"My friend, my friend, she is 10 - two men tonight - mother, father sell. You come, you help, please..."
The heart behind why we opened
The reality is that slavery still thrives. It now encompasses people of all race, colour and age and has a new name - human trafficking. It robs people of all dignity, hope and a future.
There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today1. This is more than twice the number of people taken from Africa during the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade. Today's slaves are not bought and sold at public auctions, nor do their owners hold legal title to them; yet they are just as trapped, controlled and brutalized as the slaves in our history books.
People become slaves because they are poor and vulnerable, and their basic rights are not protected. Lack of access to work, land, education and lack of enforcement of laws prohibiting the holding of people in bondage result in slavery. Slavery provides 'employers' with a form of extremely cheap labour which they will fight to protect. A person who is poor and in need of money, perhaps for an emergency or because one of the family is ill, finds it hard to get a loan. The only option is to pledge their labour to repay their debt. Some resort to selling one of their children. Slavery is illegal in virtually every country worldwide.
The story that began the vision
What do you do when you are told that a 10-year-old little girl is about to be sold into child prostitution? This is what Leigh was faced with back in 2006 as she was having a final meal in Phnom Penh at the end of a fact-finding trip to Cambodia.
Leigh's immediate response was to jump into action - to do something, do anything! But what? As she said: "Running off down back alleys trying to confront organised and violent crime syndicates wasn't going to work." So Leigh did what she could and called a local organization that could help.
"There are complex issues that contribute to a girl being vulnerable to trafficking - factors such as poverty, abuse, trickery and deception, unemployment and addiction often leading to desperation in the family."
While a child's tragic journey into prostitution is sometimes due to a family's financial struggle, many families are lured or tricked into thinking their children are being offered a legitimate job or an opportunity for education.
"But once trapped in this world of unspeakable evil, they are held captive against their will, and threatened with violence, are soon imprisoned in a world of unimaginable pain and degradation ... as we say repeatedly IT'S NOT OK!"
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1 (Kevin Bales, Disposable People)
* The photos of children's faces above are not of actual trafficked children, neither are they associated with the SHE Rescue Home.