The Princess Project began operating in Cambodia in April, 2011. It has grown rapidly, making over 500 rescues in the first 5 years, while also providing aid and community development for thousands of Khmer around the country.
The Princess Project is an enterprise of Message of Hope Ltd, a non-profit Australian Company and also a fully registered and approved Australian Charity (ABN 52 169 633 461). Message of Hope Ltd is audited annually, is governed by a board of dedicated directors and is accountable to the ACNC (Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission). Message of Hope Ltd also partners with the very well known Global Development Group, working together to build better lives for the world’s poorest people.
Our Search & Rescue Strategy
Our Case-Managers are consistently searching the slums and the streets for the children who are most at-risk. We will first connect with a child on the street, then we’ll locate their family members and meet together. We inform them of the danger the child is in by being on the streets and offer our assistance in keeping the child safe. We explain about the Project which protects the children from abuse and trafficking, while also providing the whole family with a better future. If the family agrees to allow the child to join the Project, they sign a contract which explains their commitment to us and ours to them.
The family agrees to support the child’s commitment to stay off the streets. The child is no longer allowed to work on the streets, beg or collect recycling. They must not be out on the streets at night for any reason. In the day time, they are allowed to go out as long as they stay in groups of three or more. The child agrees to attend school daily and strive for good grades. They agree to attend our drop-in centre once a week where we teach child-safety, life skills, health and hygiene, simple money management, vocational skills, as well as provide the children with nutritious food and health checks.
Our commitment to the child is that we will cover their education, medical and dental expenses. Every week we will provide a week’s supply of rice and vegetables for their whole family. We regularly provide the child with new clothes and shoes. We ensure the child lives in a safe environment. Often the families are homeless, or their shack is unsafe, so we build new homes. Other times we simply complete repairs on their home; adding security bars, lights and locks on the doors.
Please note: We do not have an orphanage. In Cambodia, a village raises a child. So most of the time it is better for the child to stay in their own village, in familiar surroundings, with their cousins and extended family. We locate a safe relative (usually an aunty or grandmother) who will agree to raise the child. We then support this new guardian and meet their needs so they can raise the rescued child well. If a child is not safe in their village or with their own family, we relocate them to one of our girls’ safe houses until they can be established with a safe Khmer foster family.
We support the child attending school right through until they graduate, then we help them find employment or start a business of their choice. Also, if the student is interested, while they’re studying we will help them establish a small after-school business to generate income and learn basic business management so they are ready for bigger things when they graduate. During their years of education, we provide vocational training in a variety of areas and have successful Khmer business men and women come to the drop-in centre as guest speakers to inspire the students.
The Princess Project aims to increase the health of the whole person: Mentally: with education and vocational training as mentioned above. Physically: with nutritious food, medical care, hygiene and many different fitness opportunities that they can participate in (such as: joining our running team, which meets weekly and races at an international level twice yearly); attending our Karate class to learn self-defence skills, self-discipline and develop speed and strength; playing touch rugby weekly, participating in a semester of dance classes each year; learning life- saving skills at our swimming lessons every semester.
Lastly, we endeavour to increase their health Spiritually which is why in every city where we establish the Princess Project, we also partner with a local Christian church. The Princess Project is wholeheartedly a Christian Organisation which began because God sent Cherie McGonagle, the founding director, to Sihanoukville Cambodia to specifically rescue at-risk children and prevent child-sex trafficking. It was God’s idea and He is involved in every aspect of the rescue work. In fact, that is why it is called the Princess Project: because we are rescuing the precious daughters of the Most High King! However, faith in God is not a requirement for a child to be part of the Princess Project. We will rescue a child who is at risk of being trafficked no matter what their faith or religious background.
The reason we partner with a local church is because we have noticed a significant improvement in the lives of those beneficiaries who do attend church. They find peace and healing. Their faith brings them hope and joy. They make positive new friendships through the children’s programs and youth programs. They find themselves belonging to a new family that loves and supports them. They find a place where they are encouraged and inspired. Many experience God’s provision and miracles of healing in their own lives.
We have found that only God can bring about the inner healing and restoration that is needed for individuals to be truly set free from their past and enjoy an abundant life. It is because of God that the Project was established and it is because of God that we are seeing such incredible transformations daily.