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Senhoa Foundation began as a counter-trafficking program under VOICE, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, based in Washington D.C. The name “Senhoa” was created in 2007 for a jewelry-making program designed to support vulnerable persons and survivors of human trafficking in Cambodia. Senhoa (pronounced “suh-no-a”) is a combination of two Vietnamese words – “Sen” (lotus) and “Hoa” (flower). A lotus flower grows in muddy water and rises above the surface to bloom with breathtaking beauty, untouched by its impure surroundings. Using this imagery, “Senhoa” was conceptualized to represent women and children vulnerable to sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking.
Senhoa Foundation has received numerous awards for its humanitarian endeavors. In 2011, Senhoa collaborated with Supermodel Coco Rocha to create a capsule collection called “Coco Rocha for Senhoa” which resulted in an explosion of press for the organization and its jewelry line. The same year, Glamour Magazine featured Senhoa in its annual “31 Days of Giving” list.
In 2013, Senhoa Foundation was chosen as one of three organizations to represent the girl effect and received the Crystal of Hope Awards, presented by Hilary Swank, Bill Clinton and Elton John. In December 2013, Senhoa jewelry received the SOURCE Award by Ethical Fashion Forum, a global award for sustainable and ethical fashion.
Senhoa Foundation and its jewelry lines have been featured in various magazines and newspapers, including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, The Huffington Post and the UK Telegraph.
Lisa Nguyen is the founder of Senhoa Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works with vulnerable persons and survivors of human trafficking in Cambodia. She graduated from a Bachelor of Law and Master of Laws from the University of Sydney. After a short stint in corporate law, Lisa left Australia to volunteer as a legal representative and advocate for stateless Vietnamese refugees remaining in the Philippines. Since this time, she has worked extensively on issues relating to refugee protection.
IN THE CONVERSATION, YOU WILL LEARN:
~ Conception of Senhoa: In 2007, Lisa worked with VOICE in Washington DC. Tune in to find out how a project on undocumented minority groups in Cambodia turned into the Senhoa Foundation.
~ Lotus Flower: Purity, beauty and strength – Senhoa is a message for all young trafficking survivors.
~ Why Cambodia?: In 2007, Voice wanted to work with the Vietnamese population – the largest minority group in Cambodia. At the same time, a huge NBC report put the country on the map.
Sexual exploitation was a problem. And Senhoa was created to help.
~ Survival Mode, 24/7: There is a lot of resistance to external help within the communities of Cambodia. They have been through much trauma with the genocide and trafficking, that they are extremely protective about their nation. This resistance comes because of their survival mode impulses. This is why Senhoa is based in Cambodia.
~ Strengthening Systems at Senhoa: Lisa gives us a detailed view of the various programs at Senhoa – from the Lotus Kids Club which focuses on education, to the Lotus House for women and girls to their famous jewelry program. Senhoa serves over 107 children, 100 families, and 50 women. Lisa reveals the aim behind each program.
~ Monitor and Evaluate: Last year, TLC did a full monitor and evaluation of Senhoa’s programs. They also had students of Tufts do the same, for the Lotus House. One of the challenges at Senhoa is to educate donors about the entire expense (which is A LOT) to house women and take care of their every need.
~ Best Practices with Local NGOs: One of the things Senhoa has learned over the years is the power of local capacity building. Senhoa came to Cambodia, looking to be the big NGO from the US that could solve every problem. Today, they operate with a completely different approach – a team approach.
~ Social Senhoa: The jewelry program started as a shelter retention program, as an instant income generation source. Today, it is a social enterprise on its own, under the Senhoa Foundation. Lisa talks about the need to use business and skills to serve humanity.
~ Let the Product Sell Itself: Lisa shares a story that lead her to an important business discover y – the product will sell itself before its story, and the story is just a bonus.
~ Coco Rocha at Senhoa: Coco Rocha, a socially conscious model, supported Senhoa’s jewelry by wearing their pieces at social events. Today, Coco and Senhoa have collaborated to create a jewelry line! Lisa talks about Senhoa’s relationship with Coco, who has brought much exposure to Senhoa and is now on the advisory board.
~ No Regrets: Lisa says that she wouldn’t change any decisions made for herself or for Senhoa. She shares a beautiful piece of advice – As long as the focus is on the mission and not on selfish intentions, then that is the way to go.
Lisa believes that we shouldn’t think of giving as a sacrifice or a means for getting something back. Her transformation has been incredible due to the love she has received and the “spiritual capital” that she has gathered.
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