There are some people who look evil in the face and instead of running, they step up and fight.
Niranjini is one of those people.
Living in a city at the northern tip of Sri Lanka, Niranjini began her career as a law assistant. It was here she first encountered case after case involving child abuse. Shocked by the sheer volume of children affected and seemingly “light” punishment for perpetrators, Niranjini made the decision to become a defender of children’s rights.
Imagine having no choice but to sell your child in order to survive…
That is the anguishing decision Nirmali, a young widow, faced. Alone and desperately struggling to provide for her children, Nirmali was given an offer by evil predators; she could have a well-paying job as a housemaid if she sold her 3-year-old son into slavery.
This is a choice no parent should have to face. Ever.
What Nirmali didn’t realize is that she and her precious toddler would no doubt be sold into trafficking or forced to work as slaves.
It horrifies me to think of what happens when a child is trafficked. Imagine the terror a 3-year-old feels being torn from his mother’s arms by the hands of criminals—then forced to beg on the streets, work endless hours as a slave, or be abused by pedophiles.
This my heart, and it breaks God’s heart. I cannot sit passively and do nothing.
At World Concern, we hold child protection as a top priority in our programs—especially in Southeast Asia, where sex trafficking and child labor are rampant.
We focus our efforts on prevention because protecting children from these horrific experiences before they’re harmed is critical. Sexual abuse and slavery leave deep scars … sometimes beyond healing.
Nirmali’s older son, who is just 8 years old, is the real hero in this story. He is involved in our Child Safety Program in Sri Lanka. When he learned about how traffickers present deceptive job offers to vulnerable moms and children, he immediately alerted our staff about the offer his mom had received. We were able to intervene and rescue his 3-year-old brother before he was sold. I thank God for this.
The “price tag” traffickers placed on Nirmali’s toddler was $1,000. But it cost just $40 to educate Nirmali’s older son about the danger of trafficking and protect him and his younger sibling from becoming victims.
$40. Isn’t a child’s life worth that?
Our Child Safety Program provides a safe haven for children to heal from trauma, learn about child rights, and learn how to protect themselves from harm. We also provide an opportunity for teens and young adults to learn life-long skills to earn income safely. We give them alternatives, so they know they have choices and a path to a better future.
Seventeen-year-old Leh bounded into the office of the village leader in her rural Laotian community with a handful of money, beaming with pride.
“I sold all of my sticky stick snacks in just an hour!” exclaimed the ecstatic teen. She held up her earnings, which she planned to share with her friends who helped her sell the snacks.
Leh’s village is just a few miles from the border of Thailand. Young girls often disappear after crossing the border into Thailand to look for work. Many are trafficked into Thailand’s insidious sex tourism industry. Others are forced to work for no pay, or other forms of exploitation. Three of Leh’s older siblings have gone to Thailand in search of work. When her father passed away three years ago, she considered doing the same thing so she could help support her disabled mother.
We’re offering alternatives—helping provide job skills and awareness training for girls like Leh in this region to earn income close to home and stay safe. Leh recently participated in cooking classes at World Concern’s youth center. That’s where she learned how easy it was to prepare sticky sticks. She knew immediately she could start a small business selling the tasty treats.
Leh was determined and started her business with $2 she saved to purchase a sack of flour, sugar, and oil. She sold her first batch of sticky sticks at the school during the students’ break time for 10 cents each. In just one hour, she had earned $5—a profit of $3 for an hour of selling.
“Doing this makes me happy,” she said, after several weeks of operating her snack business. “I wake up at 5:00 a.m., do my chores, and start cooking at 8:00 a.m.” She’s home by 11 a.m. with the day’s profits in hand.
“Thank you not only for changing my life but also my family’s life,” said Leh. “I am very grateful to the project for guiding me in choosing the right path and for securing my future and making me safe.”
Leh is sharing what she learned with her friends, and is now an active member of the youth campaign in her village that helps raise awareness about human trafficking.
Greetings from Sri Lanka! I’ve spent the past week and a half seeing our projects, meeting our dairy farmers, and spending lots of time with our Children’s Clubs – a safe haven for children at risk of trafficking.
I have two stories that really stand out to me that I want to share with you in the hopes that they will touch your hearts and encourage you today. You make this possible and are just as relevant in these stories as our staff on the ground.
We met with a family from the “untouchable” caste. The four children were abandoned by mother. Their father was killed in the war. The grandparents are caring for the children as best as they can. The grandmother is blind and the grandfather crippled, making supporting this family nearly impossible. Both of them received their injuries from the war.
One of these four children is a precious little girl who is being abused by local fishermen. Some days they don’t have food to eat. The day we visited was such a day. The little baby was cared for by the older sister (8 years old). He just cried and cried.
World Concern is intervening in this small community of 15 families. We have plans for small gardens, goats, Children’s Clubs, and other life-giving, life-saving interventions. Before we left, we prayed for this sweet forgotten family. Forgotten by most, but not by God, and not by World Concern.
Tonight we stopped at the hut of a young mother. She has five children. They have absolutely nothing. The clothing on their backs is all they have and when it is washed they have nothing to wear until it dries. The father too was killed in the war. This mom has no hope and tragically tried to take her own life and the life of her baby. The little one died. She survived. She is completely broken in every possible way.
Our compassionate staff is working with her and her situation. I wish you could have seen the tender way they met with her, cared for her, and prayed with her—it would have brought tears to your eyes as it did mine. They will look after her needs and the needs of her family, walking with her for the long journey.
World Concern is the hands, feet, and face of Jesus here. This is why we do what we do. And we couldn’t do any of this without you. Thank you for partnering with us.
I have never been more humbled and committed to our mission. Pray with me that the Lord will bless this work. It is a light in many dark places.
Thoeum Thaiy came across World Concern’s Free Them 5k while looking for his next race. A friend had encouraged him to start running, and he’d completed his first 5k in March of 2012. He knew that registering for another event would keep him hitting the pavement. That’s when he heard about the Free Them 5k.
“The cause really resonated with me,” he said.
Thoeum was born in Cambodia, and his family immigrated to Thailand in 1979. They lived in refugee camps for several years when Thoeum was very young. He has little recollection of that period in his life, but his older siblings often talk about the experience.
“It struck a chord with me—the mission—with my background (as a refugee). It seemed like a perfect fit,” he said.
Thoeum set what he thought was a pretty aggressive fundraising goal: $1,000. He wrote his own story on his fundraising page, then encouraged friends and family to help him protect vulnerable kids and families in places like Cambodia and Thailand who are at risk of human trafficking.
He posted the link to his fundraising page on Facebook and sent several emails to coworkers and other contacts. Right away he raised about $700.
“It was surprising and amazing how many people gave,” he said. Thoeum was most surprised by generous coworkers—some he hadn’t had much contact with recently—who gave about $200.
Although his initial goal seemed high, “as it inched closer, it was exciting to see the number tick up,” he said.
An employee of Merrill Lynch, Thoeum took advantage of his company’s matching gift program, which added another $700, and enabled him to surpass his goal.
Thoeum ended up raising $1,900 for the 2012 Free Them 5k, making him the top fundraiser last year.
“It doesn’t take a lot of effort or time to do a Facebook post,” he said. “Folks are willing and want to help. All it takes is that initial step of asking.”
Whether you sign up today, or you’ve already registered, be encouraged by the success of Theoum and others and give your fundraising page a push. Your goal may be closer than you think!