Our Community-Based Client Care (CBCC) team has been working with survivors for over a decade. They have helped individuals reintegrate back into their communities after trafficking and exploitation situations. Recently, our team organized an amazing new initiative. After multiple clients had commented on their desire to meet and meet other survivors, the team began planning an open forum, comprised entirely of survivors of trafficking and exploitation.
The goal, the team explained, was that “survivors [of human trafficking and sexual abuse] will receive support that will contribute to having a normal life by learning of self-care, finding their new normal emotionally, and giving reassurance to each other in a supportive environment.”
The first day was filled with round table discussion and presentations, and the second day rounded off the event with a day trip to a local zoo and park. The forum itself was structured to give as much quality time together as possible. The first task – breaking the ice! Paired randomly, they spent some time asking about the other person, and after, present about their partners to the larger group, which consisted of 22 attendees and the Chab Dai staff.
After, the forum introduced a fan favorite – writing and preforming skits. Split up into four groups, they were encouraged to act out any scenario they wanted to perform.
“Suddenly, everyone came alive!” One team member recalled.
Through tears of laughter, the groups presented their skits. While all four skits revolved around abuse situations, some about going to the police for help, they reflected a growth within each performer. They were able to take a painful situation, and cope with it in a different medium.
The next activity involved another form of art. Painting a picture of their future plans on a flip chart, each person illustrated what they wanted their families and communities to look like. Slowly, buildings began to take shape - homes, schools, farms, and hospitals were drawn in no time. They were not empty however, animals and people began popping up in a rainbow of colors. The room echoed with laughter at the conclusion, when a contest was held to give awards for the best picture and another for the worst!
The day also held two very important presentations. The first was identifying and drawing a map of resources within their own communities, so that attendees could return home with a renewed sense of security. Relatives, police, teachers, local authorities, and present NGOs – all of these entities can help someone in a time of need.
The second centered around the topic of self-care. After a traumatic event, it can be difficult to identify and regulate emotions. This presentation discussed the daily need to take care of oneself and their families physically – with exercise, good nutrition, and sleeping enough. The need to take care of themselves and their community emotionally, mentally, and socially was also described.
Representatives from the Department of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth, along with persons from the Department of Women's Affairs and the Commune Committee for Women and Children (CCWC) presented about safe migration and seeking out help. Ideas like talking to reliable people and relatives in a time of stress, meditating, and seeing a professional counselor were suggested and explained. To conclude the presentation, the whole room participated in a calming meditation session.
At the end of a long day of laughter and some cathartic tears, every participant was encouraged to give anonymous feedback about the event. A board, flipped around for privacy, was set up in the back of the room. Slowly, every person placed colored stickers in columns, spanning 1 (bad) to 5 (good), rating how much they did or did not like the venue, the food, the forum itself.
Giving a space for survivors to connect and grow helps to promote healing and wholeness. Our team’s mission in to find every tool and opportunity to help with this process for those who are survivors of exploitation and trafficking. CBCC will continue to find and develop ways to support and empower the people they serve on a regular basis, around Cambodia.
The next survivor forum is scheduled for 2019, giving even more survivors the chance to come together and learn, heal, and grow.