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Survivors of Sex Trafficking Shine On at Shine Career School

By Andrea Bailey & Ngin Sam Onn
Survivors of Sex Trafficking Shine On at Shine Career School

Hope for Justice is a global anti-trafficking organization whose mission is to bring an end to modern slavery by rescuing victims, restoring lives, and reforming society. A vital element of our work is providing post-trafficking support and aftercare for survivors, giving them new opportunities and reducing their vulnerability to being re-trafficked.
Absolutely central to this mission are education and skills. That is why Shine Career School was established in January 2011—to meet the educational and career needs of the trafficking survivors helped by Hope for Justice in Cambodia. Such survivors have often had little or no formal education, and any education they have enjoyed has inevitably been disrupted by their trafficking experience.
Trauma-informed education
Shine Career School was created to provide survivors with education, literacy, higher education support, vocational training/support and enrichment, giving them the best chance at a successful future in whatever field they choose. Small classes in a trauma-informed environment allow students to get the specialized and individually tailored academic, career, and emotional support they need in a safe, stable environment.
Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport recognizes and trusts Shine’s programs, and the way they help students whose formal education was interrupted as a consequence of their trafficking. Hope for Justice is the only NGO in Cambodia to have the Ministry’s approval to run an educational program through Grade 10, and will add Grades 11 and 12 over the next two years.
We have memorandums of understanding in place with other government ministries as well, and the Cambodian government has said it would like our school to be a model for other NGO education programs and for the public school system.
Our teachers follow the Ministry curriculum but from a unique, trauma-informed perspective. Concretely, that means individually tailored academic instruction, individual counseling, and vocational training and career preparation so that students may explore their own academic and vocational interests.
This, in addition to equipping them with basic literacy in Khmer and then foundational and advanced education in math, English, Khmer, technology, and more.
Educational challenges
The Shine staff understands the particular challenges that students with a traumatic past can face with respect to learning. These include dissociation, learning disabilities, and behavioral issues. To provide adequate support for such challenges, Hope for Justice employs a dedicated Career and Education Social Worker (school counselor) who focuses on helping students identify goals for the future.
Shine keeps its class sizes small and offers individualized academic, career, and psychosocial support. Students who come to us with low self-esteem and few hopes or thoughts for their future end up learning marketable skills, exploring their innate creativity, and being challenged to engage in unfamiliar learning activities in a safe, caring setting.
Wider setting
The great work taking place at Shine is further enhanced by its place within the wider network of Hope for Justice Cambodia projects. For example, our Lighthouse Assessment Center welcomes girls into care from the very day of their rescue from trafficking for six to eight weeks of immediate crisis support and medical care, as well as family and community assessments.
At the Hope for Justice Dream Home, we provide girls rescued from trafficking aged 13–18 with a safe, loving, full-time place to live until they are ready and able to live again with their families or independently. Our Bridge Project serves to rebuild, strengthen, and restore the relationship between the survivor and her family, community, and society.
Srey’s Story
Srey Maly* had a traumatic and troubled childhood filled with terrifying violence. She ran away from home and got in with a group of friends... but one of them betrayed her, getting her hooked on drugs and using that dependence to sell her into the sex trade.
One of Hope for Justice’s partner NGOs in Cambodia rescued Srey Maly and referred her to our Dream Home, where our team have been stabilizing her aggression and withdrawal symptoms. They also developed an emotional safety plan for her.
Srey Maly has been exposed to things no one should ever have to experience, and still has lots to learn and to overcome. But there’s been a significant change in her attitude recently; she knows how to clear her head and she even reaches out to help her peers who also struggle with aggression. Thanks to the excellent education and advice provided by Shine Career School, she wants to study to become an accountant and really has something to aim for now.
She said: “I think that Shine will help me reach my goal because here, I have accommodation and good teachers. I like it here. I would like to continue my studies and go onto university in Phnom Penh.”
Find out more about Hope for Justice’s projects in Cambodia:
*Name changed to protect identity

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