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It was hard not to notice Sou as she moved her small fragile body toward me. There was sadness about her as she looked at me and held her hands in prayer position, a traditional Cambodia greeting. As she came closer, she mumbled words that sounded like a mixture of Khmer and English. Anak had informed me about her mental condition, but I was still not prepared on how to respond seeing her.

Like many women in her village, Sou went to Malaysia to be a house helper to earn more money for her family. She was supposed to work for just one family, but instead that family rented her out to more families. Every day she woke up at 4am to clean the house. She was only allowed to have breakfast at 9am if she finished her chore by then. After, she had to clean at least 5 houses for the rest of the day. Her day did not end until 10pm and the next day the cycle started all over again, without a single day off. To keep her going, they forced her to take a drug that would give her energy so she would not feel physically tired, but mentally she was deteriorating. Finally, after more than a year, she crashed. Since the family could no longer use her, they sent her back and claimed because she had not fulfilled her two year contract they would not pay her.

Sou came back to her village a broken woman and penniless. When her drunkard husband found out she did not bring any money back, he became angry and beat her so severely it caused further brain trauma. He left her with another woman. Kamsout has a daughter who is now working in Phnom Penh. She is so afraid the same horrible experience will happen to her daughter. Sokha, the local consoler, told me, “She cries all the time and sometime she comes to me middle of the night because she is afraid.”

My heart aches because I know her pain and fear will not be healed easily. As I held her in my arms, her soft sobbing turned into painful howling that would break anyone’s heart. 

People often ask me what keeps me going? Knowing that I might be able to help just one person avoid this heart break, that I can give just one person hope again, that keeps me going. 

-SUPEI LUI, Co-founder, Vice President of Product Development and Training  

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