July 17, 2019

Mariah’s Story

Mariah was part of the Get HOPE Global Train the Trainer conference in Cambodia.  We are pleased to share her story about that experience.

My trip to Cambodia was meant to check a box. It was the service component and internship required by my high school to graduate. Instead, I found myself floored by the evil of human trafficking.

I was standing in a former brothel in Phenom Phen when I heard Toha’s story. She was 14 when her family ran out of money. Her mother sold her daughter’s virginity to an older man. When she was no longer of use to him, he sold her to a brothel.

Only 3 hours after hearing her story, I was on a plane back to the states. Less than 36 hours later, I was back at my high school, on stage playing a different girl trapped in prostitution.

Toha miraculously got an opportunity to call an organization devoted to rescuing girls from sex trafficking. It took 22 days to find the brothel where she was being held, and rescue her. The brothel kept track of how many customers each girl had. When her brothel was raided, Toha had 198 tally marks under her name. A minimum of nine violent assaults per day.

I still cannot wrap my brain around the strength it takes to overcome that. Determined to use her story for good, Toha is now a part of the SWAT team that rescues girls.

Back home, on stage with Toha’s story fresh in my mind, something was different.  I began to say my lines, and realized my Cambodia experience completely changed the way I saw my character. I felt her brokenness. She was no longer an abstract character, she was a part of me. Every time I stepped on stage, I carried the faces and stories of the women I met in Cambodia with me. Many women never get a second chance. I mourned the shortage of people willing to show kindness no matter how small, people who unintentionally transform lives.

My character represented all of the women I wanted to fight for, to spend the rest of my life serving.

The writer of our play gave the audience a glimpse of the vast difference one life filled with simple kindness and generosity can make. Each stranger who helps fund a business loan or HOPE group, gives a woman and her family the chance for a better life. Though there is no way to count the horrors that are averted or the tallys that are never made in brothels, small kindnesses make big differences. For some of the women in Cambodia, it will be access to the HOPE Business Program so they can provide for their families, a way out of the trap that caused Toha’s mother to sell her daughter.

God wants to use us, right here, right now, to help Him make all things new. He is using us to transform lives every day. We speak of empowerment. Empowerment is reminding someone of their worth. That is something each of us can do.


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