Savoeun Chea, 17, at her parent’s home.
Family Members: Simean, 21, sister, Srey Keo, 11, sister, Yem Chea, 46, father, Srean Samoeun, 46, mother
Story: One warm Wednesday in June, 15-year-old Savoeun Chea went to work in Leuk Daek in southeastern Cambodia. Leuk Daek is a place of rice fields and rivers, its scenery strewn with ornate pagodas that bespeak the country’s Buddhist heritage. Savoeun quit school to work at the sewing factory when she was 12. Back then, she rode a bicycle to work. But on this day, the teenager took a motortaxi, her hands clutching a small bag containing the items she had been instructed to bring: her clothes and her sister’s birth certificate. That, she’d had to steal. At the factory that morning, Savoeun’s sister Simean was the first to notice. “I did not see her working,” says Simean, 21. “I asked where she was. People told me that she’d gone to work in Malaysia. I called my family.” In making that call, Simean set in motion a Cambodian-style Amber Alert. Savoeun’s family, friends, local officials, co-workers, the police, community members, and the children of two villages joined in a singular task: bringing Savoeun home–alive.