At #321 Sisowath Quay (aka the Riverside) in Phnom Penh, there is an awesome shop / cafe / spa called Daughters of Cambodia Visitor Centre. Here you can learn all about the amazing work Daughters is doing in the city of Phnom Penh and the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Launched in 2010 to provide training for their clients (term used for women leaving the sex industry and gainfully employed by Daughters) in customer service industries. There are 20 clients currently employed at the Visitor Centre, with positions ranging from head chef to business manager to barista. With the additional opportunity for visitors and tourists to support Daughters and learn what the organization does to support the freedom of women (and their families) leaving the sex industry.
The Boutique is located on the ground floor of the Visitor Centre and showcases all the clients’ beautiful work. Every item sold in the Boutique is produced at Daughters Operations Centre, located in the heart of Phnom Penh’s red-light district. It’s at the Operation Centre where young women and men who were formally trafficked into the sex industry are able to start a new life. (This is also my main office, where I go to work most days.)
Daughters beautiful products include fashion accessories, t-shirts (for men, women and children), children’s toys, accessories, jewelry, home furnishings, wooden ornaments and Christmas decorations. (I’m slowly decorating my new apartment with Daughters products. Right now my favorite thing is the 4th of July bunting they have. I’ve got a little bit of America hanging in my room.)
The Sugar N Spice Cafe offers a cool, relaxing environment in which to enjoy a respite from the Phnom Penh heat and dust, with a cup of premium coffee or a refreshing fruit smoothie. Treat yourself to an indulgent brunch or lunch, or a sumptuous homemade treat, like the famous gooey, chocolate browning.
(I’m currently in the process of eating my way through the entire menu. My current favorite item is the chicken quesadillas. This is the only place in Phnom Penh that serves homemade salsa and guac so far.)
The ambiance is unbeatable, with a serene, stylish, interior design overlooking the tranquility of the Tonle Sap River. The cafe has free wifi, air conditioning and unbeatable prices.
At the Hands N Feet Spa, weary travelers in need of some relaxation will find just what they are looking for. They offer an array of manicures, pedicures, and massages for the hands, feet, head, and shoulders.
Daughters of Cambodia exists to empower those trapped in the sex industry in Cambodia to walk free and start a new life, with healing, dignity, and the means to prosper. Daughters of Cambodia aims to help at least 100 girls each year to permanently walk free from sex-work, and to experience psychological healing and quality of life. They teach their clients how to sustain their new life-styles in non-institutional settings, and provide recovery programs including social work, counseling, medical treatment and life-skills classes.
“In that brothel I felt I was in hell and would never get out, I thought I would die there and never return home. It was beyond my belief that I had become a sex worker. I felt so hopeless, so worthless, without value. I stayed locked in that brothel for one year.”
They are motivated by the belief that Jesus is the Light and the Hope for the World. Isaiah 61: 1-3 summarizes the ministry of Jesus Christ and says, “the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners….to comfort all who mourn…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
Commercial sexual exploitation of children and young women and men in Cambodia has escalated over the last decade into what is now an “industry”. In Cambodia, there are several key factors that lead to a girl entering the sex industry, and once there, it is hard for her to leave:
- Social stigma and lack of education reduce alternative job options.
Children want to support their parents financially in order to pay back the debt of being born.
Loss of hope is off-set by the belief that she will earn a better re-incarnation through sacrificing her life to support her family.
Victims are unwilling to live in a shelter due to the loss of dignity/choice and the need to retain existing support networks and family relationships (collectivist-society).
Our clients come to us voluntarily because they are looking for life-change. We are not a shelter and our approach is non-institutionalization. Clients choose where they wish to live, and most choose to remain in the community, where they can maintain relationships with their families and friends.
Instead of creating dependence, we empower our clients, building their internal capacity and providing the external resources they need to change their own lives within their cultural and social contexts. We seek to create changes that are internal, voluntary and sustainable — not imposed. Long-term success is achieved when a client remains out of the sex industry for the rest of her life, supporting herself through dignified, rewarding work and achieving psychological and social health.
Daughters had a dedicated, talented and incredible team of Khmer staff who are assisted by a small number of skilled foreign volunteers, all of whom are passionate about the cause. They work in departments of social services, medical clinics, production of business, design, retail, administration, communications (me!), and finance.
I work at Daughters of Cambodia and can testify to the amazing work they do in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Have you ever been to Phnom Penh? What would you recommend seeing?