Out of the Ashes

A trafficking survivor aims to ensure others are protected

Imagine being kidnapped right off the street in broad daylight and waking up on a train bound for a foreign country. That’s what happened to *Sabina when she was just 11 years old. And she couldn’t imagine any beauty along the journey of coming out of the ashes.

Her father had sent her to the market near her village in rural Bangladesh to get cooking oil to prepare some curry for the family’s evening meal. As she walked toward town on the eerily empty dirt road, someone grabbed her from behind and covered her nose and mouth with a handkerchief. That’s the last thing she remembered until she was jolted awake in a rattling, enclosed boxcar on a train.

There were nine other terrified young girls in the train car with her; one of them told her a man was taking them to Kolkata, India to work.

Eventually, she escaped from captivity, aided by a Bengali family who put her on a train to another city. But her nightmare turned worse when she was thrown in jail by a border guard who was supposed to help her. She spent 21 months in jail before a women’s legal association helped free her.

“When I finally came back to my home at the age of 14, I was very happy to be united with my family,” recounted Sabina, who is now 34 and a mother of four daughters. “My family was also very happy, but my community could not accept me as before. They humiliated me with their words. Day after day I was held in an invisible prison because of my neighbors’ and relatives’ attitudes.”

In the aftermath of her traumatic experience, young Sabina became depressed and discouraged and felt defined by her ashes. “I did not like talk with my neighbors. I felt ashamed to talk, to show my face,” she said.

Sabina spent the next five years working in a garment factory and sent her income home to help support her younger siblings. She dreamed of a better life, but in her culture, trafficking victims are stigmatized and shunned.

“I could not marry because of my past, so when I was 19, I went to live with a 45-year-old married man,” she explained. Sabina had her four daughters with this man, but he too abandoned her, and she found herself alone with her girls and facing desperate circumstances. “I had no job, no place to live, and no food to eat. I slept on my neighbor’s balcony with my daughters. I collected firewood and sold it in the market to earn money.”

But things began to change for Sabina in 2019, when World Concern began working in her village.

“My heart filled with joy when they told us that they transform the lives of poor and marginalized people with the love of Christ,” exclaimed a hopeful Sabina.

She attended community trainings where she learned she was not alone, and that her experience had a name: human trafficking. She learned her situation, her ashes, was an international crime and that she was a victim of that horrific crime.

“I learned how the traffickers are working and what are their means and purposes. The training session encourages us to share our knowledge with our neighbors so that we can save a life from deep sorrow. I loved that training and feel encouraged to share my experiences. Now I am sharing my experiences without any hesitation with my group members,” said Sabina, who has become a powerful voice for protection in her community. “I hope I can share my experiences so that everybody can be aware of trafficking and can contact district legal advocacy groups if needed.”

Because of these trainings, Sabina’s daughters know how to avoid danger and stay safe. And out of the ashes of her experience, a beacon of light shines in this village as an entire generation learns vital information and skills to protect themselves and their children.

You can help protect children from becoming victims of trafficking through vital awareness trainings like the ones in Sabina’s village by participating in the 2022 Virtual Free Them 5k. Sign up today and run, walk, bike, or hike on Saturday, May 7, or whenever you choose, and help free children like young Sabina from trafficking and keep them safe.

Sign up today, or donate online at www.freethem5k.org.

*Name has been changed to protect her identity.

Why we Started the End of the Road Podcast

Have you ever had an experience that was so life-changing that you had trouble putting it into words? Every time I come home from a trip with World Concern to a difficult place – exhausted, jetlagged, and emotionally spent – I have this experience. It’s called re-entry culture shock, and I only experience a fraction of what others who have lived or worked for longer periods of time in hard places experience. But it’s real, nonetheless.  

It’s usually my husband who picks me up at Sea-Tac airport. He graciously heaves my dusty, overloaded bags into the car and hugs me tightly after not seeing me for several weeks.  

“You need a shower!” he usually jokes, knowing I’m coming off 24+ hours of flying after several weeks of limited bathing.  

“Yes, and a nap,” I usually mumble.  

He’s gotten better at honoring the silence on the drive home, knowing I’m still processing what I’ve experienced. Everything I see out the window looks strange. Drive-through restaurants, people going about their daily activities, traffic without the sound of horns blowing (that one is nonexistent in most of the places I’ve visited).  

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But eventually, maybe later that day, or the next day, he asks me about the trip. The jet lag has worn off and the exhaustion has started to subside and that’s when the amazing experiences and beautiful people and places I saw start to come into focus. I show him some photos, and try to describe the highlights, and ever-present lowlights, but it’s so hard to explain.  

“I wish you could have been there,” I say.  

The Podcast Vision

The truth is, these places and the people there changed me. I want my life partner—as well as my friends, family members, acquaintances, everyone I know—to see, first-hand, what life is like in other parts of the world. Everyone should meet the people I met and interact with the amazing World Concern staff around the world. I want to tell everyone that there is a massive world out there that is so different from what we know. And I want to tell the world how real and how present and active God is in these places. Maybe it’s being away from the routine and familiarity of daily life, but I always experience God’s presence in profound ways at the end of the road. And I want to share that.  

We want to invite others along for the journey and offer a glimpse into the remote, mostly forgotten, unknown parts of the world. We want to introduce you to the people there through the stories and experiences of those who live and work at the end of the road. That’s really the vision behind The End of the Road podcast and why we started it.

Some of these places take days to reach by plane, car, boat, and then—on foot. And many of them are not safe for the average Westerner. Some require special visas and letters of invitation. Getting there without a local host to navigate the journey with you would be next to impossible. 

Takeaways

Our hope is that through this podcast, you’ll get to journey to these remote places through our guests and in turn, the world might feel a little smaller. When we experience other cultures, we realize we’re all human – moms, dads, students, workers, people – who have the same desires, same needs, similar dreams, and hopes for the future, it connects us as “humanity.” I believe it removes much of the fear and lack of understanding that makes us critical of people we don’t know. We write a story in our heads about why they’re poor or why their culture is the way it is. But that’s not what our world needs right now. Our world needs hope, unity, and most of all, God.   

Through the interviews and stories on the podcast, our prayer is that your mind and heart are opened up a bit and you feel more connected to your brothers and sisters around the world and to what God is doing in these places.  

We hope you’ll come along for the ride and that along the way, you’ll be changed by the people you meet and the stories you hear.

Keep in Touch

Let us know your thoughts on the podcast! Email us at podcast@worldconcern.org

Stay connected with the End of the Road podcast by texting the word PODCAST to 34444 to receive updates and episode releases and be sure to follow us on Instagram.

Reaching Haiti earthquake victims at the end of the road

Astrelle’s harrowing story of rescuing her elderly parents from the rubble

The terrifying moment the magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck Haiti’s southern peninsula on Aug. 14, 55-year-old Astrelle was outside the home she shares with her nine family members, including her elderly disabled parents, daughter, and infant grandson. Astrelle was getting ready to go to the market when the earth started to shake.

Mercifully, just minutes before the quaking began, her grandbaby, who was sleeping inside the house, woke up and began to cry. The baby’s mother had gone inside and brough him out. But Astrelle’s parents were still asleep inside…

Astrelle’s first instinct was to run inside the house to get her parents out, but she was thrown down by the earth moving, hitting and injuring her head on the ground. She looked up and saw the walls of the house starting to collapse with her parents inside.

One of those walls crumbled, burying her parents beneath the rubble. Miraculously, they were still alive.

“After the tremor we had to pull them out from under the rubble and they were both injured.”

Astrelle’s mother recovers from her injuries inside the family’s badly damaged house.

“After the tremor we had to pull them out from under the rubble and they were both injured,” Astrelle said, recounting the chaos after the quake. Unable to take her parents to the hospital, she did her best to treat their injuries herself.

Despite the extensive damage to the home, the family felt they had no alternative but to sleep inside while Tropical Storm Grace dumped rain on southern Haiti. Caring neighbors gave Astrelle some salvaged metal sheets and tarps to help protect them from the storm.

Astrelle’s family lives in a small remote village, located near the epicenter of the earthquake. It’s barely accessible by road and the village itself is more than half a mile from any road. The World Concern team was the first to reach the village to assess the damage and their needs.

“This is the first time since the earthquake that an organization has come to visit us…”

Astrelle stands outside her home, where collapsed walls have been replaced by tarps in an effort to protect the family from rain.

“This is the first time since the earthquake happened that an organization has come to visit us,” said Astrelle’s daughter. “Hurricane Matthew had severely damaged our house, and no one helped us. We repaired it with our own means, but now the situation is beyond us and we don’t know what to do if no one comes to our rescue.”

If you would like to support World Concern’s earthquake response and recovery efforts in Haiti and give emergency supplies, food, water, tarps, and rebuilding assistance to families like Astrelle’s, you can donate online at www.worldconcern.org/haiti.

Keeping Haiti in the forefront of our thoughts and prayers

I have a confession. I haven’t been thinking about Haiti enough. My thoughts, as they often are, seem to be consumed with my life, what’s going on in my country, my world, my family, my home, my job (which is even partly to think about Haiti), COVID numbers… the list goes on.

I want my concern for others, especially those who are suffering, to be my natural, first instinct response. But I’m selfish, and Haiti’s crisis does not hold its rightful place as first in my thoughts.  

It seems like the world is not thinking about Haiti enough either.

Why is that? Are we desensitized to suffering, disasters, violence, poverty, and now see these tragedies as the norm?

I’ve been there—to Les Cayes, the hardest hit city on the southern peninsula in Haiti. I’ve been to Haiti several times, but I visited Les Cayes in 2012. It’s beautiful and hard there. It’s where I put my feet in the turquoise Caribbean waters, and ate fresh fish that came from those waters alongside fried plantain. And it’s where I met some beautiful people who have lived really hard lives.

Tens of thousands of homes, buildings, and churches were damaged or destroyed in the Aug. 14 earthquake that struck Haiti’s southern peninsula.

The southern peninsula of the backwards C-shaped island is often in the direct path of Atlantic storms that form to the south and creep slowly north, gaining strength and sucking up water before unleashing furious wind and lashing rain on this and other defenseless islands.

But until the morning of August 14, earthquakes were not in the minds of many living along the southern coast. In fact, some moved from Port au Prince after the 2010 quake devastated the city, in search of safety. Their worlds were once again shaken to the core when the minute-long quaking jolted them awake.

Marie Yolene lost her 14-year-old daughter in the earthquake.

It wasn’t until I saw the face of a distraught mother yesterday in a video our field staff shot—the vacant look of trauma in her eyes—that I was jolted awake and reminded of what’s happening in Haiti right now.

This mom, Marie, who lost her 14-year-old daughter, Marilyn, is one of thousands who lost loved ones, homes, everything.

Her circumstances and pain deserve my full attention. If nothing else, I need to pray. I need to move the people impacted by this crisis to the top of my prayer list, every day, and throughout the day.  

I moved recently and while unpacking boxes, I came across this painting. I bought it in 2012 from a man who was selling his artwork on the street in Haiti. I’m going to finally frame it and hang it in my home so I can remember Haiti. Every day.

We invite you to pray with us for people suffering in Haiti, and elsewhere in the world. Visit our prayer page to join us and let us know how we can pray for you. www.worldconcern.org/prayer

If you’d like to help families affected by the earthquake in Haiti, please visit www.worldconcern.org/haiti.

Celebrating Water in a Dry, Thirsty Land

A celebration took place on the banks of a riverbed in the barren region of Samburu, Kenya, a few weeks ago. Just beyond the blessing ceremony was a rare and precious sight—something previously very difficult to find in this part of the world: water. Lots of water.

The pounding seasonal rains that normally create rivers of muddy water and flood the hardened soil gushed over a newly constructed sand dam and filled a huge reservoir that now holds enough water to provide a reliable, year-round supply of clean water for nearby villages.

This is indeed something to celebrate in Samburu, and here’s why…

The plight of women in this drought-prone part of the world, who walk for miles every day to collect water for their families, is evident in the life of a mom named Lolmodooni. We joined her on her journey through prickly brush where cheetahs hunt their prey in the blazing desert heat.

When Lolmodooni reached the dry riverbed, she began to dig into the sand, smelling the wet soil for animal and human feces. Once she hit water, about two feet down, she began to scoop the grey, milky water into her 20-liter water jug. This water is not safe to drink, and likely made her children sick, but she had no choice… until now.

See Lolmodooni’s walk for water through the lens of filmmaker Doug Irvine, who shares his experience visiting this remote part of the world in this video.

With the support of World Concern, the new sand dam was constructed with local community members doing much of the work. It not only provides natural filtration of the water through the sand, and a hand pump for easy access, it dramatically reduces the distance women have to walk to get water.  

“We thank God for this sand dam because before we used to walk tens of kilometers in search of water and then walk back home,” said Narikuni, a 30-year-old mother of four. “It is tedious and time consuming [collecting water]. Our children were forced to stay at home and miss school because of water shortage, but now that the sand dam is less than a kilometer from our home, we will be able to get enough water and have time for other errands.”

Clean water means better health. A water source near home means safety for moms and their kids, more time in their day to do the things that matter, like work and go to school. And abundant water also means more food, a healthier diet, and income.

Sand dams raise the water table, so they are an effective way to regenerate soil, enabling vegetation to grow. With this, the communities can be trained to grow vegetables which will improve nutrition and lower food costs. Vegetables can also be sold at the local market, generating income for families in the village.

So, why not just dig a well in the village? In an area like Samburu, digging wells is not always possible. The water table may be too low, and the water is often brackish, making it not fit for human consumption.

World Concern uses innovative approaches to provide clean water, depending on the context, location, and needs. In areas where it rains very little and wells are not possible or cost prohibitive, sand dams offer a possible solution.

A sand dam consists of a concrete wall built on a seasonal riverbed. With time, sand builds up on the dam. Beneath the sand, water is stored and protected from evaporation. It also filters the water and makes it clean. A well installed with a handpump is usually constructed on the banks of the same river since the water table is raised by the sand dam, and a storage tank retains clean water for quick access. Watch this animated video to see how sand dams work.

Abundant, clean water in a place like Samburu is indeed reason to celebrate. You can be a part of making clean water a reality in a remote village. To learn more, visit www.worldconcern.org/water.

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground…” Isaiah 44:3

How Practical Gifts Saved and Transformed Angelina’s Life

This article contains advertorial content provided by World Concern for promotional purposes.

When Angelina Agol gave birth to twin boys, she was overjoyed. But her joy turned to panic when she realized that her weakened, undernourished body couldn’t produce milk to feed her babies.

Angelina and her newborn twins were starving.

Angelina was worried about her children’s health, knowing she couldn’t feed them.

In South Sudan, where Angelina lives, the vast majority of families struggle to find food to eat. Some are so hungry, they resort to eating leaves off trees to survive.

“There was no food to eat,” she said. “Then, these babies were born and they were suffering. I was not able to breastfeed them… that’s when World Concern came in.”

Local staff assessed the babies’ weight, growth, and nutrition levels and immediately referred them to an emergency feeding program. Angelina and her babies spent 13 days in the hospital-based program, where they were treated for severe malnutrition.

When they were stabilized and returned home, the family received emergency food and financial support.

“We were given soup, milk, fish, tomatoes, and eggplant. I also received food and recovered. I was given eggs and goat’s milk,” she said.

Angelina’s life dramatically improved when she received goats, which provided much-needed nutritious milk and income for her family.

Things really began to improve in Angelina’s life when her family received goats and chickens through World Concern’s Global Gift Guide. In South Sudan, livestock are like having an instant bank account. Not only did Angelina’s family now have milk and eggs to eat and sell for income, seeds and agricultural training, helped them grow vegetables for a stable, nutritious diet.

Her kids and her garden are not the only thing growing in Angelina’s home—her goats and chickens are multiplying too. In fact, her original female goat has given birth to twins—three times! Over a two-year period, her flock grew to 21 goats.  

She started a small business making insulated containers to keep food hot or cold. And she has taught other women to do the same. Entrepreneurs like Angelina are empowered to grow their businesses and increase their income by joining a savings group.

Angelina was empowered to start a small business making insulated containers to keep food warm, and trained other women to do the same.

Through these practical, life-saving gifts Angelina received, she experienced God’s incredible love for her for the first time in her life. And when she was healthy enough to learn about His son Jesus, she opened her heart to Him.

“I have now become a Christian, and I go to church regularly,” she said.

“If World Concern had not intervened, my children would have died, just like other children in this village have died,” said this grateful mom. “I was helped by World Concern. That is why my children are now healthy, and they are living.”

To give practical, life-saving gifts like the ones that helped Angelina’s family, visit World Concern’s Global Gift Guide at www.globalgiftguide.org.  

Angelina’s twins are now growing strong and healthy, thanks to a stable, nutritious diet.

Now That’s Sustainability!

After 10 years, a community well gets an upgrade

Ten years ago, the community of Oltarakwai in rural Kenya, got their first taste of clean, clear drinking water from a new well, built in partnership with World Concern. Everything changed in the community.

Girl at well
A young girl pumps water from the well’s original hand pump.

“During the dry season, when the springs began to dry up, we had to wait overnight to get some water to take home,” recalls Namna Olorupa, a village elder, of what life was like before the well. “We also drew water from open pools which we shared with our livestock and wild animals like hyenas.”

The well was a Godsend, providing safe, accessible water to families for over a decade. “During the 2017 drought the [well] served us and up to 5 neighboring villages. They would carry their water with Donkeys and Motorbikes,” said Namna.

You can imagine the strain on the well’s handpump with hundreds of families from multiple villages using it round the clock. Maintenance on the well became more frequent, and parts for the hand pump had to be replaced often.

New well pump
Joyful community members can now just turn a tap and fill up their water jugs.

But this year, the well in Oltarakwai got an exciting upgrade. With the help of World Concern and Nairobi water company Davis & Shirtliff, a solar pump, tap, and 3,000-liter water storage tank were installed at the well, drastically improving its output and efficiency, reducing maintenance, and saving precious time.

No more long lines of people waiting to fill up water containers at the pump. No more strenuous pumping water constantly, and no more replacing broken or worn out pump parts.

Just clean, safe water flowing from the simple turn of a tap!

women at the well
Mayiani and Noosiruai are thrilled with the new solar pump.

“This solar powered-water project is the best ever,” exclaimed Mayiani Meyagari, a joyful community member. “We no longer have to strain as we pump water like before. With the new tap, we now take less time fetching water. We are now utilizing the extra time in our kitchen gardens and making beaded artwork for sale.’’

‘’The water is very clean… there is now no scarcity even in the dry season,” said Kimanyisho Noolbariko, who also lives in the village.

“We are no longer worried about tomorrow; where our next source of water will come from.”

– Elder Namna

Elder Namna says he sees a brighter future for his village because of the well improvements. “There is so much water being pumped by the solar pump. I see a lot of potential. It can even be used to do small scale irrigation. We are no longer worried about tomorrow; where our next source of water will come from,” he said.

“God has used you to bring this project to us. Every kid that is born from this year will grow up testifying of the goodness of this water.”

– Elder Meyagari
happy elders
Elders Namna (left) and Meyagari praise God and give thanks to those who helped bring this sustainable source of clean water to their village.

Another village elder, Meyagari ole Salankat, credits God for this transformation. “God has used you to bring this project to us. Every kid that is born from this year will grow up testifying of the goodness of this water. This protected water will save us from water borne diseases like typhoid. My village was blessed to have the original hand pump. We prayed for you, and see, God has worked through you … we now have a better water project.”

On average, it costs just $20 to provide clean water to one person. To find out how you can help deliver safe drinking water to a village like Oltarakwai, visit www.worldconcern.org/water

“My children are crying for food…”

The Ripple Effect of COVID-19 on the Poorest

For Sokina Begum, a young mom in rural Bangladesh, it’s not the threat of a deadly virus that keeps her up at night – it’s the cries of her children and the hunger pains in her own stomach.

The government lockdown in Bangladesh means her family is crowded together inside their tiny shack that’s part of a slum for landless, poor beggars. It also means she’s forbidden to leave the house to work. Sokina’s husband is crippled and unable to work, and her two daughters, ages 11 and 6, are hungry.

Sokina's family
Sokina’s family had run out of food. With no way to work, she felt hopeless. Just in time, World Concern staff delivered emergency food to her door.

Before the pandemic, she was earning about $2.35 a day collecting fish, which was enough to feed her family and even send her eldest daughter to school. But now, there’s no way to work, and their food supply had run out.

“If I do not work a day, our food and other things are uncertain. It has been more than 25 days. I have no work and I don’t have any savings,” said Sokina. “I can’t go to work anywhere. I am living a helpless life in this situation. My children are crying for food.”

But a ray of hope arrived at her door when World Concern staff delivered emergency food and hygiene supplies.

World Concern teams delivered emergency food packages to 480 families in Sokina’s neighborhood. Each family received 16 pounds of rice, 7 pounds of potatoes, 2 pounds of onions, plus lentils, oil, and salt.

“I believe this package came from God for our survival,” proclaimed Sokina, who believes the food came just in time. “Otherwise, we may have died.”

In addition to food packages, 4,000 masks and 3,000 bars of soap were distributed to families in need. Handwashing stations were also set up around villages, and important Coronavirus prevention information was broadcast over megaphones attached to rickshaws.

Father of four, Shajahan Bayati, also received emergency food and supplies for his family. Within a week of the lockdown, they had completely run out of food. Shajahan tried operating his rickshaw to earn some money, but was sent back home by the police.

Shajahan's family
Shajahan’s family was among nearly 500 families living in extreme poverty in rural Bangladesh who received emergency food and supplies during the country’s lockdown.

He was grateful to receive the desperately-needed food.

“It feels really good at that moment because I had nothing to eat,” he said. “Now we can have three full meals a day for a week and my children will be very happy.”

In Bangladesh, distributions are done house-to-house to avoid crowds, and staff and beneficiaries maintain safe distances and wear personal protection, such as masks and gloves.

Laos Rice DistributionIn countries like Laos, where rural farmers already struggle to earn sufficient income from the rice crops so many depend on for food, the COVID-19 crisis is making matters worse. Food supplies, market pricing, and distribution are all unstable.

To help ensure families have enough to eat, 270 farmers in 8 villages recently received 30 kilograms of rice seeds. Rice banks will be established in the villages, and these farmers will, in turn, 35 kilograms of their harvested seeds so that more farmers can borrow and benefit as well.

Farmer carrying rice seed.“We are thankful to World Concern for giving us this high-yield and quality variety of rice,” said one of the farmer, Mr. Bounkert.

A little girls eats a Nutripacket in Somalia.
Malnourished little ones, like this girl in Somalia, are receiving emergency nutrition to restore their weakened bodies to health.

As the pandemic worsens in developing countries, like Somalia, where COVID-19 comes on the heels of drought and locust infestations, food prices are skyrocketing and livestock herds diminishing. Hungry children received emergency nutrition packets that save lives and restore malnourished little ones to health.

As families and communities in the world’s poorest places do their best to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by limiting social interactions and staying home, the very activities they depend on to survive are also limited, leading to hunger and despair.

With the critical support of donors, World Concern is working to assist families in greatest need and help them survive the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. To donate, please visit: https://www.worldconcern.org/urgent

Bangladesh staff spread message by megaphone
World Concern staff in Bangladesh broadcast vital information about staying healthy over megaphones in areas where there’s no TV, internet, or radio.

Giving Generously, Even in Times of Uncertainty

Though most businesses are being impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic, one Northwest business is keeping morale high and not letting up their commitment to giving back and serving others.

Josh Bayles, branch manager at Capstone Home Loans in Lynnwood, Washington, says he’s grateful to be working during this time when so many have lost jobs and livelihoods, and that the mortgage industry is doing well right now.

“Our whole team is working overtime, lowering rates through refinances, and helping clients purchase homes,” he said.

In addition to supporting multiple local charities such as the Everett Gospel Mission and Olive Crest, through their employee-funded Community Chest Fund, Capstone is also a faithful annual sponsor and supporter of World Concern’s Free Them 5k.

Capstone Home Loans staff and their families have joined and supported World Concern’s Free Them 5k for years. This year’s virtual event is no different. They’ve set a goal to protect 100 children from trafficking!

“We have a special heart for World Concern and for this cause—helping rescue kids from trafficking,” said Josh. Capstone formed their own team for the 2020 Free Them 5k and set a goal to protect 100 children from trafficking, exploitation, and harm, through their team’s fundraising efforts.

This year, for the 2021 Free Them 5k, Capstone sponsored the first match, April 16-18, doubling the impact of every donation participants raised up to $2,500!

As some are pulling back from giving during this time of uncertainty, Josh says they’re committed to keeping the spirit of generosity and helping others going.

“My partners and I are men of faith and we trust God with our finances. We want to give our ‘first fruits’ back to Him from our business income and net profits,” he explains. “We have an extra responsibility and privilege to share what we’ve been given with those in need, and we’re grateful our business enables us to do that.”

To sign up for the 2021 Virtual Free Them 5k and join the fight against child trafficking, visit www.freethem5k.org.

How COVID-19 Puts Children at Greater Risk of Trafficking and Child Marriage

This article contains advertorial content provided by World Concern for promotional purposes.

We’re all painfully aware of the impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on families, jobs, small businesses, the economy, and nearly every aspect of our lives. The long-term impact and ripple effect of the pandemic could be devastating for years.

The impact is even greater on the world’s poorest families and on those whose lives are already a struggle.

For us, grocery stores have remained open and the supply chain functioning. Not so in the developing world. Imagine if your only source of income and food was a market where you could sell a goat or other livestock to pay for necessities like food, water, and medicine. At the height of the pandemic, local markets shut down in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.

“People are not scared of the virus, they’re scared of not having food,” explained one World Concern program manager.

Now imagine you’re in this situation and you hear of a way to earn money in a city across the border. Someone told you there are jobs there. Your teenage daughter is healthy and strong and can make the journey. So you let her go… not knowing she’ll be sold as a slave into the sex industry.

Or, imagine a wealthier family offers to take your little girl into their home and pay for her living expenses if she’ll marry their son.

With schools closed in some of the poorest places, young boys are put to work to help support their families, and young girls are being married off. Girls who are in school are six times less likely to be married before their 18th birthday. The pandemic shut schools down across the globe. Sadly, many of those girls will not be returning to the classroom when schools reopen. 

People who are hungry will do desperate things.

A crisis like this one that destroys already fragile economies and infrastructures puts those who are vulnerable to crimes like human trafficking, child marriage, abuse and exploitation, at even greater risk.

World Concern’s model of community empowerment is effective in a crisis like this, as we’re able to incorporate COVID-19 messages and hygiene promotion within our community-based programs, such as care groups, nutrition programs, savings groups, and child protection programs.

Our long-term village development work is also proving to be vital in sustaining families and communities during this unique crisis. As families have learned to diversify their livelihoods and sources of income in preparation for crises, and to grow their own vegetables and sustainable crops, they are better able to survive.

Families learn to grow their own vegetables in South Sudan.

Parents who have received vital training and information on the dangers of trafficking and the harmful effects of child marriage are able to lean on that knowledge now more than ever, and avoid these risks, even in desperate times like this.

All the work that has been done—and is being done—in remote villages, crowded urban slums, and hard places beyond the end of the road, with the help of our supporters, is proving powerful and effective through crisis.

If you’re interested in helping protect the most vulnerable girls and boys from the increased danger they now face with COVID-19 and economic impacts in their communities, consider walking or running on May 8 in the 2021 Virtual Free Them 5k to stop child trafficking. Sign up here: www.freethem5k.org