A Mother’s Love

Others, Stories , Trafficking

Contributed by: Ratanak International


The tenacity of a mother’s love


“Get ready to run,” Tevy urged her three children. “We’re leaving right now!” Her 5-year-old son looked up at her with fear in his eyes, clutching her hand with all the strength he had in his little fingers. 

They heard music and laughter outside, meaning that the water festival in Thailand had started. Tevy knew her boss would be celebrating at the local pagoda, which meant the moment had finally arrived. It was time for them to escape.

With just a change of clothes and a few dollars between them, Tevy and her children fled on foot up a nearby mountain. Racing through the trees with her heart pounding in her chest, Tevy could still hear her boss’ voice ringing in her ears, “If you ever leave the property, I’ll have the police shoot you dead.”

The cold fear that filled her veins was a familiar feeling. 

You see, Tevy grew up during the brutal Khmer Rouge regime and survived the horrifying genocide that took place in the 1970’s. She knew what could happen if you were separated from your loved ones. She’d never forget the day she was forcibly removed from her family. The next time she saw them, her entire body froze with terror as she watched every member of her family being killed before her eyes.   

Even after the end of the Khmer Rouge reign, the trauma and despair of those painful years scarred her young heart. But Tevy experienced great joy at the age of 16 when she fell in love. Although they were happy for a time, it wasn’t long before her husband became terribly abusive. Together, they had three amazing children. Tevy did her best to shield her children from his violence, but his cruelty didn’t stop until the day he died.

Becoming a widow at 32 years old was a relief and a shock. Although finally free of violence, she had never finished school, and now had no way to provide for her family.

She became increasingly desperate as she tried and failed to find a good, safe job. Then, a broker approached her, offering her a high-paying job and the chance to bring her children with her to Thailand. 

How could she say no? It was their best chance for a better life. More importantly, it was a way to keep her family together. 

But things didn’t go as expected. She and her children were trafficked, ending up at a seafood processing factory in Thailand. They were forcibly confined and all their freedom was stripped away as they worked in fear of her abusive boss.

Despite the threats and danger, she saw no other choice—she’d have to take her children and run.

After fleeing the factory, the family walked for hours on foot. When they finally reached the city, the children were exhausted. They couldn’t keep moving with no food and no rest. So, Tevy decided to take a risk and ask the police for help. Even imprisonment seemed better than leaving her children hungry and homeless!

The officer seemed kind. He gave them some food and introduced them to his friend who offered them work on a fish farm. 

Sadly, this employer would turn out to be no different than the last. 

Tevy and her children never saw the wages they were promised. Several years passed, and Tevy got to know another broker. She was told of a better opportunity on a nearby manufacturing plant, and this new broker was even willing to give them a ride there.

Incredibly, Tevy and her children managed to escape again!

This time, their new boss showed the family compassion. But even he paid them so little that it took years for them to save enough to travel back home to Cambodia by bus.  

While they were relieved to be home, life continued to be a struggle for Tevy and her children. They had no support to heal from the years of trauma they had endured in Thailand. And without job skills, neither Tevy or her children could earn much money. 

Things only got worse when the pandemic hit, leading Tevy to seek government assistance out of desperation. When they found out she was a survivor of trafficking they immediately referred her to Ratanak! Before long, the whole family had access to emergency food, counselling, and economic empowerment support. Her daughter was able to come to our transitional home to receive much-needed restorative care. 

Despite all of her trauma, Tevy was very excited to start job-skills training and has made plans to open her own small business, growing potatoes and corn. She finally has what she needs to provide for her family, and it’s thanks to donors like you!

Today, Tevy’s family is working hard to heal from their experience. Tevy has found new hope for a brighter future for her children and grandchildren. Thank you!


I was cheated by the brokers again and again. Now I am so glad to be able to receive support from Ratanak. All the bad things that have happened to me have been in the past, so I can let it go.

– Tevy


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*Disclaimer: Names, images and/or some details have been altered as appropriate to protect the identities of those in our care