Just 13 years old, Thu was forced by her mother to work at a coffee shop in front of a brothel; establishments like the café are known as a stepping stone into sex trafficking and Thu’s parents argued over who would get to sell her virginity to the brothel.
Thu’s future looked very grim—a fate shared by many children of Vietnamese families who fled Vietnam for Cambodia to escape debt or jail time for crimes committed. Cambodia does not welcome these people, and Vietnamese immigrants had great difficulty finding work from 2000 to 2010, a decade of economic downturn for Cambodia’s economy.
Some found work by collecting recycling, selling food, or working construction. Many, however, succumbed to the hopelessness and addictions that often go hand-in-hand with poverty and prejudice. Gambling and alcoholism were coping mechanisms for many Vietnamese people in Cambodia during that time.
The burden then fell on children like Thu to provide for their families’ needs.
That’s why children as young as three could be seen sifting through garbage for recyclable materials. Often, the oldest daughter was expected to care for her younger siblings, while her parents are incapacitated. That’s why few Vietnamese children living in Cambodia in the early 2000s had any education.
When worst came to worst, some parents became so desperate that they sold their children into sex slavery to pay off debt and to fund their gambling, alcohol, and basic needs.
That’s why Work of Your Hand began working with children like Thu.
We were first introduced to the teenager through an international worker who witnessed Thu’s vulnerability and offered her a different employment option that would allow her a dignified means of providing for her family.
Praise God, Thu accepted and began making greeting cards for Work of Your Hand!
During her time with us, Thu came to know Jesus and also began to dream of becoming a teacher. The teenager was able to stay in school and avoided being sold into prostitution because of her work with us.
As the economy improved after 2010 in Cambodia, so too did life for the Vietnamese community where Thu lived.
We are thankful that circumstances have changed for her family.
Please continue to pray for the Vietnamese population in Cambodia. This vulnerable people group faces many challenges and often struggles. Our prayer is that God will provide for their needs and protect them from harm.