A deprived family has received hands-on support from Hope for Justice which will ensure the long-term security of their child who was rescued from trafficking.
Husband and wife, Samlain* and Maly* Chhour*, have been desperately trying to make ends meet with their independent family-run ‘recycling’ business.
In their home country – Cambodia – this is not glamorous work. It involves collecting garbage by pushing a handcart through the dirty streets, going from house to house, and sorting the trash – bottles, tins, unsalvageable rubbish and anything re-saleable – as they go.
Maggie Crewes, Hope for Justice’s Cambodia Country Director, said: “When a victim of child trafficking comes through our doors, we don’t just work with the child but also alongside their family. This is especially important when it comes to getting children back home again and ensuring that they are not just home – but safe – and will not be in danger of being re-trafficked.
“With no education and no other prospects, Mr and Mrs Chhour have had to turn to recycling as their main source of income but this work has been unstable. A few years ago, desperation led to them making a horrible mistake.”
At the time, two family members were sick and in addition to providing for their two daughters, then aged 11 and 13, money was needed to pay for their relatives’ healthcare.
So, when a broker offered the couple’s eldest daughter, Da*, employment as a waitress at a restaurant in the capital, Phnom Penh, as well as covering her travel costs, they could not refuse.
Maggie said: “The Chhours thought this would solve so many immediate problems including medical bills, food expenses and a lack of education for Da because they could not afford her uniform or books.
“They said this was an incredibly difficult decision to make but one they made out of necessity.
“Little did they know that this man was a broker for the sex industry and that the restaurant he spoke of was actually a brothel.”
Da was trafficked and sexually abused and trapped in this “nightmare” for 18 months until she was identified as a victim by the police and rescued from the business. Officers referred her to Hope for Justice’s Lighthouse – a residential aftercare centre for children who have been exploited or exposed to exploitation.
In the charity’s care, Da received shelter, care, protection, counselling and other support, as well as the opportunity to learn, play and make friends. She had even begun a placement at a beauty salon.
However, at a pre-visit to her home in April this year, prior to reintegrating Da with her family, Hope for Justice identified that her parents’ poverty would leave her vulnerable to re-trafficking. Case managers were also concerned that Da’s younger sister might be at risk.
Maggie said: “A family assessment revealed that Samlain’s pushcart had a broken axle. This breakage, combined with the restricted movement caused by COVID-19, had resulted in his income dropping to almost nothing. His wife Maly was also no longer able to supplement their income by using the petti cash earnings to buy and then sell vegetables in the local villages. Their situation was really grim.
“COVID-19 meant that school was shut but what was to happen to the younger sister? Would she be next to graduate to ‘waitressing’?
“Our amazing Client Empowerment Manager visited the family and discussed what it might take to turn things around. A mobility plan was hatched.”
Hope for Justice has purchased a new pushcart for Samlain so that he can restart his recycling business, and a bicycle for Maly so that she can more easily travel between villages to sell produce.
Maggie added: “These two very simple modes of transport will transform this family’s earning capacity. Now they will be able to pay rent, buy food, afford medical bills, keep their youngest daughter in school and provide for their whole family. Da will be able to live at home and continue her salon training.
“They are not very well off but will be able to make ends meet, keep their daughters safe and look to the future with hope.”
*Names and photo changed to protect identity of victims