21 Nov Fighting Sex Trafficking in Cambodia
Transformation in Svay Pak, the Epicentre of Child Sex Slavery
It once was a dark hall, lined with stalls, each with a nervous young girl sitting on a stiff bed awaiting the introduction of another foreign man. Now, it is a bright room lined with bunk beds, walls decorated with colorful murals, providing a place for kids to safely sleep and play.
It was intended to be a multi-floored hotel, giving men a room to bring their newly purchased entertainment for the night. Now, it is a church, school, and community center, bursting at the seams with life and laughter.
They once were dusty dark streets, paving the way for traffickers to do business and foreign men to easily find young girls. Now, those dusty streets lead the way for children to go to school, families to go to church, the sick to receive care, and the community to have fellowship together.
This is the beautiful story of Svay Pak, the place I have the immense honor of working and serving in each and every day with Agape International Missions (AIM). Svay Pak is a small community 10 km north of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. It has been known to be the epicenter of child sex slavery, where foreign sex tourists and Cambodian men alike go to buy young girls for a night. Even though all of the brothels have been officially shut down, and laws have been put in place against the act of sex trafficking, there remains a lot of work yet to be done. The sex trafficking trade here in Cambodia still exists, but operates under ground and in the shadows. And that is what we are here to fight!
AIM moved into Svay Pak in 2005 and has been fighting sex trafficking in Cambodia ever since. We believe in a holistic approach in this fight, and our programs not only fight trafficking, but also restore victims and transform communities through prevention, rescue, restoration, and reintegration. AIM has taken over many buildings that were previously intended to service pimps and johns, and they’re now used to service the community and provide a safe place for children and youth in Svay Pak.
AIM’s programs include a SWAT rescue team that works in conjunction with Cambodian law enforcement to rescue victims, a Restoration Home that welcomes rescued girls with a healing program and a beautiful safe home, and Employment Centers to aid rescued girls in reintegration and the journey to build a new life. Other prevention programs in Svay Pak include a school for children at high risk of being trafficked, where we provide education and a safe environment during the day; a gym reaching out to young men in the community who are at risk of becoming pimps, traffickers, or clients; as well as a church and community center meeting many other community needs. These are just a few of the programs here at AIM, and we experience miracles through each of them every day!
I personally have the honor of working in AIM’s community outreach school, training local Cambodian teachers and helping them educate and pour into the at-risk-youth in their community. AIM believes in empowering the Cambodians in the community who have a passion to change their country for the better and we work hard to equip these nationals with the skills and knowledge they need in order to do so. I spend my days helping to educate and guide Cambodian young adults in the art of teaching, but they, in turn, end up teaching me so much more! It is incredible to watch them dedicate their lives to those around them and give all they have to serve the needs of their own community. If a student is in trouble, those I work with do not even hesitate to give all they have to help this precious life. I am inspired time and time again by how deeply these people care for their families, their students, each other, and the community as a whole.
The community of Svay Pak that is known by so many to be a dark place, is by far the most loving and brightest place I have ever been. It is here in Svay Pak that I have learned what true service, community, and justice really look like. This community has transformed itself through intentional relationship building and the spreading of the love and message of Jesus Christ!
The fight is not yet over. I have personally encountered several foreign sex tourists who have come through Svay Pak and I have seen evidence of the evil that still exists. But through our rescued girls who are now social workers, through a student who was once abused and now is valued and working hard to achieve his goal of becoming an engineer, and through the staff in all of our programs, I have seen the light, the freedom, and the hope that only Jesus Christ can bring. And that is why we are still here. That is why we are still fighting!
Svay Pak has taught me to not let injustice lead to hopelessness. Instead, let injustice fuel your passions and your steps towards action. Svay Pak has taught me to never give up on a person or a place, but to strengthen your prayers and believe in God’s transforming power! And Svay Pak has taught me that a team bonded together by Christ’s love can conquer mountains that may seem impossible to summit.
So next time you find a person, a fact, or a situation hopeless, please remember Svay Pak. Remember the brothel that is now a safe home for children. Remember the once enslaved girl who is now free and working to free others. And don’t give up. God can restore and He wants to use us to help!
So think of Svay Pak… and keep fighting!
Sophie Wysocki graduated from William Jessup University with a degree in Liberal Studies and a California Teaching Credential. She has worked at Rahab’s House in Svay Pak ever since, training Cambodian teachers and developing curriculums.