Free to Shine2020-12-03T10:05:52-07:00

Free To Shine • Cambodia


In 2009, Free To Shine’s founder, Nicky Mih, spent time in Cambodia working with over 200 survivors of sex trafficking and exploitation. Nicky was deeply impacted by the stories she heard, and when the time came for her to return home, she asked a question that would change the course of her life:

“I asked survivors who had been rescued how I could help, and I was hardly prepared for their answer. I thought they’d want something straightforward and easy to provide, like university tuition fees, but they didn’t want anything for themselves. Instead they wanted for no other girl to go through the horrors they’d been through. They asked me to go out into the rural villages, find the girls who weren’t in school, and protect them. They told me that if these young girls were in school they would not be trafficked.”
– Nicky Mih
, Founder & Managing Director at Free To Shine

International research shows that access to education is vital in reducing the risk of trafficking, especially for young girls. At the time, there were organizations focused on rescuing and supporting survivors of trafficking in Cambodia, but none specifically working to prevent the trafficking from happening in the first place. The survivors had identified a gap, and so Free To Shine was established in 2010 and is now formally registered in Cambodia and Australia.


Free To Shine has 5 key pillars, working to strengthen families and keep girls safe by:

  • Providing at-risk girls with educational scholarships and all the materials they need to attend their local, government school;
  • Working to keep girls in education by helping families address their basic needs, including access to safe drinking water, a sustainable food source, and adequate shelter;
  • Regularly visiting families to monitor girls’ safety, education and overall wellbeing;
  • Providing girls and their families access to social work support to help overcome complex challenges such as family violence or substance misuse;
  • Educating communities about human trafficking and how to keep their children safe.


Free To Shine has been a partner of GoPhilanthropic Foundation since 2017.

2017 Future Goals Project: With support from GoPhilanthropic, Free To Shine created a documentary film called “Future Goals” (below), designed to inspire young girls and introduce them to the many types of careers that Cambodian woman can, and do, excel in. The film interviews 12 diversely successful women and was screened in 24 rural villages along with a goal-setting workshop.

2018: Girls Leadership Program: Continuing with the theme of inspiring future leaders of Cambodia, the GoPhilanthropic community helped Free To Shine launch a Girls Leadership Program in 2018. This program brings together girls with outstanding leadership potential, provides them with training and ongoing mentorship, and sets them up with individual community projects so they can apply their skills in a practical and impactful way.

We are excited to see how Free To Shine will continue to invest in gender equity and grassroots leadership, helping build a brighter future for Cambodia.

VIDEO: Future Goals

VIDEO: Free To Shine Impact


Free To Shine’s team of Education Officers and Social Workers travel up to 90 minutes each way by motorbike, navigating tiny dirt roads through the jungle, to reach the most at-risk, rural communities. Free To Shine is often the only organization willing to visit and serve these isolated areas.

Additionally, Free To Shine’s approach is centered around partnership and collaboration; they understand that in order to make lasting change in these communities, they must build trusting partnerships with not only the girl they enroll, but her entire family and wider community.



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