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In Cambodia, Jaymie Friesen coordinated a therapeutic photography course for women exiting the sex trade.
In Cambodia, Jaymie Friesen coordinated a therapeutic photography course for women exiting the sex trade.

Jaymie Friesen: Abuse prevention and response from Cambodia to Canada

Many young people wonder what sort of education and work to pursue after high school. For Jaymie Friesen, inspiration struck more than 12,000 kilometres away from home.

A native of Steinbach, MB, Friesen (CMU ’16) spent eight months in Cambodia in 2009, working in a rehabilitation centre for women wanting to leave the sex trade.

It was a formative time.

“I met women who have experienced the most horrendous types of abuse,” Friesen recalls. “I watched them reclaim their lives again, and in that moment I recognized that the human spirit is so unbelievable.”

“The whole trip was an eye-opening experience,” she adds. “At that moment, I wanted to dedicate my life to help women recover from violence.”

Friesen brings that passion for helping others to her work as the Abuse Response and Prevention Coordinator at Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba, a job she started this past March.

The role has three main components: raising awareness and educating MCC Manitoba’s constituency around issues of abuse and trauma, and how to respond, through workshops and presentations; responding to abusive situations by acting as a support and guide, and connecting those involved to appropriate resources; and developing different resources that discuss how people can best respond to abuse.

The work is deeply personal for Friesen. After she returned from Cambodia, she learned about abuse that occurred in her extended family.

“I have women very, very close to my life who have experienced abuse,” Friesen says, “so it made sense that (abuse response and prevention) was an interest of mine.”

At CMU, Friesen majored in Social Science with a concentration in Counselling.

“One of the things I really valued and appreciated about CMU is that it helped me develop a keen ability to think critically and deeply about topics,” Friesen says. “That has helped me to bring a deep level of reflection to the work that I do.”

Friesen appreciated that many of her professors were open to her taking assignments in directions that best suited her and her interests.

In Introduction to International Studies, for example, Friesen was allowed to write a spoken word piece and present it to the class instead of writing a final paper.

“I still had to do research and use references, and write an academic analysis of my spoken word piece, but I felt the crux of my project was still (writing) poetry,” Friesen says. “That was very meaningful for me.”

“I don’t know if I would have stuck around if I didn’t think there was space for me to learn in a way that made sense to me,” she adds.

Friesen says that studying at CMU was further impactful because at the university, following Jesus is synonymous with a concern for social justice, peacemaking and human rights.

“It was refreshing to be in a place where Christianity was concerned about the marginalized and the oppressed,” she says. “I don’t think I’d ever been in a space where Christianity equated to the things I was really concerned about.”

Four months into her role at MCC Manitoba, Friesen is enjoying her work. She looks forward to more opportunities to raise awareness about abuse and trauma.

“I really love doing education, or group facilitation—I think that’s a piece I haven’t done too much of, but that I will most enjoy in this role,” Friesen says. “I really love creating a space for people to explore these topics.”