This is Sophea.
Sophea grew up at the back of a market. Her life was not easy.
“My mother was cruel and hit me whenever I did something wrong. At times I thought she might not be my real mother because she was so cruel towards me. My father was the only one who showed me love.”
Then one day, the unimaginable happened. A friend of her father’s grabbed Sophea, pushed her into a car and drove her 300 kilometres away. Sophea remembers that moment clearly.
“My father just looked at me, allowing her to take me, without saying a word. To this day, I don’t know if he did that to sell me or to save me from my mother.”
Far from being saved, Sophea’s abuse became even more severe in her new home. Kept in slavery by the woman who took her, Sophea was not allowed to go anywhere and was not given enough food to eat. She was only four years old.
“I just wanted to be like a normal child, going to school with loving parents.”
For years, Sophea was moved between the homes of the woman’s extended family. Everyone was violent towards her – even the children. While they would go to school, she was forced to take care of the cows in the field.
Sophea tried to run away many times but each time the family would catch her and become more violent towards her. She even tried to commit suicide by jumping out of a window. Thankfully, she did not succeed.
Despite all she had to endure, Sophea was an incredibly strong young girl. One day, she took one of the children’s bicycles and pedaled as fast as she could for as far as she could. Eventually, she was stopped by some people who said she was too young to be riding alone in the dark. They took her to the village chief, who felt compassion for Sophea and allowed her to stay in his home.
Once again, the family tracked her down. This time, however, she had the protection of the village chief, who would not allow her to return to more abuse.
“This was the first display of kindness I witnessed from someone since I was born. I felt very light inside.”
Finally, Sophea had escaped from slavery.
Two months later, after asking the government which organisation could help Sophea, the village chief referred her to Hagar.
“When I first came to Hagar, I was so happy. Happy to escape a life of violence and running away. Happy that I had found a safe place. At Hagar, I found parents who loved me and gave me a chance to go to school. I finally got what I always wanted.”
Of course, that was just the beginning of Sophea’s long journey to healing.
“It’s been 12 years since I first came to Hagar and my life has changed a lot. Through Hagar’s help, I was able to finish primary and secondary school…. Through the years, my passion to help girls like me has become stronger.”
Sophea is now in her final year of university. She is studying to become a social worker. Outside of her studies, she volunteers with a number of charities that work with disadvantaged children. Her strength and resilience is inspirational.
As one of Hagar’s generous supporters, you have played a role in helping Sophea re-write her future. She is so grateful.
“I want to thank every one of you…. If not for people like you who help girls like me, I wouldn’t be here today…. Thank you for walking with me in this journey.”
Sadly, there are so many more girls like Sophea who need Hagar’s help to find hope for a new future. Cambodia has the highest prevalence of slavery in the world, after North Korea and Uzbekistan. We need your help urgently to turn this around.
This Christmas, would you join us and make a donation to help young girls like Sophea recover from the horror of slavery?