We have been busy with the projects and all goes well with both the Girl’s Home extension and the construction of the floating mobile health clinic, we will update them soon.
We have a story about a girl, Srey Poan, whom we have known for several years. On Christmas Day we received a call from You Vath, who runs K.I.D.S. Girl’s Home; she was very concerned as Srey Poan, whom You Vath has known and worked with for years had gone to the Thai/Cambodian border to find work. The sixteen year old has lived most of her life in street children’s centres and protection centres/orphanages; she is lovely and very bright. KIDS has been supporting her with English lessons for quite awhile. We were all very disturbed to hear that she was in the border town of Poipet, a difficult place where human trafficking is common and many problems exist, especially for young women. Srey Poan had called her friend at the Girl’s Home from Poipet to say she was very unhappy and had been working selling used clothes all day as well as being used as her employers housekeeper and babysitter until late in the evening. A month after starting work she had not been paid and was told she could not leave until she paid back the debt of her transport to Poipet (only $40.00).
We decided that we would head out in the morning to find her and bring her back. On Boxing Day we rented a taxi to drive us the 250 kilometres to the border. You Vath had also brought along Srey Poan’s mother, who lives in poverty with her other 4 children in the country side. The mother was forced by poverty to give Srey Poan up many years ago as she could not feed or educate her and felt she had a better chance in the city. Srey Poan’s mother arrived wearing the only clothes she had, very worn and filthy pyjamas, the baby also had little to wear. You Vath lent the mom pants and a shirt and the seven of us crammed into the small Camry and off we went. As we traveled along it became evident that we did not really know where the girl lived or worked and so the task of finding her looked fairly daunting, as Poipet is a fairly large city, however in true Cambodian style there was a belief that we would find her. You Vath spent most of the trip on the phone following leads as to where Srey Poan may be working and living but we had no solid information, other than she could be working in one of the local markets in Poipet. When we arrived in Poipet we went to the main market and walked around looking for her without luck. After some time You Vath discovered the phone number of where the girl was living. Srey Poan’s mother phoned and asked to see her daughter and we found out that the girl was over the border selling clothes in a market in Thailand and would be home in the late afternoon.
With several hours to kill and no choice but to wait, we took the mother and child and outfitted them with new clothing and bought diapers for the baby and then took them to a restaurant, as they had not eaten for awhile. We went to the house at around 5 o’clock and found Srey Poan, who was very happy to see friendly faces and quickly gathered her few things to come with us. The owner of the house had obviously been alerted to our arrival and sat us down and went into a long tirade about how the girl should not be leaving as she had not worked off her debt and made a big show of paying her 5 dollars for the month of work. We listened quietly and then took Srey Poan and left, much to our relief. We squeezed Srey Poan in the back seat with the other five of us and headed back to Siem Reap. On the long and uncomfortable ride home, in the pitch black on a dangerous highway, Srey Poan told us stories about how hard she had to work. Each day with no money she had to make her way over the border, past the casinos, clubs and worse to sell clothes in the border markets of Thailand. She had left her pervious living situation at the orphanage/protection centre due to a staffing change and difficult living conditions; forced with no other option than to try and support herself she tried to find work and obviously fell into the wrong hands. So many young women are sold into servitude or prostitution here and are often never seen again by family and friends, she was lucky. Srey Poan’s mother went back home to her small rice crop that has recently been ruined by floods but she was relieved, that the daughter she cannot support is now protected and safe. We will buy the mother a bike so she can commute to the nearest village and try selling some vegetables to help her other children and see if we can assist her in any other way.
The population of the Girl’s Home has now grown by one. The next day when we saw Srey Poan she was arm in arm with her friend and smiling from ear to ear, she is now safe and back in school. A happy ending, a new year and a new beginning for her.
On the eve of this new year we thank you for your support and generosity, we wish you much love happiness, health and peace for the year ahead.
All the best
Adrianne and Rick