Solida Seng: When People Are Changed by the Truth
"I want to see women living with hope and dignity."
Interview by Kristyn Komarnicki
Solida Seng is the founding director of a holistic ministry called Precious Women Ministry in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she works with vulnerable populations who are exploited in the sex and entertainment "industry." We asked her about her work and calling to reach out to these women.
Tell us about your ministry.
I founded the organization in 2011 when I felt God touching my heart to work with exploited women. Our work is separated into three different programs: the Outreach Program, Butterfly Program, and Business Program. These programs allow us to reach women on the prevention side as well as the healing side. We have outreach programs to meet women working in the karaoke bars and beer gardens, to tell them of the ministry of Precious Women and let them know about vocational training opportunities, and to provide empowerment training for them. We raise further awareness through our Voice of Hope radio program, which discusses various topics including women's rights, human trafficking, and empowerment.
The Butterfly Home is a place for the women to live while they receive support through Precious Women. Counseling is also provided. In our Precious Women Beauty and Bride Salon we provide vocational training for women to learn skills to be able to make an income in an environment free from sexual and economic exploitation. I want to see women living with hope and dignity. I want them to know they are precious.
What is one piece of advice you wish someone had given you before you started in ministry?
When I was starting out, I wish someone had told me that I was doing the right thing. I had some friends around me encouraging me, but a lot of people didn't think that I could do it, and they tried to discourage me. I knew that it was right, that this was God's call on my life, but I would have appreciated being reminded of that by others around me. That would have been a gift of motivation for me. I wanted to be surrounded by people encouraging me that I was following God's calling for me and supporting me to continue moving forward.
Success in holistic ministry is when people have been changed by the truth that God loves them, that they are created by God, and that God has a future for each of them. When people realize this truth and believe it, they will be completely changed and will not be able to go back to the person they were before. If the spirit of a person doesn't change, then they could go back to the same person they were before, so God's truths of love and hope need to be given. I meet women who have been exploited and have lost their sense of self worth. They no longer see the value in living. We can work with them and meet their physical needs, but there needs to be healing, too. It is a big thing to rebuild someone's life so that they feel that they are valued as a human. So when I see that these women have been holistically healed, and have gained a new spirit of hope and faith, then I view it as a success.
How do you refresh your spirit and sustain yourself in the hard work of holistic ministry?
At the beginning I didn't know how to refresh myself, and so I found myself crying a lot because I didn't know how to handle it. But now I have discovered how important it is to care for myself. The most important way for me to be refreshed is to go to people to talk. I go to my mentor and my pastor and talk with them and am encouraged. I also like to go away for a short time to somewhere I can relax. When I am in a quiet place then I am free to focus on myself and God without the distractions around me. I like to pray there, read the Bible, and feel filled once again. I like to think back to the beginning of my time in ministry and review all that has happened. I think of how many lives have been transformed and it reminds me why I am doing this work and why I need to keep going.
Faith and love are the most important. That is what is most important for myself in my life and in my work, and also for the staff and volunteers who are working for the organization. Without faith and love we could not be doing our work. I believe it is also important to have a supportive community, people who are all working together for the same purpose. They can provide encouragement for each other and remind each other of the meaningfulness of the work.
What is the most exciting transformation you've ever witnessed in your work?
I have seen many exciting transformations through my work at Precious Women. The one that stands out the most is a girl with a disability who contacted us to receive help. She was working in a massage parlor and selling sex to make more money. We were able to support her and find her beauty training through a partner organization. She completed her training and then went on to get a job and become a trainer at another organization. There she met a man who loved her and didn't care about her past. They got married and now she has a baby. It is so exciting to see where she was, and how she is living today. Seeing these transformations inspires me to continue on in this ministry.