Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What can we do?

Sometimes, I find out just how small my world really is.

I recently hosted a fundraiser for an anti-sex trafficking/tourism organization called Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. This is the fourth or fifth year that I've held a fundraiser to support an organization working in this field. It's something that I feel very passionately about--the amazing thing to me, is how passionate others feel about it once they learn some of the horrors that these women and children go through. Kidnapping. Gang rape. Beatings. Starvation. Servicing 30 or more men a day. NO ONE should have to live like that! No one should be imprisoned and raped and beaten and abused. These are human beings, not pieces of equipment or merchandise.
It's estimated that between one and two million women and children are trafficked around the globe. Human trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal market growing. Children as young as six years old are sold to brothels in some parts of the world. PBS has a film about sex trafficking--I saw part of this a few years ago. Here's a link to the documentary clip.
And it's not just happening in countries far away. Read this ABC News story--incredible. I cannot believe that this type of thing happens right here in the United States.

I have been working for some time with an organization called Shared Hope International. In fact, a story about it's founder, Linda Smith, is what first opened my eyes to the sex trafficking industry. I knew that I had to do something. I'm not someone who can just read something that totally blows my mind, alters my view of the world, makes me sick with anger, and then dismiss it and move on.

I started by selling hats at church a few weeks before Easter Sunday. I called the project "Hats for Hope" and donated all the money I raised to Shared Hope International. The next few years, with the help of some very kind and helpful volunteers, I ran a Victorian Tea to raise money and awareness for the cause. The teas were successful but a lot of time and energy went into them.

This year, I tried something different. A Music Matinee combined local musical talent with refreshments in a beautiful art gallery. My mother set up a table with all the pamphlets and brochures that I'd sent away for, to help educate others about the organizations out there doing great work.

I would call the Music Matinee a success, and once again, couldn't have done it without the help of my family and the awesome, professional musicians who donated their time and talents. Mark Sustic played (as shown above), along with Carol A. Jones, Lisa Judge, and Rebecca Padula.

Yesterday though, as I started reading through the book, "From Congress to the Brothel," I realized that one event a year, while a nice start, isn't going to cut it. This work is something that I feel incredibly passionate about. I'm now in the process of seeing how I can help on a more regular basis. Reading the stories of those women and children, the first hand accounts of what they have gone through is simultaneously eye-opening and heart breaking.

So I'm in the process now of waiting. Waiting to find out what it is I can do to help. Waiting to find out if this is something I need to do on my own (Set up a separate Web site or blog about sex trafficking? Start a nonprofit creating something to sell which can donate money to this cause? Create more community events? Stage art exhibits where all the art created is around the topic of sex trafficking and sex slavery?) or whether I am meant to partner with one of the organizations working on this problem already.

I'm not sure where I'll end up, but I know that everything I learn about this subject, everyone I tell about this subject, helps to draw it out of the shadows and into the light. I believe that is the first step in exposing something too awful to imagine--first bring it into the light. Let the sex traffickers, the pimps, the "johns" (men who "buy" these women and children) be seen for what they really are. Bring their despicable, disgusting, loathsome actions out into the light for everyone to see what and who they really are. And let that same light be shone over the women and children who are hidden away, so that they can escape from the shame, humiliation, and degradation and start new lives for themselves.

What can we do about a problem that seems so overwhelmingly huge?

We can start. We can do one thing and see where it leads. And then, we can do another.

No comments: