It has already been 2 months since the Senhoa Jewelry Program commenced, and many events have unfolded in that time. It’s been crazy but because we all finish each week with a satisfied smile (and exhausted sigh), it’s a good crazy.
So this is how its chronologically gone down:
At last the 6th of September arrived. The scheduled date for the well-anticipated Program to begin. After a month of recruitment, screenings, planning, market trips, furniture Feng-Shui-ing and resource hunting, we were ready to receive our 18 quivering Lotus Buds.
The Senhoa Lotus Line-up includes:
11 girls from our Partner Shelter- girls over 16 years of age who have been deemed dedicated and behaviorally stable enough to participate. Apparently there was a lot of competition to get into the program because everyone had enjoyed the Summer Camp so much!
And 7 girls from the community- these girls were screened by our extremely devoted Outreach Worker who assessed their family and financial situation and vulnerability into the sex industry.
We began with a 3-day induction where the girls made a pledge of commitment to the program; got a taste for the types of soft-skills lessons they’ll be attending and; played around with practice beads and wire, trying their hand at undiscovered craft work. At the end of their induction, each girl received a long-stemmed lotus bud, marked with their name. Ah, symbolism. Gotta love it.
In the first month of the Program, we had the girls all to ourselves- Public Khmer school had not yet started. The schedule was easily set and we all quickly fell into a routine: each Monday and Thursday was life-skills, Tuesday and Friday was reserved for Jewelry and each Wednesday was computer and PLAY (which I enjoy the most. Any idea how fun it is to watch girly, uncoordinated teenagers catch a ball?)
During that month I celebrated daily. In the words of Anh, Senhoa’s former Country Director, ‘it’s so nice to plan something and have it WORK!’ The girls were enjoying all the lessons, happy to be engaged in something meaningful to them (except ‘play’ when they all suddenly had period cramps and headaches. Teen-aged girls are teen-aged girls everywhere.)
It was an especially exciting time when the afore-mentioned Anh (my Humanitarian Soulmate) and our Creative Director, Jenny Ho, flew all the way from the US of A for an intense training course in professional jewelry making! The girls impressed us with their fast learning! They showed persistence at every task, and mastered their skills quickly. For their efforts, each girl was rewarded with a framed certificate with their full name and picture. The way the girls beamed when they received their frame was absolutely priceless.
Jenny teaching the girls about colour scheming
Showing a few tricks of the trade
SL concentrating on the Indian Princess from the Pavo Collection
Our Lovely Lotuses
But a sad day came when one of our girls from the shelter did not come back from the Khmer holiday Pchum Ben (when Khmer people return to their families to reconnect). Our Lost Lotus had chosen to remain with her family who put food on the table by selling souvenirs outside the public toilets at Angkor Wat. Many attempts have been made to bring her back, but to no prevail. She wants to stay with her family to work so that her younger sister does not have to bear the weight alone. We still see her now and then and know that she’s safe.
These last two months have taught us many valuable lessons about our target demographic. I believe the biggest lesson learnt so far is: despite the past, life moves on. Especially after LL’s sudden departure, the other girls seemed to embrace the program even more. Some of the stories behind these 17 youthful, lively, gorgeous girls’ are of great sorrow and pain. But everyday they come to class with big smiles, funny jokes, and a determination to learn to work towards a more hopeful future.
Thanks for tuning in!
With Love from The Field