The Forgotten Faces of the Nepal Earthquake

When Nepal shook more than a year ago, the world quickly responded with an outpouring of aid and support. In the aftermath of the disaster, a dark and sinister threat has been lurking beneath the rubble, just waiting to pounce.

As thousands of livelihoods lay in ruins, and humanitarian organizations scrambled to save lives and rebuild flattened communities, opportunity knocked for evil men. Fueled by a growing demand for child labor in nearby countries and fed by the perverse desires of a growing sex industry, these men had one goal—to exploit the desperation of local Nepali families.

Hoping to build a better life for their children, unsuspecting moms and dads are lured with false promises and quickly fall into the debt of evil men. With no way to repay, women and young girls are being trafficked across poorly patrolled borders. And without anyone to police, or prevent this horrific injustice they are being abused, exploited, and completely forgotten.

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In the most remote Nepali villages, young women and girls are at great risk of being trafficked across open borders.

World Concern has been active in Nepal ever since the earthquake hit, working tirelessly with the local church to rebuild communities and reach the most vulnerable with livelihood support, and income generation opportunities.

Recognizing that trafficking is a threat in the poorest Nepali villages, World Concern is actively leveraging its Child Protection experts to provide in-country training. The aim is to raise awareness of the problem, and begin mobilizing a network of local partners to seek out and stop the threat of trafficking in high risk communities.

“There is a huge opportunity to prevent human trafficking in Nepal,” says Selina Prem Kumar, World Concern’s Sri Lanka Country Director who is in Nepal training church and community leaders to prevent trafficking. “Women and children are being trafficked into forced labor and as sex workers into neighboring countries with no border patrols.”

Having established a comprehensive child protection program after the bloody Sri Lankan civil war, Selina is now taking what’s she’s learned and accomplished across Southeast Asia, and is well aware of the dangers families face in the wake of an emergency.

The communities she’s visiting are within a few miles of the India border, where no visas are required to cross, making it an extremely high risk area.

DSC_0172Braving heavy rains, flooding and mountain road closures due to mudslides, Selina and her team traveled close to the Indian border, and into one of the trafficking ‘hot-zones’ to conduct the workshops. Proof that World Concern truly does go beyond the end of the road to serve those in need.

Expectant for change and eager to become more active in fighting trafficking in their communities, more than 40 volunteers from local churches, schools, and human rights groups attended.

“People walked through the jungles to get here,” Selina says. “Some traveled for over 7 hours—the landslides and floods turning what would have been a 3-hour journey into a day long trek.”

While there is much to do in Nepal, Selina is hopeful, “There is a lot of meaningful and deep possibilities in Nepal. We will continue working to train and mobilize border villages, churches, and organizations to prevent human trafficking.”

Even in the darkness, there is always an opportunity to shine light, and the work happening in Nepal is proof that there’s always hope for a brighter future.

Is This What Child Trafficking Looks Like?

The strange white car pulled up beside me as I walked to school.

I was only a few hundred yards from home and remember turning to see if my parents were still out the front of the house, waving me off. But they had long since gone inside.

My heart started to race … I was all alone.

The car pulled in front of me and the passenger door immediately opened. The smell of cigarette smoke filled my nostrils as a man I’d never seen before extended his hand and offered me a ride to school. He wore a thick black sweater with faded white graphics on the shoulder, and smiled politely through yellow and crooked teeth.

I was close enough to also see that another man sat in the back seat … watching … a large black garbage bag balled up on his lap. Almost 35 years later, I can still see this second man’s face—unshaven beneath a dirty baseball cap—his eyes fixed on me, waiting expectantly for me to join him.

I was nine-years-old when this happened.

A week or so later, I was playing safely in my bedroom when my parents told me that the police had arrested a local man fitting the description I had provided. I can’t imagine how different life would be had I stepped into that car.

I’ve thought a lot about that encounter recently, and realized that my experience is the terrifying daily reality for many of the world’s poorest children. And for these kids, the stories don’t always have a happy ending. They may not have parents to run home to, a safe place to hide, or any local police keeping an eye out for them. But most of all they lack the knowledge, and are easily tricked by evil men.

Throughout the month of May, World Concern is focusing its efforts on raising awareness of child trafficking, and giving you the opportunity to protect a vulnerable child from the threat of exploitation, abuse, and slavery.

It started with an event—the 8th Annual Free Them 5k—a family fun-run that attracted more than 1,400 participants and raised more than $200,000 to help stop trafficking. And this effort now continues with a special initiative that allows you to go one step further, and help cover a child in God’s love and protection.

These children live in poverty, so when something happens you won’t see their stories featured on the evening news, or an article written about their disappearance in a local newspaper. An Amber Alert won’t interrupt your television program, and you won’t see their faces on the community notice board at the local grocery store.

These children need our help.

From an early age, I was taught about the dangers around me. I was educated and kept safe in a loving home and nurtured by a community of people that cared and looked out for my well being. But in villages across Southeast Asia, children don’t have this blessing, or the awareness that potentially saved me all those years ago.

So when I think about the men in the white car, and what could have happened that day—it makes protecting a child an easy decision.

No Child Should be Sold for Sex

For the past year I had an anticipation about turning 40, which happened in January. I attempted to crush the world’s voice in my head that often chants silly and pity-filled blues about turning 40. I on the other hand, was ready to enter my 40’s with jubilation and eagerness for what was to come in my next 40 years.

The topic of how to celebrate my birthday was a conversation with many friends and ideas were flowing in and out of my mind on a daily basis, but nothing seemed to stick. Then one early fall morning, I woke up at 4 a.m. and had a vision of what I was going to do. I pictured myself standing on a stage holding a big cardboard check made out to World Concern for $40,000. I went back to bed, in a bit of a fog, but when I woke up it was clear what I needed to do. I was going to use my 40th birthday as vehicle to gather everyone I know and raise $40,000 for World Concern and help save the lives of 1,000 children. That stuck. That grabbed my heart.

My family has been involved with World Concern for years now and I knew it was a perfect partnership for my fundraiser. World Concern is brilliant at their ability to love and serve the world, and they’re experts at protecting children in some of the poorest places. It did not take long to decide that I wanted to raise money specifically to help end child trafficking, because…

No child should be sold for sex.

Doing a fundraiser to help end human trafficking forced me to stop and think about the ugly sinful capability of mankind. It forced me to realize that as I sit in the comfort of my life with three precious kids of my own, there are horrific crimes occurring against young children. It forced me to ask questions and be curious about how this crime even happens and more importantly how it can be put to an end.

I sat in those thoughts, angered, indignant, and uncomfortable. It produced in me a call to action. I felt I had to do something. In that call to action, I had the chance to bring others into that thought life, a thought life about others around the world and this despicable crime and a way to make it end, because…

No child should be sold for sex.

So, I did it. I rallied my friends, family—everyone I knew—and together, WE did it. My family and friends gave generously because they also considered the ugly thoughts of what this fundraiser was about, they knew the impact their donation could make, and they responded to the call of action. That night, I stood on a stage holding a big cardboard check written out for $40,000. Because of that, 1,000 precious, innocent little ones will be safe from the hands of traffickers.

People responded to a call to action, because…

No child should be sold for sex.

Think about that: A child sold for sex. What would it be like for you to sit with the uncomfortable thoughts about this sick crime of child trafficking? I guarantee your heart will become restless, unsettled and want to act.

So today, I am calling on you to rally with me. We can work together as we participate World Concern’s Free Them 5k. Will you join me on Saturday, May 7, in Shoreline and take a stand to protect children and refuse to ignore this problem?

When you register for the Free Them 5k, you’ll have the opportunity to invite your friends to support you in this cause, knowing that they’ll be eager to act on this too, because…

No child should be sold for sex.

Mindy Lee Irvine is a mom of three and passionate supporter of World Concern. In January 2016, she celebrated her 40th birthday by raising $40,000 to protect children from human trafficking. She will be participating in the 8th Annual Free Them 5k to Stop Human Trafficking on Saturday, May 7, 2016 at World Concern’s headquarters.

A decision no parent should have to make

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.

In Sri Lanka's coastal regions, boys are more likely than girls to be forced into prostitution for child sex tourism.
In Sri Lanka’s coastal regions, boys are more likely than girls to be forced into prostitution for child sex tourism.

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?

Children in Sri Lanka draw pictures to express their feelings in our program.
Children in Sri Lanka draw pictures to express their feelings in our program.

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.

If you’d like to give $40 to protect a child like Nirmali’s from becoming a victim of trafficking, you can donate here: www.worldconcern.org/safety.

Please pray with me for the safety and protection of God’s precious children.

Westport family plans “virtual” 5k 130 miles away

Donald Ross and his family will be walking to help protect innocent kids from human trafficking on Saturday, May 11. But instead of trekking five kilometers alongside the 2,000+ participants expected at the Free Them 5k/10k in Seattle that morning, they’ll be supporting the cause from 130 miles away in their coastal hometown of Westport.

Donald and his wife Debbie felt compelled to join the fight against human trafficking when they heard about World Concern’s Free Them 5k/10k on Spirit 105.3, which they stream via cable out on the coast.

Donald Ross and family
Donald and Debbie Ross, along with their 3 kids, will walk the Free Them 5k in their hometown of Westport, Wash. on Saturday, May 11.

“I have three kids—two teenage daughters. Something resonated with me. I thought, this is something I have to do,” said Donald. “[Trafficked] kids—they’re all somebody’s kids.”

Because they weren’t going to be in Seattle in May, Donald figured they’d take part in the event next year. When he went online to make a donation for this year, he saw the “Virtual” 5k option. A light bulb went on and he realized his family could register, fundraise, and still make a difference this year by walking near their home.

In hopes of getting others in their area involved, Donald secured the high school track the morning of the event, and asked Westport’s mayor, Michael Bruce, to officially start the race at 9:30 a.m. The Ross family, and others who join them, will run or walk “in spirit” alongside participants in Seattle.

Donald encourages anyone in the Westport, Ocean Shores, Grayland, Aberdeen, Hoqiuam or Raymond area to join them on Saturday, May 11 to take a stand against human trafficking.

Register as a “virtual” participant to join the Westport team, or to walk/run any time or place you choose. In doing so, you’ll help protect innocent women and children from the danger of human trafficking.

Tong and Duangmany, two young girls now safe from traffickers

When we met 12-year-old Tong, she had not been to school for two years and was working on her parents’ rice farm in rural Laos, near the Thai border. Her family of 9 is often hungry. As the 3rd oldest child, she feels it is her responsibility to help her siblings survive. So, Tong was considering going to Thailand to find work.

Tong at home.
Tong, safe at home with her family.

“I heard from friends that it is easy to earn income (in Thailand). I would like to try. Even just a little pay for any work, I will accept,” she said eagerly.

Telling a child like Tong that this would be dangerous is the first step in keeping her safe. She also needs opportunities at home to earn income safely and to get back in school.

So before she left, World Concern offered her the chance to learn sewing skills. Although she was the youngest of 14 girls in her class, she quickly learned to sew a beautiful traditional Lao skirt. Tong also learned she can sell her skirts for about $5 each. By making two or three skirts a week, she can greatly increase her income. And, since she’ll no longer have to work in the rice fields, she can go back to school.

Now, when asked if she plans to go to Thailand, she responds confidently, “For what? I can earn income here and be with my family. There is no need to go there.”

Tong learning to sew.
Tong is learning to sew in a World Concern skills training class so she can earn income safely at home.

Tong’s story illustrates how teaching children and young girls about the risk of trafficking and offering them alternative ways to earn income keeps them safe.

Another girl in her village, Duangmany, wishes she had this opportunity at Tong’s age. When Duangmany was 15, she took a risk many girls her age are willing to take. She left home and travelled 12 hours to a small town outside Bangkok in search of work.

Far from home, Duangmany ended up working in a small restaurant, preparing food and serving beers to male customers.

“The work was very tiring. I had to get up early to prepare the meat,” she recalled of her experience. “I woke up early in the morning and worked late in the evening to clean and close the shop. I worked long hours and felt physically exhausted. When I requested a chance to rest, it wasn’t allowed. What I was earning was not enough for the work I did.”

Although Duangmany says she was abused by the restaurant owners, she was attracted to the freedom to buy shoes and clothes with her money. But eventually, her body gave out and she wasn’t able to go on. She returned home with $6 in her pocket.

Duangmany learning to sew.
Duangmany (left) learned to sew in World Concern’s skills training class. She also tells other young girls about the danger awaiting them across the border in Thailand.

When asked about the abuse she suffered in Thailand, Duangmany grew quiet. She refused to talk about the experience of serving beers to men, and when asked if she would ever consider going back to Thailand, she shook her head and said, “No.”

After joining the World Concern vocational skills class and learning to sew, she has hope for the first time to earn enough income and to help support her family—in a safe way. And when other young girls talk about going to Thailand for work, she can tell them about the reality of what’s waiting for them across the border.

 

Seeing the needs of the poor afresh

I’m reminded at times like this that the places where World Concern works are remote. It’s day three of “getting there” and we have at least another day to go.

Derek and Kathryn in Laos.
My wife Kathryn is with me in Laos, seeing the villages and meeting families here for the first time.

I’m in Lamam, Laos, now with my wife Kathryn and a team to document what donors equip us to do in these very poor and remote villages. It’s 6:30 a.m., but the roosters began crowing long ago, and people have already begun to work as day breaks.

The villages where we are working all start with the word “Dak.” Dak Din, Dak Noi, Dak Euy. Dak means water. Even though a stream runs nearby these villages, which I expect to be the source of the names, access to clean drinking water remains one of the most significant challenges in these communities.

You may have heard of Dak Din before. We’ve profiled it in our One Village Transformed campaign, and have begun work there with the villagers to bring new life to the community. With the villagers, we have identified clean water, education and income generation as some areas of urgent need.

Now that Dak Din (forest water) is underway, we’re checking in to see how things are going there – one year since our campaign began. We’re also visiting Dak Noi (small water) and Dak Euy (big water), neighboring communities that share similar challenges.

Little girls in Dak Din, Laos.
Little girls in Dak Din, Laos, who are about the age of my daughter, Violet, spend their days collecting water and working.

Last time I was here, one year ago, I met little girls who were about four years old, the age of my daughter, Violet. Their days are filled with labor, including pounding rice and fetching water – dirty water at that. Not all of them will have the chance to get medical care, or go to school. The supporters of One Village Transformed aim to change that.

I hope my heart breaks again. I don’t mean to be touchy-feely here, but I seem to forget how the majority of the world lives as I go about my day-t0-day regular-life job. It’s easy to forget this alternate reality, as my wife and I laugh at our daughter playing princess or ballerina, and we mind how much Violet watches the iPad, or if she’s eaten most of her dinner (most of which gets thrown away).

The fact is – our abundance blinds us to the rest of the world. And we will continue to stay blind to it until we decide to make the intentional choice to see it, and respond.

I believe that God loves people equally, regardless of where they happened to be born. As I read scripture, the call to the rich is a steep one, to give up what keeps us from seeing Him, and serving Him. Christ’s compassion for the poor is consistent. He takes sides, and expects us to also.

This is a week of renewed enlightenment, I pray – and I am reminded that we are not heroes here – going in to fix the problems and deliver the “poor” from their misery.

The reality is, God is already at work here. And the villagers here probably know more about life and joy than I ever will. They certainly know more about hardship. I believe the purpose of this work we do is to be with the poor – walking with them, learning with them – and arriving at a better place, in time, where the love and truth of God is fully realized.

5 Ways to Fundraise for Your Cause

Whether you’re passionate about bringing clean water to thirsty African villages, or want to ensure children living in poverty get an education for a better future, personal fundraising is a trend that enables you to make a bigger impact.

It’s pretty simple: Ask friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances to donate to your cause. You can do this by dedicating your birthday for a cause, or designating an anniversary or other special day. Instead of gifts for yourself, you ask for donations to your cause.

You can also do this by participating in an event. Right now, hundreds of people are successfully raising money to help protect children from slavery by participating in the Free Them 5k Fun Run to Stop Human Trafficking. Last year, top fundraisers brought in more than $1,500 each in donations for a cause that’s near to their hearts.

Whatever your passion, here are some tips for increasing your impact with donations from others.

  1. Ask! You’ll be amazed at how willing people are to give if they’re asked. Some of us have received donations from unexpected Facebook friends or others, despite having little contact with them recently. You never know who’s just looking for an opportunity to give.
  2. Explain why you’re doing this. When you share from your heart, others will relate. If you’re a parent and issues like child trafficking touch your heart, tell other moms and dads about why you care.
    Carrie Yu
    , a Seattle mom of two young children, explains why she participates in the Free Them 5k. “As a parent, it’s heart-breaking to think about. I can’t imagine having to make the decision to sell a child into slavery in order to survive,” she said. “I can’t go into the mission field, but I can run for this cause. I can raise money. This is something I can do right now where I am in my life.”

    Bake sale for World Concern
    Kids at Trinity Family Fellowship in Yakima, Wash., held a bake sale and raised more than $1,100 for World Concern.
  3. Use your talents to raise funds. Lorene Jansson sells cinnamon rolls at her office as way to boost her fundraising. Last year, she was a top fundraiser for the 5k. This year, she started selling hand-made beaded jewelry as well. “You take your passion, whatever it is, and apply it to what you want to do,” suggests Lorene. “It’s inspiring to see so many like-minded people wanting to do something about trafficking.”
  4. Find out if your company matches donations. This is a super simple way to double your impact immediately and effortlessly. If you’re not sure if your company will match your donations, use our online tool to find out, or ask your HR department.
  5. Spread the word. Use Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, email, snail mail, or casual conversation to tell others what you’re doing. Be yourself and have fun with it. People will respond if they see the real you coming through. As someone who has never been a runner, all I had to do was tell my friends I was actually running and they showed their support by donating. Pretty cool!
An example of a 5k fundraising Facebook post.
My personal fundraising page tells more about why I'm helping fight human trafficking, but this Facebook post about the fact I'm actually running a 5k shocked my friends enough they showed their support with donations.

Sweetening the deal: Cinnamon Roll Fridays help protect children

Fundraising isn’t as hard as it may sound. If you’re passionate about a cause, and have a little bit of creativity, people will get behind you. Here’s what Lorene told us about how she raised more than $700 to help protect children and women from trafficking and abuse.

I first heard about human trafficking several years ago, but took the “put my head in the sand” approach.  It was (and is) so horrific to me that this goes on in this day and age.

Lorene on her way to the race.
Lorene on the ferry on her way to the 5k.

Then, last year a friend gave me a novel to read called “Priceless” by Tom Davis.  I read it but still felt so helpless. The problem is so very overwhelming, and I wondered what I could do about it.  I received the “Free Them” 5k emails last year, but dragged my heels. I have done fundraisers for things like the Breast Cancer 3 Day and the MS Walk, but somehow raising support to stop human trafficking didn’t have a “feel good” element.  I’d have to explain what it is, and how could I do that when I’m burying my head in the sand?

When I got the email this year, I decided to take the step of faith. I would do the fundraising, answer any questions people have about it, and get ready to run a 5K (which I’ve never done before).

First I sent out an email to get support. Then I baked cinnamon rolls to take to work. I’ve done this for other fundraisers and called it “Cinnamon Roll Friday.”  I have Thursdays off to bake the rolls.  One batch makes 15 to 16 large rolls, and I ask for a suggested donation of $3 each. The response from work was overwhelming. Folks were very excited that I was doing a fundraiser for this cause. I held Cinnamon Roll Friday three times and raised almost $400!

cinnamon rolls
Lorene's sweet deal: $3 per cinnamon roll to help stop human trafficking.

I appreciate World Concern’s efforts to stop human trafficking. I signed up to be a part of Women of Purpose, having first heard about this group thru the “Free Them” run.

Anyway, there you have it.  You will see me next year!

Lorene

Lorene’s efforts paid off. Not only is she helping protect hundreds of vulnerable children, she won fifth prize in our fundraising competition for the 5k, earning herself a $50 gift card to FIVE Bistro & Restaurant.

What are you passionate about? Feeding the hungry? Providing jobs and income for the poor? Bringing better health to other countries? Get creative and fundraise for your cause!

Standing together against child trafficking

Su Kim, fundraising winner
Su Kim (left) was the top fundraiser for World Concern's Free Them 5k, held on May 7 in Seattle.

The most exciting part of this past weekend’s long-awaited “Free Them” 5k to stop human trafficking was not the sunshine that peeked through the gray ceiling that has hung over Seattle for six months. It wasn’t even the exhilaration of crossing the finish line after five grueling, hilly kilometers of speed walking.

For me, it was the sense of unity, looking over the crowd and knowing that all 1,200 of us were there for a common purpose:  to do something to help right a wrong. In this world of copious evils – many of which are carried out against innocent children – there is hope in the power of unanimity. Corporately, we can do so much more to protect children than any of us can do alone.

I met race participant who said he’d heard a speaker at his church talk about human trafficking. “I’d never thought about modern day slavery. I didn’t know it existed,” he said. “But my heart was touched, and I wanted to do something. I thought if my 12-year-old daughter got mad and ran off, within 48 hours she could be trafficked into prostitution.”

There were so many others will similar stories. Every person there had their own reasons for taking part in the 5k. And together, we made a huge impact – raising awareness about this issue among our friends and in our families, churches and communities – and raising more than $100,000 to help protect children.

To everyone who participated, thanks for making this a huge success!

Read more about how you’re making a difference. You can also text “FREETHEM” to 20222 to donate $10.

Runners waving.
Participants encouraged each other along the Free Them 5k route.
5k family
The Free Them 5k was a fun event for the whole family.
5k finish
Runners line up at the start of the Free Them 5k.
5k runners
More than 1,200 runners took part in the Free Them 5k to stop human trafficking.