A Mother's Love

The Tenacity of a Mother's Love

“Get ready to run,” Tevy urged her three children. “We’re leaving right now!” Her 5-year-old son looked up at her with fear in his eyes, clutching her hand with all the strength he had in his little fingers. 

They heard music and laughter outside, meaning that the water festival in Thailand had started. Tevy knew her boss would be celebrating at the local pagoda, which meant the moment had finally arrived. It was time for them to escape.

With just a change of clothes and a few dollars between them, Tevy and her children fled on foot up a nearby mountain. Racing through the trees with her heart pounding in her chest, Tevy could still hear her boss’ voice ringing in her ears, “If you ever leave the property, I’ll have the police shoot you dead.”

The cold fear that filled her veins was a familiar feeling. 

You see, Tevy grew up during the brutal Khmer Rouge regime and survived the horrifying genocide that took place in the 1970’s. She knew what could happen if you were separated from your loved ones. She’d never forget the day she was forcibly removed from her family. The next time she saw them, her entire body froze with terror as she watched every member of her family being killed before her eyes.        

Even after the end of the Khmer Rouge reign, the trauma and despair of those painful years scarred her young heart. But Tevy experienced great joy at the age of 16 when she fell in love. Although they were happy for a time, it wasn’t long before her husband became terribly abusive. Together, they had three amazing children. Tevy did her best to shield her children from his violence, but his cruelty didn’t stop until the day he died.

Becoming a widow at 32 years old was a relief and a shock. Although finally free of violence, she had never finished school, and now had no way to provide for her family.

She became increasingly desperate as she tried and failed to find a good, safe job. Then, a broker approached her, offering her a high-paying job and the chance to bring her children with her to Thailand. 

How could she say no? It was their best chance for a better life. More importantly, it was a way to keep her family together. 

But things didn’t go as expected. She and her children were trafficked, ending up at a seafood processing factory in Thailand. They were forcibly confined and all their freedom was stripped away as they worked in fear of her abusive boss.

Despite the threats and danger, she saw no other choice—she’d have to take her children and run.

After fleeing the factory, the family walked for hours on foot. When they finally reached the city, the children were exhausted. They couldn’t keep moving with no food and no rest. So, Tevy decided to take a risk and ask the police for help. Even imprisonment seemed better than leaving her children hungry and homeless!

The officer seemed kind. He gave them some food and introduced them to his friend who offered them work on a fish farm. 

Sadly, this employer would turn out to be no different than the last. 

Tevy and her children never saw the wages they were promised. Several years passed, and Tevy got to know another broker. She was told of a better opportunity on a nearby manufacturing plant, and this new broker was even willing to give them a ride there.

Incredibly, Tevy and her children managed to escape again!

This time, their new boss showed the family compassion. But even he paid them so little that it took years for them to save enough to travel back home to Cambodia by bus.  

While they were relieved to be home, life continued to be a struggle for Tevy and her children. They had no support to heal from the years of trauma they had endured in Thailand. And without job skills, neither Tevy or her children could earn much money. 

Things only got worse when the pandemic hit, leading Tevy to seek government assistance out of desperation. When they found out she was a survivor of trafficking they immediately referred her to Ratanak! Before long, the whole family had access to emergency food, counselling, and economic empowerment support. Her daughter was able to come to our transitional home to receive much-needed restorative care. 

Despite all of her trauma, Tevy was very excited to start job-skills training and has made plans to open her own small business, growing potatoes and corn. She finally has what she needs to provide for her family, and it’s thanks to donors like you!

Today, Tevy’s family is working hard to heal from their experience. Tevy has found new hope for a brighter future for her children and grandchildren. Thank you!

I was cheated by the brokers again and again. Now I am so glad to be able to receive support from Ratanak. All the bad things that have happened to me have been in the past, so I can let it go.
– Tevy


Sharing Stories & Engaging Communities

A key way to stop exploitation before it starts is through education. That’s why Ratanak is creating spaces in communities to increase communication and encourage survivors to share their stories as part of the Community Heroes Prevention Project.

Recently, Khean stood in front of a group of local family leaders to tell his story. 

Khean and his friends had met a broker who promised them high-paying construction work in Bangkok, but ended up getting tricked into working in the fishing industry. They worked day and night for three years without pay and never returned to shore. 

Over time, they came up with a plan: they would jump and swim for shore! Using logs from the boat, they swam for nine long hours. They knew their best chance to get help was to be arrested. When the police discovered they were illegal workers, they were finally sent back to Cambodia.  

He finished his story with a tearful warning, “If you want to migrate, please migrate legally, not by brokers”. The family leaders who had been sitting quietly immediately started talking, they had so many questions! 

Afterwards, the family leaders were encouraged to share Khean’s story to help protect their loved ones. This program is having such an impact—and your support makes it all possible!


Stopping Exploitation

Announcing an Expanded Approach to Trafficking Prevention

As powerful as knowledge is, it often can’t change someone’s circumstances. Many people are still choosing to cross borders for work because they have no other options. With this in mind, Ratanak is thrilled to share our innovative Trafficking Vulnerability Prevention Project.

With your help, this exciting initiative will work to identify those at risk and provide them with safe economic alternatives before they are targeted by traffickers. The first step is learning about each person’s family situation and understanding the local economy of the community they live in. Then, we’ll consider their unique needs and interests, so that every person will have specialized skills training that helps match them with appropriate job opportunities.  

To accomplish all this, Ratanak staff will be partnering with local governments and churches, so they can better understand how to strengthen and serve the most vulnerable within their communities. 

By offering long-term support and life-changing opportunities to people in need, vulnerable communities will not only be more self-sufficient, they will help keep Cambodian families safe and together.


A Message From Graeme

Brian McConaghy and I recently returned from a trip to Cambodia. It was our first time there since the start of the pandemic and it meant so much to reconnect with our team who have grown to over 50 staff members. I was excited to hear that our staff regularly lead a devotional time in our transitional home that clients can attend if they wish. 

They recounted a story about one of our clients who recently asked them why Ratanak would give them free food, a place to stay, and recovery assistance. Our staff were able to answer, “We do all this because God loves you, and because you are a beautiful daughter”.  To me, this is the most exciting thing about Ratanak’s work in Cambodia. 

We provide survivors like Tevy with the opportunity for healing, restoration and a new life. But most of all, we have the opportunity to share with them that God loves and cares for them. With your ongoing support, our committed team in Cambodia can continue breaking the cycles of exploitation and bring hope and healing to many Cambodians.

Thanks for your partnership,

Graeme Illman

Executive Director

Names, images and/or some details have been altered as appropriate to protect the identities of those in our care