When she was a little girl in Cambodia, Somaly Mam was abandoned by her parents, and sold into sex slavery. She was forced to work with other young girls in a brothel. There, the girls were raped and abused. After many years of suffering in silence, Somaly was able to escape. She ran away, not sure how far she could get. By chance, a man who worked for the Red Cross saw her and was able to take her to medical aid. After Somaly was rescued, she dedicated her life to helping other girls affected by human trafficking. Now she has her own foundation with shelters not only in Cambodia, but also in other countries. The Somaly Mam Foundation has saved and rehabilitated over 4,500 girls since its start in 2007 and Somaly is always working to raise more awareness and save more girls.
The Somaly Mam Foundation has legal investigation teams that work undercover to find brothels and identify victims. They then partner with legal forces to extract the victims. Mam also personally seeks out girls on the streets and offers them refuge. The girls are brought to the centers, where they stay until they are fully recovered and able to reintegrate into society. At the center they receive medical and psychological aid. The girls go through many therapies, the most prominent of these being dance therapy. They are educated and taught a practical skills. The shelters work with the community to find jobs for the girls when they are ready to leave, and they reenter the community.
Mam was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2009, and she was featured as a CNN Hero. She received the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation, The World’s Children’s Prize for the Child, Glamour magazine’s 2006 Woman of the Year Award, and has won accolades from the U.S. department of homeland security. She wrote a book called The Road of Lost Innocence in 2008. Keep your eyes peeled, because our member Shiloh will be reading Mam’s book and writing about it in the near future.
Somaly, along with several girls from her shelters travels to various high schools and universities and speaks to raise awareness. She recently came to our school for a presentation. Students and faculty alike were moved and inspired by her and the girls she brought along. Her cause is real and prevalent in our world today. Sex slavery is the third largest industry in the world. It is important for students to learn about this heartbreaking human rights issue so that we can help stop human trafficking. To learn more about Mam’s cause and how you can help, visit her website.
On our end, we will be working to raise money to lend to women in Cambodia and Thailand who are trying to start or expand small businesses. Microlending can offer crucial support to women who seek to rebuild their lives.