Survivors plan for their futures

Shine school has welcomed a new member of staff to help survivors of trafficking plan for their futures.

Chantha Chum joined Hope for Justice’s team in Cambodia last month as the Career and Education Advisor. She is based at Shine Career School, which is part of Hope for Justice’s rehabilitation programme in Cambodia for girls rescued from trafficking.

Chantha’s role is to support and advise the students as they make choices about their future education and careers. She said: “I have been meeting with the girls individually to discuss with them their future opportunities and what studies they should be doing for their future plans. I feel like I’m getting to know them and have been working out which girls need more of my time at the moment.

“Some of the girls already have strong plans about what they want to do. I find out from the girls what they are passionate about, and then make sure they have a plan.”

The older girls at Shine have the opportunity to go into further education but, being survivors of trafficking, many of the girls have missed out on years of education and catching up with their peers on an academic level can be extremely challenging.

Many do vocational training with a business or organisation – one of Hope for Justice’s partners in Cambodia. Chantha said: “I have been getting to know the partners we work with and am also trying to find new partners.”

Shine student Leak* is one of the girls who has received Chantha’s help so far. The 17-year-old, who has trained as a yoga instructor and is a talented cook, said: “She asked me to tell her about what I wanted to do. She made some suggestions and is going to help me look for work. It was helpful and I think it will be good for the other girls as well.”

Chantha grew up in Kampong Thom Province in Cambodia but moved to Phnom Penh in 2006 to study psychology at university.

Since then she has worked as a counsellor and a social worker with various organisations, including ones which help boys and girls who have been sexually exploited; homeless children; and women who have been victims of domestic abuse.

Chantha said: “I think there can be a stigma about mental health problems. Some people try to hide the fact they are seeing a counsellor or therapist, because they are worried about the judgement from other people that they are mentally ill. Also they want to show that they are strong and do not really need the help from the counsellors or therapists.”

*Name changed to protect identity

Story by Aly Walsh