I used to be stuck in a room from morning to night servicing sex buyers. I had no time to spend with my kids, and the place was a terrible environment with everyone trying to take advantage of each other. There was no feeling of safety, and being there took a huge toll on me. I was extremely depressed.
When I left the room to go out, I felt incredible shame. I would avoid eye contact and hang my head low. How could I look anyone in the eye when I did what I did? What hope or opportunity could there be for someone like me?
So when they (S&D) knocked on my door in the brothel, I resisted talking to them. But they kept visiting, and told me I could go to their place to learn how to make candles and other products. I could bring friends; we would get paid for our work. So we started going.
AT THE BEGINNING
We’ve been meeting weekly at the Promise House for over 3 to 4 months now, and being here has transformed how we see ourselves, people and work. The environment feels so safe and the staff care about us and love us. When they comfort or encourage us, we know it’s from the heart. I’m inspired to change and dedicate my life to something proper and good. That’s why I signed a 1-year contract and joined Sons & Daughters permanently.
As a ReStore Trainee, I'm involved in brainstorming, developing, and producing ReStore products such as soy wax candles and beeswax wraps. I also teach the candle-making course to women coming to Promise House and train those in our program.
These days, when I wake up and get ready for work at the Promise House, I feel a lot of joy. There’s not much stress or pressure, compared to what I did before, and I feel very encouraged when I’m here. I feel so blessed to have a chance to learn something new and to make a better life for me and my family. I'm genuinely thrilled that I can face people without being ashamed of what I do for a living. Here, I’ve rediscovered myself, my dignity, my self-confidence and my autonomy.
Of course I still have dark moments. Many, in fact. I get disillusioned, question my worth, question what I’m doing here or fixate on the bad things that happened to me. I have ongoing financial struggles and a pending divorce. There's a legal dispute for 50% of my house and I don't have money to hire a lawyer. My debts rack millions. I can get desperate and hopeless, thinking how hard it will be to pay off the loans.
But my work at ReStore offers me a hope I’ve never known, to try and find a new path. The problems will always be there, but I can take my time with them and not rely on my old methods to earn money. Ultimately it harms society, it harms my relationship with my kids, and it harms my own self-image.
Prayer and church are also a part of my life now. I go to church. I feel Jesus' presence and love when the S&D team prays for me. Even though life is difficult, I feel blessed and it makes me want to take a new and better path in life.
Sweetie's favorite verse in the Bible
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?"
My kids are so happy that I can spend much more time with them now. In my old work, my kids didn't want to talk to or pay attention to me because I was away from home so often. But these days, because they see me more often, they're more happy to see me and they'll ask about me more. My daughter especially now calls and messages me to see if I'm coming home for dinner so that she can prepare enough food!
I can’t really keep up with them for schoolwork though! I'm not originally from Hong Kong. I am Vietnamese, so my Chinese and English are not that great, unfortunately.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
At this moment, I am thankful that there’s room to learn and change both in business and in terms of life direction. The biggest learning for me is I need to do something lasting, substantial and dignified. Business needs to be very practical and sustainable.
The biggest change for me has been, and continues to be, developing a mentality that there is a correct and good way to make money, conduct business, and live my life.
I hope this year I can really learn to make candles well. But more importantly, I hope that all of us, my sisters and I, can learn to manage our personal finances well. I hope we can also learn how to help and impact society for the better. My sisters in the commercial sex industry go through indescribable difficulties and, like me, find it almost impossible to feel comfortable in society because of what they do.
I know there’s a lot of sisters out there that want to leave the industry and work in ReStore. I know that paying salaries to them will be costly, and making a profit is a challenge because we are still working on increasing sales. My biggest concern is sustaining our social enterprise, the business and continuing to provide those opportunities without incurring loss.
Things for ReStore would be better if we could collaborate with other businesses more often. It means a lot to us when these companies want to work with us and we have new exciting projects. It builds our confidence to try new things, and I appreciate the opportunity. I really am thankful to everyone who has partnered with us so far - it's a true comfort and encouragement that people have put their trust and confidence in us.
I hope I can keep working in this business or elsewhere to help others! I would want to give it my all to help others turn their lives around, especially to give others who were in my situation an opportunity to have hope, build a future and in turn contribute to society in their own way.