News Release

A Donation of Hope and Love for Young Women and Girls in Cambodia 
(ការបរិច្ចាគ​នៃ​ក្តីសង្ឃឹម និង​សេចក្តី​ស្រឡាញ់​សម្រាប់​យុវនារី និង​កុមារី​នៅ​ប្រទេស​កម្ពុជា)

The Church donated equipment and supplies to help young women and girls, who are victims of sexual trafficking, violence, abuse or exploitation, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

ដើម្បីអានជាភាសាខ្មែរ សូមចុច នៅទីនេះ
Church Donation
Church Donation
A handover celebration with AFESIP Cambodia founder, Somaly Mann (center), with girls from the program who show their love with heart gestures. Also pictured is the program director and staff (rear). Humanitarian missionaries Elder Richard and Sister Patricia Gerlach (left) and Church communication missionaries Elder David and Sister McKette Allred (right), from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered with the group to celebrate the donation at the Tom Dy Recovery Center in Phnom Penh on August 24, 2023.© 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Working with Agir pour les Femmes en Situation Precaire (AFESIP) Cambodia, humanitarian missionaries and church leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participated in a handover event on August 24, 2023 at the Tom Dy Recovery Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Various supplies were donated to help young women and girls who are survivors or were at risk of being victims of sex trafficking, violence, abuse, indentured slavery, and exploitation.

The project originated with the assistance of humanitarian missionaries Elder Richard and Sister Patricia Gerlach from the Church, who were able to meet with members of AFESIP Cambodia and identify the need for assistance. The Church's contribution improved the facility's healthcare and efficiency by providing a bio-chemistry machine, a hematology machine, an injection trolley, and a bedside table. The updated healthcare equipment now allows the girls to be tested onsite, without incurring the extra time and expense of traveling with staff to a doctor’s office for testing.

Donated educational supplies included laptop computers, 152 sets of school uniforms and shoes, and 30 bicycles for the elementary students to travel to school. The library was also updated with 200 books, a sofa, chairs, and other furnishings. AFESIP founder and president Somaly Mam said, “I can tell these items were given with love.” She explained that the donated items will help the girls successfully recover, and receive an education and training to help them integrate back into mainstream society.

Translated from French, AFESIP stands for “Acting for Women in Distressing Situations”. As a non-profit organization, AFESIP draws on support from the Cambodian government and private donations to provide recovery, healthcare, psychosocial care, legal assistance, education and training, reintegration, and survivor empowerment network services to its women and girls.

Somaly Mam attended the program held at the recovery center and welcomed guests to the newly renovated facilities, after which young girls in the center performed a short program of beautiful songs and messages. Somaly told of her own experience of being sex trafficked, taken to a brothel, and of her escape. She shared her desire to start an organization to help other victims. “I dreamed of the day that I could start something like this. My mission was to find help for girls that had a similar fate like I was. I started going to brothels and one by one helping girls who had no place to go because their families no longer wanted them,” Somaly said. “It takes five minutes to rescue a girl, but it takes years for her to recover from the traumatization and injury she has gone through.”

Cambodia Humanitarian Project
Cambodia Humanitarian Project
Girls and staff at the Tom Dy Center shared a wonderful gesture thanking the church for the donation by cheering together "I love you" at the handover event held in Phnom Penh on August 24, 2023. © 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

AFESIP Co-Program Director Vann Sina, who is a former victim of cross-border sex trafficking, shared her experiences and the challenges facing the girls. She talked about her role to help teach and empower the girls to talk and get help. “Many people in the community don’t know about the abuse,” Sina said. “The challenge is for the girls to disclose what is inside and get help. It is not like a problem with your skin that you can see.”

The handover event included addresses by several staff members who were previous students at the center. Eighty percent of the female staff of AFESIP Cambodia are survivors. They shared their experiences of how the center has helped them and how they have completed high school and university and have achieved financial independence through sustainable careers. Lingya, a survivor of human trafficking is now a university graduate working on her master’s degree. She also works as the education program manager for the center.

Many of the girls have horrific stories, but with the help of AFESIP Cambodia and the Tom Dy Center, they have found success and hope in the future. They can now support themselves and help others and are no longer victims but empowered survivors.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.