Thyda never knew her mother and father. She had never experienced the love and warmth of a family. Thyda is only 22 years old but a mother to a 6-year-old child, Channey. Thyda was brutally raped when she was 16.

When Thyda was born, her mother abandoned her, and left her in a rubbish bin. She was not part of her mother’s plan; her mother worked as a Cambodian sex worker in Thailand.

“It was so painful for me that my Mother just threw me away in the rubbish bin. I’ve never seen her and my Father before.”

Lost and found, Thyda was sent to a shelter across the Cambodian border. However, she did not receive much care from the housemothers. Thyda was forced to work at a young age and did not go to school. As young as 7, Thyda was already working to earn her own keep, cooking and cleaning people’s houses.

When Thyda was 16, she was invited to attend an English class. She was so thrilled by the chance as she enjoyed learning. One day, her classmates invited her to attend a concert in a nearby province. On her way home with two other classmates, she was stopped by three men and was brutally raped while her classmates escaped unscathed. Fear and shame overcame her quickly and she didn’t dare to tell anyone after the attack. Adding on to the trauma, she realised six weeks later that she was pregnant with Channey.

Discovering the pregnancy, the housemother at the shelter was furious and kicked her out of the house. Abandoned once again, Thyda roamed the streets and sought refuge at night markets where she slept and scavenged for food in the rubbish bins. One day, the police found Thyda and sent her to a NGO who later referred her to Hagar. She was already 5 months pregnant then.

Hagar helped Thyda to prepare for the coming of her baby girl, and she decided that she wanted to keep the child. During the months leading up to the birth of her baby, Hagar helped Thyda to pursue justice against her perpetrator. She felt afraid at the thought of facing him, but her counsellor helped her along each step of the way.

“Malin (my counsellor) from Hagar came with me and held my hand. That gave me strength, and I had the courage to confront him in court.”

The rapist was eventually sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment.

Surviving a long and agonising 3-day labour, Thyda finally gave birth to Channey. To help her gain independence, Hagar started training her in different vocational skills and found her a job. Currently, she’s working at a guesthouse that hosts visiting mission teams to Cambodia. Thyda manages the guesthouse all by herself; keeping the guestrooms spick and span, cooks all the meals for the guests, and takes them out on sightseeing tours. A hardworking worker and a keen learner, Thyda finds great fulfillment in her job. On her only rest day, Thyda brings Channey with her to church on Sunday where she volunteers her time to teach other needy kids. The opportunity to bring hope to other exploited women drives her to share her personal story with people she meets.

Her greatest worry now is Channey and the constant pain in her legs. A daily torturous routine, the child would wake up every night screaming because of the excruciating pain. Over the past five years, Thyda has taken Channey countless times to the Cambodia hospitals to seek treatment but the doctors could not diagnose the problem. Thyda works six days a week, 15 hours a day from 5am to 10pm, so as to support Channey’s medical needs.

“Even though life is hard, my child is not a curse. Without her, I wouldn’t have known God and found my reason for living.”

The child has had two surgeries on her ankles but the pain and occasional immobility persisted. From the last consultation, the Cambodia doctors concluded Channey would eventually become paralysed in a few years’ time.

At this time of writing (9 September 2018), Channey is currently in Singapore seeking specialist treatment. Coupled with her leg issue, there are complications involving her bladder function.

Mother and child's arrival at Changi AirportMother and child’s arrival at Changi Airport
Channey recovering from sedation for MRI Channey recovering from sedation for MRI

Over the last seven days, Channey was seen by a team of specialists to investigate her spine and nerve conditions and her infrequent urination issue. Diagnosed with Spina Bifida, a congenital disorder, the scans showed that the child’s backbone failed to join together at the bottom of her spine causing tethered cord and abnormal stretching of the spinal cord. If early intervention through surgery is not done, Channey will gradually lose the ability to walk and die at a young age.

The costs of the surgery, treatment and post-operation support is estimated at around $40,000. The hospital and attending specialists have been extremely supportive by waiving and subsiding as many treatment costs as possible.

Hagar Singapore has committed to proceed with the operation even though we do not yet have the funds. While such elevated medical treatment is outside of Hagar’s standard provision of care, there is no way to turn our backs because the value of Channey’s life is one that we can never put a price on.

Hagar pursues the highest degree of care and protection for each of its clients. To protect the identity of our clients, names have been changed and images do not necessarily represent the individual profiled.

Your donation will go towards funding Channey’s upcoming operation on 17 September 2018 and her post-operation support.

Thank you for giving this child a chance to live on.

Your donation will go towards funding Channey’s upcoming operation on 17 September 2018 and her post-operation support.

Thank you for giving this child a chance to live on.

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