“Channa” was 14 when she was sent to Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh to earn extra income for her mother’s medical treatments. Desperate for work, she found a job at a bar.
Channa had always refused lewd offers from male patrons, but when her family continually pressured her to earn more, she thought she had no alternative. For a full year, Channa engaged in commercial sex work and desperately wanted out. Neighbours began looking down on her. And her dreams of a happy future seemed spoiled. “I thought I was an animal, a slave,” she said.
Thousands of Cambodian women are forced into such work every year. A lack of opportunities for education and skills training, the result of decades of civil unrest and instability, leave them with few options to support their families.
Samuel Heng of Daughters, our local partner says that cultural norms contribute to the problem. “Many girls believe that the more they sacrifice for their parents and family, the better their next life will be. They say
parents are like a second god – Buddha is the first, parents are the second. So you should serve your parents like you would serve god.”
Samaritan’s Purse is working with Daughters to give these women a way out. The ministry runs a safe house and provides vocational training in sewing, cooking, fabric painting, cake decorating, card and jewellery making.
Channa now works as a cake decorator, with a special expertise in making delicate sugar flowers. Perhaps the sweetest part of her story is that Channa has found new hope and peace in her faith in Jesus Christ. “When I prayed, I felt a peace in my heart,” she says. “I hadn’t felt that before.”
Channa goes to weekly church services and has found a community that provides encouragement and support. “I feel that a lot of people love me at Daughters, that I have a big value and a lot of hope,” Channa said. “Before I had a big family, but with no love, no peace. Now I have a good father – God.”