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At work in Phnom Penh

My posts so far have been mostly non-work related. But we have been working. Some of what we are doing involves confidentiality, so the images I can post are limited.

I’ve spent the last few days with a transitional home for girls who have been rescued from child sex slavery. They range in age from 14-19. Three of them have volunteered to tell their stories, and let me film them.

Their stories are heartbreakingly typical: tricked or sold into a brothel, forced to ‘service’ clients all hours of the day and night, regularly beaten or threatened at gunpoint. Friends who tried to run were killed.

Thankfully these girls have been rescued by police or other NGO raids, and have been placed in homes such as this one. Here they find counseling, encouragement, food, shelter, schooling, love, a future. It’s a beautiful contrast to be interviewing a girl in one room, listening to the horror of her young life, while in the background the other girls are laughing and playing and studying. There is hope.

Last night we were given a tour of some of the red light districts here in Phnom Penh: girlie bars (a sleezy one and an upscale one, across the street from each other), slums, brothels. The pathetic thing: these places are filled with foreign white males. It’s said that if these men didn’t come and pay for prostitution, that much of the trade would dry up. It makes me want to walk around taking their photos and posting them on the internet, but there are signs saying ‘no photos’ just for this reason. And there are a lot of guns.

The counseling room, with the girls’ artwork.

One of the girls’ drawings, showing how the brothel owner would beat her if she got out of line.

In school: hope for the future.

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