09 April 2013

Economic Re/integration for Survivors of Trafficking in Cambodia

by Julia Smith-Brake, a member of our team in Cambodia

Chab Dai's 2012 Butterfly Reintegration research report is now downloadable online! We are only 3 years into the 10-year research on the reintegration of survivors of sex trafficking, but there are already some emerging trends and fascinating issues to report on.

One section of this year’s report is on economic reintegration, with survivors’ perspectives on education, vocational training, employment, family financial responsibilities, migration, and poverty. Something I love about this research project is it prioritizes the voices of survivors’ themselves, instead of telling their stories for them.

So what better way to share the main findings from the research than with direct quotes from some of our participants?

On sacrificing for opportunities:
“I prefer to live with my family but I stay longer in the shelter to get my education.”
– Female participant in a shelter program
On desiring appropriate vocational training:
“I want to learn Computer and English language. Beauty salon skill is not enough for me, I want to learn more. If I don’t know how to use computers and English, it will difficult to find a good job in the future. I don’t have a choice so that’s why I learn beauty salon now, but then I want to learn IT and English.”– Female participant in a residential training program
On poverty:
“I feel being poor is complicated.”– Female participant who declined assistance
“For the poor like us, our children didn’t have intelligent games to play. The poor children just played outside and then go to collect the recycling items [scavenging]. Then they become friends with bad friends so their lives are terrible.”– Female participant in a community-based assistance program
On hopes for the future:
“So far, I just want to work in a suitable workplace. I want to save money. When I have saved a lot of money, I can dismantle one store in front of my house and then I can sell groceries. I want to have such a life in the future. I can live peacefully with my family. That’s what I like ... My mother wants me to sell food there but I am not interested in this kind of small business. If I want to run a business, I want to depend on myself. I don’t want to borrow money from others. I am not 50 years old yet, I am still young so I have time to earn a living.”– Female participant in a shelter program 
As you can see, issues survivors are dealing with are difficult and complex. The above quotes are much better understood in the context of the quantitative and qualitative analysis of the report, and I invite you to read further by downloading the report here

04 April 2013


Written by guest blogger Miranda Kerr, currently volunteering for Chab Dai in Cambodia.

This week in Cambodia, a report was released stating that an Australian-run orphanage had been shut down in an emergency response to human trafficking and abuse (you can read the article here SISHA - Emergency Shutdown).

Before leaving this year, friends would sometimes confuse my plans of working in a school with 'Miranda's trip to an orphanage in Cambodia'. Without taking any offense that my friends didn't know my actual plans (well actually Jemma, I regularly took offense that you couldn't get it right), this little sentence made me cringe inside and I instantly felt the need to say 'no, no - I'm not working in an orphanage'. Why?

Here's why

Cambodia's tourism has been booming over the last few years. People are coming here to see the the stunning and ancient temples in Siem Reap, to learn more about the Khmer Rouge regime in Phnom Penh's museums and to soak up the sun and beach down south in Kep. Most come here with the best intentions and when they arrive, the poverty they face draws them to say something along the lines of 'I need to do something'. Keen to help this war-torn country, increasing numbers of tourists are now also working as volunteers.

Unfortunately, well-intentioned volunteers have helped to create a surge in the number of residential care homes (orphanages), tempting impoverished parents with promises of an education and western-style upbringing. In 'worst cases' these children are 'rented' or even 'bought' from their families because they are perceived to be of more value by earning money pretending to be a poor orphan than studying and eventually graduating from school. Parents 'willingly' send their kids to these institutions believing (through the lies they are told) it will provide their child with a better life. Unfortunately in very many cases, it won't.

Orphanages rely on donations and know that the more children they have in their care, the more 'at risk' and 'in need' they are and therefore, more likely to receive funding. Unfortunately, in many of these institutions (but not all), very little of the money donated will ever actually assist the children who will remain living in sub-standard conditions. The orphanages have also relied on the big hearts and curiosity of tourists who are invited into the facility and asked to stay and play with the children.

I get it. I once did that. 

In Hoi An, Vietnam - my friend and I visited an orphanage run by an Irish woman that we'd heard about at a local cafe. It was a warm and fuzzy sort of experience at the time. Cuddling little children and playing games with them before sharing the lychees we'd purchased as a gift before entering. We'd left a donation at the end of the day and (as 19 year olds on our first trip through South-East Asia) promised that we'd return. 

We didn't - and it's taken me 7 years now to reflect on that experience. 
The 19 year old me walked away thinking that somehow I'd made a difference in the lives of those kids. I'd put a smile on their face. I'd given them fruit. I'd given them love, hope, blah blah - who knows what I thought I gave them. 
Really - a stranger, speaking a foreign language, entered their home, took photos, gave them food, held them, waved goodbye and never returned. 
When would that ever be OK in Australia? Or anywhere?

This is SUCH a massive topic and debate for people working with vulnerable children and victims of human trafficking here in Phnom Penh, and mixed in with the heat - doesn't take much to get the blood boiling when reports like the one released by SISHA this morning come out.

Below is a little more information on orphanage tourism. Please, please, PLEASE consider these things before you embark on any journey that may lead you to visiting or volunteering in an orphanage.

Orphanage Tourism - ChildSafe Network This document seeks to assist travelers and volunteers in finding a way to contribute, yet avoid situations or actions that may lead to child exploitation. Certain 'tourist attractions' such as orphanage tours exploit children's vulnerabilities. 

ChildSafe Questions and Answers

Blog post borrowed from Miranda's personal blog, My Traffick Jam.