The path towards an independent, happy future: The Stepping Stones project

Many more older children who have been trafficked will now be able to confidently make their own way in the world, thanks to Hope for Justice’s new Stepping Stones project.

Some of the teenagers and young people who are cared for and supported by our team at the Cambodia Lighthouse are able to return home to their families once they have recovered.

But for many it’s not possible, often because it was their own family who trafficked them. So after they have regained their physical and emotional health at the Lighthouse, we want to empower these youngsters to embrace their freedom and live happy, fulfilled and independent lives.

That’s why our dedicated team have created the Stepping Stones programme. Our staff are providing these young survivors with the skills and confidence that they need to thrive in the future. We work together to give them the skills they need to look after themselves, live independently and work, while still benefitting from the guidance of a mentor and being part of a survivor support group.

Our life skills sessions cover everything from making safe choices and decisions, to managing money. We equip the young people with the knowledge and awareness they need to care for their physical and mental health, as well as developing their everyday skills such as cooking and looking after their own home.

We also set them on the road to finding a vocation and a job. Our team has developed excellent relationships with prominent local businesses which can offer training programmes, and subsequently, jobs to these young people.

And many are already benefitting from our pioneering new programme. With the support of our dedicated team, 15-year-old Phallen* has transformed her life and is now working in a bakery and café, after being trafficked to China to marry a man older than her father.

Phallen’s dad, a very poor fisherman, allowed her to be sent to another country as a child bride because he thought she would then lead a happier life. But Phallen’s new husband raped and beat her. She could turn to no-one for help, as she could speak no Chinese and had no phone. But gradually Phallen learned some of the language, and then bravely ran away and asked for help at the police station. She was taken in at our Lighthouse after the Cambodian embassy helped her return.

Our team cared for and supported Phallen for several months at the Lighthouse. Little by little, Phallen recovered. She then began the Stepping Stones programme. One of our team worked with Phallen as she decided where she would like to work in the future. Phallen chose to train in a local bakery and café, where she was subsequently offered a job earlier this year.

Phallen is now enjoying working in an environment where she is safe, well respected and liked, and is living independently. She recently saved up enough money to buy herself a motorbike.

But Phallen is not the only young person to be carving out her own path thanks to our new programme. In recent weeks, nine girls at the Cambodia Lighthouse completed the first level of their skills training, as they progress on their vocational training in a number of different areas, including cookery, baking, beauty and hairdressing. They have already learned a range of vital skills, including how to apply for jobs, interview skills, good work ethics and communication and relationship-building skills. They are now looking forward to beginning the next stage of their training on the Stepping Stones project.

We are proud and privileged to be able to support these brave young women as they fully take up their freedom, take control of their own lives and follow their dreams.

* Name has been changed to protect survivor’s identity

Photograph: Young women in the Cambodia Lighthouse celebrate as they receive their certificates for completing the first stage of their vocational training. Pictured with them are our Client Care Manager Kroesna, and our Client Empowerment Manager Sophea.