So, Friday night, I hosted an event at my church (Bloomingdale Church, little plug) called RESCUE. Can I tell you that after months of planning, coordinating, contacting and communicating with many, many people I was thrilled with the response and attendance.
Over 100 people gathered to learn about the sex trade and commercial sexual exploitation of youth. The why’s, the how’s, and most importantly, what can be done to prevent and address this evil destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of youth around the world.
From America, to Thailand, to Albania, to Moldova, to Peru, to Brazil, to Kenya and beyond, young people—boys and girls alike—are victimized, brutalized and abused at the hands of money-hungry pimps, traffickers and brothel owners.
At its core, child prostitution is the raping of youth for profit. The sex trade is a multi-billion dollar industry, fueled by greed. The demand: sex with minors. The purpose: sexual entertainment and gratification. The product: girls and boys, many younger than the age of 18.
A multi-media presentation, RESCUE combined video, speech, drama and music to 1. Expose factors contributing to the rise of child prostitution in the United States and around the world, 2. Share the stories of children rescued from the sex trade, 3. Showcase local and international organizations working to rescue youth from a life of forced prostitution.
– Dawn Herzog Jewell, author and founder of Escaping the Devil’s Bedroom. Dawn provided an informative overview of the conditions contributing to the rise of child prostitution. She also challenged the church to step up and get involved with a heartfelt reminder that as the hands and feet of Christ, it is the church’s responsibility to bring the love of Christ to those hurting and in need of restoration.
– Singer/songwriter Shuree Rivera, pulled double-duty. As a representative of RememberNhu (Cambodia) she shared her heart’s passion for the work of Remember Nhu in Cambodia as they rescue girls from brothels and provide them with an education and job skills training to work as entrepreneurs in nail and hair salons, and other locations. Shuree also brought the house down performing several impassioned songs inspired by her trip to Cambodia and Thailand during which she met many girls rescued from the sex trade.
– I shared about the work of The SOLD Project (Thailand). Using education as prevention to coercion or deception into the sex trade, SOLD identifies vulnerable youth in the northern, rural regions of Thailand and provides them with scholarships for education.
– Closing the program, a well-informed representative from The Salvation Army*PROMISE (The United States) left us inspired by their commitment, energy and resolve to rescue youth, restore their lives, advocate for those still trapped, and educate and train communities on ways to get involved, fund and support those on the front lines.
I am grateful to the many, many people who contributed to the success of RESCUE. Collaboration is the key. Together, we can make a difference.
Provided below are a few action steps you can take to get involved wherever you may live:
• Have a blog? Use your blog to educate others. Once a month promote the work of a non-profit rescuing youth from the sex trade and to advocate for the thousands of youth trapped in forced prostitution.
• On Facebook? Tweeting on Twitter? Use social media sources to raise awareness for the issue of child sexual exploitation.
• Host an education dinner or informative tea or any type of gathering. Show video clips and discuss the work of an advocating organization. Better yet, invite a representative from a local non-profit to share about the work they do in your community.
• Pick any book on the market today about human trafficking, the sex trade and child prostitution and host a book reading.
• Write to the Mayor. Let him/her know you are concerned about this issue and wonder what they are doing about it in your area.
• Write to the police. Encourage officers to receive training to identify victims of trafficking.
• Email local, state and government politicians urging passage of laws that protect youth, fund programs to provide local law enforcement with the resources necessary to train, investigate, arrest and prosecute johns, pimps and dealers.
• Email local state and government officials asking to fund after-care programs and services for youth rescued from the sex trade.
• Support local agencies on the front lines: prayer support, financial support, with your time, talent and abilities.
• Artistic? Computer literate? Donate your time to web design and/or maintenance, or toward producing promotional materials (such as brochures, flyers and newsletter templates).
• Like to write? Help format a newsletter or contribute to web content for an agency. Use your skills to write grants on behalf of agencies.
• Are you a social butterfly? Like to plan? Help organize events or recruit volunteers to help with events.
• Are you a social worker, psychologist or counselor? Donate your time to helping youth rescued process through their experiences and begin healing from the trauma.
• Host a fundraiser. Gather some people together, share the mission and work of an advocating agency and take up a collection to support their work as a one-time gift.
• Are you a student? Write a paper on child prostitution or promote the issue within student groups or for class projects, or host a fundraiser.
• Become a sponsor. Consider sponsoring a child through organizations like The SOLD Project or Remember Nhu. Consider becoming a monthly supporter, contributing any amount comfortable for your budget (believe me, no amount is too small!).
• Continue to educate yourself on the topic by utilizing print, film and internet resources. Share with others what you learn.
• Etc. Be creative! The sky’s the limit in terms of partnerships!
Though the sex trade may seem like an overwhelming problem, do not be discouraged or paralyzed by the scope, breadth or depth of the factors contributing to the rise in child prostitution domestically or abroad. Great things happen when people band together for a common purpose. Many opportunities exist right here in DuPage and Cook counties (or in your own community, wherever you happen live) to make a difference in the life of a child caught in the sex trade.
The challenge is not as overwhelming as it seems if you break it down into simple, practical, tangible steps. And EVERY effort makes a difference! God has given us all many talents, skills and abilities we can use to make a difference in the lives of others. Pull out your phone book or get on the internet and search for organizations working to rescue youth from prostitution, give ‘em a call and ask how you can help. Warning: your services will be utilized. Have pen and paper handy!