When the acid hits its victim, it causes third and fourth degree burns that can be fatal if penetrated to the bone. The physical pain is excruciating. The emotional pain never ends. Victims relive their horrific attack in nightmares and flashbacks. Culture deems victims as deserving of their scars, and they are treated as outcasts. Even their families shun them. They cannot get jobs. Disfigured, abandoned and now impoverished, victims lose their self-worth. An acid attack is far more than skin deep.
There is hope.
Meet Ya. Ya is one of our artisan partners in Cambodia who survived an acid attack. Before she began creating accessories for Trades of Hope, Ya recalls, "No one valued me. They counted me as less than zero. They liked to mock me and make me feel bad, and discourage me. They said I couldn't do anything ... It made me be very withdrawn and frightened, even of myself." She felt hopeless.
When Ya began working for Trades of Hope, she thought it would temporary and she would soon be on her own again. Two years later, she felt stronger than before. Through the work she does and the people she helps, Ya came to realize her worth. She no longer viewed her work creating products as a small stepping stone, but a whole new path. She realized she had a gift and an empathetic heart to help other victims find healing. Seeing value in her new skills made her more hopeful and confident about her future. Ya says, "It started to wash away all the words that people used to speak over me and my life." She has a passion to help other acid attack victims and loves being able to share the hope she's found with the other women. We asked Ya what she enjoys most about her job. She replied, "When I can give work to others and see them smile, and when they see God in me and in all the Trades of Hope people. Especially, it gives me a chance to speak of God and His goodness. When they smile, it gives me hope - it helps me know I have a future. I love to see their smiles!"
"The work with Trades of Hope helps me love others more. It helps the artisans love others as well." Ya continues, "The business partnership with Trades of Hope lets mothers can see a new day for their children. They're now able to send them to school, where, among other things, they can learn right from wrong. It is a positive step towards ending the violence and poverty." Mothers now have hope for their children's and community's future as well as their own.
Ya sums up her new path, "...This isn't just a job. I feel like part of a community that sees me and the artisans, and cares about us. It is a matter of the heart, not just a business. And it brings me great encouragement."
It would have been easy for Ya to give up on others because of the trauma she lives through daily, but because of the business partnership and personal connections formed with Trades of Hope, she chose to embrace love. She chose to give opportunities and pour herself into society's so-called outcasts. Her bold choice to follow her heart despite rejection and opposition has paid off. It's affirmed daily in wrinkled smiles. Confirmed as fellow workers regain self-respect. Validated in tear-filled eyes as workers are read thank you notes from Compassionate Entrepreneurs who not only sell their products, but pray for each one of them. A bond forged with women half a world away that feeds their soul and helps rebuild their faith in humanity. Ya shares the hope and future she’s been given – the courage to face life and to continue to love others. Her goal is to raise up others to carry on this heart of love long after she leaves this earth. Only through love can there be an end to the many levels of horror they have experienced.
To see how you can join us and help women like Ya to rebuild their lives and be the heroes in their own stories, visit https://www.mytradesofhope.com/membertoolsdotnet/shoppingcartv4/MainCartv4.aspx?MG=47