Growing Girls’ Confidence Through Art & Creative Expression


We all need an outlet for creativity.

Expressing ourselves through the creation of art is one of the most beautiful things that makes us human. And from birth, our imagination stems from a basic understanding that our life, our voice, our very existence matters. Most parents encourage this spark of creativity in their children, cheering them on to keep exploring the limitless possibilities of their imaginations. This encouragement instills an ability for self-expression, which becomes an incredible outlet to help comprehend life’s difficulties as well as joys.

But what happens when you’re told that your purpose is to please others?

When you’re told day after day to hush up and be quiet? That your life is worth nothing? After enough time, you start to believe the lies that build up around you—that you are an object to be desired, with nothing worthwhile to contribute. These lies cage you up from who you truly are, closing all the windows of self-expression. They’re ruthless, desiring nothing more than to cut you off from the beautiful things that make you unique.

This is why art is an important aspect of the recovery process for girls at the Hope for Justice Dream Home in Cambodia. Our home serves girls aged 13-18 who have been rescued from sex trafficking. Our team is dedicated to giving each young life the individualized care needed to help her recover and succeed. We believe every girl who walks through our front doors has something wonderful about her, something worth expressing and sharing. However, because of past experiences and trauma, many young girls find it difficult to believe they could create anything of any value. Our team full-heartedly believes otherwise.

This summer, the girls in our aftercare program took part in an introductory visual arts class taught by Hope for Justice art intern Sunny Zheng.

“Art is almost never considered a necessity. I want to help change that perception because I believe that the power to create and express one’s voice is integral to being a human being. Through this project, the girls will be better equipped to empower themselves through visual self-expression and to explore their own power to create and imagine.” —Sunny Zheng

The summer class provided all the basics of visual arts: observational drawing, perspective, color theory, and painting. The class gave each girl opportunities to experience different forms of art, while also providing time for them to create their own masterpieces.

“I love the art class. Before I wasn’t able to draw. Now I have learned it and I can express myself and my feelings in a different way.” —Dream Home Resident

The culmination of a summer of hard work was an art exhibition at the cultural center, Meta House, in Phnom Penh. It was a celebratory night for each girl to show off her new skills and the progress she’s made. Walking around the gallery, our staff and guests had the privilege to admire the girls’ half-portraits, studies of Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night and Sunflowers, drawings and paintings of still-life flowers, a Jackson Pollock inspired group painting, and individual works done in pencil and watercolor.

“I can’t express my feelings properly—my drawings were hanging on the wall and all my friends, the staff, and guests were admiring them. I was so happy and proud. I felt like a superstar!” -Dream Home Resident

This is why we do what we do: so that each young girl can feel like a star—valued, appreciated, and loved.

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