Lita carefully traces daisies on the cake she is preparing for her client in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She is grateful for the work and the skills she has learned as a pastry chef. But her life has not always been one of cakes and daisies.

Lita was very young when her father died. Her family found it difficult to make enough money to make ends meet. When she was only 10 years old, her stepmother began selling her to men for sex. Lita’s life has included many years of being used by other people to make them money or give them power.

When she was a teenager, she was helped by a private organization to escape the control of her stepmother. Soon after, she was connected to another group called Chab Dai Coalition, where Maryknoll Lay Missioner James Havey works.

In the work that James does with Lita and other survivors, he explains they “work for economic justice with an emphasis on the elimination of poverty and the empowerment of impoverished people.”

Besides helping people out of poverty, James says, empowering them means allowing them to be themselves. “We need to take care not to silence each other, especially those who have been abused. Survivors in particular need someone to listen to them because it is they who have the best knowledge of the services they and other survivors need.”



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