Human trafficking, exploitation and abuse are serious problems in Cambodia, with women and children being the most vulnerable due to poverty and a lack of education. Victims suffer physical as well as severe emotional trauma, and the recovery process is long. Trust must be developed, battered self-images restored, and literacy and occupational skills learned for societal reintegration. Without adequate support, victims are highly susceptible to re-exploitation.

To help address these issues, Family Care Cambodia (FCC) has been assisting the Cambodian Center for Protection of Children’s Rights (CCPCR) since 2004, which rescues and then helps young victims recover in a safe and nurturing environment. FCC sponsors the monthly rent, internet, and salaries for the English, computer and dance teachers for the rescue shelter in Phnom Penh Thmey which houses 50+ girls. Several years ago FCC facilitated the complete renovation of the building and construction of a second floor, and has continued to work with donors to improve the facility, grounds and standard of care provided for the girls.

Project manager Ann Soldner, a certified Trauma and Grief Counselor and the recipient of TLC’s “Trauma Consultant Supervisor of the Year 2013 Award”, serves on the advisory board of the CCPCR. She provides twice weekly expressive art therapy classes aimed at addressing psychological and emotional needs and building resilience in traumatized children. These involve a variety of arts and crafts projects, music, games, story-telling, drama, and lots of laughter! The creative process involved in artistic self-expression and play helps children develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, resolve conflicts, and reduce stress. Overcoming trauma and building resilience increases the ability to develop literacy and numeracy skills and as a result, self-confidence and emotional strength are boosted. This opens the door to finding secure alternative employment and increasing their chances of living a dignified life.