• Report: #804775

Complaint Review: Somaly Mam, AFESIP, SMF, Voices for Change

  • Submitted: Sun, December 04, 2011
  • Updated: Thu, March 07, 2013

  • Reported By: Candace — Glenelg Maryland United States of America
Somaly Mam, AFESIP, SMF, Voices for Change
Internet United States of America

Somaly Mam, AFESIP, SMF, Voices for Change Beware of programs associated with Somaly Mam Internet

*Author of original report: More Information about Somaly's Problems

*General Comment: Personally Worked In Association of The Organization

*General Comment: Personally Worked In Association of The Organization

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: Appreciate

*General Comment: Whats your name?

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: Which is more dangerous?

*Consumer Comment: Your comments are dangerous

*General Comment: Where is Somaly Mam Reputation?????

*General Comment: Where is Somaly Mam Reputation?????

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: cover up

*Author of original report: Follow-up

*General Comment: Gratitude and Hope

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: Shared perspective

*Consumer Comment: Followup Needed

*Author of original report: Happy to give you more information

*Consumer Comment: more info please

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I have just returned from Cambodia working with AFESIP one of Somaly Mam's organizations.  I want to warn people that although Somaly Mam has a compelling personal story and international profile as a champion of rights for sex trafficking survivors, her organizations are severely problematic.  After 7 months in Cambodia attempting to help AFESIP build its psychology program I determined that the organization is so dysfunctional and emotionally unhealthy that my job was impossible.  I met others who had attempted to work for Somaly Mam run organizations (Voices for Change and Somaly Mam Foundation - in Cambodia) who encountered similar (and worse) problems. 

Please think twice about going to work or volunteer for any of these organizations.  The reality does not match the public image.  Feel free to contact me for more information.

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 12/04/2011 07:58 AM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Somaly-Mam-AFESIP-SMF-Voices-for-Change/internet/Somaly-Mam-AFESIP-SMF-Voices-for-Change-Beware-of-programs-associated-with-Somaly-Mam-804775. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

Ripoff Report has an exclusive license to this report. It may not be copied without the written permission of Ripoff Report.

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REBUTTALS & REPLIES:
3Author 13Consumer 0Employee/Owner
Updates & Rebuttals

#1 Author of original report

More Information about Somaly's Problems

AUTHOR: blasec57 - ()

 This is Candace, the person who originally posted this rip-off report.  Here is more information about Somaly.

http://www.metafilter.com/132895/Sex-trafficking-fraud-and-money-at-the-Somaly-Mam-Foundation

 
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#2 General Comment

Personally Worked In Association of The Organization

AUTHOR: resetpram - (United States of America)

I will try to make this brief, and as to the point as possible.

I spent nearly four weeks working with Somaly and her organization in filming a documentary, specifically as a lead cinematographer. I slept on the hardwood floors of the centers, I ate home-cooked meals with Somaly and all of her sisters. 

I worked hand in hand with Somaly's right hand women, and personally saw literally hundreds of victims who were survivors who were being educated, fed, and offered love, support and compassion by no one else but this organization. This was over multiple locations in Cambodia. This is in addition to the tens-of-thousands who have been rescued before them, with what I would call, a lot of proof that I was exposed to. 

SE Asia is an EXTREMELY prickly place, and all people who've commented here should know that. By no means would I judge this to be a perfect organization of operations, but FAR from what has been described here. I would compare it to something like Kaiser Permanente, but with the heart and drive of a lion. 

The outreach programs even go out almost everyday of the week, offering sexual education, awareness, condoms, support, and advice to customers and 'workers' of the slums. I personally went on multiple trips of this kind.

The organization is the go-to place for any victims who are actually rescued by law enforcement or family members, or friends, or neighbors. I met many of these people personally as well. 

The stories I heard, the optimism that was in all of these victims hearts because of Somaly's message was real. 

I could continue to go on. But it isn't relevant. 

To say that the organization is 'so dysfunctional and emotionally unhealthy that my job was impossible,' is literally a cop-out. Are you serious? Are you trying to help the cause or make it worse? You personally saw hundreds of victims being saved, educated, fed and offered emotional support - Is that not the goal of the organization? 

The right-hand women who I worked with told me over and over that it is both the most destructive, and rewarding experience that they felt they could ever be a part of. They were making a real impact, but the emotional attachments and connotations that come with the work were so incredibly heavy, that they could barely walk.

It is very troubling to me that someone would have the nerve to take time out of their day to specifically go out and try to stop an organization that is truly trying very hard. By no means could you be doing ANY good for any of the victims or future victims that you personally saw were saved and cared for. I just don't understand. And you haven't followed up. So maybe you are not who you say you are.

Anyway, I shouldn't be accusing people at this point. My goal here was straighten things out from my perspective. I have no other motive than to continue to help the cause that I was lucky enough to have a very small part in.



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#3 General Comment

Personally Worked In Association of The Organization

AUTHOR: resetpram - (United States of America)

I will try to make this brief, and as to the point as possible.

I spent nearly four weeks working with Somaly and her organization in filming a documentary, specifically as a lead cinematographer. I slept on the hardwood floors of the centers, I ate home-cooked meals with Somaly and all of her sisters. 

I worked hand in hand with Somaly's right hand women, and personally saw literally hundreds of victims who were survivors who were being educated, fed, and offered love, support and compassion by no one else but this organization. This was over multiple locations in Cambodia. This is in addition to the tens-of-thousands who have been rescued before them, with what I would call, a lot of proof that I was exposed to. 

SE Asia is an EXTREMELY prickly place, and all people who've commented here should know that. By no means would I judge this to be a perfect organization of operations, but FAR from what has been described here. I would compare it to something like Kaiser Permanente, but with the heart and drive of a lion. 

The outreach programs even go out almost everyday of the week, offering sexual education, awareness, condoms, support, and advice to customers and 'workers' of the slums. I personally went on multiple trips of this kind.

The organization is the go-to place for any victims who are actually rescued by law enforcement or family members, or friends, or neighbors. I met many of these people personally as well. 

The stories I heard, the optimism that was in all of these victims hearts because of Somaly's message was real. 

I could continue to go on. But it isn't relevant. 

It is very troubling to me that someone would have the nerve to take time out of their day to specifically go out and try to stop an organization that is truly trying very hard. By no means could you be doing ANY good for any of the victims or future victims that you personally saw were saved and cared for. I just don't understand. And you haven't followed up. So maybe you are not who you say you are.

Anyway, I shouldn't be accusing people at this point. My goal here was straighten things out from my perspective. I have no other motive than to help the cause that I was lucky enough to have a very small part in helping. 





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#4 UPDATE EX-employee responds

Appreciate

AUTHOR: transparency - (United States of America)

I appreciate why you would see that as my reason for not naming myself. While I do enjoy the salary that comes with over 20 years of working in development, it isn't enough to fight the lawsuits that would come from Somaly Mam's lawyers for violating a non-disclosure agreement. Additionally, I have been warned by AFESIP staff that "bad things" happen to people who say anything against Somaly. So, this is less about my professional career and more about my personal security. 

I welcome additional dialogue with you and others through this forum. 
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#5 General Comment

Whats your name?

AUTHOR: BJ - (Cambodia)

Transparency if you are so sure of your convictions why not write to us under your real name?

Are you bothered about ruining your chances of a highly paid job in international development?
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#6 UPDATE EX-employee responds

Which is more dangerous?

AUTHOR: transparency - (United States of America)

Which is more dangerous, to raise concerns that will hopefully improve the work being done or to allow these organizations to continue operating in an environment where false representation is rewarded? 

AFESIP and SMF need to be held accountable at all levels: http://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/questions-raised-over-symbols-slavery-story-4809/

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#7 Consumer Comment

Your comments are dangerous

AUTHOR: BJ - (Cambodia)

I know the three AFESIP Centres in Cambodia very well. I have visited them many times and have had far more involvement with them than your 7 months. Are you yet another American who thinks they can go into a country and dictate how things should be done. Get back to your theory books and leave the real hands on practice to people who know the culture and situation far better than you. What a shame America/Americans usually hold the purse strings. Maybe Organisations like AFESIP would not need to dance to your tune if things were different. Hopefully the times they are a changin!  Hopefully it will be before vindicitive individuals like you do not put people (including chldren) in further danger.
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#8 General Comment

Where is Somaly Mam Reputation?????

AUTHOR: SG2277 - (USA)

I went through quite a few blogs/website regarding Somaly Mam at the UN and different aspect of her and her organization.  I honestly have had a lot of respect for her work and what she had done to help the girls/victims.

Plus, I have read these articles on khmerwitica and penhpal that discuss similar story on her as well:

http://penhpal.com/2012/04/somaly-mam-overreaches-herself/

http://www.khmerwitica.com/forum/6039-6070-6047-6070-6017-6098-6040-6082-6042-29/somaly-mam-39-behind-39-the-mask/

What I don't understand is that why Somaly Mam didn't/wouldn't come out and face what others had claimed if it's UNTRUE or is it TRUE??

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#9 General Comment

Where is Somaly Mam Reputation?????

AUTHOR: SG2277 - (United States of America)

I went through quite a few blogs/website regarding status on Somaly Mam with the UN and others aspect of her organization. Honestly, I have had a lot of respect for  her work and what she had done for the girls/victims.  

Plus, I have read these articles in khmerwitica and penhpal that discuss similar story on her. 

http://www.khmerwitica.com/forum/6039-6070-6047-6070-6017-6098-6040-6082-6042-29/somaly-mam-39-behind-39-the-mask/

http://penhpal.com/2012/04/somaly-mam-overreaches-herself/

What I don't understand is that why Somaly Mam didn't come out and face what others had claim about her and her organization if what they've said were UNTRUE or is it TRUE??

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#10 UPDATE EX-employee responds

cover up

AUTHOR: transparency - (United States of America)

The foundation goes out of their way to silence any questions of Somaly or their work. Often articles are published in Cambodia, but unfortunately the Cambodia Daily is not available to a wider audience. People in the US rely on Kristoff, but he doesn't ask critical questions. There were 3 articles in the Cambodia Daily this week on Somaly. Here is one: http://www.khmer440.com/chat_forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=23004

There have been others in the past discussing the "raid" on the brothel in 2004 and around shelter-based models being ineffective for long-term reintegration. 
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#11 Author of original report

Follow-up

AUTHOR: blasec57 - (United States of America)

This is Candace.  I would love to talk to you more if you are willing.  You can reach me at cablase@loyola.edu.  Many thanks for your post.
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#12 General Comment

Gratitude and Hope

AUTHOR: Ecuasage - (United States of America)

My thanks to Candice and the individual who just posted. There is nothing so important as the people we each wish to see rescued and made whole again. Hopefully SMF will be more receptive to constructive criticism as a result of your efforts and as a result more lives will be restored. That list of questions to ask any NGO is also excellent and one which I intend to share with others. Finally, in whatever you are doing, I wish you success and thank you for your efforts to date.

To any SMF rep reading this, please understand we want you to succeed and hope these concerns will be duly addressed.

Sincerely,
Brian V. Mansur
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#13 UPDATE EX-employee responds

Shared perspective

AUTHOR: transparency - (United States of America)

Having also worked with AFESIP and Somaly Mam Foundation, I share Candace's perspective. In fact, I believe most of the NGOs working in Cambodia in the trafficking sector would also agree that practices followed by AFESIP and Somaly Mam Foundation are doing more harm than good.

With that, you'll still want to make your own decision. So, ask smart questions and decide for yourself. How do they measure impact? How do they define empowerment? Ask for financial reports. How much of your donation goes to fundraising and administrative costs? Is the organization open to reflecting on and improving their methods? If so, how do they do this? Do they have a governance board in place and functioning? Do they follow locally- and internationally-accepted practices in working with victims of trafficking? Are policies to support good practices in place and followed by all staff at all times? Is there a whistleblower policy in place? 

I don't personally believe that anyone intends to do harm, but I do feel that AFESIP and Somaly Mam Foundation are behaving unethically and continue to dismiss feedback and concerns raised by former volunteers and staff. If any of us felt that our concerns had been acknowledged or addressed internally, we wouldn't feel the needed to resort to public forums like this. 
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#14 Consumer Comment

Followup Needed

AUTHOR: Ecuasage - (United States of America)

Candace,

It has been 3 months since your initial report but there has been no followup on your claim. You indicated you should be contacted directly to answer questions, but you left no easy means to do so (of course the Report strictly says not to include email addresses so they didn't make it easy either). It took some research to find out your last name, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. You have not responded by my Feb 18 LinkedIn request as of this date, but I noticed that the AFESIP references in your profiles have since been removed.

Your claims against SMF are disconcerting to anyone concerned with ending human trafficking. SMF is well respected, though it would be foolish of anyone to think it perfect. What is the solution to the issues you saw in their psychology and rehabilitation programs? Have you completed the full report you promised? With whom did you file it? How can someone obtain a copy of it?

It is clear based on my cursory Internet research that you did in fact work for AFESIP as you claim, but I have seen precious little criticism of SMF on the web and none (as of yet) to support your criticisms. If you wish your concerns to be taken seriously then we need more information. If your initial report has generated positive action by SMF, then it would be helpful to know that as well. If your feelings about your experience have changed in the light of time, we'd appreciate knowing that too. 

You can reach me through my gmail account (same name as my pseudonym here) with your answer, though posting it on the Report as well would be welcome. My Facebook and LinkedIn invitations are pending as well.

Thank you for filing your initial and follow-on report. I can't imagine anyone, including yourself, wants to see SMF be anything less than the best possible NGO it can be. The stakes in lives is far too high. 

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#15 Author of original report

Happy to give you more information

AUTHOR: blasec57 - (United States of America)

I am happy to provide specifics and to steer you towards others who have had similar experiences and can provide even more detail than I can.  I wrote the alert very shortly after returning from Cambodia and probably did sound angry, because I was/am.  Although, I can see how this makes it harder my alert to be helpful to you.  I am in the middle of writing a formal report detailing all the specifics so do not chose to write these on the internet at this time.  However if you want to speak to me I'm more than happy to do that.  I put the alert on Rip Off because I wanted others to think twice about going.  I too admired Somaly's work so much that I quit my job and went to dedicate a year to helping.  While, I still do admire her personal story and (I hope) her genuine desire to help others, I have witnessed first hand that she is not healed enough of her own trauma to lead a healthy organization and as a result the girls and women in her care are receiving ineffective (at best) programming and dependency creating, detrimental (at worst) programming.  You will have to make your own choice about whether to go, but I hope you will investigate things further.  I wish someone had put something on the internet I could have read before I made the decision.  There are other programs doing, in my opinion, much better and more ethical work in Cambodia that you could volunteer with.  I am happy to give you names of programs if you want.  I appreciate your feedback about the alert I posted.  I'm not sure how you can contact me directly through this site, but maybe we can find a way.  I feel strongly about what I posted and what I experienced.  Since, my post I have heard from many people who had even worse experiences than mine and feel even more confident in saying that organization is seriously dysfunctional and is operating in violation of international standards about trafficking care as well as Cambodian law (now Cambodia doesn't enforce its law so you can take that into consideration - but other programs in Cambodia are following the law - for instance regarding the number of caregivers that must be present for children in residential care - AFESIP has 3 for 70 children [that's total on staff not staff present at any given time and the law requires 1 for every 10-15 children at all times].  Please just think twice and look into other options.
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#16 Consumer Comment

more info please

AUTHOR: athousandsisters - (United States of America)

I find this report troubling because i have so much respect for Somaly Mam and her work, and also because I plan on volunteering with them in Cambodia this spring. At the same time the report is too vague to be helpful for someone in my position the author just sounds angry and does not give a single example of any wrongdoing.
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