Without knowing much of what his mother has gone through, Ngon takes part in the debriefing and group activities of child victims and survivors of abuse, violence and trafficking at the centre – where he “feels at home” with the friends he has grown up with.
Word got around quickly and she became the subject of ridicule in their Hmong community. Their village chief cast her out saying it was against their culture.
Without speaking a word of Lao, pregnant Phaeo then sought refuge at the Lao Women’s Union – who sent her to a hospital to deliver her son Ngon. Soon after, she was admitted to a shelter for abused women and children, where she received the legal assistance she needed to prosecute her stepfather.
She now receives medical, legal and psychological counselling as part of her rehabilitation. Her basic needs including health care are covered and she benefits from vocational training to become an entrepreneur. “I have since been healing the scars of that not-so-distant past. I am very comfortable here, and I feel like I have a family whose members take care of each other,” Phaeo says of her three-year stay at the shelter with a smile.
“Phaeo has been emotionally solid, showing such strength that we are convinced she can be released soon,” social worker Vannaly says. She adds Phaeo has completed all the modules of the vocational training course. Her dedication resulted in a sterling performance – despite not having prior education – and she can now speak Lao fluently. Vannaly is confident Phaeo is ready.
“I will live my life fully and raise my son well – because that’s something I missed as a child,” Phaeo says. The little boy, who barely has any idea of what his mother has gone through, attends kindergarten in a nearby school. He likes wearing superhero clothes – complete with cape and mask. He also actively joins the girls’ drawing and learning sessions at the shelter.