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Trauma recovery center brings new life to trafficked girl

After experiencing horror that no child should have to face, this Cambodian girl has found a new outlook on life. But tragically, she’s just one among millions of children trafficked for exploitation worldwide.

Updated November 2010



At age 16, Ka left her home to try to escape the poverty she grew up with, only to find herself repeatedly subject to sexual trafficking.
At age 16, Ka* left her home to try to escape the poverty she grew up with, only to find herself repeatedly subject to sexual trafficking.
Photo ©2009 Heidi Isaza/World Vision
“I left home when I was 16 because of the poverty,” Ka* explains.

Life in Cambodia was very hard for Ka and her family. While other children were going to school, Ka helped her siblings scavenge for cans and beg for money on the streets.

Enslaved for $6

On the advice of a friend, she headed for the Thai border in search of a higher-paying job.

But once she arrived, she found no decent work. She was alone, living on the streets. Out of desperation, Ka ended up working in several different clubs or brothels.

In one instance, she was indebted to her employer for $6 — an amount that kept her captive for two years, forced into prostitution, facing sexual exploitation by up to 10 men each night. Eventually, a police raid on the brothel set her free, only to put her on the street alone, yet again.

With nowhere to go, she was forced to work in yet another brothel. There, she and another girl secretly phoned the police.

Two days later, the police arrived. Ka was taken to World Vision’s Trauma Recovery Project, where she received physical, psychological, and spiritual counseling, as well as occupational training.

A massive problem

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Millions of children each year are trafficked for forced labor, sexual abuse, or other exploitation. “Anywhere from 30,000-60,000 children [are] possibly involved in the sex trade,” says Joshua Pepall, technical advisor to World Vision’s Trauma Recovery Project, speaking about children in Cambodia.

The sex industry is especially harmful to children, who are in high demand. Pepall explains that children are seen as cleaner, more complacent, and easier to control and manipulate. “Their families are poor,” says Pepall. “They come from the provinces and they get into this cycle of debt, and actually all they want to do is help their family.”

Reunited

In the time that Ka was missing, her mother, Phea*, traveled more than 260 miles in search of her. “[I went] to different places to search for my daughter...sometimes, I slept on the street,” says Phea. “My best friend [during this time] was alcohol — I cried myself to sleep every day because [I found] no sign of her year after year.”

After four years of separation, Ka’s stepfather found her at the center when his son-in-law, a World Vision staff member, discovered she was there.

Story continues after video...

Lingering fear

Ka's story tragically reflects the stories of millions of other children who are trafficked each year for forced labor, sexual abuse, or other exploitation in Cambodia and elsewhere.
Ka's story tragically reflects the stories of millions of other children who are trafficked each year for forced labor, sexual abuse, or other exploitation in Cambodia and elsewhere.
Photo ©2009 Heidi Isaza/World Vision
The owners of the brothel where Ka last worked have been sentenced to eight years in jail. But because they are in powerful circles, Ka was concerned that they may seek revenge if they were released. “I was the master of the plan to break down the brothel...they would kill me if they found out where I was,” Ka says.

It is not easy for the traffickers to find her, now that she is far from where they are serving their prison terms. But she still fears that someone might recognize her. “I am always very careful when going out...it could be [one of] my previous customers or whoever knew the brothel’s owners. I don’t talk to strangers, nor do I go out alone,” Ka explains.

World Vision’s Trauma Recovery Center works closely with the district social affairs officer in Ka’s community, who visits every month to see how she and her family are doing. If he suspects any danger, he informs the authorities.

Starting over

At World Vision's Trauma Recovery Project, Ka received counseling and vocational skills. Here, she learns how to craft necklaces and bracelets.
At World Vision's Trauma Recovery Project, Ka received counseling and vocational skills. Here, she learns how to craft necklaces and bracelets.
Photo ©2009 Heidi Isaza/World Vision
Ka is still adjusting to life with her mother after more than four years apart. “It first [felt] strange because I got used to living with many other girls,” she says, adding that she now loves being with her mother more than anything else.

The young woman now has a job as a chef’s assistant. “The priority is to help my parents to live in better conditions,” she says. “When I save up enough, I will continue studying how to read and write. So, in five years I will open my sewing shop.”

'He wipes away all the bad things'

As Ka continues to recovery emotionally, she looks to God for comfort.

“I have a bad dream almost every night,” she says. “I pray to Jesus, then he wipes away all bad things in my dream and I can sleep. I can witness [to] people about the amazing thing God has been doing in my life.

“When I was in the center, I made a pledge with God. [I said] ‘Lord, if you are really doing something in my life, assure me that I will meet...my mother one day.’ Now, you can see how God responds to my pledge. It’s truly amazing.”

*Names have been changed to protect the identity and dignity of the mother and daughter.

Learn more


>> Read more about child trafficking and World Vision’s efforts to stop this tragic practice.

Four ways you can help

>> Pray for those working to assist children and other vulnerable individuals who have been trafficked. Pray for a transformation of the perpetrators of this crime. Pray also for protection and healing for those who have been exploited through trafficking.
>> Call your senators today to voice your support for the Child Protection Compact Act (S. 3184).
>> Donate now to help provide hope for sexually exploited girls like Ka. Your gift will offer assistance like medical care, safe shelter, nutritious food, education, trauma recovery counseling, and more.
>> Give monthly to help provide assistance for exploited children like Ka. Your monthly gift will help fund interventions like safe shelter, food, healthcare, trauma recovery assistance, and more for children left most vulnerable by trafficking and abuse.

Forward to a friend


Learn more

Read more about child trafficking and World Vision’s efforts to stop this tragic practice.

Four ways you can help

Pray for those working to assist children and other vulnerable individuals who have been trafficked. Pray for a transformation of the perpetrators of this crime. Pray also for protection and healing for those who have been exploited through trafficking.
- -

Call your senators today to voice your support for the Child Protection Compact Act (S. 3184).
- -
Donate now to help provide hope for sexually exploited girls like Ka. Your gift will offer assistance like medical care, safe shelter, nutritious food, education, trauma recovery counseling, and more.
- -
Give monthly to help provide assistance for exploited children like Ka. Your monthly gift will help fund interventions like safe shelter, food, healthcare, trauma recovery assistance, and more for children left most vulnerable by trafficking and abuse.

 





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