to see the survivors in the program day by day defeat the odds of re-exploitation of themselves and the future generation by committing to grow, learning a skill or focusing on their academics.”
*Survivor’s name changed to protect identity
Story by Aly Walsh