A Documentary Review of Finding Home
My parents were Hmong refugees who escaped Laos during the Vietnam War. They lived in refugee camps in Thailand before immigrating to the United States. During that time, they carried with them their only child, a son. Today, they have a total of six children, five of them being daughters. When my father reminisces of life back in Laos and the war, he often tells us of how lucky we are to be born and raised in America. His eyes become teary thinking about the struggle and danger of raising five girls in a war-torn country filled with poverty. So as I’m sitting here watching the documentary, Finding Home, I’m deeply emotional by how close the story hits to home.
Finding Home is a documentary directed by Derek Hammeke and inspired and narrated by Stephanie Freed, founder of Rapha House. The documentary follows the lives of three young Cambodian women who were victims of sex trafficking at a young age through three years of their post-trafficking experiences and journeys to healing. The documentary will give you a reality check of the dark underworld of sex trafficking in Southeast Asia, a glimpse of the filthy karaoke bars and brothels where the abuse, slavery, and sexual exploitation takes place, and the heartbreaking struggle of picking a life up after it’s been shattered.
The documentary will give you a reality check of the dark underworld of sex trafficking in Southeast Asia, a glimpse of the filthy karaoke bars and brothels where the abuse, slavery, and sexual exploitation takes place, and the heartbreaking struggle of picking a life up after it’s been shattered.
In the documentary, you will meet Sophorn who was 14 years old when she was trafficked, Sophany who was 15 years old, and Noch who was 13 years old, each telling their own stories of how they were coerced and manipulated into prostitution and slavery. You will hear their tales of fear, loneliness, and pain as they transition from being victims to survivors. This documentary strongly highlights the shame and lack of self-worth these girls experience and the overwhelming obstacles of impoverishment and cultural expectations.
Although the documentary is mostly filmed in Cambodia, where human trafficking is an ongoing issue in Cambodian culture, it paints an honest picture of the cruel reality of human trafficking and how young women and girls find themselves trapped in sexual exploitation globally. The documentary provides a small clip of Cambodia’s history from civil war to genocide, from poverty to its booming tourism. Cambodia has long since been a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.
With the support and dedication of Stephanie Freed and the Rapha House staff alongside non-profit workers, native counselors, and social workers who persevered and stood beside these girls every step of the way, hope was never lost. It is very comforting to watch the documentary shine a light on those who make the commitment to end human trafficking and those who strive to provide a strong recovery support. Rhonda Benz, co-founder of Bykota House -- a children's home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, that provides children with a safe place to live and the opportunity to be part of a family -- said the following in the documentary that triggered a spark in me: “It’s really easy to see the need and be moved by it, but there’s the overwhelming question of ‘why doesn’t somebody do anything about it?’” Then she realized, she could be that somebody. A year after her realization, Rhonda and her husband moved to Cambodia and started Bykota House.
It is very comforting to watch the documentary shine a light on those who make the commitment to end human trafficking and those who strive to provide a strong recovery support.
Finding Home really makes the viewers ask themselves: “If not me, then who? If not this, then what? If not now, then when?” I was a bundle of emotions watching the raw footage and the sadness and hurt portrayed by these young girls. I know I can never close my eyes on human trafficking, and I highly doubt anyone ever could as well after watching it. Finding Home will open your eyes to a new understanding of how human trafficking works and the harsh and brutal lifestyle young girls and women must endure to survive. You not only get to see and learn the cruel reality of modern day slavery through this documentary, but you also witness the struggle of rehabilitation, which is another challenge on its own. “Finding Home reminds us that we are all connected in our humanity; that we are all looking for a place of love, acceptance and community...a place called home.” – Derek Hammeke
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About the Author
Gaochen Xiong recently graduated with her Master’s in Public and Nonprofit Administration. As a first generation born Hmong American, who is dedicated to paving the way for her children and future generations, she is excited to expand her knowledge and fight for justice through Dressember. She’s an avid reader, lover of all things arts and crafts, and enjoys experiencing new adventures and traveling with her family.