There are some people you meet in life who leave a lasting impression. If you ever have the privilege of meeting Sreya*, you’ll see she’s the type of person who finds a special place in your heart. She has kind eyes, she wears a huge grin, and she has a zest for life that is contagious.
But if you met her the day she first walked into Bloom, you would’ve seen a very different girl. Sreya, aged 16, shuffled in silently, her hair covering her face - she didn’t make eye contact with anyone. She later told me this was the darkest point of her life. She had escaped a lifetime of abuse, but the scars and shame felt heavier than ever.
Before I tell you about what Sreya is doing now, I want to share with you what she has overcome to get there.
What were you doing when you were 14?
When Sreya was 14, she was facing daily exploitation.
As a child, Sreya was passed from home to home - never knowing the love and safety of a stable family. One day, her aunt, who she was living with at the time, told her that she was too much of a burden and it was time to leave. Sreya felt anxious in her stomach - however, what came next was worse than anything Sreya could have imagined.
That night, despite her crying and resisting, her aunt took her to the city where she was exploited for the next two years.
Over and over, night after night. The abuse was merciless, crushing her body, soul and spirit.
“Once I tried to escape and they threatened to kill me. I begged them to just do it. The darkness and hopelessness was more than I could bear.
Eventually, I was rescued, but the relentless torment didn’t stop. The nightmares and flashbacks were just as real.”
Unfortunately, Sreya’s story is not an isolated case.
The rescue process is just the beginning for girls like Sreya. After extensive trauma, the brain stops developing and survivors ‘shut down’ mentally and emotionally to block out the pain - making it hard to connect with others, focus, and learn. However, with love and support, new brain pathways can be built.
Over time, Sreya began to open up and connect with her counsellor and teachers at Bloom. Step by step she learnt to read and write & conquered practical skills in her hospitality classes.
I clearly remember the night that Sreya graduated from our hospitality training program. She courageously stood up in front of everyone and shared her story.
“They told me that all I was good for is pleasing men. They said I was worthless and would never come to anything.
And for a long time, I believed it.
But today, I’m proud to say they were wrong!!
I have discovered my true self - a strong and vibrant woman. With the help of my Bloom family, I’ve found so much healing.
Bloom was my pathway to true freedom. For the first time, I feel truely alive!
My dream for the future is to help other girls. I want them to find the same hope and purpose that I have".
There were cheers and tears throughout Bloom as she shared her freedom story that night. Her testimony is an inspiring example of what is possible when a girl is given a chance.
Progress is often slow but every girl is worthy of our care. And by refusing to give up on girls like Sreya, life changing miracles can happen.
Today, Sreya runs her very own cake shop in her home town.
"For a long time, I dreamed of starting my own shop. At first, I thought it was just a fantasy.
But when I had the opportunity to manage the Bloom cafe, I saw that I was really good at it. I thought to myself, ‘I could really do this!’.
And now I have!"
"What brings me the most joy is being able to employ 5 girls from my village. I know that they are all at high-risk of being lured by sextraffickers.
I love that I can provide them with safe jobs to protect them".
Sreya found freedom because of people like you.
Today, like so many Bloom girls, she uses that freedom to break the cycle of exploitation in her community.
Right now, there are more girls who desperately need your help. They are at the lowest point of their life - bearing the weight and shame of years of rape, abuse and violence.
You can give a survivor a pathway to freedom this Christmas.
With your help, these girls will have a pathway to freedom.
Warm regards and a big thank you,
CEO of Bloom Asia
P.s. Thank you caring and taking action. After many years of seeing first-hand what can happen when girls like Sreya are given a pathway to freedom, I can assure you that you’re making a life-altering gift that’s meeting an urgent need.