Somaly Mam Biography
If you have a faulty heart, you should visit a cardiologist. But if you’re bighearted, we hope you’ll visit us. We’re members of an organization named Together1heart. And we’re looking for people with big hearts.
Like that famous World War I recruiting poster by Howard Chandler Christy, we’re searching for a few good men — and women. Yes, you!
Somaly Mam and Together1heart
Together1heart works to end human trafficking in Cambodia. And our president, AnnaLynne McCord, points out, “Our organization also works to prevent vulnerable children and young women from being sold. They are particularly vulnerable to traffickers because of their abusive and sexually violent past; that’s the only world they know.”
One of the young women we rescued from a brothel is Sina Vann, 34. Rescued at age 12, Sina became one of our most effective workers in our campaign against sex crimes, says McCord.
In the past 20 years, we’ve helped thousands of young Cambodians who’ve been subjected to sexual brutality. And we want to do even more for these young women and girls.
“The most widespread offense after drug crimes is human trafficking,” says the founder of our non-profit, Somaly Mam. She says, “No one in Cambodia has done more for victims than we have.”
Somaly Mam Bio
‘Best of Its Kind’
“In Cambodia,” she says, “we work with partners, local organizations, and the government to give victims another chance to start a new life. What sets us apart from similar organizations is our approach. We train survivors, victims themselves, to help recent victims regain their self-worth and self-esteem.”
The CEO of our organization, Bill Livermore, says our survivor-based programs do work. They’ve been studied by more than a dozen similar organizations in Cambodia—and copied by many of them. The U.S. and Cambodian governments, says Livermore, rate our approach the best of its kind. He notes, “We accomplish this through counseling and art therapy, and by giving victims vocational training.”
Together1heart provides the tools needed for survivors to rebuild their lives. The survivors receive counseling, health services, safe housing, vocational training, job placement and English classes. English is the most popular second language in Cambodia. Most job applicants need to speak it and write it.
Our organization also provides business loans to help victims start small businesses.
Although Newsweek criticized Somaly Mam for several remarks she had made, she still focuses all of her attention on helping those victimized by sex slavery. However, the magazine article caused donors to stop donating.
Somaly Mam & Combating Human Trafficking
Yes, we had a critic, but over the past 20 years, we’ve done a lot more than save thousands of victims. We’ve helped more than 7,000 victims re-enter society with new skills, dignity and hope for a brighter future.
Together1heart is one of the leading organizations in combating human trafficking. Our organization not only provides more care and long-term support for victims of sexualized violence than any other organization in Cambodia, we, also raise awareness globally for this universal issue. Together1heart aims to combat human-trafficking with the only thing which can truly end this atrocity: unity.
“Our mission,” says Mam, “is to stop sexual abuse, slavery and the trafficking of young women and girls. It takes 5 minutes to rescue a girl, then what?” Sustainability is key.
Victims’ Voices: Vann, Sim, and Bopha
Our survivor, Sina Vann (now, 34), was rescued from sex-trafficking by Mam and the police. She was born in Vietnam, but at the age of 12 was kidnapped and taken to Cambodia. There she was dragged to brothels and brutally raped. Somehow, she survived. At Together1heart, Sina received love, education and skills. Now, she’s emerging as one of Cambodia’s leaders in the fight against sex slavery. Ironically, she’s busy walking the streets of Phnom Penh’s red-light district, not as a prostituted girl but as an advocate. She’s doing community outreach; she hands out condoms and brochures on health issues (such as sexual transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS) to those who are trapped and unable to break free.
For 15 years, Sina has been working for Somaly Mam to fight against human traffickers.
Another survivor is Sarak Sim, 23. She was abused, but she survived. She’s one of thousands of victims of sexual abuse—and worse. As a teenager, she endured the trauma of incest which often leads to victims being sold into sexual slavery.
“I was raped by my uncle,” says Sim. “I was rescued by the police. The police took me to (Together1heart’s) shelter.”
During her stay at the Together1heart center, Sarak was provided with counseling, housing, and education. She was determined to get the education required to attain her dreams. During the day, Sarak attended counseling. At night, she attended nurse’s training—and on weekends, too. Four years later, she earned a nursing degree.
Today, Sim works as the only nurse at the organization’s clinic and treats girls who have contracted various diseases from sexual subjugation. The clinic is ill-equipped, lacking modern equipment such as an x-ray machine, and even lacking some essential medicine.
In rural Cambodia, rape is common, and even worse, it’s getting more common. Rapists threaten children, so they rarely tell parents what happened to them. Often, rapes are committed in rice fields and cheap motels.
Teaming up with Cambodian Government
Together1heart is working diligently with local authorities to end a rape and trafficking problem that is now national. As much as we’ve done for children and young women, much more needs to be done. So it’s imperative for rape victims to report their rape to police. We’re teaming up with the government to put more rapists in jail.
We’re grateful to Cambodian judges for imposing stiffer penalties on rapists and traffickers. But a government campaign is needed to raise awareness of this dreadful problem. That should influence more victims to come forward.
One who recently came forward is a 16-year-old girl called Bopha, who was subjected to a hideous nightmare. She was raped several times in a motel on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. As a result, her parents wouldn’t even talk to her and she wanted to kill herself. Fortunately, Somaly Mam rescued her, and enrolled her in our recovery program.
We have an epidemic, but with togetherness and action we can stand against it. At Together1heart, we strongly believe that inaction is due not to lack of care but lack of knowledge. Now, that you know we would like to invite you to share your care for these young women and children as we unite together as one heart.