The morning sees us visit the brothels of Phnom Penh, we are today handing our precious baby formula. We note that mothers come far and wide to receive this offering, many of their babies starving hungry and screaming for something to fill their bellies.
We hear the story of one women, sold at the age of 6 or 7 years old and thereafter traded 9 times from trafficker to trafficker. Today, the shame so intoxicating that she can not return home to the region in which her family stem... she has lost connection with all but one of her 7 children. This women situation felt hopeless in so many ways... she was broken and she no longer has the health, energy or desire to make the change.
We hear from a mother of 2 small boys. Due to sickness and the down pouring of rain, she was unable to service customers for the past three days... this means not a morsel of food had crossed the lips of hers or her boys for the same period. Their desperation for food obvious as we hand out cups of noodles... but we walk away knowing their this insufficient for tomorrow is likely to hold the same fate.
We met a mother, caring for a 2-month old baby.... she is breastfeeding. She shares with us that she is aware of her HIV status but as her baby screamed through the night in hunger, with her strapped to her chest as she worked and deterred potential clients, she had to feed her.... this mother weeps as she fears that she has transmitted the disease to her precious baby. We offer formula and refer her for medical assessment.
It was a hard day emotionally. Confronted by one sad story of hopelessness and poverty after another. As we came face-to-face with the customers that were feeling this industry and observed the traffickers gaining.... it was a quiet and emotional return to the hotel.
That evening we visit the AFESIP safe house, this experience more hopefully, happy and healthy then that in the morning. Each of their girls have been rescued, they live safely and have access to the medical care they need, the emotional and psychological support to nurture their recovery and stable education sources to change their life course.
The girls share their talents of traditional dance and we too respond with an Irish jog (taught by our Irish participant Martin the night before). If nothing else, it was an outlet to laugh, connect and share. Re-enforcing that we are all human and we all deserve freedoms, rights and safety.
A truly amazing tour that has connected our group with each other but also the cause and culture of Cambodia. We are privileged to have gained this insight, an authentic and up close and personal understanding of what it means to be trafficked. Hidden in plain sight... chains no longer required or visible but the invisible cage that chocks the human spirit is deeply felt by us all.