My name is Freya Metz. I am a visionary, a feminist, an entrepreneur, a passionate humanitarian an environmentalist. and the founder of Banteay Srey Project.
I first visited Cambodia in 2007 with my Khmer sisters who escaped Phnom Penh in 1975 and were adopted into my family just days before the Khmer Rouge invaded the capital. The arrival of my infant twin sisters into my 10-year-old life sparked a deep interest in the welfare of the Khmer people. My sisters returned home to Canada as planned after our trip but I changed my ticket and stayed on to develop a social enterprise for New Futures Orphanage in Takeo and start learning the Khmer language.
I have had diverse life experiences that contributed to my growing vision of the unique project that is Banteay Srey today. Those experiences include a childhood spent in Japan, developing and running a successful restaurant in Canada, seeking a healthier lifestyle studying and practicing massage, as well as personal explorations into a great variety of paths towards healing.
Since that first visit I have learned a great deal about Cambodia and serving effectively in a culture and economy so different from my own. I moved full time to Kampot in 2010 and immediately began developing the Banteay Srey Project. My vision was a project that would serve trafficked victims. I was drawn in by media stories about sex trafficking in Cambodia and wanted to help Khmer girls who had suffered such extreme trauma. It took some time to realize that helping was not easily accomplished and that the situation was not as the media portrayed. I found that the trafficking shelters I was networking with did not actually house trafficked girls. I redirected my focus to sex workers but found very few who were willing to participate in my fledgling project.
After 2 years of fieldwork and outreach I began to understand that the problems facing Khmer women were much broader than I had initially realized, and that my efforts would be more effective if I focused on trauma prevention. I did not have to look far as I found that many Khmer women were at imminent risk. Exploitation and abuse were common in marriage as well as in the workplace. Young women of Cambodia today were raised by survivors of the Khmer Rouge in homes fraught with severe post-traumatic stress. In 2012 I began to transition my efforts with Banteay Srey Project to work with ordinary impoverished village women who were struggling and seeking better employment opportunities. Though the trainees at Banteay Srey are not chosen specifically for a traumatic background, all are struggling with the effects.
The profoundly nurturing and safe work environment at Banteay Srey was inspired by my own path of healing from childhood trauma and sexual abuse. I drew from my own successes with embodied therapies such as yoga and bodywork. Together with the input of Khmer women and the efforts of many skilled volunteers I developed a comprehensive spa training program that is very supportive to personal growth. The program offers women a special place to heal while simultaneously providing training and employment.
All the paths I’ve walked in life have lead me to this place and this project. My spoken Khmer has developed to a point where my days are filled with enlightening conversation with Khmer people from all walks of life. I’ve sold my restaurant in Canada and have opened a tiny eco-resort to sustain myself financially in Cambodia. I am supported by exceptional women who believe in my vision enough to travel across the planet to volunteer at Banteay Srey. Everyday I am filled with gratitude to have such fulfilling work. I find much joy in witnessing Khmer women grow and blossom into their own empowerment.