As a child, Su Su* worked a variety of jobs in Cambodia to help provide for her family, a road that led her into prostitution at the age of 14.
Through a World Vision recovery center, Su Su has learned the skills she needs to follow her dream. Now, she has real plans for her future.
This is her story in her own words.**
When I was 10 and a scavenger on the street and in the markets, there were many beauty salons. I remember looking at the people getting their hair done, and wished I could become beautiful like them.
I am the fourth child of seven. I am 18 years old. My goal is to earn money for my family. Since I was 12, I transplanted rice, climbed coconut trees and sold coconuts, and washed dishes at a street restaurant.
You might wonder why I did these jobs. I come from a poor family and my parents used violence. Before I was 12, I was living with my grandmother.
When I was old enough to earn money for her, my mother brought me back. My grandmother wanted me to go to school, but my mother urged me to find a job to earn money for her.
I worked as housekeeper when I was 13. The husband of the house owner tried again and again to touch my body. When no one was home, he raped me. I told another housekeeper, but I needed to forget because he was very rich and powerful and I didn’t have any proof. I stopped working for that family a month later.
I had no job or money. Then, one of my friends introduced me to man to sleep with. I was scared of getting hurt. And I told my friend “No.” I was 14.
The next day, I visited home and found my father lying in bed with a severe back injury from an old bomb that had exploded while he was burning leaves.
My home had no rice. My younger siblings came back from school and had no food to eat. I felt so much pity for them.
I told my friend that I agreed to sleep with the man for US$50. The next day, I gave that money to my family.
My mother never suspected why I had a lot of money to send to her. She only curses me. But she has never known that I do everything for her.
Next, I worked as a beer girl, and after that, I worked as karaoke girl. When I slept with guests, I got extra money.
Since my family needed help, I slept with guests again and again to send more money home.
Then I got sick. I asked a neighbor about my troubling disease. She brought me to see a doctor, who said I had a sexually transmitted disease.When I slept with guests, I was not afraid of STDs because I didn’t know anything about them. I was only worried about pregnancy. I didn’t know what an STD was until I went to see a doctor.
One day, policemen raided my workplace and I was brought to the police station. Next, they sent me to World Hope Organization. They explained that I am too young to work. They brought me to a hospital to have a blood check. I was crying, I thought that I surely had HIV. But I was HIV negative.
Since that time, I swore not to get involved in the sex trade again.
At first, I didn’t want to stay at the center. I wanted to go back to work. But the love and care of World Hope and World Vision’s staff changed my mind. I love everything in the center of World Vision. They take care of me every day and I feel that they take care of my life because I feel warmth from them. Now I feel confident, unlike before when I felt embarrassed and did not like to talk to other people.
Now, I am able to cut hair, make hair, do nails, and a foot massage. I have learned these skills over a year.
I have plans for my life. First, I will save money. I want to run my own beauty salon. My plan is about helping my family. I will teach my older sisters to have a permanent job. And, if possible, I want to help other trafficking survivors who really want to learn this skill to be able to earn money.
My dream is to have my family living in better conditions. And I wish to see my parents stop using alcohol and stop using violence. Our shelter has almost collapsed. I want them to have a new house. It might make them happy. My parents drink alcohol because they are worried about poverty.
Please pray that my parents will accept God and that we have better living conditions and happiness in the family.
If they know God, they might stop using alcohol and stop violence.
Because of God, I have today. God shows me His Greatness and Goodness.
* * *
World Vision has supported Su Su's family with their basic needs such as rice, fish source, soya source, noodles, mosquito-nets, and pillows. World Vision also built a toilet and rebuilt the house for the family.
*Her name has been changed to protect her identity.
**Adapted from an interview with Su Su.
Millions of children – most of them girls – are enslaved in the global sex trade today. You can help provide Hope for Sexually Exploited Girls. Consider making a one-time donation today!