27 Apr Beauty For Freedom Workshops with Together1Heart
Beauty for Freedom Workshops with Together1Heart
When Art Brings Hope and Happiness to Survivors of Human Trafficking
Photographs and Article by Erica Simone
It has been over 6 years since my last visit to Cambodia and I’d let go of the damp memories of the sweltering heat, but failed to forget those of the lionhearted spirits of the Cambodian children. I came to Phnom Penh with the organizations Beauty for Freedom and Together1Heart to bring art therapy and photography workshops to children who have been rescued from a life of human trafficking and sex slavery: to children sometimes as young as 4 years old.
Today, our first day at the center, was quite powerful. After the staff and volunteers, also now known as “sisters”, introduced ourselves, the young girls followed in their own words, expressing gratitude, excitement, and loads of shyness, which didn’t last too long once we all got our hands dirty with camera gear. In the first part of the workshop, we distributed 9 DSLR cameras to pairs of teenagers and after showing them inspirational photographs on a computer, we accompanied them outside to take portraits of each other. For not having access to cameras, I was blown away by the natural talent of some of the girls, who were very quick learners and creative undertakers.There are no photos with those IDs or post 4480 does not have any attached images!
After the workshop, we all shared a lemongrass lunch of rice, chicken and vegetables, sitting Indian-style on the floor of the dining hall and then moved on to watercolor painting with a second group of even younger girls who had come back from school. If there is one thing these girls clearly love to do: it’s paint!
Painting and creating art offers these girls a kind of natural therapeutic expression that comes straight from the soul, without having to find words that would be painful to share. It has been brutally cruel to face the reality that these very young girls, laying on their stomachs with their feet in the air swaying left and right as kids do, with French braids in their hair creating flowers and butterflies made of pink and purple paint, could have once been sold, purchased, bound, assaulted and raped, and at times by more than one man at a time.
Yet, while there is a past of great despair, there is a future of hope. Officially rescued by the center from a life of unthinkable torture, they are presently being well taken care of: they are fed, clothed, sheltered, offered psychological therapy and have access to school and educational programs thanks to the organizations together1heart and AFESIP.
Without the help and donations of volunteers, these young girls might still be somewhere unfathomable, being beaten, raped and tortured. They may seem far from home, but please invite them into your hearts, as we have, and do your best to help them as you would any child in this situation you might come across in your own neighborhood. And while you’re at it, please do keep an eye out in your own communities because human trafficking happens EVERYWHERE