It’s hard to describe the excitement of 56 small girls as they rushed with open arms to greet us as we got off the bus at the AFESIP Centre in Phnom Penh. Each one wanted to give us a hug, take our hand and eagerly lead us into the Centre to show us around.
The evening started with a traditional dance from some of the school girls, then we sat with them as they shared stories about their lives and experiences. We were then led outside to enjoy a delicious dinner that they’d prepared for us. After dinner we joined them in their games and they squealed with delight as we clapped, sang and danced as part of their play.
When you look into their beautiful faces, it’s difficult to comprehend that each one has been through some unimaginable horror in their young lives. Whether it’s rape by a family member or neighbour, being sold into slavery by a close friend or relative, or something else, these girls have known trauma that we can only imagine.
And yet, when you see them playing and laughing together you know that they’re in a safe and loving place with Somaly Mam and her team at AFESIP, where they are receiving the emotional, educational and psychological help they need to enable them to have a positive and fulfilled future.
During the Immersion Tour, we were able to see first-hand how the support of Project Futures, and companies like Konica Minolta and AirRoad, their employees, customers, family and friends makes a real difference to the lives and futures of these young girls.
One of the many highlights of the trip was having dinner with the young girls who have been through the AFESIP centre, and who are now on their way to University, already studying or recently left and working as staff at AFESIP. They have re-integrated into their communities, and enjoying full and happy lives, thanks to the help and support they’ve received.
On the day we visited the slums, we met women who work the streets to care for their families. Their work is hard and dangerous. They’re among the poorest of people and in many cases have been working in the slums for 10, 15 or 20 years since being trafficked at a young age. And yet, they too were happy to see us, and welcomed us with warmth and kindness. The AFESIP Outreach Program visits them once a month with food, supplies and education. Sina Vann, who is an Outreach Manager with AFESIP says ”I want to make their lives a little easier, to give them a reason to smile, and laugh and give them a small break from their life”.
While each of these visits was different, one thing they all shared was an overwhelming sense of love and gratitude to the people who care enough to help them build a new life after experiencing such traumatic circumstances.
Our trip to the world heritage listed Angkor Wat was spectacular. It is a very special place to visit and as we left the sun was getting low in the sky and the ancient temple was bathed with a warm glow.
All of these unique experiences make the Corporate Immersion trip incredibly worthwhile, but it’s also the friendships formed with colleagues that make it really special. This year we had ten participants, from Konica Minolta as well as AirRoad. We enjoyed sharing this special time together and it was a trip we’ll never forget.
Thank you to all Konica Minolta colleagues and customers, friends and family who generously donated over $25,000 for our Immersion Trip to support young girls and women in Cambodia affected by sex trafficking, abuse and exploitation. Your kindness will change lives and provide hope for a bright future. This fundraising is in addition to the annual donations made by Konica Minolta and AirRoad as well as recurrent workplace giving donations from employees, so our support is making a real impact to young lives and communities in need.
If you would like to make a contribution please head to the Project Futures website to make a donation & help us transform lives.