This blog post was written by our Chair Advisory Board Member, Tricia Hester, on her recent conversation with a woman who graduated our vocational training program.
Hot Pink and Lime Green Walls
Ma Om and I are sitting inside her small, quaint storefront salon as she shares with me her life story as to how she become a stylist and business owner. The walls are painted a hot pink and lime green. The room holds a single wash station, salon chair, and glass cabinet housing various colors of nail polish. It is located on a narrow street on the south side of Phnom Penh. As we are visiting, she has a routine costumer who arrives, but pleasantly asks if the young woman could return later in the day so she could continue revealing how she was impacted by Precious Women ministry. She shares with me how afraid she was to start her own salon, but “day by day” she states she is gaining more confidence. She is grateful, and talks repeatedly that “Precious Women staff has encouraged me that I can do this!”
Ma Om, at 32 years old, shares the story that many young women in Cambodia face as a single mom. Without skills or education, and no financial support from her ex-husband, she found herself unable to buy food and pay for housing for herself and her son. Working at night as a waitress in a barbeque restaurant and part-time during the day at a health organization teaching women’s health, she was barely surviving on $60 per month.
With little hope, Ma Om began working in a beer garden promoting and selling beer. Her income improved very little earning only $30 month with beer sales commissions earning only $4-$15 per night. Still unable to feed and house herself and her son, Ma Om began working as a “lady” in Cambodia’s sex industry. Her face changed and became saddened as she shared with great and painful remorse that she would “go out with customers” when she needed money for food or needed to take her son to the doctor or to buy medicine for him. Ma Om’s eyes watered and mine did also. I could not imagine having to face such choices when I reflected on the needs of my own three sons.
Two years later, Ma Om met a staff member from Precious Women organization, and was invited to attend a “Fellowship Party” at the 2014 Women’s International Day outreach. After the “fellowship party”, the staff began developing a personal relationship with Ma Om and shared about how they could help her start vocational salon training and help her start her own business so she could stop working as a“lady”.
Shortly after, Ma Om asked PW to help her exit the sex industry. Ma Om said she took a step of faith and trusted PW to help her. She shares how scared she was, not knowing how she was going to buy food or care for her son’s medical care and medications. She states “I wanted to change so I could have value and dignity. I wanted respect from society”. PW provided financial assistance for Ma Om and supported her through beauty salon technical school along with counseling by PW’s social trained social workers.
At the end of our time together, Ma Om shared the below statement with me at the end of our conversation. I would like to share it with you because it reminded me just how grateful I am to be in Cambodia and have the opportunity to partner with an organization who cares deeply about the lives of women who are caught in the same circumstances as Ma Om,
“I have hope once again and I believe God has helped. I have no husband, but now I can improve my life, and improve my living standard. I thank God” – Ma Om.
To learn more about how you help financially sponsor a “Fellowship Party”, please visit www.preciouswomen.org
(for client confidentiality purposes real names were not used in this blog)