Free To Shine follows a UN human rights-based framework, guided by the following basic rights:
The right to be free from slavery
We believe children belong in schools, not brothels. We identify girls who are most at risk of being targeted by traffickers and conduct a thorough investigation, speaking with the girl, her family, their neighbors, her school, and enlisting the help of local authorities to gather supporting information. Our In-Country team completes a detailed application form and submits it to our Assessment team in Australia for approval.
The right to access an education
Once enrolled in our program a girl receives a uniform, a bicycle, and a school bag full of books and pens, and off she goes to school. Being in school means that she is regularly accounted for, and is less able to be approached by a trafficker with a false or misleading offer of work. Additionally, skills learned in school, such as critical thinking, also decrease the risk that she, or her future children, will ever be trafficked. Our Education Officers visit her once a month to provide ongoing support – a key aspect of ensuring her safety and keeping her in school. At each visit they reiterate the importance of education, encouraging parents to support their children in continuing their studies and teaching that a university education is possible. When a family hits a roadblock that threatens their daughter’s school attendance, Education Officers refer them to a Free To Shine Social Worker who helps problem solve and find workable, locally appropriate solutions.
During monthly visits, girls are encouraged to exchange their library books. Free To Shine has 5,000 books, all in the local language (Khmer) and depicting Cambodian culture so that the stories are relatable. We conduct Community Classes three times a month to educate both children and parents on safety and knowing their own rights.
Access to safe drinking water
The poorest families in the rural villages often don’t have access to potable water, relying on natural waterways to meet their needs. This can mean cooking with and drinking water from unclean ponds or rivers. Regularly ill from preventable water-borne illnesses such as diarrhoea, they find themselves unable to go to work or school for extended periods of time, and often families have to take out loans to cover everyday bills or even larger loans to pay for medical treatment. The opportunity cost of these loans is too often a daughter’s education. Free To Shine provides a water filter to for every girl on our program so that they and their families have access to safe drinking water.
Enough food to not be hungry
When we meet them, some of our families do not have enough food to eat. Some eat just once a day, a meal of rice and salt with the occasional vegetable or small piece of meat divided among many people. Numerous factors contribute to this: the main one is poverty, but seasonal weather and employment conditions can play a part, as can lack of transport and distance from central markets. Children and young people who don’t receive adequate nutrition lack the sustenance required to fuel their growing bodies and minds, making learning difficult. Some choose to miss school to forage for food, while others leave school altogether in order to work in low-paid, unskilled jobs to supplement the family income. Free To Shine provides every girl on our program with ten different types of seeds, information about their nutritional content, and instruction on how to grow them, assisting girls and their families to grow enough fruits and vegetables to not only feed themselves but also to sell any excess at market.
Working with the very poorest families, we occasionally visit houses that make us wonder how anyone can survive in them. Some girls live in housing with so many holes in the walls and roof that when it rains the whole family has to huddle together to try to stay dry. Some have only two or three walls, protecting against the worst of the sun and wind but not providing the protection that a family – particularly a child- or single parent-headed household – needs from potential intruders. As part of our commitment to keeping girls safe and in school, Free To Shine is able to build new houses for families living in the most precarious of situations.