Bloom and Daughters of Cambodia

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By: Diane Harvey, our fearless justice leader from Perth Australia

It’s amazing what word-of-mouth can do. We were only supposed to be checking out two projects, but when my friend Lynda found out we were in Cambodia she said I had to check out Bloom. My new friend Trish was on the trip with me and she was told by another lady at church about the work of Daughters. We set out to squeeze them both in if we could.

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“Bloom is a cake art gallery and not-for-profit organisation that empowers and skills Cambodian women while providing you with a chic oasis in the city.” They have a high quality vocational training program AND the cakes are beautiful and yummy! Double yay!! The Cambodian website is here. There is not much publicity on there about the work that they do but further information about Bloom can be found at here. I suspect that they are guarded about publicizing their work to protect the women, and to let the work speak for itself.

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The second place we went to visit was called Daughters. Its mission is a lot more explicit. “Daughters of Cambodia is a faith-based non-Government organization reaching out to victims of sex-trafficking and sex-exploitation in Cambodia. We work to eradicate enslavement in the sex industry by offering to those trapped in it, opportunities to walk free and start a new life.”

We took a tuk tuk to the Visitor Centre in Phnom Penh which enables the public to learn about Daughters and support their work. I was able to browse in the craft store (sorry I don’t have pics!), enjoy deep fried cookie dough and a “Snickers” thickshake in the cafe, and get a head/face/shoulder massage in the spa. Three shops in one location! The work they are doing is explained everywhere you turn: in artwork on the walls, on the back of the products, and in a dvd looped in the mezzanine. You can check out their website at here. It’s pretty fascinating!

We all care about the exploitation of women. I am thankful for the work these businesses are doing, but I think it is genius the way they make it accessible for an affluent white westerner like myself to come alongside, engage and find out further ways to support.

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All of the pictures are from Bloom except the picture of me holding up an ice coffee. That was a regular cupcake place that I dragged everyone along to, knowing that Bloom sold cupcakes. I had spied it from our river cruise, thinking that this was surely it – before I took the time to find out the actual name and address of Bloom!

Dear Anna

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Photo Credit: “Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department” 

a mother in Mumbai, India, who is looking for her lost daughter.

 

My monthly post for Exodus Road from the perspective of a mother.

Read Anna’s Story here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

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Image courtesy of  papaija2008/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dear Anna, 

You have been gone for 365 days. I have watched the seasons pass over the River Neva. The waters are ice-covered again and all around lies in winter drab. This is how my heart feels, dear Anna. We ate a tula gingerbread on your sixteenth birthday. 

I stand on the water’s edge at sunset and sunrise and pray that you might return to us. Pray is not the right word, I plead. 

You left for me, for Pavel, for Pyotr, for Petya to help us have a better life. 

There are whispers on the streets that the people you left with were dishonest. That you may be in great hurt and danger. It’s like the ice cracking across the river through me. You were only trying to bring us hope.

I did not know. I am so sorry I did not know. 

Pavel has began telling the story of the Firebird and the Grey Wolf to his brothers as you used to each night. In the end when Prince Ivan regained all he had lost. This is what I plead, that you might regain all you have lost. 

If you could read my heart, you would know I would come for you if I knew where you were. I would trade spaces the very second I could. I would give everything to go back and not allow you to board that bus. I hope you are not cold.  I hope you are not alone. 

So I will continue to plead as the river changes. I will keep telling mothers, to hold their daughters close. No matter how bad it becomes, we cannot let this happen anymore. 

Love, Your Matushka

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Sometimes a family can lose their daughter to human trafficking under the veil of the promise of work.

Other times family’s find themselves in the position of selling their daughters into slavery. This seems beyond our imaginations.

Read the following story by Laura Parker How Can a Mother Sell Her Child? 

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Understanding that truth places us in the proximity of making difference.

Anna’s Story: Part 3

You can read

Anna’s Story, Part 1 here

Anna’s Story, Part 2 here

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Anna’s Story, Part 3

She had passed through all four quarters of a year. Only sleep brought relief. The nights were so long and then the hours of labor to keep up the building.  Meka was unrelenting, if Anna made any error Analu or Ipo would be called and she would feel the strikes of their hands. Six girls slept in one small room. They whispered with one another, but no one else spoke Russian.

On day fifty-eight Valentina never returned when dawn broke. That was the day Anna stopped counting. She searched for her brown eyes and dark hair everyday, but she never came back. She tried asking Meka about her. Meka just twisted her smile and chuckled.

 

When the sun was at its highest she fell onto her pallet. She covered her head with a thin blanket. No matter how hard she worked, how obedient she acted, the debt still stood. Even if she paid off the debt, she still would not have the passport or money to travel home. Bone weary, her Matushka used to feel that way. The weariness was not only exhaustion and the ache of her body, but the way her soul quieted with each passing day. In her mind the River Neva was frozen as solid as a diamond. Mr. Belikor, at the bread shop, had told her that was the hardest element on earth. Sometimes he had let her borrow books.

On her pallet, she wanted to dream of her Matuska and her brother’s faces, their little room. Their images were faded in her mind now and thinking of them scared her, because she could not imagine how they had survived when her checks never came.

One evening she started counting again. That night, in a hallway, a paper square was slipped into her hands. In Russian the script asked her name and her age. She tucked it into her pocket and it weighed heavy. Analu and Ipo would surely beat her if they knew. Under her pallet she kept a strip of charcoal for her eyes. She scratched the answers on the paper square. The next night, the same hand reached out in the hallway, without turning up her eyes she parted with the weight.

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That morning she whispered the story of The Firebird and the Grey Wolf.

And Prince Ivan lay dead. His brothers took all that he had; the firebird, the horse and Helen. Then the crow brought the water of death and the water of life to the grey wolf. The grey wolf revived Ivan with the water. He regained all he had lost.

 

Four days passed, her whispers faded away again, and she dreamed of sinking into the frozen expanse of River Neva with the ice layers covering over her one at a time.

The fifth night, she stood behind the glass window in thigh high boots when everything blurred. The room and the hallway filled with strangers and men in uniform shouting. She shifted to a corner. Analu and Ipo were bound and led out. She could not see Meka. Gathered up with a large group of girls, she was led out of the hallway, then the building into the night. Suddenly under the blur of the neon lights and dirty street, she felt her heart race. What if whatever was happening drew her into a space even worse then what she had known?

Down the street, they walked to a building with more uniformed men. They asked her questions, but she did not understand. A man with broken Russian tried to speak with her. She heard the word rescue in his halting phrases. She did not know if she dared to hope. In another room she was examined by a doctor. The whole group would be transferred, but she did not understand where. She wished for Valentina’s arm to hold her up.

She thought of the word the man had said, it stood out against her mind like the colors of the firebird in her story, rescue.

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The frozen gave way like a fragile line bending through the uppermost layer of ice.

 

The Exodus Road

“27 million people are trapped in modern-day slavery. 80% of the victims are women and children and are suffering in 161 countries, including the United States. Sexual slavery has become a lucrative global industry, targeting the poor and inflicting abuse, usually in the darkest of places.”

Night Light International

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Night Light International  is a new partner organization of The Exodus Road.

I would love to introduce you to their mission today!

Night Light International addresses the complex issues of commercial sexual exploitation through prevention, intervention, restoration, and education.

 

Visit the Night Light International Store. All the jewelry is made and sold by rescued woman and girls.

 

Night Light International has centers in Los Angeles, Branson MS, Atlanta and Bangkok.

Typically sex trafficking is not associated with the Unites States. Sex trafficking is going on in the United States too.

  • In the tri-lakes area of Branson, Missouri three factors make it an area of high-trafficking: high rates of drug production, two national airports, and a high level of tourism.
  • In Atlanta: sports venues, convention centers, airports, and a booming adult entertainment industry make it a high-trafficking area.
  • Los Angeles, sees trafficking because of emotional, environmental and economic factors.

 

Sex-trafficking is not just a global issue.

Sex-trafficking is an everywhere issue.

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Anna’s Story Part 2

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Read Anna’s Story Part 1 here. 

Anna’s Story Part 2 of 4

Through Anna’s drooping eyelids, the bus interior faded in and out. Nightmares disturbed her sleep of the bus never stopping and the bus stopping where it should not.

Valentina shook her shoulder one dawn morning. The landscape had turned to a green she had not known before. A flicker of hope warmed her, but faded just as quickly. They continued into a city. In the glow of the rising sun, grew buildings and neon lights flickering off after illuminating the night. The bus stopped on a narrow, un-swept street. Anna stood up, disoriented. Valentina locked their elbows together.

The two girls who had sat in the back of the bus exited first, and took off running. Three large men followed after them. Anna heard the screams, the sounds of heavy dropping onto pavement.

 

“Be still,” whispered Valentina into her ear. Anna was led into a dim building and up a narrow flight of stairs. A middle aged man pushed her toward a closet-sized room. Anna held onto Valentina with both her hands, frantic. The man shoved her so hard she skidded across the cement floor into the wall. Click and she was locked in: no windows, dark.

Anna quit counting the minutes pass. She thought of the smell of warm bread in the morning. Matushka used come home tired, and yet still brushed her long hair and helped braid it away from her face for the ovens. They would be waiting, her brothers and Matushka. They were waiting on her. She thought of the money never arriving. Her heart constricted and she felt warm tears slide down her cheeks.

 

Hours passed before the door clicked open and a three people entered the room. One walked to the center and pulled on a chain. All that time there had been a bare light bulb and she had laid there in darkness. A small sleeping pallet lay in one corner.

She stood up tall. “I want my passport back. I want to go home.”

The woman laughed bitterly. She moved her fingers against her palm indicating money and pointed at Anna. Then, she moved closer and cupped her hands around Anna’s narrow waist, nodding her head in approval. Anna darted for the open slit of the door. The young man to struck her across the face. Rising up she tried again only to be struck back. This went on until she could not summon strength to stand again.

Lying on her stomach, she could hear voices in the hallway through a small gap between the door and the floor. The words spoken tangled into rhythms and sounds she did not understand. Sometimes she could make out names. The people that came to her space were Meka, Analu and Ipo.

 

She lay crumpled on the pallet and whispered the story of the Firebird and the Grey Wolf into the darkness as she did to her brothers each night.

And Prince Ivan lay dead. His brothers took all that he had; the firebird, the horse and Helen. Then the crow brought the water of death and the water of life to the grey wolf. The grey wolf revived Ivan with the water. He regained all he had lost.

 

Days passed where she refused to rise despite their yelling and the kicking of her body. One day they brought a fourth person into the room with them. She lifted her head and folded herself into Valentina’s arms. Valentina whispered into her ear in Russian, “They will kill you. You can’t run with no passport, no money. They will find you anyway because of the debt. Be a good girl, do what they say. Down the hallway, girls share rooms. Maybe we can. These things I know. I will watch over you Anna, I promise. Stop fighting. I worry for you.”

“I want to go home.”

 

Anna wore high heels, a mini-skirt, red lipstick and eyes rimmed heavy with charcoal. A glass window separated her from the ogling eyes. She would not raise her head, they could not make her. The younger man, Ipo came and lifted up her chin. Her eyes grappled for the floor as she strained against his cold fingers. Every night following would pass the same.

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Her tears dried up. The thought of home made her ache and she let it become dim in her mind. Empty was easier, it took all her strength to keep breathing. Sometimes, she wondered why she cared to keep on, death might be better, only she was too scared. She thought of her River Neva frozen to the bottom layer of silt. There was no more water running underneath the frozen layers, alive. No, everything lay solemn and cold. She quit whispering into the dark.

 

Join the fight against human trafficking at Exodus Road.

Follow the Exodus Road Blog to keep your thoughts in proximity to the need. 

Harvard Student Lea Parker attended Passion 2013. We, God’s people, need to be present.  Read her post here.

Blogger Amy Bosma writes a post here called Break my Heart. 

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Anna’s Story, Part 1

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A 4-part realistic fiction series for The Exodus Road about human trafficking. 

The journey of Anna: 

He pushed a pile of rubles across the counter toward her.  Anna laid them one-by-one in the palm of her hand, rough from kneading layers of black bread since dawn.

“This is only half of my pay.” She stared down toward the concrete floor. Anna wished for her scarf to hide behind, but she had left it for Petya whose cough had worsened throughout the night.

Mr. Belikor shook his head and perspiration seeped through his linen shirt. The air in the bakery hung thick with the warmth of the ovens. “Your Matushka, came again and borrowed against your salary. The rent was past due.” He drew his eyebrows together attempting to appear stern.

Moisture filled her eyes. He was unbending.

Mrs. Belikor sweep around the counter. “Anna, we can’t. Here take these breads that will help.” The old woman adjusted the flaps of her hat and patted her cheek. “It’s so frozen outside today.”

Leaving the warmth of the little bread shop shocked reality out her every time. The River Neva stood ice-covered and the streets winter drab.  She tucked the bag under her arm and hurried down the walkway. Across the back alley, Anna caught sight of a group of teenagers sharing a few cigarettes. On the edge of the crowd stood Lukiia, Anna had sat beside her before she left school two years ago. Lukiia raised her hand and waved. Anna waved back but kept pace because her brothers would be home from school soon. She turned the corner on the straightaway to their third floor, one-room apartment. A sign on a storefront caused her to pause.

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Her father had always called her his impulsive rybka (fish). She wished she could recall the contours of his face, but she only saw him blurry now. She imagined a sweet country house for her Matushka. Her brothers could continue their studies all the way to tertiary school and might have a try at futbol. Her hands moved to crack the door open and she peered into the dim interior of the store front.

 

Anna pressed a cup of warm tea into her Matushka’s hands.

“Bread and eggs again?” Pyotr flopped onto the boy’s mattress in the corner of the room.

“It will make you strong,” encouraged Anna, ruffling his long hair.

Pavel lit the oil-lamp. “When will the switches work again?”

Matushka looked up at Anna, too weary to spin the reality of their situation.

“This is more fun. We will cuddle up tonight and tell stories after Matushka leaves for work. I thought of a new adventure for the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf.”

Anna smeared bright red over her Matushka’s lips. She smoothed color over her high cheek bones, and the dark marks that permanently resided under her blue eyes. Every evening she left, only to return at dawn, in time for Anna to leave for the bakery. They lay in a row in the moonlight, her brothers. They would never need to know where she went and what she did.

 

Anna touched her hand to the bus window, filled with fingerprints and watermarks. A single suitcase lay on her lap. Passing behind her stood her brother’s and her Matushka, fading into distance. The bus curved around the River Neva. Sometimes beside the ovens, kneading the dough, she had thought about how miraculous it was that life continued and water moved under the layers of the frozen river. She wished the driver had not collected their passports. Without it in her pocket, she felt nameless. Two girls sat together in the very back, their heads pressed together, giggling.

Across from her sat another girl, no older than herself, fifteen. They drove for what seemed hours when the girl moved across the aisle beside her. “I’m Valentina. The International Airport is not so far, should it be? Pulkovo is not so far, in St. Petersburg.”

Anna peered out the frosty windows to the stretching Siberian cold, the rising of mountains. “I am hungry. Do you think we might stop soon?”

Valentina unwrapped a brown parcel and offered her a tea cake. “I stole them,” she whispered. “But, you needn’t worry. I’ve been sleeping beside the railroad tracks. The nighttime is so cold. Perhaps, we need to fly out of another airport.”

Eventually sleep found her and she woke to Valentina pressing up against her slumped form. “Something is very wrong. This is the border to China.” Valentina gathered Anna’s hand into her own.

A middle-aged man entered the bus and spoke to the driver. They watched as the driver handed him the envelope he had placed their passports in, the man held out a wad of paper bills in return. During the exchange Anna’s heart seeped from warm to frozen. Like a breath of condensed air in the cold, everything around her turned to a fog…

 

We need to fight to end human trafficking for all the Anna’s. 

Follow the Exodus Road Blog to keep your thoughts in proximity to the need. 

Last week Harvard Student Lea Parker who attended Passion 2013 talked about filling the void. We, God’s people, need to be present.  Read her post here.  

Born into Brothels and Sari Bari

Documentary filmmakers Zana Briski and Ross Kaufman made the film Born into Brothels.

They set out to photograph in Sonaghi, Calcutta in India.  There contains a Red Light District where prostitution is not a choice, where sometimes three generations of woman work in the brothels. In doing so, they formed relationships with the children of the prostitutes. Eight children were given cameras and taught photography. The film brings to light a thinly veiled world to where there seems no escape.

In a review Robert Ebert describes the photographs, “Their pictures capture life and a kind of beauty and squalor that depend on one another.”

Striking is even the thought that children are born into brothels. For so many, this is the reality they walk in daily. There are no exit signs.

There are many ways to support the end of sex trafficking and exploitation of woman and children.

Over time, I will share many. Today, I will share one called Sari Bari. http://www.saribari.com/

Sari Bari provides a place of safe employment for exploited woman and those who are vulnerable to trafficking. The name comes from sari- the clothing Indian women wear and bari- meaning house or home in Bengali.

The website features the beautiful sari products these woman hand craft.  You can also read about the woman who made them in their profiles section.

Beyond purchasing gifts through Sari Bari, there are many other ways to become involved.

  • Sponsor a woman into freedom
  • Host a Sari Bari Event
  • Be an advocate
  • Follow their blog and newsletters on ways to support their work