Undeserved Fortune

Posted Jun 07, 2012 by 8 Comments

[Jocelyn is an intern with the Center for Global Impact—World Next Door’s partner organization in Cambodia. In addition to writing and taking pictures for CGI’s blogs, newsletters and promotional materials, Jocelyn is a freelance photojournalist for WND.]

I live with teenage girls “at-risk of or affected by” human trafficking.

While nearly every other NGO worker in the area works with these girls, I have the rare privilege of participating in their daily lives. We eat together. We travel together. We watch modern-day Filipino “Little Mermaid” soap operas together.

In the beginning, I entered into this community feeling dedicated for actually living in the midst of one of the largest social injustices of today. I literally sleep in one of the former most highly trafficked regions in the nation.

“This is journalism,” I thought to myself. “This is social justice. This is dwelling.”

And in my own brokenness, I somehow believed I could handle it—the stories of “labor” contracts, the presence of perpetrators, the regretful glance of the mother who sold her daughter.

But I was wrong. Living with the Center for Global Impact’s (CGI) Daughters over the past few months has left me wrecked—emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.

A flickering light in the darkness

Everyone told me the devastating poverty of Cambodia was different—that there was darkness here not found in other areas of the Majority World. And I’ve experienced a glimpse of what they mean.

But there is a light that continuously flickers—the unbelievable resilience of the Khmer people—that shines brightest through ladies whose lives could be the darkest of all.

“No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.”

This love, exuded by my new sisters, is why despite all difficulties, I can now recognize my undeserved fortune found in the sharing of their everyday lives—specifically, their love for each other, their families and their country.

Love for Each Other

What is most striking about living with the Daughters is how willingly they share everything—clothes, nail polish and music videos they can upload to their cell phones. There is no “mine” or “yours” like we distinguish in our Western cultures. Only “ours”—ownership together.

Injustice spans generations

They cook for each other. They clean for each other. They crimp each other’s hair on weekends.

They live on their own and recognize abilities, personalities and talents that allow them to not only survive but thrive in a culture that teaches them they can’t do anything for themselves.

While it would be easy for such vulnerable young women to succumb to such volatile thinking, they choose—through their love for one another—to overcome, ensuring each individual is valued in their family.

Love for Family

But these girls don’t just love the family they have chosen for themselves. They also choose to the love families they were born into. Families comprised of fathers and uncles who abuse them, mothers and aunts who use them and siblings who refuse to leave.

I don’t want to love their families. But as I get to know their stories—not just the stories of their daughters—I find myself becoming endeared to parents who I originally hated for what they had done.

Poverty isn’t the only injustice that is generational. And many of those currently involved were once victims themselves—passing on the only life they’ve ever known.

And yet, their daughters love them. And I find myself challenged to love them too as a fellow messed up human being—a product of my own choices but also the choices of others—with the potential for healing and redemption.

Love for Country

Even more confusing, the Daughters love their country—a nation as tragic as it is beautiful—with history of corruption, genocide and an ever-increasing disparity between the rich and the poor.

Will her life be different?

Often the severity of modern-day slavery is denied, with those paid to protect sometimes intimately linked to pimps, madams and brothels. A cancelled raid is only a bribe away and some local “protectors” can be, in reality, the best customers.

At times, I just want to get out of here, considering many situations appear utterly hopeless.

But the girls—for reasons beyond a culture of patriotism—insist on loyalty to their homeland. They believe in bearing with a better Cambodia for themselves and for their children and one day, participating in that sought-after dream of a society that fights to the end of slavery.

And I don’t know what to do with them—these crazy girls that sing Justin Bieber and dance to J. Lo.  They have taught me more about loving my God and my neighbor than anyone else I’ve ever met. I wonder at their love—God’s presence among us—and learn from it in humble acknowledgement of an experience that shouldn’t be mine.

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About the Author: Jocelyn is a freelance photojournalist with World Next Door. She studied Creative Writing and Missions at Concordia University Irvine. She enjoys reading, writing and traveling. She also likes butterflies.

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  1. JimM said... 


    June 8th, 2012 at 11:40 pm  

    “At times, I just want to get out of here, considering many situations appear utterly hopeless”.

    “I wonder at their love—God’s presence among us—and learn from it in humble acknowledgement of an experience that shouldn’t be mine”.


    Jocelyn, you are truly present in a space so few people travel in…feeling lost, hopeless, ready to turn away and then…seeing Him through those around you and being awestruck.


    • Jocelyn said... 


      June 9th, 2012 at 5:18 am  

      Awestruck is definitely the word. And unbelievable. Despite everything, God is redeeming, healing and transforming- often in crazy unexpected ways.

  2. Laura Stump said... 


    June 11th, 2012 at 12:14 pm  

    First of all, these pictures are beautiful.

    Apart from that, I was struck by the “love for family” section. I really believe that families are important lessons in how to love as close to unconditionally as possible. But in this context–knowing families are the ones perpetuating something so awful–it’s just a little harder to fathom.

  3. Nicole Krajewski said... 


    June 11th, 2012 at 3:29 pm  

    HI Jocelyn, Very well stated!
    Their willingness to love, in spite of everything, amazes me every time I am with them. Thank you for capturing it in beautiful words.

    See you very soon! Nicole

    Praying for your peace and joy in the midst of the chaos.

  4. Jocelyn said... 


    June 12th, 2012 at 1:51 am  

    Hey Laura! Thanks. :) I’ve been practicing…

    And totally. It’s been the craziest humbling revelation for me to realize that mothers, aunts and sisters selling their daughters, nieces and siblings are just ordinary women- like me and like you- who made an awful decision.

    For many though, this is the only life they’ve ever known. Their families sold them. They are now selling their families. This fact absolutely justifies nothing but it forces you to recognize that here, this is normal. Wrong. Abusive. Heartbreaking. But ordinary.

    Everyone involved truly believes this is their only option for survival- which isn’t true- but there’s a lot of historical, social and cultural undoing that needs to happen to convince them there are other ways to support their families.

    And that’s what CGI is doing. Though it’s a long, unexpected journey to get there.

  5. Jocelyn said... 


    June 12th, 2012 at 1:55 am  

    Thanks, Nicole! And thank YOU for all the incredible things you do to assure the Daughters that people will and do love them unconditionally, freeing them to do the same for themselves, each other, their families and their country. They are able to love because they have experienced love. And you are essential to this learning. See you soon!

  6. Tasha Simons said... 


    August 21st, 2012 at 11:19 am  

    Hey Jocelyn! I read this article with a new appreciation for the truths you shared. I just want to agree with you on how loving they are with each other and how the girls truly know what it means to live in community. I just had a brief time traveling with them and seeing their daily lives but I so appreciate all that you wrote as I shared the same reaction and experiences that you write about here. I especially like the section on their love for their families. “Poverty isn’t the only injustice that is generational. And many of those currently involved were once victims themselves—passing on the only life they’ve ever known.” Compassion for the families comes from knowing they were acting out of their own brokenness. It doesn’t excuse it but it does help us care about them as human beings in spite of their choices that hurt their daughters in such a devastating way. I’m so glad I had a chance to meet you, Jocelyn, and I look forward to your articles on CGI/Cambodia! Tasha

    • Jocelyn said... 


      August 22nd, 2012 at 3:29 am  

      Hey Tasha! 😀 Thanks so much for taking a vision trip with CGI! The girls and women really do love visitors. It’s as exciting for them to meet the women in America who love their products as it is for you to meet the women in Cambodia who make them. Thanks also for being open to “digging deeper” regarding the social injustice of human trafficking. The longer I live and work here the more complex everything becomes. More articles detailing my processing of some of these complexities are scheduled to post in a few weeks. Enjoy!

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