May 25 2013 Latest news:
Amanda Nunn, Reporter
Friday, April 27, 2012
A 24-year-old woman who spent six months providing counselling to “ladyboys” and women forced into prostitution in Cambodia has described the experience as “humbling”.
Helen Taylor of Linden Crescent, Woodford Green provided art counselling to victims of sex trafficking with the Daughters of Cambodia charity based in the capital Phnom Penh.
She first heard about the project and the high level of sex trafficking in south east Asia while volunteering at the Bible College University in the US.
Miss Taylor said: “The Bible College streamed their prayer meetings over the internet and one of them was about Cambodia, which is when my desire to go to the country started.”
Her volunteer work has seen her nominated for the Recorder/Redbridge Rotary Club Young citizen Award, sponsored by Exchange Ilford.
After graduating from Newcastle University Helen undertook an art therapy course with the intention of going to volunteer in Cambodia.
Miss Taylor said: “One exercise is asking them to draw a picture of someone in their life that’s caused them pain or anger. We then talk about forgiveness, it gives them a chance to explore their past memories.
“It’s sometimes easier to talk about the picture rather than the experience itself.”
The backgrounds and experience of those at the centre differed greatly so a flexible approach was needed on a case-by-case basis.
Miss Taylor said: “One of the most difficult interviews I did was with a women in her late-20s.
When she was 12 years old a woman came to her village and told her parents, who were very poor, that there was a well paying job for her in the city.
“She was then sold and kept in a brothel never seeing the outside again for two years.”
Working with men who want to be women but have not undergone a sex change, often known as “ladyboys”, posed different challenges.
Miss Taylor said: “Some had been raped at a young age. The majority of them don’t choose being a ladyboy as a lifestyle, they just don’t know how to be boys.
During her time there Miss Taylor also learned Khmer getting up to conversational level in two months.
Miss Taylor added: “I learnt as I had to speak to the girls as they spoke little English, it was slightly unexpected how quickly I seemed to pick it up. The whole experience was very emotional but inspiring.”