Throughout the Month of May we are looking for 30 Sponsors!
Imagine a seed and that seed is a young girl growing up in poverty in Cambodia.
Given the chance to blossom, she has the potential to change the world.
But the likelihood is, she will face many obstacles in either being able to go to school or remain past primary school.
When we founded AusCam Freedom Project our mission was to provide a safe home and programs for young women and girls who had experienced trauma in their lives because of exploitation, trafficking and abuse. Our Transitions Life Home operated for 4 years and cared for many young girls each with their own sad story.
It was hearing those stories over and over again that inspired us to want to do things differently.
Firstly, I want to share one of those stories with you:
Marnie* (Not her real name) is from a large family of 11 children who come from a very impoverished village in northern Cambodia. Her parents worked as seasonal labourers and sadly used alcohol and gambling as a way of coping with life’s adversities. They were in debt and had no fixed home.
When Marnie was 12 years old her mother was approached by a female villager who explained that a fruit seller was looking for staff and that money would be provided as a salary. The woman told her that she would need to take out a loan to pay for her daughter to go and work for the fruit seller. Marnie’s mother agreed as they were desperate for money. Consequently, she was taken out of school and handed over to the villager.
Unfortunately, Marnie’s mother was tricked by this woman who was acting as a trafficking broker which sadly is all too common in poor Cambodian villages.
Marnie had been sold for sex. She was 12 years old.
We heard many stories like Marnie’s over those 4 years. We didn’t want to continue to hear stories after situations like this had already occurred. We wanted their stories to be different. We wanted to do something to PREVENT situations like Marnie's before it happened.
In response to this we changed our whole focus of our organisation and developed our
Freedom Education Scholarship Program for at Risk Girls.
Our move from rescue and restoration to prevention using education as a tool emerged because of our strong conviction that when girls are educated a transformation begins.
We partner with Government Schools and Communities from urban poor communities to find those girls who are at risk of dropping out from the school system because of poverty and the expectation placed on them to work to contribute to the families income.
We are currently working with 5 schools and have 125 girls who are currently safe, supported and empowered through our education scholarships, life skills and personal development workshops, family support, counselling and a Rice Project. For these young girls, they now have stories of hope, stories of a new future.
As part of our Scholarship Program we invite people to partner with us by supporting an individual girl on our program through sponsorship.
For $35 per month, you can also be part of a young girls dream for a hopeful future. You will be matched to a young girl, receive a profile outlining her first name, age a little about her family and importantly what her dreams are for her future.
You can send her letters of encouragement and she will also write back to you. The girls love to make cards at special times of the year to send to their sponsors. It is a wonderful opportunity to witness how you can make a difference in someone else’s life for such a small amount. $1.15 per day.
Will you make a difference in a young girl’s life so they will never have to experience a tragic situation like Marnie?
We currently have 30 girls who are waiting to be sponsored.. She would love to hear from you!
To learn more about our Sponsorship Program and to complete and application
Wow what a 3 months we have just had! Jammed packed with lots of exciting new things, new staff, a new baby for Soknin - our amazing Fiance & Admin Coordinator and the launch of our SHE Project Life Skills Curriculum in to our partnered 4 Government schools. Our adolescent Girls Clubs are really developing with large numbers of girls now attending across the 4 schools.
You can see our impact in numbers below..
We also recently took 4 of our Girls Club leaders up to Siem Reap where they were trained by the Cambodian Chapter of Days for Girls in Menstrual Health and we received 125 kits to hand out to our scholarship girls following peer to peer workshops. So proud of these leaders who show courage and determination to stand up and be counted as young women leaders in their schools and communities.
We also celebrated International Women's Day, had a wonderful time gifting bicycles out to 33 girls through our partnership with Lotus Outreach and hosted a health day in our community centre which was attended by 17 family members and 18 girls who all bravely stood in line to receive vaccinations.
Sadly, we also bid farewell to Jenna our Communications & Marketing Coordinator after 6 months as a volunteer. You may have noticed the quality of the photos and stories that have been coming through of recent times which has been amazing. Jenna is getting married in a couple of months and we wish her well as she begins a new journey.
We celebrated the 5th Anniversary of AusCam Freedom Project in January!
On the 18th of January, 2012 armed with a notebook and pen, Geoff, myself and son Ben sat at a little coffee shop in Dolls Point Sydney and scribed out our vision to see young women in Cambodia given opportunity, choices and freedom. We went and registered our non profit and a week later returned to Cambodia and began the process of developing our partnership with the Cambodian Government and our first program - Transitions Life Centre (TLC Home) for girls. So began the incredible journey of AusCam Freedom Project!
Geoff and I are truly humbled by the support we receive all around the world and watching the growth of our programs and to see our vision come to life through a hardworking, passionate and committed Cambodian Team. They are outstanding and do such an awesome job. And of course the many young women and girls we have had the pleasure to walk beside and are continuing to support through the power of Education. They are the real champions.. fighting for their rights and a hopeful future in often very challenging circumstances..
The Last 3 Months in Numbers...
Huge thanks goes out to all our wonderful supporters. Thanks to your continued generosity and support, these girls are now able to build a solid foundation for a promising future - one that is free from violence and exploitation.
Founder/International Program Director
Today is International Women’s Day and a day that is recognised and celebrated to acknowledge all the phenomenal women of the world today.
Every day, millions of women take steps to make a better world for themselves and others, and this one day a year, those efforts are not only celebrated but shared by millions of others.
The theme for this year’s International Women's Day 2017, is asking you to #BeBoldForChange. To Call on the masses or call on yourself to help forge a better working world - a more gender inclusive world.
At AusCam Freedom Project we lend our voice with others to highlight the importance of investing in the younger generation of women who will become the leaders of tomorrow.
THE EDUCATED GIRLS OF TODAY BECOME THE WOMEN LEADERS OF TOMORROW
Investing in equitable education opportunities are not just decisions that influence the day-to-day lives of girls in school. Education also provides girls with lifelong skills. The next wave of girls who attend school and learn will receive skills to improve their future livelihoods and in turn champion education for their daughters. The power of girls’ education shines through in families, in communities and in life.
Worldwide, more than 62 million girls, half of them adolescents, are not in school.
Millions more are fighting to stay there. Access to education for women and girls, like gender equality, is not only a fundamental human right, it is also a means of achieving a peaceful, prosperous world that helps fuel sustainable economies and societies. When girls are educated, they lead healthier and more productive lives. They gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence to break the cycle of poverty and help strengthen their communities.
What if the world truly stepped up to take bold action?
To help us celebrate this #IWD we are asking 10 women to stand with us and invest in a new generation of women through the gift of an Education Scholarship. For $35 AUD per month – or just $1.17 per day you can truly make an incredible difference for a young girl who has dreams of a hopeful, healthy and bright future. It is a life changing opportunity.
To sign up today click here:
Will you #BeBoldForChange on International Women's Day 2017 and beyond by taking groundbreaking action that truly drives the greatest change for women?.
Each one of us - with women, men and non-binary people joining forces - can be a leader within our own spheres of influence by taking bold pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity. Through purposeful collaboration, we can help women advance and unleash the limitless potential offered to economies the world over.
We have urgent work to do. Are you ready to #BeBoldForChange this IWD 2017 and beyond?
We celebrated the young women on our programs yesterday (It’s a public holiday in Cambodia today!) The girls had a lot of fun taking photos at the photo booth, doing role play about what kinds of changes they would like to see for women and an inspirational talk by an incredible young Cambodian woman who has endured so much in her own life to now become a celebrated author, social entrepreneur and friend of AusCam.
I also personally want to honour the women who work tirelessly behind the scenes at AusCam – our staff - and I cannot do that without also acknowledging our only Male staff – Sam.. who shines a light on the significant impact that young men can have as role models by empowering, respecting and caring for women and girls. I appreciate all that you do.. your commitment to make a better life for others.
NOTE: If you do sponsor a girl today or you are already a sponsor – you can download the #BeBoldForChange photo.. (PDF Version below), take a picture of yourself holding it – be as creative as you like.. share to our facebook page and you could be in the running to win a Cambodian Cookbook..
Founder & International Program Director
When she was eighteen years old she began going to school.
Yes. You read that right.
Her first time setting foot in a class was not until she had already reached adulthood. After she told me this, I had a million questions. There we stood in the halls of a secondary school in Cambodia as she began to tell me her story....
Her name is Dara. Growing up, her adoptive parents did not want her to go to school. They wanted her to help around the house and provide for herself and her family. She secretly looked through the trash so that she could find old newspapers. This is how she tried to learn the Khmer alphabet.
When I asked her how she was able to finally go to school she said, "My mother."
At eighteen, Dara had a small business by the side of the railroad tracks to make some small cash. On one of those nights, Dara's birth mother woke up when she heard a voice speaking to her. You see, Dara and her real mother lost each other during the Khmer Rouge. After living in refugee camps, Dara was eventually adopted.
But now more than 10 years later in the night, a voice spoke to Dara's mother and said:
"My Daughter, it is time to go and find your daughter." Without a doubt, she knew it was the voice of Jesus.
He guided her to which bus station she should go and where she should get off. There she found the very spitting image of herself. As Dara told me this, my eyes began to fill with tears at the power and love of our God.
Her mother told her, you must go to school and you must believe in Jesus.
It was not an immediate connection for Dara, but over time she began to learn to trust her mother, love God and persevere through her studies. She defied all odds as she continuously excelled and caught up grade after grade in school.
She is now the co-founder with her husband of a phenomenal organisation called Konsoor Kampuchea: teaching people in Cambodia how to "unlock their fullest potential".
This courageous and confident woman stood before me in all her beauty and I could clearly see the love of God in her.
I asked if I could take her picture to capture her story and this moment as I would never forget it.
A few moments proceeding, she would be AusCam's guest speaker at our first SHE workshop this year, teaching over 60 girls how to build their confidence.
They heard this same story in Khmer that I just shared with you and she encouraged them to never give up, to be confident and unlock their full potential! She danced with them, did some fun exercises and games to loosen them up and show them how to be fearless.
This was just the first this year of many monumental life skills workshops that are taking place in our 4 partner schools in Cambodia. We are blessed to be God's hands and feet.
By Jenna Comontofski
AusCam Communications/Marketing Coordinator
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending one of our Girls Club Meetings held in our partner schools. AusCam is very proud to announce that our Girl Clubs are now a part of the school system as we have worked very hard to have full support and partnership with the school directors.
The two leaders of this club in School #3 are confident and graceful. Although they were a little nervous at first, they quickly held their heads high and greeted the new participants of the club. With huge smiles, they asked each girl to stand and tell her name and a little about herself. We had over 32 girls join the club meeting yesterday.
The purpose of our Girls Clubs is to create a place where the girls themselves can take on more leadership roles and choose what topics the want to learn about. Whether it be Stress Management, knitting, cooking, dancing or oral presentations and so much more. Auscam's vision is to create spaces in the schools where the girls can empower themselves by learning what they want to learn, gaining new skills and opportunities and creating more choices for themselves.
That is what I witnessed yesterday!
The leaders of the club taught the girls how to make beaded bracelets. The girls broke up into groups and were very excited to exercise their creativity in choosing their special colours and designs. The participants looked to the leaders for their guidance. The girls were then taught how to make flower crafts. It was fascinating to see how chatty the girls were until the minute they begin this activity, they all got extremely quiet and focused. The room was silent as each girl was busily creating their flowers. The final product was a masterpiece.
It may sound like a simple day of crafts and art. However, do not be fooled.
One experience can spark a light. After this experience, the girls go home with two or three tangible beautiful creations that they made themselves. It is a constant reminder of the success they had, the focus they put in and the creative capability they all have inside of themselves.
The leaders of our Clubs are learning to be confident leaders. The participants are gaining amazing new skills and valuable lessons while forming bonds with their peers! This is hands on experiential learning in the school system which has the power to transform their minds, as well as their futures.
By Jenna Comontofski
Communication & Marketing Coordinator
AusCam Freedom Project
Sophea captured our hearts in the award winning documentary, Sophea's Dream, by UK film director Ross Harrison.
It has been two years since the short film, Sophea's Dream, was released.
Since 2015, Sophea says her family moved into a new home and her living conditions are much better now. She feels like she has more time to concentrate on her studies because her mum is encouraging her to spend less time helping with the family business and more time on her education.
Like any teenage girl, Sophea says that her passion has changed from two years ago when she wanted to be a tour guide.
"Opportunities at AusCam and my personal life experiences have inspired me to want to be a social worker. Seeing poverty and tough living situations surrounding me in my country make me want to be a social worker so that I can help girls and people in Cambodia."
Sophea is a natural leader and is a phenomenal example of a girl who has really taken all of the opportunities given to her and used them to the fullest. She is one of the leaders of AusCam's Girls Club. She chose to be a leader so that she could gain leadership experience, teaching and choosing topics for the discussions. Being a leader in Girls Club at AusCam has built her confidence to feel ready to take on more leadership roles.
Through AusCam's referral, Sophea was encouraged to join Skateistan, an international non-profit organisation that uses skateboarding and education for youth empowerment (https://www.skateistan.org/). She is currently a leader there and won "Citizen of the Month Award" with them. She enjoys helping younger kids there by teaching them Art and Skating. AusCam Freedom Project exists to open doors and create meaningful opportunities like this for young women in Cambodia.
"My favourite experience at AusCam Freedom Project was the Scholarship Workshop Day! I was very inspired by Thavry Thul, (a young Cambodian author), when she spoke about how she applied for scholarships to study abroad and was able to study at a University in Europe.
Thavry told us that if we are going to have a dream we should DREAM BIG. My dreams right now are to graduate from grade 12, volunteer at AusCam, study in University and then study abroad in Japan. I want to then come back to Cambodia and develop my country!"
Sophea says she feels very happy to have a Sponsor who cares for her. Having a sponsor allows her to not feel stressed about where she will be able to find the money for her school supplies, uniforms and a bicycle. She also can feel at ease to know that her family is also receiving help through AusCam's Rice Support Program.
Invest in one girl's
Sophea's story is just 1 of many powerful testimonies at AusCam. Opportunities and people she has encountered through AusCam have inspired Sophea to stay in school and dream BIG so that she can in return help her country. Sponsorship is a profound investment with a substantial profit! There are many girls at AusCam like Sophea with BIG dreams in their hearts waiting to burst out.
It is an exciting time at AusCam Freedom Project
and we want you to be a part of it.
Are you ready to DREAM BIG with us?
By Jenna Comontofski
AusCam Communications & Marketing Coordinator
(Warning this content may be confronting and distressing to some readers.)
I am writing this blog predominantly as an education piece. Although we have not been directly affected by this in our work in Cambodia, it is incredibly alarming and heart wrenching to watch this industry proliferate and destroy the lives of so many vulnerable children.
Traditionally the victims of live distant child abuse were based in South-East Asia, in particular the Philippine however, more recent reports indicate that it is now spreading to other countries. Regions of the world with high levels of poverty, limited domestic child protection measures and easy access to children are being targeted by offenders.
It is particularly disheartening to know that in Australia we have men who are directly responsible for perpetrating this evil. Whilst most people cannot go and directly investigate and rescue, we can become aware, educate ourselves and support those who are laying their lives on the line to rescue these precious children. Although AusCam is not working currently in the Philippines, we are looking at ways where we can stand up and fight.
The figures are staggering: every single day hundreds of thousands of children are victim of webcam sex. The official estimate is that at any time of the day, over 750,000 men worldwide are looking for online sex with children in more than 40,000 public chat rooms. (Terresdehommes)
Cybersex trafficking is the sexual abuse of children broadcast over the internet in exchange for money. It is a type of sex trafficking that was unimaginable before the digital age. Suddenly, children are exposed to a global web of predators. (IJM) The emergence of fast technology has become the worst possible enabler for the exploitation and abuse of children.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is warning of an alarming trend where Australians are directing the sexual abuse of children living overseas using streaming services like skype. In 2015, the AFP reported that the number of child exploitation referrals more than doubled. In 2014 they received 4,500 referrals and a staggering 11,000 in 2015. Children living in poverty are extremely vulnerable to exploitation. There are many situational factors for a child living in poverty that compounds their vulnerability and leaves them open to being coerced into dangerous situations.
In Southeast Asia, the cybersex industry is growing rapidly. In countries like the Philippines, Cambodia and Indonesia, abject poverty and a growing digital infrastructure are contributing to its expansion. In 2015, South east Asia had over 1.6 million Internet users. The internet, webcams and advances in livestream video have completely changed the rules of engagement and has now become the main broker of the global sex market and in particular the global sexual exploitation of children.
Poverty becomes a breeding ground for the sexual exploitation of children.
In remote Philippine villages and impoverished urban areas increasing numbers of children, including toddlers, are being forced to perform sex acts that are streamed online to paedophiles around the world. Police say the Philippines has emerged as the key hub of a billion-dollar cybersex industry where most of the victims are under 18 but some are as young as two.
Human rights groups estimate that tens of thousands of children in the Philippines are forced to perform sexual acts in Internet cafes or their homes. It is much easier for anonymous buyers to purchase sex online and also gives them more ready access to children, who are often willingly exploited in the home by a relative desperate for money. Some families have started the cybersex business with only a laptop. They usually get between 10 and 100 dollars per "show" - a big amount in a country where around 60 percent of the population earns only two dollars a day. "Traditionally the victims of live distant child abuse were based in South-East Asia, in particular the Philippines. [However], More recent reports indicate that it is now spreading to other countries. Regions of the world with high levels of poverty, limited domestic child protection measures and easy access to children are being targeted by offenders..." (BBC report 28.9.16)
“My name is Sweetie, I am 10 years old. Every day I have to sit in front of the computer and talk to men. Just like tens of thousands of other kids.”
1,000 men were caught trying to pay a computer-generated child to perform sex acts online, after the Dutch child rights group Terre des Hommes set up a fake profile. They carried out a 10-week sting near Amsterdam, posing on video chat rooms as "Sweetie", a 10-year-old Filipina girl. Some 20,000 men contacted her, with 1,000 found to have offered her money.
Sweetie has become world news – the campaign has reached around one billion people worldwide. Webcam Child Sex Tourism is now on the political agenda. Several governments have implemented or are preparing more effective measures to prohibit and punish online child abuse.
Several offenders have been arrested. The first conviction of one of them in Australia meant a major breakthrough in terms of accountability and is a direct outcome of the Sweetie Campaign.
We will continue to keep you updated in how we will be supporting those who are directly fighting this crime.
Founder/International program Director
BOARD OF DIRECTORS & YOUTH ADVISORY BOARD
We are having our AGM on Sunday October 9th and will be voting in new board members. If you have wanted to be more involved with the work of a non profit and are passionate about programs addressing human trafficking and the protection and empowerment of young girls in the developing world you might want to consider this great opportunity.
AusCam is entering a new phase and in 2016 will be focusing on restructuring how AusCam looks and operates within Australia and considering the prospect of replicating our Girls Education Program in other neighbouring Asian/Pacific Countries, in particular those areas where child trafficking and exploitation are still of major concern.
We are now seeking new professional members with experience in the fields listed below who are interested in coming on this new journey with us. In particular we are interested in the formation of two new boards. Board of Directors (Primary Governance) and Youth Advisory Board (16-25 year olds. ) This is a wonderful opportunity to put your skills, experience and passion for Human Rights and Justice to use within the Not for profit Sector.
Skills in the following areas are sought:
Organisation type: Not-for-Profit (Charity) incorporated association
For more information please contact Julie Dowse via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 0415 955 670
or complete the below contact form.
The United Nations has designated October 11th International Day of the Girl. Across the world, many celebrate and recognize the power and potential of girls. It is a day for us to stand up against discrimination, violence, economic and educational disparities that affect girls’ everyday worldwide.
The United Nations states it is a day to:
“help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential”.
For girls to be able to reach their full potential, we must recognize the importance and impact of a girls’ education.
This year, we want to bring to the forefront the incredible challenges many young girls in Cambodia face gaining access to an education. Recent statistics have highlighted that more than 86,000 adolescent girls are not attending school. For girls growing up in chronic poverty from slum communities, they are particularly at a disadvantage of being able to go to school, often because of family demands to work and contribute to the family income which then also renders them open to being exploited.
Our Girls Education Program is working hard to change this.. one girl at a time.. one dream at a time.. currently we have 110 girls who are receiving our Education Scholarships and other support structures keeping them safe, protected and empowered.
October is also a busy time for our team of social workers as they are preparing to get all our girls ready to go back to school after their long 3 month holiday.. can you imagine how hectic that is!
In recognition of this years International Day of the Girl, we thought it would be a perfect time to reach out to find sponsors for 11 of the girls on our program waiting to be sponsored.
11 days ...... 11 sponsors
Being a sponsor is a wonderful opportunity to help a young girl reach her dream for a healthy and bright future. We know that Education is one of the most promising tools to eradicate poverty and especially when you invest that education in to girls.
For $35 AUD (Tax deductible in Australia) per month you can change a young girls life...
To learn more about our sponsorship program ~ click here
If you are interested in sponsoring one of the young girls below ~ click on her photo to complete the application form and write her name in the comments section.. Shortly after you will receive a welcome pack with a sponsorship handbook and your sponsored girls profile..
A perfect way to celebrate International day of the Girl
PROTECTION & EMPOWERMENT THROUGH EDUCATION, MENTORING & LIFE SKILLS
AusCam Freedom Project believes girls should be 'taught not trafficked'.
You can set a girl free by sponsoring her education here: