The recovery to wholeness

Nicole Scott, a short-term fellow at Hope for Justice Cambodia, spent time during October 2016 introducing the students at Shine Career School to a variety of enjoyable, stress-relieving and confidence-boosting fitness and mindfulness techniques. During the programme, the students took part in new and exciting activities while developing their personal confidence and skills. This process helps each survivor feel supported, encouraged and empowered throughout their the long-term journey of restoration. Below are Nicole’s thoughts, as told to Josephine Rees, on why her trauma-informed fitness and mindfulness course is having such a positive impact on survivors.

The journey to wholeness

In a very simple way, a common denominator of trauma is a disconnect from our bodies and a reduced capacity to be present in the here and now.

By discovering resources that help us to re-engage with our bodies in healthy and healing ways, we can incorporate a number of guides to help us on a recovery to wholeness.

Yoga, trauma-informed fitness and mindfulness are beautiful and well-proven outlets. They help re-engage our bodies and invite a sense of understanding, self-compassion, and encouragement into present-moment experiences. They can help to provide systematic ways to begin re-establishing feelings of well-being.


“After today’s morning sessions of fitness and yoga, we did an enrichment session. We focused on grounding ourselves, working with our breath, cultivating mindful moments when we are stressed or anxious and how that feels in our bodies. The girls shared what worked for them and described how breathing and exercise makes them strong and comfortable. I am in awe of their resilience and the work they do every day. I’m so proud of them for going within and finding the words to share with others. Their smiles and giggles warm my heart.”

I always played sports as a kid and was a fitness instructor for years. I’ve come back to wanting to teach fitness in the past year but with a very different emphasis.

As I’ve gone through many injuries and dealt with my own set of traumas, I’ve had quite the evolution of my own fitness and wellness routines with a renewed understanding of the role they can play in my life.

Meeting Hope for Justice

I had the opportunity to become connected to Hope for Justice through a serendipitous encounter with James and Athena Pond at Dogeared headquarters in Culver City, California. After some great conversations it seemed like a great fit to see what we could pool together. After many chats with Stacy Biggs, Hope for Justice Country Director in Cambodia, we started to come up with some ideas that could tie in physical fitness elements with the programs they currently have running with the girls. The hope is always to be able to add any type of value while also creating a valuable learning experience.


“Today we came together to find a safe common ground in life. It showed up in our unified laughter, barefoot moments, sweating to exercise and breathing in yoga. They showed up and I had the profound opportunity to join them on their journey today. To hold space for them and their journey in my heart. My heart is so full and I am beyond thankful for these moments with such amazing, resilient, strong and wonderful young girls.”

While it’s such a short time and a portion of it truly must be spent getting to know the girls and teams, the goal is to ultimately provide options that can be integrated into the current programs and systems.

There’s an established relationship with some fitness centers here in Cambodia, so the goal we’ve been working on is how to bridge the gap between getting the girls to those fitness centers and having more routine and creating a baseline of activities that the staff who are there with them day-in, day-out can incorporate. I hope to begin establishing workable options that the staff and girls can use long after I’m gone that create some baseline options to help the girls become stronger and more empowered.

Today with the girls we did an exercise on 'what we like about ourselves'. Such a simple question yet interesting how it's a shared struggle among us all to write down eight things you like/appreciate/love about yourself. I'm in awe of the resilient beauty present in these young girls.

“Today with the girls we did an exercise on ‘what we like about ourselves’. Such a simple question yet interesting how it’s a shared struggle among us all to write down eight things you like/appreciate/love about yourself. I’m in awe of the resilient beauty present in these young girls.”

I so deeply admire the work that the teams here in Cambodia are doing in such a restorative way. It’s a phenomenal opportunity for me to learn as well and that’s really exciting.

“I cannot share the details of these beautiful girls. I can’t share names, or detailed stories of their survival. I can’t show the details of their beautiful smiles or the differences in their laughs. This is a time in life I’d argue that details are not the difference. How they’ve come together individually and as a group is what’s unique and great and worth sharing.”

Members of the Hope for Justice Cambodia team. From left: Nicole Scott; Storytelling & Teaching Intern, Josephine Rees; Country Director, Stacy Biggs; Legal and Social Work Director, Long Sola

It’s wonderful to be here with Hope for Justice and its amazing team. A big thank you to everyone here for really making me feel so welcome and helping me to get adjusted to life and the ebb and flow of things out here in Phnom Penh.

About Nicole

Nicole was born and raised in Hawaii, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Sport Science from Oregon State University. She is in the final year of her master’s programme in Social Entrepreneurship and Change at Pepperdine University, California, and has over 10 years of professional experience in the health and wellness industry.

Words and photography: Josephine Rees and Nicole Scott