HUMAN TRAFFICKING & THE SEX TRADE // PART 4

I mentioned on Monday that I visited an organization Called Rahab Ministries in Bangkok, Thailand. These guys do incredible work and I thought the best way to let you know what these guys do was hear it directly from them. So give it a read and get involved.

1.  WHAT DOES RAHAB DO? WHAT IS IT’S MISSION?
Rahab gives women working in prostitution in Patpong, Bangkok, an opportunity to change their lives.  For 21 years Rahab has been reaching out to these women and they are situated right in the middle of Patpong, one famous red light area Thailand.

2.  WHAT DOES IT ACCOMPLISH THIS GOAL/MISSION?
The initial vision was of a beauty shop as a means of making contact with these women.  Now Rahab’s main focus is outreach into the bars. Fours times a week, twice in the afternoons and twice in thee evenings the Rahab outreach team visits different bars, talk and build relationships.

3.  WHAT TYPE OF WORK ARE THESE GIRLS DOING THAT YOU ARE WORKING WITH?
Before coming to Rahab, the majority of these women we work with are working in Go-Go bars dancing while scantily clad to attract men.  Some have come from street prostitution, even more demeaning and dangerous and poorly paid than the sex bars.  Once they come to Rahab, they make jewelery.

4.  CAN YOU GIVE SOME EXAMPLES OF HOW THESE GIRLS GET TO WHERE THEY ARE?
90 % of the women Rahab works with come from Isaan in North East Thailand.  Many of them have been married or in serious relationships, but their husbands have left them with children and no provision.  They leave their children back in Isaan with the families and come to Bangkok to find work.  Many of these women have very little education having let school at an early age to work on the family rice farm.  Boys are given more opportunity to complete schooling.  Some families have huge debts to money lenders in the villages.  Once they reach Bangkok, with no education and family members and debts to support, most of then cannot make enough money anywhere except in the bars.

5.  HOW OLD ARE THE GIRLS YOU ARE WORKING WITH?
The majority of these women are in their early twenties to late thirties. Some as old as early 40s.  We have met 14 year olds, but it is not common in Patpong.  Others areas of Bangkok are known for younger women.

6.  ARE GIRLS OFTEN TRAPPED OR ENSLAVED IN THEIR JOBS?
Yes, mainly by debt, either to a money lender back home or in some cases the bar has given her money to get started, but keep the debt going to hold her there.

7.  WHEN A GIRL DECIDES TO COME OUT OF THIS LIFESTYLE, WHAT DO YOU GUYS DO? HOW DO YOU HELP?
We give her a new job making jewelry.  Rahab can only pay around the minimum wage, so some women cannot afford to leave the bars and come and work here.  After about 6  months when the women show they are committed and responsible we offer retraining through sponsorship.  This may be as a hairdresser, sewing and pattern making or nail art. Others go back to school.

8.  WHAT KIND OF SKILLS DO YOU GIVE HER?
Life skills such as budgeting and building self esteem. Teaching English and some computer skills. We also teach the women to make jewellery.

Some of the girls are set up in their own businesses or found jobs outside Rahab.  they re mentored through this process.  Hair dressing especially only makes money once they build up clientele.  Rahab subsidizes the women to the level of wage same as at Rahab until they build up their client base.

Those setting up in business are also supported initially.  Rahab pays there rent on a small shops as they build up their confidence.  After a year to 18 months, they re offered the opportunity to fully take over the running of it.

9.  IS THERE A SORT OF REHABILITATION THAT THE GIRLS GO THROUGH?
Yes many girls approx 50% are quite traumatized by their previous job. This can take quite some time to work through depending on the level of abuse and how the lady has coped with it.

10. ONCE THE GIRLS FINISH THE PROGRAM, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Many stay in touch with Rahab as the majority of the women who come through Rahab become Christan and become part of Jaisamarn church. They fellowship together and keep in touch.  Others do go home to their villages, but it is not always easy for them.  Families who have been used to the women  bringing in a lot of money can continue to pressure them to return to the bars.

11. TELL ME MORE ABOUT THIS JEWELRY THE GIRLS ARE MAKING?
Rahab Bazaar products are all made to a very high standard with strict quality control.
All the materials are either semi precious stones, fresh water pearls or silver which is 92.5 % pure.

12.  HOW CAN PEOPLE PURCHASE THIS JEWELRY?
You an buy Rahab Bazaar products on line from our web site
http://www.rahabministriesthailand.com/shop/
or contact us direct on rahabbazaar@gmail.com or come in and visit.
We also sell at the Thai Craft Fair

13.  WHY IS INCOME GENERATION IMPORTANT IN THIS MINISTRY?
Although Rahab bazaar comes nowhere near to fully supporting the ministry, it does help.  WE have to be able to offer work to women we bring out of the bars and jewelery is the most productive product we have found.  It is also very therapeutic for the women making beautiful products while their lives have been so ugly.

MORE RAHAB GOODNESS:
Jewelry Catalog:  If you want to download a jewelry catalog click here.
Rahab Brochure:  Download the brochure by clicking here.
Newsletter:  Download the latest newsletter here.
Outreach Powerpoint:  Download a PPT of Rahab’s outreach to remote villages here.

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HUMAN TRAFFICKING & THE SEX TRADE // Part 3

Yesterday I posted a story written by Travis Frugé.  I first met Travis over six years ago when we worked together as summer camp counselors in college.  This man’s passion for Jesus and for people was evident from the first time we met.  Over that summer and ever since I’ve become more and more inspired by this guys life.  From his masters and doctoral work to his living for a few years in a remote village in Africa… It is always evident that he has been directed by his love for God and people. Travis along with a few other of his friends have been broken by human trafficking and child prostitution and are working on making an impact in India.  Here is a little info into what they are doing….

Somewhere, right now, across oceans and rivers and skies there is a little van shimmying its way through overgrown mountain roads and freshly dewed fields. Its passengers are looking out the window hopeful for life as new as the sunlight about to leap over the mountains. The reason they are here can be boiled down to the simple concept of supply and demand. And whether or not they know it they are about to join the millions of women, children, and men who have found themselves at the mercy of a system that is in every way– slavery. Slavery has not been abolished. Not outside America. And not within America. The selling of human beings has become one of the most lucrative forms of trade. And one of the least acknowledged. The lowest estimates on the number of human trafficking victims each year are in the range of 400,000. The highest are in the multi-millions. And of these victims it is estimated that over 70% of victims are subjected to some type of sexual exploitation. This has been perpetuated by a widespread belief that sex with a virgin can cure AIDS, meaning younger women and children bring a much higher price and are among the most exploited. It is not uncommon to find sexual exploitation victims as young at 5 or 6 or for women to literally lose their lives within days to the diseases and abuse they are exposed to. It is an economic engines profiting billions of dollars annually and costing countless lives. Siblings, daughters, sons and parents are disappearing every year.

We want this is to end. And we believe it is possible. We want to stop the future trafficking of individuals and bring restoration to the lives that have nearly been destroyed by trafficking. Right now, as you read this, we are making preparations to begin a facility to restore some of the most at-risk, exploited, and ignored women and children in the world. It will require a lot of work. And it will require expertise to address the emotional, medical, educational, and economic issues that are caused by human trafficking and often cause victims to fall back into situations of exploitation. More specifically, we want to provide a loving, nurturing, and creative environment to not only restore these children but to help them realize their full potential. In the long run we hope to roll out plans to build a house for young women, to provide legal assistance to defend victims and prosecute traffickers, and to employ research to expose issues with exploitation. This year we are founding our first home in Calcutta for at-risk children and we would love for you to be a part of this movement with us. For updates on what we are doing you can follow us under the name: AshrayaMission.

Twitter: @ashryamission
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ashraya-Mission/
Blog: http://ashrayamission.blogspot.com/
Email: ashryamission@gmail.com

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HUMAN TRAFFICKING & THE SEX TRADE // PART 2

When I was walking those streets in Patpong, Bangkok, Thailand there was a story that kept running through my mind.  It wouldn’t go away.  That whole week in Bangkok, it kept playing again in my mind.  The story was written by my good friend Travis Frugé about his experience in Thailand a couple years ago and he was kind enough to let me post it here.  This is that story….

Crunch
Crunch
Crunch
At this particular moment in time I am chewing on a cockroach looking bug. Surely the biggest one I have every seen. Had ever seen.
And I am sitting on a couch. To my right a prostitute. To my left two prostitutes. Straight in front of me two more. I think the one to my left is named “Bee“…. but it hasn’t actually occurred to me yet what her name is.
So I suppose I have some explaining to do.
I probably owe you an explanation.
After all, how does a young guy find himself sitting at “restaurant” with hourly rent rooms upstairs and five prostitutes around him and a freshly roasted insect inside his mouth.
Crunch
Crunch
Wince
Crunch
Only parts of the head and tail have meat. Once its all been squeezed out by the molars you spit the head and wings out. And legs. Not like the grasshoppers I just ate. They go down nice and smooth. ish.
And “bee” is putting her number in my phone.
And you might be asking yourself so how does a young guy who just ate grasshoppers and “cockroaches” sitting with a bunch of prostitutes at a bar that is actually a brothel find himself getting some prostitutes phone numbers.
Well I asked for them.
Anyone of a more wayward persuasion might think I am living the good life, minus crunchy insect head and wings. But for me, though completely at ease, what I am doing will certainly go down as one of the more difficult moments in my life. In spite of finding myself sitting on a couch sipping on a coke.
This is not easy at all.
Asking them these questions….
How long have you been here?
7 years.
10 years.
4 years.…..
And I know that for these girls every one of those years marks another year of debt bondage to their pimps, a debt that can take decades to pay off.
Did you know other people in Bangkok?
My sister was a prostitute here.
My sisters and cousins are prostitutes here….

….
The surveys are in my backpack right now.
On my hotel bed.
Contaminating it with their truth.

As the girls started to talk in Esaan I saw on there faces how they felt about their lives. And I felt evil for even bringing it here. To their work. Forcing them to do anything that would remind them about how they got here. And why they can’t leave. “Bee” wanted to see her family again. In the North. As they were speaking in their first language, a language much like Lao…
It was then that it occurred to me.
One was “Bee.”
On the right was “C.”
Across from me was “Dee.”
“Your names are just letters from the English alphabet.” I told them.
“Yes.”
“But I want to know your real names.”


“Our real names?” they looked confused and scared.
And they didn’t know if they were allowed to tell me.
I had already broken some rules.
Asking how they got here.
Most of them were trafficked.
And they were afraid to answer that question.
So I told them to skip it.
Then one by one.
Opening up more to me then they probably have ever opened up to a foreigner man…
A
And B
And C
And D
Began to tell me their names their mothers gave them.
Before all this.
Before innocence was something that could bring a higher bid.
Chaiama
Lawan
Phan
Ramphoei*
Each one spoke there name regally.
As if it represented who they really were. As if all of this wasn’t really around us and they weren’t really in a bar full of inappropriate old American men and they were really loved.
It killed me…
Is there any job you would rather have?
The survey asked next….
I wish Chaiama’s English hadn’t sufficed in this moment.
I wish I didn’t understand what she was about to say.
Because it is haunting me.
Even right now.
Its so hard to type this right.
Because I’m crying so hard
“I…..want……to sell…..in market……face cream……to make girls beautiful…….”
I tried to smile.
And hold everything back.
It was so simple.
And so innocent.
And life isn’t fair.
I don’t care what you say.
There’s no way that it’s fair.
A crusty American old man steps over wondering what has made me such a big deal. Says a few inappropriate things. Slaps a girls butt. And walks away.

How do you start?
They were so confused by me.
There.
Meters from the lady boy cabaret.
Surrounded “massage parlors”
Encircled with “karaoke bars”
Just sitting.

I didn’t want sex. I just wanted to ask them questions and learn Thai. In truth I was doing research for a HIV prevention program through my university. I was so limited in what I could say and ask. And I was being policed by the owner of the joint. But I knew someday and somehow I wanted Chaiama to be able to sell face cream to make girls beautiful. So I did one of the oddest things I’ve done in my life. Asked for prostitutes’ phone numbers. What else do you do? And right there. I did something I doubt they’ve experienced from a man before. I just enjoyed their presence. I ate what they ate. And I tried to speak what they spoke. And there in one of the many red light districts within these city’s borders I learned that I have so much in common with girls who have been enslaved by prostitution….
And with the lady sitting in the trash heap across the street.
And with the girl upstairs who has given up her innocence so many times she feels like she will never be able to go home.
They just need to feel love.
And I honestly don’t know if they ever will.
I don’t care what you say.
Life isn’t fair.

*names changed for their protection

Travis is a a dear friend who’s heart for people caught in the slave trade has not stopped.  If you’re heart was at all moved by his story, please visit this site the next two days where I will give some information about two organizations working to make a difference in this area.  Tomorrow I will be sharing some information about the work Travis has begun in India and how you can become involved.

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Human Trafficking & The Sex Trade // Part 1

Back in October I had the chance to meet the guys at Rahab Ministries in Bangkok, Thailand.  Rahab ministries is a ministry that exists to give women who are working in prostitution a chance to change their lives.  I spent a couple days meeting with them; seeing and hearing what they do.  One evening they walked me through the Patpong district and explained how it all work.

The Patpong district is one of several red light districts in Bangkok.  The streets are lined in the middle with vendors selling anything you can imagine, while on each side of the streets are lined with go-go bars and strip-clubs.  A go-go bar is simply a bar with an elevated peninsula dance floor/stage in the middle with lots of stripper poles and bar seats all the way around it.  Not too different than a strip club… Yet the dance stage is packed full of girls in their underwear or bikinis and lots of the time “go-go” boots dancing as customers look on (a strip club minus the stripping I reckon).  Now the girls who aren’t dancing are “working” the customers.  Making sure they have a drink and the general expectation is that the customer buys the bar girl a drink as well.  The general aim is for the bar girl to get the customer to pay a “bar fee” (a fee paid to the bar for the girl leaving before her shift is up/bar is closed) as well as the girls fee and take the girl home that night.  Whether that be in the hourly rented rooms often times upstairs or some other hotel.

To make the situation more complex and appalling… Most of the women in this line of work are indebted to someone (either a loan shark or the bar owner).  The system is such that they are basically enslaved to this job and kept in debt so there is no seemingly way out.  It is said that close to 60% of all male foreigners to thailand are there for sex tourism.  Some reports say that 30-40% of the prostitutes in thailand are under the age of 18.  It is also understood that the majority of those girls have been trafficked.

As I walked around with Rahab that night I kept trying to figure out how I was to capture this scene through images.  Guys in the street with sheets of paper listing all the “services” available in their bar, trying to entice foriegners shopping.  Girls standing at the door already half-drunk trying to seduce people inside.  The faces of the girls dancing on the stages as we pass by each bar.  Girl after girl.  Face after face.  Most faces void of any emotion from night after night of dancing and meeting men.  It was as if hope of a different life was no longer there.

Due to the sensitivity of the girls currently in Rahab, we didn’t want to take pictures of their faces, trying to avoid any possible harm to them.  And I had at most a couple nights to visit the night scene and the bar owners and managers are not OK with taking photos of their girls or their bar.  For me, this was hardly enough time for me to even begin to grasp someone’s story and create the opportunity to be able to capture it well using images.  It became very apparent quickly that this was going to be a hard task.

As I contemplated over it more and more I decided I would take a different approach.  Sure I took a few images during my time there… But for the most part due to the time I had, I felt the need to put the camera away, pull out the pen and paper and sit, listen and watch what was happening.

The issue of human trafficking, the sex slave trade, child prostitution, and all that is connected with them is a very real and huge issue.  And because of that I wanted to spend a little more time on this subject as well as highlight both Rahab ministries as well as another organization working to combat the same issues in India that a dear friend of mine is starting.

So please, check back each day as I will be posting a new post every morning this week.

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Thailand :: fair trade coffee

In northern Thailand there is an organization that is committed to working with the hill tribe people of Thailand.  Integrated Tribal Development Program (ITDP) works to assist Hill-Tribes in water resource and sanitation, Thai Tribal Arabica Coffee, agricultural extension, health, evangelism, education and social development.

My main role while visiting ITDP was to see and meet people who are involved in their Fair Trade Coffee.  I spent 3 days driving around winding mountain roads, going from village to village, meeting coffee farmers.  These farmers used to grow opium and ITDP has introduced coffee and pay them fair wage.  These above fair wage for their coffee allows people to stop growing opium as well as lessen the need to sell a child into slavery or prostitution because they now have the ability to provide for their family.  The growers are members of a co-op and this coffee beans is sold through multiple roasters and retailers including Starbucks.  Bright Hope World roasts and sells this coffee under the label La Mai Coffee both in New Zealand and in the US.  Portions of the profit of the coffee goes back to the farmers (this is over and above the fair wage they already receive) as well as go to bangkok to help battle the sex trade there.

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