Love & Justice: Sandar's Story

“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8

Love & Justice was inspired by Sandar, a rescued woman who bravely put love into action. Her story begins at three years old when she became an orphan.

After her parents died, Sandar’s grandmother cared for her. Sadly, a year later she also passed away. Sandar’s grandfather, who lived with her physically abusive aunt, tried to care for this small and vulnerable child. But when he left to become a monk she was completely unprotected from her aunt’s violence. While he could go live in a monastery, Sandar had no such option. Instead of playing with toys and learning nursery rhymes, she spent her days hiding from her aunt’s violent blows. The suffocating abuse would change the trajectory of her life.

When Sandar was 10 years old, her aunt decided that she no longer wanted to care for her. She took her niece to a distant relative’s house... where the young son tried to rape her. The family refused to believe what Sandar reported to them and searched for another place for her to go.

Always watching for vulnerability, a trafficking agent in the community saw this unwanted child join the family. He offered Sandar's relatives some money to take her off their hands, promising he would look after her. Seeing this as an easy solution to their new problem, they agreed. These agents trafficked Sandar into a brothel in another country that was designed specifically for selling girls under the age of 13 for sexual exploitation. Surrounded by an incomprehensible language, she fought her captors and cried without end. She tried everything she could to be free. They used everything they could to beat her back down – ropes, belts… And eventually, their plan prevailed. They sold her virginity at age 11.  

She stopped fighting for her freedom. She lost all hope and gave into learning the local language. She became numb.

“When I first got to Eden, I was afraid that they would beat me or hurt me in some way, and I worried if they would accept me. But after just one morning here I realized it was somewhere completely different from anywhere else I had ever been…”

After three years, she was too old to work in that place. So she was sold at 14 to a KTV in a sprawling city. There was more freedom than the last place and she was even allowed to go outside sometimes. She met this guy who seemed kind to her. So when he asked her to be his girlfriend, she thought he could protect her.

One night, she was sleeping at his apartment when the police raided it and arrested everyone for drugs. They took her to the police station and asked for ID. She was so shaken that she told them everything about where she had been held captive... about the bad place with all the children where they used to keep her.  She didn't know what trafficking was but the policewoman she spoke with seemed to understand what had happened to her. Instead of arresting her, they took her to a nice place with kind people and said they would help her return to her home country.

Sandar now lived with the other minors at a shelter for human trafficking victims. A month later, she discovered she was pregnant. Then, at several months pregnant, she was asked to give evidence in court against her captors. To protect her in her vulnerable state, she testified via video link.

She was one of two star witnesses in the case against her the brothel and KTV owners... but the only trafficking survivor. The other witness was one of the traffickers who turned state evidence. The police helped Sandar prepare for the stress of giving evidence and holding up under cross-examination. Ultimately, if she didn’t bravely face her captors, the case could be thrown out.

After the court case, Sandar was flown back to her home country. Because she was 17 and had no family, she was referred to the Department of Social Welfare shelter. She gave birth to her baby girl and was referred to Eden so that she could heal and learn the skills needed to support her daughter.

Supported by intense counseling, Sandar has changed before our eyes. She came to Eden completely broken, suffering complex trauma. She is now a strong and confident young woman. Sandar has learned to dream again… and the hope of seeing her baby again will soon be realized. Within the safety of Eden’s shelter, they are finally able to begin the process of healing after their time apart.

During her counseling sessions, Sandar works on her plan to fulfill the dream she painted and hung on our Dream Wall. She will soon begin vocational training to start a career in sales and marketing. The Eden jewelry team will train her in everything from processing sales to keeping stock and online marketing.

It’s only fitting that Sandar would continue down a path of love and justice. Unbeknownst to her, she began walking this path the first time she agreed, through painful tears, to speak against her captors.

Out of love for women, she will never meet, Sandar spoke up for justice. With each piece of Eden jewelry she makes, she continues to walk the path of seeking justice for women held captive around the world.

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"The amazing work that Eden’s doing is changing lives one at a time. And it doesn’t stop with just bringing people off the streets. The restoration and renewal of hope through training of a trade and work placement is something truly admirable and sorely needed in this generation!"

Charissa | via Facebook