The Freedom Auction
June 22 - 25, 2020
Ten stories of remarkable girls who found freedom in Cambodia
An active young girl symbolised with a woman’s face, bold and abstract. Strong strokes in all directions show how her life will impact many and blue to symbolise confidence, truth, faith, depth and stability.
Oussa was enrolled on our program because she would drop out of school to find a job to support herself and her mother in her hometown. Since receiving an education scholarship and regular support and mentoring from her social worker, she has continued studying. She is one of the most active girls in AusCam’s program, a member of Girls Leadership Council and she is always happy to support and lead events for other girls.
Unfortunately due to the COVID 19 pandemic, her school was closed. She wants to continue studying to complete her final exam in Grade 12. She lives with her sister and nephew, but they are soon moving to France and she will be forced out of the house. So she has made arrangements to live in the girl’s dormitory of a church, study online and prepare for interviews to find a part-time job to support herself.
AusCam has given Oussa a food and hygiene relief package as well as a phone card to enable Ossa to contact us in cases of emergency. She told us that receiving this relief package has taken so much stress off her, reduced grocery expenses and informed her about health and hygiene and how to cope with Covid-19.
Light is now pouring through the darkness and Sarim can see the light and it is radiant.
Living in a temporary house with a single room with zinc walls, Sarim is the 4th child among her 5 siblings: 3 older brothers, and 1 younger sister. Five years ago, her family migrated from Prey Veng province to Phnom Penh in the hope for a better future. Her father was offered a job in a concrete sewage making site, so the family built their small house on the land in order to guard the sewerages. With economic pressures, Sarim’s older brothers work at the sewage plant with her father, but the family can barely earn enough for their basic living and now have incurred $2,000 worth of debt from a local bank.
Sarim was told about AusCam Freedom Project and quickly enrolled. She has received all the basic study materials she would need for the whole year, which has helped reduce the expenses of school for the family. Meanwhile, her AusCam social worker has coordinated for the family to receive monthly food and health assistance.
Sarim recently passed her national grade 12 exam and is being supported by AusCam to study marketing management at a national University in Cambodia. Her parents are excited, proud and thankful that Sarim won’t be forced to work at the sewerage plant and has big plans for her future outside of the childhood she came from.
A simple green open field symbolising the freedom and hope Mealea has found.
Unlike western schools, general life skills such as self-confidence, critical thinking, public speaking and teamwork are not taught in the public school system. Which has encouraged NGOs to introduce life skills programs to help the youth of Cambodia develop confidence and make their own informed decisions for their futures.
Mealea was 13 years old when she first joined AusCam and she takes her education very seriously. Sadly, this stems from the pressure she felt from her parents when she first started high school. Her grade 7 results were significantly lower than her grade 6 results.
Her parents criticised her for her low grades. Although they only want the best for their daughter, many parents in Cambodia do not understand that encouragement is more powerful than telling off a child for poor results. Mealea felt worthless and heavily discouraged that she was contemplating dropping out of school.
So Mealea’s social worker encouraged her not to give up and asked her to join our self esteem workshop, learning about different life skills. Soon, Mealea was selected as one of the top students of the entire 56 graduates. She said, “I can now see a better version of myself. I stopped blaming myself when I made mistakes. I used to get angry when someone got a better score than I did. Now I do not waste my time being angry, I only focus on trying harder.”
Two birds free from cages, just as this incredible young woman has found the key education can play in her future and uses what she knows to teach her little sister.
Through her elder sister, Sothy was enrolled at AusCam Freedom Project when she was 14 years old. It was around this time Sothy began developing a poor attitude as she was hanging around with bad friends who would skip school and encourage her to as well.
Sothy would constantly lie to her mum about coming to the AusCam office for workshops but instead would go out with her friends. Sothy’s mother became worried.
Through her individual counselling sessions with Sothy, the AusCam social worker was able to get her to think about her future and the decisions she was making. By simply asking those questions, Sothy began to think hard about things she had never considered before.
Suddenly, Sothy began to make new friends, her attitude changed and she was visibly happier. When her social worker asked her about this change she said, “I have chosen friends that can help me grow so I can make my dreams become reality.”
Sothy said her teachers are her idols and dreams of one day becoming a teacher, so she teaches her 2 year old sister how to read and basic mathematics because she “wants her to know everything”. Sothy is treating her just as we did for Sothy at AusCam - treating her like a little sister.
The square abstracts symbolise windows and doors of opportunity that the viewer should take for granted. Rotha (six circles in a row symbolise Rotha and her siblings) and her family have experienced many new opportunities.
Studying in grade 7, Rotha was only 13 years old. She was the oldest sister of her four younger siblings. When we met her, her father was a motor-driver and her mother was mostly a busy housewife looking after 5 children, and they both couldn’t earn much, only $5-6 per day. The family rented an old, 4m2 wooden house covered with zinc wall and roof for $30 a month, without a separate room or a proper toilet. When it rained, the water leaked from the roof and flooded the house. Rotha missed classes so frequently and didn’t take any extra classes because she was responsible for looking after her little siblings. Clearly, she was at the peak risk of dropping out of school.
Rotha was an industrious girl who struggled to go to school no matter how hard it was, because she believed that only education could save her and her family. AusCam is proud to have played a part in empowering her family over time. With our scholarship, she had enough study materials which was always a big concern for her and family. Our social worker regularly worked with her to encourage her study and help with anything we could, and she joined various self-development workshops.
Rotha is now studying in grade 10 in a high school in Phnom Penh, and she has recently turned 16 years old. Her study result improved and the family has moved to live in a new rental that is much safer. The new house is near to Rotha’s school and she is able to attend extra classes and goes to school regularly. “Now I am happier than before because my house is near my school, my family income is better and I can go to school regularly. I can sometimes even save some money to buy toys or clothes for my younger brother,” said Rotha. She isn’t sure what she will be doing in the future, but has a goal to finish college.
The bottom left side of the canvas is black and bleak; what she used to envision as her future. Mony's family struggled in every way, but the dream-like cloud symbolises her new start and ability to dream big.
We enrolled Mony in our program, gave her all the supplies she needed to stay in school and a personal social worker to support, listen to and encourage her along the way. Her parents were enrolled in our Positive Parenting workshop. We discovered that Mony’s mother suffered from depression, which caused her to drink and gamble. After being properly treated and undergoing extensive counselling, we have watched her drinking stop and her relationship with Mony turn around.
Mony's family income soon doubled and they joined two community savings groups. Her father began to help his wife more and last year they were able to purchase a block of land on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, where they have now built their very own home.
At AusCam, we tell the girls and their families, “if you want something, dream it and work towards it”, and that’s exactly what Mony and her family have done - dream big.
Trees symbolise spiritual and physical nourishment and transformation as this young woman has experienced recently.
Bopha lived in a church with her mother and six siblings . With an absent father, Bopha's mother had to sew clothes at a local factory to earn what little she could to provide for all of the children. In the midst of struggle, Bopha had fallen very far behind in school, very ill and and was constantly worried about her family while trying to focus on studying. But since coming to AusCam, Bopha has a renewed energy.
After receiving an educational scholarship to cover all of her schooling needs, and regular support and mentoring from her social worker, Bopha has the opportunity of a lifetime.
Although COVID 19 has closed all schools, Bopha keeps up her studies online. She and her family have received our relief package with 50kg of rice, noodles, fish, oils, spices and health supplies like face masks, thermometer and alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Bopha also received a phone card so she can get in contact with AusCam day or night.
This work is a reminder of the doors and windows of opportunity we have in life and the adventure that they can lead us on, similar to that of Pisey and the adventure she is now on thanks to the support of AusCam Freedom Project.
Pisey* was only 12 years-old and in her first year of secondary school when she found herself working as a waitress at a local restaurant. After approaching our social worker, Pisey told us about her alcoholic and physically-abusive father who would often beat his wife and three children. Although Pisey's father was a tuk tuk driver, he was often drunk, which crippled him in finding business. Pisey's mother could not earn enough so Pisey felt enormous pressure to find work to support her younger brother, who suffers from scoliosis and requires regular medical treatment.
Once Pisey was accepted into AusCam Freedom Project, her father was connected with substance abuse counselling services and her family was provided regular rice support to reduce their food costs. Pisey received a bicycle so she can get to school, as well as fully-funded English classes to further support her education.
Pisey has now been able to quit her job, focus on her studies and is now ranked fourth in her class. She is well on her way to preparing for university, where she plans to study accounting and then work for a large bank.
From a shy child who never spoke in class to a young leader who is engaged and confident, this painting depicts an owl as a symbol for wisdom.
When AusCam Freedom Project first met Kati, she was quiet. Very quiet. She didn't speak in class or to her social worker. She is the youngest of her family with two older brothers. Her father is a tuk tuk driver and her mother is a seller at the market.
Last year Kati’s family was experiencing extreme financial difficulties and was considering sending Kati to work over the school holiday period. When our social worker conducted a home visit and learnt of the situation, she quickly stepped in to change the minds of the parents.
It is common to see a girl work over the holidays and then never return to school. To help ease the financial pressures of this family, we enrolled them into our Rice Support Program and offered Kati English classes. Instead of going to work, Kati joined our Life Skills Program.
On her first day coming to the office she arrived with her best friend, hiding behind her most of the time. After a few weeks, Kati began coming to class by herself and found the confidence to speak in front of her entire Life Skills class. At school, Kati’s teachers and friends have noticed a major difference in her. She raises her hand to answer questions in class, she communicates more freely with her friends and she can now comfortably talk with her social worker about any issues that she is facing.
She added with a smile, “I liked the sessions on self-awareness, self-esteem and goal setting the most. I no longer compare myself to others, and I love myself for who I am. Before today, I never asked myself what I wanted to become in the future. I would let my parents decide for me.”
Now Kati is one of our top three students, ranked first in her English classes and a leader at AusCam.
This simple black and white abstract first began with two completely different backgrounds full of colour. But I ended up painting over them with four coats of white to symbolise a fresh start and created a simple work to represent the Covid-19 care package that Kanika and her family received.
Kanika is 14 years old and lives with her grandparents in an old wooden house. Her parents live in a room rental and don’t visit her often. She was enrolled in AusCam Freedom Project because she is from a very poor family and it is really hard for her to continue her study. Since receiving an education scholarship and regular support and mentoring from her social worker she gets education regularly at school and joins various training because she knows education is very important for her life. She is an active student within our program and she joins many training sessions with AusCam such as Life Skills training, International Day of the Girl, International Women’s Day, International Menstrual Hygiene Day, and more.
Unfortunately due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all schools have been closed down and Kanika’s family have been impacted due to the fact that her grandfather can no longer earn income. It is hard for her as she is staying with her grandparents. Her parents, who normally partially support her, can’t continue their support during this period because her mother’s workplace is closed, and her father was drunk almost everyday. Kanika felt devastated by this change in her reality.
Our Covid-19 emergency response strategy was to provide all our girls and their families with relief packages consisting of 50 kg rice, 1 box of instant noodles, 1 box of canned fish, 12 bottle of fish sauce, 12 bottles of soy sauce,1 big bottle of vegetable oil, salt, sugar, and garlic along with facial masks, thermometer, and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Kanika’s family was given their package as well as a phone card to enable Kanika and her family to contact us if there is an emergency. Kanika stated that receiving this relief package has been helpful to her whole family, and she does not really need to go outside to buy these things during this pandemic. Her family mentioned that they are really happy to get the relief package, and her grandparents are thankful for Auscam in providing an emergency relief for her family.
Bidding starts Monday 22 June @ 9AM!