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Hindsight reiterates the value of knowledge about migration

Ensuring that community members are well informed about the ways in which they can migrate safely is imperative particularly when many communities are vulnerable to being deceived by brokers and unregistered recruitment agencies. The impact these difficulties have on the individual is highly detrimental to their overall health, wellbeing and their ability to break free from poverty.

Sinown was only 18 years of age when she left a small village in Prey Veng province, leaving behind her family and two year old daughter. A broker who visited her village informed her of the possibility to work as a domestic worker in Malaysia. Sinown did not finish school because her family was too poor and didn’t know what opportunities would be available to her without education. She felt scared about leaving her family and sad to be leaving her young daughter behind, but the elusive promise made to her by the broker of the money she could make overseas who too great of an opportunity to pass.

Sinown was not required to pay the broker for any visa, documentation or flights but would not be paid for the first six months of her three year contract. Sinown spent the first night in Malaysia at a recruitment agency and the next day was taken to where she would begin working as a domestic worker for a Chinese family. Sinown explains she felt uneasy and frightened and tried to remember landmarks so if she got into trouble she could find her way back to the recruitment office. Sinown escaped after six weeks of been overworked and underfed at her Chinese employer’s home. She was made to work up to 24 hours a day and was given one small meal to eat per day. She called the recruitment agency to say she was sick, tired and hungry and wanted to leave but they told her she had to stay. She waited until 4am that night to escape from her employer’s house. Making her way inconspicuously to the recruitment agency she was challenged with the added danger of being the only female on the streets filled with men who would approach her. She explained she had to hide behind bushes so she could not be seen by the men.

Sinown said she does not know what she would have done if she didn’t remember how to get to the recruitment office. After expressing her distress to the agency she was fortunate enough to be placed with a new Indian employer looking after his two children and cleaning and cooking for his family. She stayed in this home for the remainder of her contract. Despite living in relative good conditions and not being overworked, she did not have any contact with her daughter or family during this time.

Sinown recently returned to live in her village and was able to send USD$3000 to her family over those three years. Sinown said had there been community awareness training like SMART prior to her leaving the village she would have made different choices and would have been better informed about the safer and legal way she could have migrated. The SMART community awareness training sessions have proven highly successful within her village. The community now report to the village chief or volunteer when a broker enters the village and feel free to approach the volunteer if they are thinking about migrating or have any questions. The community understands that the legal way to migrate is also the safe way.

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