Photo by Rachel Carey
I’ve done a lot of volunteer work in my life. At the age of six I travelled to Belize for the first time and was exposed to true poverty; children just like me living under a leaky roof on dirt floors, thankful for every meal they receive. The experience has had lasting effects that shaped my view of the world, and I’ve continued to volunteer regularly, in other Belize trips, Mexico, Africa, Katrina relief, San Francisco, and most recently a halfway house in Oakland.
I am proud of all these experiences. They served good causes and helped me to grow as a person, bringing me outside my comfort zone, drawing focus away from myself and toward the needs of others. But never have I been more passionate about a volunteer opportunity than my upcoming trip to Thailand. And there’s a reason for that.
It’s a virtually unknown fact that there are more slaves in the world today than at any other time in history. But this isn’t the kind of slavery we know from history books; it goes unseen, a black market where human beings are bought and sold for their bodies alone. Most of these victims are trafficked children, who are rented to tourists for the price of a cup of coffee.
It breaks my heart to this day. Even though I’ve known the statistics and stories for years, this widespread tragedy continues to weigh on my heart, daily. There is no escaping the reality of child prostitution that is rampant in places like Southeast Asia, and it’s enough to bring me to tears. Once a person truly understand the problem, there is only one possible response: I have to do something.
Fighting back is not easy. The epidemic has deep roots and enormous demand. One cannot simply “buy out” those who are enslaved, and the complex issue is difficult to attack from a political angle. When I look at what is being done to eradicate this tragedy, one approach seems to offer hope and a realistic possibility of change. Prevention. Stopping the problem before it starts is the only way to have a lasting impact on modern-day slavery, and with enough support has the potential to end this injustice for good.
Which is why The SOLD Project has started a program they call The FREEDOM Project. Although SOLD continues to help victims escape the sex trade, this new effort focuses more on providing education and resources to young children who are most at risk of being sold into prostitution. The project is offering hope where previously there was none, and fighting the problem at its source.
Currently, SOLD is sponsoring over 50 students. But this problem is widespread, and we want to see real transformation. We want to see this effort spread virally and attract thousands of supporters to spread The FREEDOM Project well beyond Northern Thailand.
And that’s why I’m going on this trip. During my two months in Thailand I will be capturing footage to tell these childrens’ stories and producing a video to not just tell, but show people that this tragedy, half a world away, cannot go unnoticed any longer. SOLD needs those of us with resources to join them so they can continue to have an impact, and that’s why I’m bringing my camcorder to Thailand; to tell these stories and do my small part to participate in ending one of the most inhuman practices of our time.
I’ve already asked for support and provided plenty of links to raise funds, so view my old posts if you’d like to help me make my trip. But more importantly, take some time to learn more about it when you have a chance to do so. SOLD has put together an excellent summary of sexual exploitation in Thailand and how they are addressing it with education. If it breaks your heart as it has mine, please consider joining The SOLD Project in their efforts to end the exploitation of children.
Photo by Rachel Carey
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”