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.

_FIN7654
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.

Mitu is now free to learn

Some stories are more dramatic than others. Some stories deserve to be heard. Mitu’s story is one of those stories.

Thankfully, Mitu’s story caught the attention of a perceptive staff member in Bangladesh who knew something must be done to free the little girl who was living in slavery in a neighbor’s home. Our Asia communication liaison, Taylor, first brought us this story on her blog.

On this International Day of the Girl Child, we wanted Mitu’s story to be heard again.

At 5 years old, most little girls are going to school for the first time, making new friends, and learning to ride a bike. But this was not the case for young Mitu. Instead, by age 5, Mitu was scrubbing floors, cooking, washing clothes, and suffering from physical abuse with even the slightest misstep in her duties.

Mitu washing dishes
Instead of going to school and experiencing childhood, Mitu was cooking for and cleaning up after another family from the time she was 5 years old.

Scared, alone, and separated from her family, Mitu was forced to grow up overnight in order to care for another family’s children and housework when her own family was unable to care for her.

The nightmare began for Mitu when her parents divorced several years ago. Mitu’s mother sought work in the bleak conditions of Bangladesh’s garment factories, while her father struggled to get by. With neither parent able to support their young daughter, Mitu was left in the care of her elderly grandmother. Out of sheer desperation, Mitu’s helpless grandmother decided to send Mitu to work as a maidservant at a neighbor’s house. There, Mitu endured three years of bondage as a child laborer, receiving nothing but food to survive and suffering frequent physical abuse by her masters.

Mitu (right) is now in school, where she belongs, and spending time with her friends.
Mitu is now in school, where she belongs, and spending time with her friends.

Thankfully, during a visit to Mitu’s hometown, a wise and perceptive World Concern staff member caught wind of Mitu’s horrible situation. Heartbroken and determined to rescue the little girl, she took the right steps to save young Mitu from her life of slavery, alerting a senior staff member who contacted Mitu’s father.

Mitu, now 8 years old, in front of her school.
Mitu, now 8 years old, in front of her school.

Today, Mitu is back under the care and support of her father, who, with World Concern’s counsel and support, now recognizes the importance of allowing his precious daughter to go to school and experience childhood to the fullest.

Mitu is now in school, making friends, and learning. Most importantly, she’s free.

Forgotten by most, but not by God

Some of the precious children I met in Sri Lanka.
Some of the precious children I met in Sri Lanka.

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.

This is the little girl I met.
This is the little girl I met.

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.

FaithWorld 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.

Empowering women to earn income safely through microloans

Dhaka slum
A woman sweeps up garbage in a Dhaka slum.

Bithi and her husband left their families in rural Bangladesh and moved to the over-crowded city of Dhaka—home to 5 million people—in search of a better life. The only work they could find was in a garment factory, earning meager wages. The couple rented a small, one-room home in a slum near the garment factory.

Thousands of Dhaka residents, desperate for work, accept low-paying—and often dangerous jobs in garment factories. Others work as rickshaw pullers or day laborers.

The couple was barely surviving when Bithi became pregnant. She gave birth to a little girl named Jannath, which means “heaven.” Bithi was referred to a World Concern clinic so Jannath could receive immunizations. During her visit to the clinic, doctors discovered that Jannath had a hole in her heart. The family was referred to a local hospital where their daughter received treatment.

A woman sews in her business.
A young Bangladeshi mother operates her own sewing business, with the help of a World Concern microloan.

As Jannath grew, Bithi visited the clinic regularly for checkups. She built a relationship with the staff there, who support and encourage her to keep her daughter healthy. But they also noticed that Bithi was struggling emotionally and financially. Her husband blamed her for Jannath’s health problems. And their daughter was often left in the care of others so that Bithi could work at the garment factory.

Realizing that Bithi needed a better income to afford treatment for her daughter’s heart condition and to support herself and her family, the staff recommended her for a World Concern microloan. With Bithi’s first loan of $270, she was able to quit her job at the garment factory and start her own business as a seamstress.

She’s now able to care for her daughter full-time, and has hope for a better future, beyond grinding poverty and exhausting, long hours in the factory.

Microcredit training
Women receive training in business ethics through World Concern’s microcredit program.

World Concern microloans help thousands of women like Bithi transform their lives by starting their own businesses. Women who are helped through our microcredit program are provided with loans, training on how to profit from a business and ethical business practices, and ongoing support to grow their businesses – even hiring more women who need to earn income safely.

 

 

screen printing business
This woman operates a successful screen printing business in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with the help of World Concern.

Learn more and support a Bangladeshi entrepreneur with a small business loan.

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.

 

Your Free Them 5k/10k fundraising goal may be closer than you think

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.

Thoeum Thaiy and family
Thoeum Thaiy with his family. Thoeum was last year’s Free Them 5k top fundraiser.

“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!

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.