While I could say my mission to make a suicidal girl feel better so hopefully she’ll never consider killing herself again was successful, I found out two days later that both her and her sister were fired from the ice factory. Because of her suicide attempt, she was unable to show up for work and when their boss found out that she attempted suicide, he fired them both. Hard to blame him – who wants to have to deal with people with suicidal tendencies? Tough for the girls, though.
Suicidal girl went back home to the village, while her sister stayed to try to look for a different job. She was gonna start to learn English so she has a wider field of possibilities but needed to fill the gap while she was jobless and came knocking at my door the following day. My English class student who introduced me to her came along as an interpreter and it all ended up being one embarrassing ordeal.
She came to me to make some money and was ready to do anything to “deserve” it. My student explained to me that her father is still ill and needs money but now that both sisters are out of work, I was her only option, because I was the only foreigner she knew. Then he just got up and said he was gonna leave us alone and started walking towards the door. I had to vehemently halt him and explain to him that this is not gonna work and neither her nor him should have considered this an option. I asked him to translate this to her:
“I understand you need money for your father, but you will have to earn it with real work. And you have all you need to do it. Don’t give up, it’s just one job lost and that job sucked anyway. It was wearing you out too much and paid very little. It’s good you’re out of it, but now you need to collect yourself and get out there to find yourself a better job. In the meantime, I won’t give you any money because I follow a strict policy on hand-outs, and I want you to walk out of this door the same strong and proud woman you were when you walked in. But I don’t want you to be hungry or have nowhere to sleep. When I go to eat, you are welcome to join me and I will pay for food you eat. If you can’t afford to pay for an accommodation, I will pay for your room until your first salary. If your new job requires you to purchase certain clothes, we will go out and I will pay for what is suitable and fits you. But every day you will have to show me where you went to apply for a job and what the outcome was. You will also have to show me the plan for the following day so I know which other places you are going to apply for a job with.”
I do not do handouts. There are way too many Cambodians out there already who are used to getting handouts and as a result – do not do anything to even try to get a job and improve their lives. They make the skill of asking for handouts their lifetime profession. I follow an example from the bible. Instead of giving the needy free fish, I will teach them how to fish. Encouraging the culture of handouts does Cambodians a great disservice. What they need is someone to teach them how to be responsible for their actions and pro active about their future.
The girl who came to sell herself out – quite possibly for the first time in her life – was saved from her own mistake and sent to become more successful than she’s ever been before. She scored a well paying job the very next day and I hooked her up with an English class for beginners. All this was possible without losing her dignity, she only needed someone to kick her in the right direction, instead of making her used to getting money the easy way… no matter the cost.
Unlike her sister who went back to the village, this girl stayed in Siem Reap so I got a chance to meet with her on a few occasions again. We had this common understanding which went without saying that we will never talk about the day she came to me and will treat it is if it never happened. I’m positive that she has a good future ahead of herself and I wish her the best of luck.