Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stolen Innocence

“Kiri grew up in rural Cambodia. Her parents died when she was a child, and, in an effort to give her a better life, her sister married her off when she was 17. Three months later she and her husband went to visit a fishing village, where her husband rented a room in what Kiri thought was a guesthouse. But when she woke the next morning, her husband was gone. The owner of the house said her husband had sold her for $300 and that she was actually in a brothel.

For five years, Kiri was raped by five to seven men every day. In addition to brutal physical abuse, Kiri was infected with HIV and contracted AIDS. The brothel threw her out when she became sick, and she eventually found her way to a local shelter. She died of HIV/AIDS at the age of 23.” (U.S. Department of State)

Kiri’s story exposes the ugly face of human trafficking. Her story is not an isolated incident; there are millions who endure the suffering of modern slavery everyday. Trafficking appears in many shapes and sizes: prostitution, bonded labor, even people who are attacked and disfigured, then forced to beg in the streets.

More often than not, the reason lurking behind the initial sale of people is the poverty in which their families find themselves trapped.

A business project is beginning to employ girls escaping the sex trafficking industry. The girls will make purses called Itsera (Thai for freedom), to be marketed and sold around the world. Initial start-up costs are $54,000, and the business will be self-sustaining after the first year. The goal is to see young girls delivered out of prostitution, be discipled and have the kind of life God intended them to have.

However, human trafficking is not just an overseas issue. Trends are also appearing in the US, many of which spotlight child prostitution by the use of technology. People can be manipulated through social networking sites. Criminals use the Internet, including chat rooms to obtain information about victims.

Wherever it occurs, human trafficking targets vulnerable people who are tricked into slavery, usually by someone they trust. Teenage girls who search for love and acceptance are prime targets of traffickers offering a better life. Once the girl believes the lie, her dream turns into a nightmare from which there is little chance to escape.

The goal of Itsera is to give people a chance to create a sustainable income, thus defeating the poverty and predators who enslave people in the first place. Itsera is only the beginning of our work with the victims of human trafficking. Whether through awareness, legislation, rescue or rehabilitation, our primary focus is to see God’s restoration and redemption in the lives of those who have been enslaved.