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Despite the passage of time, the memories of those dark days fill her with dread, and when asked during a recent interview to speak about the experience, she would only lower her head in silence. The year-old Khmer-Vietnamese girl, who had to quit school after the sixth grade because of her family's poverty, said that she wanted to talk about the future, not the past. For six months, Sa Lal has been studying sewing at a vocational school and now feels confident that she can apply for a job or open her own workshop.
Prior to her experience in Cambodia, she knew little about human trafficking, having read only a little about it in newspapers or on the internet, she said. So, when it happened to her, she felt confused and did not recognise the true intent of the traffickers. Behind her on the shelter's walls were colourful papers containing the written hopes and dreams of the girls who live with Sa Lal at the shelter. One girl said she wanted to get married and have a baby and another dreamt of having enough money to help her parents.
A cook who has worked at the Compassion House for six years, Le Thi Mai who did not want to use her real name , said the girls did not want to share their stories because they felt ashamed of their situation. They see me as their mother, so sometimes they will talk. After they were rescued, they had to be questioned by the police several times," she said. Since , when the shelter was opened with support from Pacific Links Foundation, most of the girls housed at the shelter have been between 14 and 30 years old.
Some of them returned to their families or got married, but others had to live at the shelter again because of poverty, the cook said. Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, programme manager at Pacific Links Foundation, in a phone interview with Viet Nam News, said she hoped JICA's new hotline would provide important information that could assist her foundation in offering prompt intervention and support to victims.
The hotline, she said, would be instrumental in locating young women who could stay at Compassion House and receive job training and health care. In addition to the hotline, the JICA programme for An Giang Province also includes a communication course for local citizens and border guards that raises awareness about trafficking. Women who live in poverty and need a job are much more vulnerable to human trafficking," she said, adding that she would call the hotline about any suspicious activity.