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How to Join the Fight Against Sex Trafficking
Most affluent Americans are aware that awful things are happening all around the world. All you have to do is turn on the evening news to hear tales of genocide, violence, rape and all manner of horrors being visited on innocent people. It's easy to feel helpless when faced with these stories. After all, many of these things are happening thousands of miles away amidst extremely delicate and complicated political situations.
Of all the stories I've heard and the situations of oppression that I have read about, the one that rips me up inside is child sex trafficking. I quite simply cannot imagine anything worse than a child being raped for the pleasure and profit of grown men. It is the most intimate form of abuse, one that leaves both physical and emotional scars and effectively destroys a child's window of viewing the world with openness and optimism. If you, like me, have been captivated by this issue and are looking for a way to get involved with fighting it, I have some suggestions for you.
- First, narrow your focus. When I was 15, I spent a month in Thailand and saw some things I never forgot. Since then, the sex trade of children in Southeast Asia has been on my heart. Child sex trafficking is not limited to developing nations, however. Right here in America underaged girls are being sold on websites such as Backpage.com. If you limit your focus to a specific sector of the child sex trade (domestic or international) you will be able to concentrate your efforts more effectively.
- Second, find an organization whose work you support. I have found that getting heavily involved with one organization has helped me to engage more deeply than sending a check here and there every now and then. Building relationships with the people who work at a charity or NGO (non-governmental organization) will help you educate yourself on the issue and get a feel for where the most work needs to be done. This process begins as simply as going online and doing a search. Once you have found several organizations who might be a good match for you, research their financials. How much of their donations they do spend on actual programs versus staff salaries, administration and fundraising? Also, there are many anti-trafficking charities whose only activity is awareness-raising. While this is necessary, I feel better about aligning myself with an organization that is actually doing something other than spreading the word about the problem.
- Once you find a non-profit whose work you support and whose financial management is done with integrity, decide how deeply you wish to be involved. Are you happy donating financially or do you want to volunteer your time and skills as well? Once you figure out how much time or money you want to give, you can get started actually making a difference!
- When it comes to action, there are many possibilities. If you want to help girls who have been trafficked here in the USA, there are safehouses all across the country where girls go to live and be educated after being freed from the sex trade. These safehouses need volunteers to do things as far-ranging as stuffing and stamping envelopes to teaching a class to the girls on how to put together a resume. If you have a skill such as web design or business accounting, you could volunteer your services to the organization and save them from paying someone else to do it. If you're a writer, you could volunteer to write or edit newsletters and emails coming from the organization. Any service you provide saves them money that could be put to better use.
- If you decide to focus on international trafficking, volunteering may be tricky. Some organizations, especially Christian ministries, offer short-term mission trips overseas. You could potentially put together a group of volunteers from your church, college, Bible study or small group to spend one or two weeks volunteering in a foreign country. Additionally, many anti-trafficking groups run safehouses for girls taken out of the forced sex trade. The girls in these safehouses typically have enormous medical needs ranging from STD's to dental care. If you are work in the medical field, consider putting together a team of doctors and nurses to spend a couple of weeks overseas providing much needed healthcare. The first step in any of these endeavors will be to find out what the organization or ministry's needs are. Then you will be in a position to help or to talk to others who may be able to fill a need.
- Non-profits and charities are always in need of funding. Consider doing a fundraiser for your chosen organization. There are too many options to list, but I have heard of people putting together 5k runs, karaoke sing-off's, basketball or soccer games, horse shows and other unusual fundraisers. Think beyond the bake sale and car wash. What do your friends get excited about doing? Find a way to turn that into a fundraiser. I decided that in 2012 I wanted to raise $1000 for Agape International Mission, a ministry that works to end the sex trade in Cambodia through prevention and aftercare. I sent an email to all my friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances explaining Agape's work and my desire to help. In the email I asked people to consider making a donation and included instructions on how to do so. From that one email alone, I raised over $700. Sometimes it's as simple as getting the word out. Many people want to help, but don't know how.
Finally, here is a list of non-profits fighting child sex trafficking both in the US and abroad. Good luck with your efforts and thank you for uniting with me to fight what I consider the most horrific crime against children!
- Agape International Mission- www.agapewebsite.org - Operating in Cambodia, Ground Zero of the child sex trade. They run a Kids Club, free school and medical clinic to prevent children being trafficked as well as a safehouse for children rescued from the sex trade.
- Wellspring Living - www.wellspringliving.org - Operating in Atlanta to rescue and rehabilitate children working in the forced sex trade.
- Somaly Mam Foundation - www.somaly.org - Founded by Somaly Mam, a former child sex slave in Cambodia. Operates in Southeast Asia to rescue and rehabilitate women and children caught in sex slavery.
- Rapha House - www.raphahouse.org - Currently operating in Southeast Asia and expanding into Haiti. They focus on prevention and aftercare.
- Exodus Cry - www.exoduscry.com - A prayer movement to end slavery. They produced the award-winning documentary film "Nefarious: Merchant of Souls" about the global sex trade.
- Love146- www.love146.org - Named for the number pinned to the shirt of a very young child they saw in a brothel in an undercover operation in Southeast Asia, Love146 operates in both Southeast Asia and the US to fight sex trafficking through awareness, prevention and aftercare.