Viva Las Vegas! (or something)

Morning friends!

We are just a few hours from taking off for our next assignment in…   Las Vegas!  (You should see the look we get when we tell people this. Wait. Maybe it’s the look you have right now?)

All year-long fellows are able to choose one Stateside assignment of the five, and we are partnering with an organization called The Cupcake Girls.

The Cupcake Girls is a group of volunteers who are committed to providing non-judgmental support, consistent caring, and messages of faith, hope and love to women working in the strip clubs. The volunteers do this without agenda and believe that sometimes it’s the smallest act of kindness that leads to the greatest change.  Many of the individuals working at Cupcake Girls are Christians, but after hearing heartbreaking stories of Christian groups coming into the clubs throwing tracts at the girls in the name of Christ without ever talking to them, they understood that the real way to show Christ’s love would be through relationships.

For that reason, they purposely formed The Cupcake Girls as a non-religious non-profit in the hopes of breaking through some of those thick barriers. This group is essentially living out Christianity without the Christian sign on their foreheads.

It was obvious when talking to key staff and volunteers that their faith is their motivating factor. They have the freedom within the organization to share their own faith if someone asks what motivates them to do the job they’re doing, and volunteers link women up with spiritual resources through the churches that support them, but they don’t “push” Christianity onto the women. They establish trusting relationships and walk with them in or out of the industry. As their trust grows, monthly cupcakes turn into coffee dates and the Cupcake Girls are invited into the women’s lives where they’re able to assist the women in whatever ways they can through their services at the Women’s Resource Center:

Medical Assistance, Dental Assistance, Federal/County Aid Application Assistance, Financial Advisor, Educational Tutors- for both entertainers and their children, Nutritionist, Law Consultation, Coffee and Cupcakes Groups, One on One Mentoring, Emergency Care Packages, Moving Assistance, Drug and, Alcohol Rehab Assistance, Domestic Violence Assistance, Safe House Assistance, Hosting Baby Showers and Birthday Parties.

Literally, everything anyone could possibly need, the Cupcake Girls tries to provide for.

So, here’s a little trivia question. What US city do you think has the highest rate of strip clubs per capita?

Hint: It’s not Vegas.

Would you believe our beloved Portland?! Yes, Portland has the highest rate of strip clubs per capita in the US, so the Cupcake Girls has opened a location in Portland, too, and we hope to get the chance to visit the programs there, because the ultimate goal of the Cupcake Girls is to open in every major US city.

Jeff is also hoping to hook up with an organization called MST Project, which focuses on the mens. MST believes that the men who patron the brothels and strip clubs are themselves made in the image of Christ and are deserving of love and healing. We don’t know a whole lot about this org, other than that we first found them in Phnom Penh, and their headquarters are in Portland with a branch in Las Vegas. They keep popping up in all our cities, though, so we’d kind of like to see what they’re all about.

So. We feel inspired by The Cupcake Girls, and while the time between Nepal and Vegas was (too) short, we are excited to get started in Las Vegas!

OTHER EXCITING NEWS:

Book Launch Group Pic Storytelling 2

Our book launched on Tuesday! We had a fantastic party filled with desserts and storytelling from Nepal and Bangladesh. This is a hard-copy book of all the adorable kids from the places and organizations World Next Door has partnered with all over the world. November’s (free) magazine is a special issue companion to the book with about half the photos but a ton of additional video clips of the kids. So cute.

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The book is available here for $17 along with calendars and postcards. These would be great Christmas gifts :)

NEPAL STUFF

Speaking of magazine issues… Our Nepal issue will be available on the World Next Door app in your newsstand in December, and you WILL NOT BELIEVE everything we experienced there. Undercover brothels, border station interceptions, modern day 101 y/o prophets, awe-inspiring parents of 14 kids in a children’s home, entire albums of monkeys and mountains, a bunch of lost-in-translation moments, and some Everest trivia.

If you just can’t wait until December (I don’t blame you), here are links to blog posts written along the way while we were there.  These are Jeff’s reflections in the brothels, Nepal as the land of extremes, the back story of Tiny Hands, and what the border stations were like.

Fist pumping alone in my pajamas wearing a headlight

Undercover: A night out with the guys… and girls

Land of Extremes: Valleys and high places

The back story, which is kind of THE story, and the borders

Thanks for following, pals.

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The backstory, which is kind of THE story, and the Borders

Throughout our time with Tiny Hands, I have been super inspired by a piece of the organization’s history. Beyond just ordinary growing pains, a few years ago they thought they’d actually failed the vision.  Because of their response, though, this “failure” became the turning point for the ministry and lead to unbelievable growth in Tiny Hands’ effectiveness at the borders. The story essentially reflects our own human limits despite our best intentions, and God’s expansive, restorative power.  When we just can’t, He can.

Early on, after evaluating failed operations at five different border stations, the small team of U.S. and Nepali Tiny Hands staff became frustrated with the apparent ineffectiveness of the organization’s approach. They were intercepting only a handful of girls each year, some months none at all, and felt like they were throwing money down the drain that could be put to more efficient use. They were failing the injustice despite all their best efforts and gallant vision.  What more could they do?

I thought it might have been easiest to throw their hands up and say, “Well, we did our best and it didn’t work!” They could have moved on with a clean conscious, having given it their best effort. But, as I’d read in Terrify No More, they would have been saying, effectively, to the girls being trafficked in Nepal: “We’re sorry. There is nothing more we can do. This is the best the best the body of Christ has to offer.”

Instead, staff described how the founder sent out a manifesto calling on the faith of the US and Nepali staff through an organization-wide rally cry of prayer and fasting. Every Wednesday all staff in both countries prayed and fasted for trafficking and for the effectiveness of their work.

Each person we interviewed shared a piece of this story as they continue to be inspired by it. They directed me to the manifesto entitled Project 58, after Isaiah 58:6 calling us to loose the chains of injustice and set the oppressed free, to break every yoke.  Two seconds into the manifesto, I had goose bumps and felt a new level of perseverance even in my small corner of the world.

Here is an excerpt:

Today around 30 Nepali girls were trafficked into India to be forced into the sex industry. Tomorrow, 30 more will be trafficked. By that time, those who were trafficked today will be awaking to the realization of what has happened to them. They will be locked up, beaten, and raped until they give in and accept the hell that will thereafter be their life. Meanwhile, as these girls continue to suffer, more will be added to their number, at the rate of 2-3 girls every waking hour—and this will continue until the small handful of NGOs who are working on this issue figure out a way to make their work more effective.

While you are working on anything relating to this project, and when you sit down to work and you are diverted and distracted by obstacles and cares, remember the faces of the girls that you know are in brothels now, and those whose lives are in danger of being wrecked if we do not stop it. Gary Haugan, the president of International Justice Mission, points out that the owners of brothels, and those who traffic girls are diligent and determined to succeed in their work. They are at it 24 hours a day, thinking about how to make their work more effective, and how to avoid being caught. Unless God’s people can muster up even greater determinedness, this work has little chance of succeeding. So fight, on behalf of your God and His love for these girls, against every instinct in you to give less than your absolute best, against every obstacle that you will encounter (and you will encounter many) and every frustration that comes your way (and many will come), fight. Do not be deterred by anything, do not let anything stop you from succeeding in each part of this work that you take on. Keep before you always the faces of the girls, and Christ in them, and remember His words and promises, and that He will go before you and after you, and help you.

During the time of prayer and fasting, the organization redoubled its efforts through research and literature. They identified the current director of anti-human trafficking—a former church planter translating some things for Tiny Hands at the time—who, inspired by the new initiative, wanted to get involved.  This was the guy now sitting across from me at the restaurant.

Together the team translated and distributed Border Monitoring Standards to all the stations and sent five staff in five different directions covering each section of the border to fill out the surveys, fill in the maps, and interview police, rickshaw drivers and NGOs.  Bhola, the church-planter-translator guy, emerged as a well-connected leader who took the vision of Tiny Hands to Christian churches along the border. Over the next month, he covered the entire border, setting up subcommittees within the local churches that would oversee 11 new locations with several more to follow.

That was almost five years ago.

Today, 26 local churches are staffing 28 border monitoring and transit stations, intercepting an average of 1600 girls per year!

I couldn’t wait to get to the borders.

Equipped with knowledge of the investigation process and the success the organization had experienced through prayer and research, we were excited to visit the border stations ourselves. This was the front-line fruit of all the prayer and fasting, and the physical halting of the rape business in-progress. I envisioned organized lines, checkpoints, police and high-tech monitoring devices.

I have no idea what world I was imagining. Certainly not Nepal’s.

The dusty Birgunj border
The dusty Birgunj border

It had taken over 10 hours to reach the closest border station on rickety mountain roads, I had sweat through all my clothes, was covered in dust, itching from a dust/water rash, and we literally walked across the border to India without a care by anyone. Any pretense I had about the sophistication or glamor of border work flew out the window. I had not even been there for 15 minutes and I was miserable. It was one hundred degrees and smelled like trash. Yet 100 workers hang out in 26 plywood border stations on the Indian border intercepting girls 12-16 hours per day.  Each border station is overseen and staffed by a local Nepali church, subcommittee and chairman, and Tiny Hands provides the training and funding.

One of the border stations- the brown shack in the background
One of the border stations- the brown shack in the background
Pastor and border staff at Birgunj border station
Pastor and border staff at Birgunj border station

We met with the pastor and staff early that morning and met an intercepted girl who was deaf and on day five of trying to locate family. She spoke a different language nobody could understand, but she was taken care of by the pastor’s wife at a temporary safe house tucked away from the border streets. She is one of 750 women intercepted at this station in four years. The sweetest part is what the pastor said later as we were leaving: though the anti-trafficking work is an essential part of his Christian ministry, his overall goal is to bring the people of Nepal to Christ. Each interception exposes a girl to the Gospel.

I went to bed that night thankful, inspired, and itchy.

The next morning, we drove another eight hours to the next border, collecting another eight pounds of dirt, dust, mosquito bites and hives. There, we found ourselves in the middle of an interception. Even more remarkable than seeing the actual interception process was that the particular border worker who intercepted the young girl was intercepted herself three years ago and now works at the station to help other girls like her. Here is a link to her video.

Another border station at a different crossing
Another border station at a different crossing
An interception in progress
An interception in progress

Again, this is the moment it all became real for me. I had never seen the rape business in progress until I saw this girl’s confused face at a dusty border station in hundred-degree heat in traditional clothes from a faraway village trying not to cry. She read the cartoon drawing posters tacked to the plywood wall describing the lies and actual reality of trafficking. The man she had come with was off to the side, hand in his hair, visibly stressed out.

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At the safe house she fought to maintain composure despite emerging tears. The pastor’s wife and staff fed, comforted and prayed for the girl as we stepped out with the pastor. Almost immediately, he received another call from the border staff about another interception, this time with two women who were on their way to the safe house.

So his days go, this station intercepting 40-50 girls per month, several per day.

I left the borders awestruck at the never-ending work of border workers and the local churches despite harsh conditions and constant threats.

This is an excerpt from my feature that will publish in the December issue of World Next Door magazine.

Land of Extremes: Valleys and high places

Due to internet speed, this post will be illustrated with *awesome* iphone pics only. Additional images of Nepal can be found here, though I’m about 3 weeks late in edits and uploads. Sigh.

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Flying into Kathmandu, I could see the tips of the Himalayan Mountains peeking through the clouds. Fascinated by top-of-the-world snowy peaks, prayer flags and Sherpa communities, I’d dreamt of visiting Nepal for years. I couldn’t imagine what the Himalayas might be like, twice as high as the Colorado Rockies I’d only seen for the first time three years ago. (I am a reformed beach vacationer.)

And Kathmandu? So exotic per all my pretend (now REAL) friends in House Hunters International- tune in Nov 15th  :)

From the sky, the city seemed sleepy and peaceful. I could never imagine the bustling, crowded, loud and fragrant streets, the pounding heat, or the black puffs of exhaust that would infiltrate the valleys below. The dreamy place of my imagination turned out to be worn and vulnerable—a parallel I would eventually make with its youngest and least educated inhabitants. The brick and stone buildings looked equally a million years strong and on the brink of toppling any second. Homes precariously perched on the sides of slopes could just slide right off tomorrow, it appeared.

On only the clearest day, beyond the ten-thousand-foot hills that surround Kathmandu valley, the Himalayas can be seen from the streets below, creating an excitement around town. An audible gasp can be heard on mornings when the fog lifts or a cloud dissipates revealing a massive, sparkly peak—like an unexpected royal breakfast guest. I could never anticipate the stirring I would feel inside, a tiny speck on one of those crowded streets, when the clouds cleared and I looked up to see the peaks in the distance. A glimpse of the high places. Real, I was sure, but from where I stood, unreachable.

Kathmandu Valley

Our royal breakfast guest
Our royal breakfast guest

Nepal is a land of extremes, and as high and bright as the mountains above soared, so deep was the darkness hidden from the high places, lurking in provincial villages and alleys. We had come to Nepal to write about sex trafficking.

I was prepared to hear the story of an individually trafficked girl. I was prepared to write about the micro-oriented work I thought Tiny Hands Nepal, our host ministry, was doing at various border stations. I thought I might conservatively marvel at the double-digits being intercepted on their way to India in the face of ten thousand. These efforts would have been commendable in themselves, for I had read that to succumb to the enormity of the problem is to fail the one. So, I would write about the work on behalf of the one, while at the same time myself succumbing to the enormity of the problem.

But Tiny Hands blew me out of the water. Everything I thought I knew about trafficking was flipped upside down and turned around.

I’d learned during my first week that Nepal, which shares open borders with India, is a source country for trafficking through India to the Arabian Gulf—to the tune of about 10,000 girls per year.  India is both a destination for trafficked Nepali girls and a transit route to the Arabian Gulf, where men from poorer communities have been recruited for cheap labor. Women are necessarily imported to meet their needs

What?!

Women are necessarily imported to meet the sexual needs of cheap laborers.

I could just imagine the business owners working out the whole arrangement:

-But where should we get them, boss?
-Oh, I don’t know. Just find a bunch of desperately poor, naïve, uneducated girls and trick them!

And a business was born. Supply and demand. However the girls are obtained—coercion, physical force, drugs, fake marriages, fake jobs—the overhead is cheap and the $32 billion dollar payoff is massive and renewable. It’s a low-risk/high-reward business.

But sex trafficking has been trending for a good few years. Awareness is growing, there are 5ks in every major American city to end slavery, and #anti-trafficking #hashtags all over twitter. I’d heard the stories of rescued girls and brothel raids; I’d looked into the tiny faces of would-be trafficked girls in Cambodia spared through preventative programming and shook my head in disbelief. I mean, I knew it was true, but it just didn’t seem real.

It got real real fast in Nepal.

I realized two things as I began to weave in and out of the programs at Tiny Hands: One, Because of all the exposure I’ve had to the concept of sex trafficking, my heart had been numbed by the language we use and scope of the problem. “Sex trafficking” is just a fancy name for rape business. When I thought of it in those terms, my heart jumped up and reached around for weapons. It’s a rape business! With kids!

Two, I had never seen the trafficking in-progress. I had never seen the collision of deception and naivety until I looked at the confused face of an intercepted 14-year old at a dusty border station. My perspective expanded to include rape business in-progress.

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As I’d read in Gary Haugen’s book Terrify No More that “The infinite distance between the dignified setting in which we talk about the gross brutalization of people and the places where it actually happens suddenly collapsed when the sights and sound of evil incarnate filled the room.”

Yep. That happened. Sex trafficking went from a concept to a person standing in front of me that day.

I began to understand that my previous knowledge of the trafficking industry was like seeing only the tip of a mountain peeking through the clouds, only the visible part of the trafficking enterprise: the commodity and the byproduct. But an entire mountain and valley, I learned, exists below the cloud line—a robust, unseen network.

Where did the girl come from? Why was she trafficked? By whom? How many more girls are there? Where did the traffickers come from? Which routes did they use? What border did they cross? Who funded it?

These are the questions Tiny Hands is asking.

They are not just waiting at the top of the mountain addressing all the things we can see. They’re not even off the side scooping up girls before they’re pulled in. They’re inside the mountain—the rape business in-progress—blowing the whole thing up!

How could they possibly do this, I wondered as I sat down with my pen and notebook across from Nepali staff on our first full day in country. I had come to the premature conclusion that in small niches of the world handfuls of girls were being spared this awful life by prevention, and another small portion was being methodically rescued; but I was not entirely convinced justice would ever find its way up and out to the bad guys or that any of these operations would put a dent in the industry.

Over the course of two days, hidden away in a corner Momo shop, the Tiny Hands staff pieced together for me the story of an inter-country collaboration of skills, expertise and the love of Christ working together to free those captive, dismantle the network and de-incentivise the business.

One-by-one the staff entered the restaurant hot and sweaty, during a government-sanctioned strike that shut down all transportation country-wide. I interviewed the directors, trainers, law personnel and aftercare workers who serve and train the border staff, and monitor their needs and safety.

Particularly striking about the Nepali staff was each one’s humility and willingness to put his life at risk coordinating border work. One described how he keeps logs of traffickers in jail and works hard to anticipate what harm might befall workers at various stations in retribution. All told of their lives being threatened. They weren’t stuffy white shirt guys with slick hair and gadget pens or big burly guys on motorcycles. They were ordinary Nepali men in ball caps and chinos, none over 5’8”, many with wives and young kids, equipped primarily with research and prayer.

Then we met the research guys. They comprise a covert network of Nepali “Justice Operations” expertise.

One guy, who had been part of the dark underworld of drugs and crime, is providing unparalleled information and access to the criminal network after Christ restored his life nine years ago. Saved by grace, he jumped at the chance to use his “criminal mind” for good, and is now in the business of fighting for justice. He also offered us his taxi contact, showed us a picture of his adorable little boy and offered to teach us how to make Momos.

Another would provide the necessary role of setting things up logistically, serving a liaison between teams in the field, and translating when necessary.

These two and several others work under the direction of the Vice President of Justice Operations—an international expert in the field, who was constantly presented to us by all the different staff and volunteers like this: You have to meet Jeff! He doesn’t live here, but he’s the expert training our research guys. He used to work for International Justice Mission, but he’s in Thailand right now on an operation.

Wow. An “operation.” I made jokes about spy pens, but everyone just nodded their heads sincerely.

Jeff had the vision for the Fusion Center, into which all the Justice Operations intelligence is funneled, and where an impassioned twenty-something Johns Hopkins grad makes sense of it. This grad is in charge of research and analysis, and he is self-funded, along with all the other Tiny Hands International staff.

During our sunset interview on his day off, he described how he creates maps showing points of origin for both the trafficker and the victim, the average path lengths and transit routes, funding sources, and final destinations. This, the team believes, will help them understand the methods of recruitment, and more strategically fight sex trafficking on a structural level.

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So, they are at the borders intercepting individual girls on a daily basis, but through the interception, they’re able to gather information for prosecution and de-incentivise the trade. Every successful intervention costs the traffickers money. Every successful prosecution costs them time, commodity, and resources. Every criminal sentenced to jail makes trafficking a higher risk/lower profit enterprise in that community.

A little more comprehensive than I had initially thought.

Here is the body of Christ, I marveled, with its different skills, purposes and nationalities working together toward a common goal of intercepting as many girls as possible, building tight cases for prosecution, and convicting the traffickers.

People constantly ask how God could let this happen. Couldn’t he just rescue the girls? Doesn’t he care?

Uh. Yeah. It was never God’s fault.

God has heard the cries of these girls. God is in the brothel with them. God is at the border with them. God is at the source, God is in the transit routes and God is at the destination. He has given us everything we need to pick these girls up—specks on the dirty, dusty streets looking at high places that don’t quite seem real. He has given us the ability to set them on the high places. Like the ancient-looking brick and stone buildings on the brink of toppling, so the sex trafficking industry would be in Nepal — thanks to the work of Tiny Hands.

This is an excerpt from my feature that will publish in the December issue of World Next Door magazine.  Again, muchas gracias to Beth and mom who helped with edits.

Undercover: A night out with the guys… and girls.

*STOP! Before you read any further, make sure you have read the previous post about the morality of these types of operations. Below are Jeff’s observations and reflections after having gone out several times undercover with the Freedom Operations team.  The info is both sensitive and mature, so, you know, not for the kids.

The following was written by Jeff Hartman (my husband):

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THE CLUBS

I stood on a street corner in Thamel—the touristy area—at about 8p waiting for a call from the Freedom Operations team, who I would be joining for the night. Undercover.

I watched the physical change take place along the streets from a tourist hub to a seedy nightlife in a span of 30 minutes.  Crowds became younger and much more male-oriented, the music became louder as the store fronts were closing up for the day, and I got butterflies. I got the call. Jeff, the VP of Freedom Operations would meet me in 10 minutes with the rest of the team at Fire and Ice, a local pizza joint.

I walked over through endless “smoke and hashish” guys, Turkish salesmen, street girls, cab drivers, and the policemen. I’m not sure if I even saw one female tourist the entire way.

The Freedom Operations team arrived and I was immediately comfortable.  We talked about trafficking, their theories, dreams, and the challenges of the work. We also talked about the psyche with regards to trafficking and law of many countries around the world. It was exciting, inspiring, depressing, and fun all at the same time.

We briefly discussed what we were to do that evening and the DOs and DONTs of the clubs. Basically be cool, follow their cues and just watch and learn. They were also getting mic’d up with cameras and recorders, bringing DNA swabs in case they came across some used condoms, glasses, or got consent from the women to collect samples. We were posing as “researchers” in case anyone asked.  I was a bit nervous, but I felt in good hands with all the experience around the table. We said a prayer then made a plan of attack.

We headed out with the intention of hitting three or four clubs. My adrenaline was pumping as we walked down the streets of Thamel and Jeff B. pointed out the prostitutes, drug dealers and addicts. He was cool, intense, smart, and played the part well.

We arrived at our first club, passed through security, and went down to the basement. Immediately it seemed shady with a girl dancing on stage, several others hanging around scantily dressed, and a few Nepali men. We were the only white men there.

Three women escorted us to the back corner of the club, where light was scarce. We sat down in a torn up booth and the women immediately started flirting. I had no clue what I should/shouldn’t do, what I could/couldn’t do, so I sat there for a minute like a deer in headlights. I admit I was looking around the club looking for the pimps, customers, rooms, etc… trying to get a feel for the place and trying to take cues from the other guys without giving anything away.  They explained that the women are smart, and they can pinpoint within a very short period of time what kind of customer you are and why you’re there. This scared me a bit, so I really tried to blend in the best I could.

I looked over and noticed the other guys arms’ hanging loosely around a couple of women.  Should I be doing that too?! I began to mimic him with regards to how to act.

Two girls sat on either side of me, it was so loud we you had to crowd together to communicate. Needless to say the environment was set up for comfort and intimacy.

The girls began asking for drinks, and I was a little confused but then realized their jobs were to please the customer and generate income for the establishment. They were doing a good job.

The place was not only loud but it was very hot despite a fan blowing directly on us from above. The women were dressed in lingerie or skimpy outfits, and I was in jeans and a Packers shirt.

The women got more friendly as the night wore on, and conversation turned more intimate with comments about my “beautiful” skin, my muscles, my eyes, etc…

We talked about families, but never about marriage. All of this was done through broken English, broken Nepali, gestures, touching, and a lot of laughing and flirting. Fortunately it was initially a lot like a fraternity party, of which I was familiar, but the flirting became more intense, with requests for kisses and touching, and that was a frontier I was not used to.

The first two girls I was with eventually went up to dance on stage and were replaced by new girls—one with tears in her eyes. The other girl told me she was sad, but the girl denied it even as tears continued to pool. I tried to lift her spirits, which resulted in her holding my arm and leg. Whoops. Rewind.

She didn’t say much more, but just kept her arm around me as I thought, How did I get here?! I was undercover with experts in the field of anti-sex trafficking, sitting inside a Kathmandu nightclub with a sad girl’s arm around me.  So weird.

More tourists and Nepali men arrived and the music got louder. The energy was picking up and the girls were starting to work harder by asking for kisses on the cheek. At one point I leaned over to one of the other guys told him half-joking that it was a pleasure meeting him and how ironic it was we were meeting like this! He laughed and said how crazy that we have wives that trust us enough to let us be here. I agreed and thought about Brooke at home. We were both so lucky.

I honestly wanted to tell all these girls in the club that there is help, and that I was harmless, and that I really wanted to give them a sincere hug. I pictured some of the dirty kids in the rural villages and on the streets of Kathmandu and wondered if this was their fate. Never did I expect the emotions I was experiencing. Fear, yes. Excitement, yes. Sadness, yes. But deep sadness and anger stirred inside me that I hadn’t expected.

I wondered how many had gotten here, and Jeff explained they had either been tricked into coming and were now not free to leave, or their families were so desperate for income they were pressured into staying. Whatever the case, he made it clear that NO ONE chose to be here, and that each girl had a story that would break your heart.

The team eventually recorded the information they needed and collected DNA samples from some willing girls.  I remember standing up to walk out and feeling every girl in the club escorting me out with her eyes. Perhaps it was just me, but it seemed like a mix of stares, the I don’t want to be here stare fighting the I need business to survive stare, and both were sad.

These were the girls. These were the ones I had read and watched documentaries about. These are the girls they’ve been working to free. These are the girls so many people are either fighting for or turning a blind eye to. They are real. I had looked them in the eye. I had laughed with them. I could have done a lot more, and many would after we left. It really tugged at my heart.

Thamel appeared darker when I walked outside. The crowd was rough and girls were working the streets—very different from the tourist hub I’d shopped around just hours earlier.

On the way home I thought WOW, how privileged was I to get to experience this and witness the workings of an organization that is on the cutting edge of doing something about the abuse of women?

I have to admit, before this experience my heart was saddened by the idea of sex trafficking and prostitution, but now my heart was totally broken.

I got home and Brooke was awake to hear the stories. I was still going on adrenaline as I paced back and forth in our room sharing the night with her. As I slowed down, fatigue set in and I got ready for bed. My wife’s eyes were shut and I leaned over to give her a kiss as she fell asleep. I felt so lucky to have an amazing women like her who trusted me so much. I felt blessed to be raised the way I did and to come from affluence like so many in the States. I thought, Who knows how I would have ended up if I grew up on the streets of Kathmandu?

I rolled back over and felt the fan from above blowing on me. I flashed back to the club when the fan was blowing on me and women were all around. I was sure glad to have a different fan above and only one women next to me—one I loved and cared so much for. I was saddened to think that most of the women I met tonight longed for this but were in a very different situation with little hope of change.

It wasn’t fair, but all I could do was thank the Lord and think about what I was doing to help them through my work.

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THE CABIN RESTAURANTS

So there I was, again, sitting up in the third floor of an old hotel in Pokhara with the Freedom Operations team planning out our day. Hidden cameras in key fobs, sunglasses, shirt buttons, watches were donned and assignments were given. I was about to go out at 3p to learn more about the sex trafficking work in Nepal. This would be another physically and emotionally draining day like the others, the difference being it would be during the middle of the day, not the during the night when most people think the trouble is happening.

One group was heading out to “purchase” a girl for a few hours. She had been identified the day before as potentially trafficked. The other group was to find a good restaurant to bring her to, one that was empty with good lighting and minimal background noises, since we were going to be using five cameras during the interview.

The team headed out on motorcycles with me on the back, and I literally felt like I was in the middle of a James Bond movie. We turned the corner to face a giant mountain peak to the north and a cloud of dust from the motorcade in front of us. I just smiled and hung on for the ride, which would be the theme for me the rest of the day.

The team split up looking for restaurants around town that met our needs. We found one at which we could sit on the third floor in solitude. It was relatively quiet, had good lighting, and we hoped to capture evidence if the girl happened to admit to being trafficked or described who the perpetrator was. We prayed she’d provide key information we could use for litigation purposes.

We got the call that Jeff was approaching with the girl, so we set up a camera in our key fob and positioned ourselves to hear the conversation from a nearby table and get a good view while not raising suspicion.

Jeff arrived, followed by the interpreter, and then the girl. My heart sunk because she looked so young, innocent and vulnerable—not like a prostitute I might have seen in the movies, although technically she wasn’t a prostitute; she was a slave. She was wearing a simple shirt and jeans with high, pointy heels. She looked awkward, like a 16 year-old might if she were eating lunch with two 40-somethings, and especially if she were just bough as a 3-hour rental for $30.

She could have been my nephew’s junior prom date. I was saddened at the thought that this girl could not go to prom, could not live a normal teenage life, and has none of the fun a kid her age should. She doesn’t get to run to the park with her friends or go on a with other boys her age. She an enslaved sex worker, and she has no choices in her life. It was hard to see the type of girl that I had been reading about walk by me and sit down at a table next to me.

Initially her body language was passive. She slumped in her chair and didn’t look anyone in the eye.

She later described to Jeff that was married at the age of 14, and her husband left her five months later. The community rejected her on the grounds she was no longer pure. On top of that, she had a medical emergency that cost around 60,000 rupees ($600) with no way of paying it back.  She borrowed the money for emergency surgery—she had to pay in advance or they would not do the surgery—from her ex-husband’s sister’s husband, who offered to help. To pay the money back, she came to work at a cabin restaurant owned by the family, which was a brothel in disguise.

The girl described how she wants out desperately, but she currently owes 45,000 rupees ($450). She is not allowed to leave the establishment unless someone purchases her. She sleeps in a room with the other girls and can be rented out at any time. She cannot refuse business and is truly enslaved to sex-work until her debt is paid.

When their meals were finished, Jeff asked the girl where she wanted to go.  He wanted to get more information, but more importantly wanted to give her a couple hours of peace and enjoyment before going back to the hell she lived in.

She asked to drive up to one of the most beautiful Himalayan observation areas in Pokhara. And she just wanted to sit, so Jeff obliged. They sat without talking for a little while before Jeff had to take her back. She asked if they were going to the hotel now to have sex. Jeff told her he wasn’t interested in sex. She gave him a huge hug.

While this was going on, the rest of us went to several other cabin restaurants to collect “data”.  Again, it felt like a scene from Indiana Jones. We zipped though town, down side streets dodging dogs, cows and people. I was holding my breath. I had no clue where I was, but I knew we weren’t in the regular tourist part of town.

When we stopped, kids were outside playing, families were hanging out, and stores were open for business. While it wasn’t a place I’d hang out it without a purpose, I didn’t feel overly scared and I sure as heck wouldn’t have guessed there were brothels in the area. One of the team members then walked around the corner and motioned us to come. As we turned the corner, the street suddenly became eerie. He told us there were probably 500 women for sale in this area and that I needed to stick close to him.  He became more serious, and I became his shadow.

My insecure side emerged and I wondered what people thought of me. It was obvious that when a couple of white men are in the area, it’s probably not for any other reason than sex. I wanted to wear a sign saying I am trying to help! I am not purchasing sex! But, of course, I had to play the part. I said a prayer and reminded myself that God was with me, and that I was there for a reason.

The cabin restaurant was dark, musty, and warm and the quarters were tight. I looked to the right and saw the community bedroom for the girls. The next door was closed. There were an additional three or four rooms for sex, and only one small cubicle for dinner. It just didn’t feel right and I was so nervous!

Three young ladies greeted us, all smiles. A couple of them remembered the team from the previous day, when they had been in to scope things out. We had returned to the restaurant because now the team knew exactly where the trashcans were, and they would attempt to collect DNA evidence through condoms and other used items.

The girls escorted us back to the cubby, and one kissed my shoulder three times. The six of us crammed into the small cubicle and ordered chips and drinks.  The girls that surrounded us were more like girls than sex workers. They dressed like teenagers, giggled, and had silly personalities, but every once in a while they’d do something atypical for a teenager like massage our hands, feed us little chips one by one, or blow on our necks to keep us cool.

As we left, it was getting dark and scary in the neighborhood. The girls started coming out of all the cabin restaurants, and it became obvious this was the red light district of Pokhara. I saw many young girls just sitting like young teens would outside their home, but the difference was they were doing it against their will and were simply being advertised.

My heart broke for them, and as we rode by on our bike, I wished I could swoop them all onto a giant truck and take them away to a place where they could be free and happy, with hopes and dreams of a future.

The team met back at the hotel and debriefed. We were exhausted and just needed a break for a while. Despite our limited success, everyone was pleased with the day and so was I.

I couldn’t believe what I had witnessed. I’m not sure if it was a blessing or a burden to have experienced this and now I have faces and names to assign to this injustice. It’s no longer ten thousand. It’s one girl and another girl and another girl.

The question I’m now pondering is what I’ll do about it.

Fist pumping alone in my pajamas wearing a headlamp.

Sometimes when your husband goes out to cabin restaurants* and dance clubs for a few nights in a row undercover with a team of international investigators, and you’re stuck at home reading a bunch of graphic anti-trafficking literature, the spirit and power and might of God pours out from the ceiling and drowns you.  This is an excerpt from one of my feature articles that will publish in December about that experience.

*Cabin restaurants are brothels in disguise. And not even very good disguise- sometimes if you order food at the “restaurants” they have to go down the street buy it to bring it back ;)

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There was one last person to meet in our interviews with Tiny Hands staff: Jeff B, the Vice President of Freedom Operations and basically the driving force behind Tiny Hands’ field research. This was the guy everyone kept telling us we had to meet.  He was flying in that morning from Thailand.

I was a tiny bit intimidated. I couldn’t imagine what this guy would be like. Jet setter? James Bond? Leather jacket? Motorcycle?

One of those four was correct—he did drive a motorcycle.  But he was completely unassuming, I suppose the way an undercover investigator should be, sat down and described his approach in ways I could understand.

As mentioned in my last post, if you wanted to shut down Wal-Mart, Jeff explained, you wouldn’t just clear the shelves.  This would be simply rescuing individual girls. If you did that, Wal-Mart would just restock tomorrow morning. This could potentially draw more girls into the sex trade than there were today in order to restock the shelves.  You would not even shut down the individual store. This would be busting a local brothel. Wal-Mart would just open another store next door tomorrow.  A new brothel pops up down the street every time one is busted. Instead, you would follow the distribution chain to the ones in charge: the management and owners. To shut down the entire operation, you would attack the supply chain and dismantle the traffickers.

It made sense, I agreed. But how in the world would they do this? Undercover cameras? Spy gadgets? Double Agents? Would he talk to the girls directly? Get them to disclose the horror on camera? Would he have to pay for the time? And wouldn’t that be scary?

In short, yes, yep, yep, yah, yep, yes, and duh—my words, not his.

He collects evidence through undercover agents, technology and surveillance. This approach does not require a victim for intervention, though sometimes victims are intercepted, and builds evidence that supports conviction outside of victim testimony. A strong case built over time is less prone to corruption, targets higher-level criminals, and is collected within the laws and evidentiary requirements of that particular country.

In other words, they enter the dark places and document the darkness for the purpose of eradicating it entirely. Doing this, though, would require locating the distribution chain and getting into the cabin restaurants, talking to the owners and girls face-to-face, capturing it all on camera, and collecting any additional evidence that could be used in prosecution.

Fascinating. But here was the real question: Would we put our money where our mouth was and join Jeff B. and the local guys in the undercover places?

We would.

(By we, I mean my husband, Jeff.)

Lots of questions burst into the tiny section of my mind that keeps tracks of things like what my grandma would say about the morality of entering a brothel or cabin restaurant and paying for time with one of the girls for the purpose of gathering intelligence. It would involve money and time and drinks and face time with victims and criminals. They’d have to do it, and they’d have to pretend to like it.

So while my polite, Midwestern-raised husband set out for the dark places with the undercover team, I searched for answers on my own: in Gary Haugen’s book, in God in a Brothel by Daniel Walker, and in the movie The Day My God Died—all staff-endorsed literature used during their prayer and fasting period. And I searched in the Bible.

Ultimately I concluded the following things based on what I knew to be true:

The group had prayed before beginning the operations. In doing so, they drew upon the resources of a God who was already present in that place. God was in the cabin restaurant, brothel, or dance club before this group had ever arrived. He’d been suffering with the girls inside, and He would remain there long after this group left. The people and places they’d encounter were as much a part of God’s creation as any others, and God had not surrendered them to anyone, not even to the traffickers.

I knew that He who is in us—in Jeff H, the investigators—is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). If our faith was worth anything at all, then it had to be stronger than whatever darkness it might encounter along the way. We couldn’t remain afraid, indifferent or inactive in the face of human slavery. We were to go boldly in His name to such dark places to rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan and plead for the widow (God in a Brothel).

At this point, I was fist-pumping alone in my pajamas with a headlamp on and simultaneously checking my phone, refraining from texting Jeff things like: Where are you? What’s it like? Are you ok? Is everything cool? Did you see a girl yet? Don’t get hurt!

I knew that if one girl was to be freed due to the investigative work of these men, it was because the people with the power and influence she lacked would also be people of goodwill and courage (Terrify No More).

More fist pumping. Tiny Hands and my husband were people of goodwill and courage!

So, to recap: Gary Haugen, Daniel Walker, Jesus and I were all in agreement that night and the two that followed. God is there, we are not afraid, and it is our job as Christians to go into the darkness and lead everyone out!

I understood during those times of waiting for Jeff to return that this was never God’s fault. God cares about the women, and He has equipped the human race with everything we need— time, education, resources, cash, skills, manpower and brain capacity—to end this injustice. It is we who have not responded.

But Tiny Hands is responding. During the course of three operations involving five hidden cameras and microphones, Jeff and his team, with our Jeff in tow, collected intelligence from seven places in two cities. Take that, trafficking.

Jeff’s reflections? Next post.

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**Thanks to Beth and mom for helping me reel this one in, edit-wise ;)

A Little About the Business of For-Profit Rape…

I’ve formulated two decisive thoughts about sex-trafficking since being in Nepal.

First, I am convinced after my time with Tiny Hands, reading the “digging deeper” books listed below, and seeing the injustice with my own eyes, that sex trafficking—or rape for profit—is the absolute worst social injustice in the world, incorporating several other injustices in its operation.  I argued with myself that maybe genocide was at the top—we’ve seen the heartbreaking results of this a lot recently—but in the end, I realized that from the beginning of time until now and far into the future, sex-trafficking will end up crushing more lives than any of the worldwide genocides.

(Also, I’m wondering how I found myself in a coffee shop on the other side of the world weighing out worst-ness of sex-trafficking and genocide. People have asked if my year with World Next Door has been life-changing. I always say, No, not in the dramatic day-do-day or emotional functioning sense, but in subtle ways. This is a classic example.)

Second, is the language we all use. Simply put, another name for sex-trafficking—described by International Justice Mission as the collision of the man-made disasters of slavery, illegal detention, and sexual violence—is the lucrative business of rape for profit.

Don’t blow past that one: Sex-trafficking is really just a for-profit rape business.

There are owners, managers, distributors, supply chains and operation centers. The business owners function in the same cost/benefit models as all other businesses, and right now, in many places, sex-trafficking is a low-risk, high-reward business.  It’s not just a few outlying mean guys. It’s an organized criminal business enterprise.

Although I stand awed and stumped and paralyzed as I follow the organizational chart from one trafficked girl all the way to the top of command, many organizations—despite the enormity of the problem—are shaking themselves of fear and paralysis and are attacking different links in the sex-trafficking using their own niche of skills and expertise.

Organizations like Center for Global Impact (as described in our last two issues of World Next Door) are working tirelessly to reduce economic and social vulnerability in communities where sex-trafficking is rampant by providing alternative skills and incomes.   They are addressing poverty as a form of prevention, and understand that when the standard of living is raised and poverty is reduced, risk levels for trafficking decline.  In this case, community development and prevention efforts at the source are effectively combating one piece of the injustice.

International Justice Mission is all about the rescuing of the one. “While there are millions of girls and women victimized every day, our work will always be about the one. The one girl deceived. The one girl kidnapped. The one girl raped. The one girl infected with AIDS. The one girl needing a rescuer. To succumb to the enormity of the problem is to fail the one. And more is required of us.”  While they fulfill their intent to rescue the one, they are also highly focused on justice and prosecution using intelligence-led investigations (as opposed to reactive-led investigations). They are combating a different piece of the injustice—rescue and conviction.

The organization we are embedded with now, Tiny Hands, is using the same model of intelligence-led undercover operations, working in the field with local informants and collecting evidence (with hidden spy gadgets!) to both attack the supply chain and make sex-trafficking a high risk, low-reward industry.

All the intelligence they gather is funneling into a fusion center that will map out the entire network, source to destination—including points of origin for both the trafficker and the victim, transit routes, relationships, opportunistic trafficking vs. sophisticated systems, and destinations.  They are at the borders intercepting individual girls on a daily basis, which has been awe-inspiring to see in itself, but through the interception, they’re able to gather information about the trafficker and manage the trafficked girl’s case for prosecution.  Ultimately, they purpose to free those captive, arrest and convict the traffickers, and de-incentivise the trafficking business so it’s no longer profitable.

“Every successful intervention costs the criminals involved in trafficking a huge amount of money. Every successful prosecution costs them even more time and valuable resources. Every criminal sentenced to jail changes a community’s and a culture’s understanding of what is and is not acceptable.” (God in a Brothel by Daniel Walker)

More? No? Sorry, it’s coming anyway.

Jeff (not Jeff Hartman, Jeff the Director of Freedom Operations at Tiny Hands) described it to me like this:

If you wanted to shut down Wal-mart, you wouldn’t just clear the shelves.
(This would be simply rescuing individual girls)

If you did that, Wal-mart would just restock tomorrow morning.
(This could potentially draw more girls into the sex trade than there were today in order to restock the shelves)

You would not even shut down the individual store.
(Bust a local brothel)

Wal-mart would just open another store next door tomorrow.
(A new brothel pops-up down the street every time one is busted)

Instead, you would most effectively follow the distribution chain to the ones in charge: the management and owners. To shut down the entire operation, you would dis-empower the source. (The traffickers, not Wal-mart.)

And this is the ginormous approach by which Tiny Hands is attempting to attack Global Sex Trafficking—a pretty massive undertaking.

But, like Gary Haugen said, “Perhaps the greatest challenge in confronting evil is simply getting started.”

Books to read if you want to “dig deeper” into understanding the injustice and its interventions:

  • Terrify No More by Gary Haugen
  • God in a Brothel by Daniel Walker
  • Jeff Blom’s Blog (Jeff is the Director of Freedom Operations at Tiny Hands and former VP of Investigations at International Justice Mission): http://global-sentry.org/blog/

We Harts You.

Hi buddy-ol-pals,

This is one of those lump-a-bunch-of-news-together kind of updates, with one embarrassing picture of our packing status.

We are only 8 hours from flying out for our next assignment in Nepal. We have been home for about 4 weeks and jam-packed a lot of family and friend visiting, although we didn’t see or talk to everyone we would have liked to visit with. We are in a state of constant disconnect it feels like, and wish we could stop time to catch up and share a meal with more people than there are days home. If you’re wondering, yes, we mean you!

World Next Door just released our 6th magazine issue this month (the 3rd for Jeff and I) and have seen growing success with increasing in downloads and readership each month!  We have also discovered many personal stories of individuals and families getting involved with different organizations, kids getting sponsored, trunk parties hosted, inspired US teens diverting birthday gifts to other teens in faraway places, etc. and have started a new section of the magazine called “Wild-eyed”. This section tells stories of ordinary people who have gotten personally involved in the fight against social injustice after reading an article in the magazine.  It’s how we’ll begin to share the effectiveness of the magazine with those who have invested in our mission of engaging others to action. We continue to be inspired, and we’re more excited than ever to get to Nepal and produce our next magazine with Tiny Hands International, scheduled for publication in December.

While CGI in Cambodia focused primarily on the prevention and re-integration of sex-trafficking, Tiny Hands actually intercepts girls being trafficked from Nepal to India through 26 border stations, and partners with International Justice Mission to build a case and prosecute. Each station has the capacity to rescue up to 130 girls per year if fully staffed. Tiny Hands also has several children’s homes staffed by a local married couple, a prayer initiative, and are in the middle of establishing a Dream Center and a US-accredited School of Injustice. Below are two behind-the-scenes videos about the Tiny Hands border stations and how the interceptions work.  The first video is embedded, the second is a link called “Trafficked” you’ll to click through. I was floored:

Trafficked: https://vimeo.com/45765371

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At the end of our six weeks, we’ll be spending time with a different organization called Nepal Outdoor Adventures, a Nepalese owned and operated trekking company who who are passionate about reaching young people in Nepal for Christ. They have developed a business model to help keep youth workers in their community called, Nepal Outdoor Adventure Treks and Expedition. Every 10 trekkers that use Nepal Outdoor Adventure Treks and Expedition will employ a full-time youth worker in Nepal for a year.  We will be going on a 10-day trek to the Annapurna sanctuary with this organization for an article or two.

The next six weeks will be packed! I sure wish we were packed.

Photo 2

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Now for the goods.

Below are the pictures and links for the iPad version of the Cambodia issue that came out last week, and the online version of the magazine for those who prefer to read the content online. We’ll also list the specific articles Jeff and I wrote for easy access, though I recommend reading the three features by our summer interns- SO good.

sept-ad

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Online content (click the image below to go to the table of contents):

September_inthisissue_website_small

Our specific articles this month, with most of J’s photography scattered throughout the sections in the iPad version:

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Thanks for following along and for all your support, love and prayers. You guys carry us! Feel free to follow along while we’re in Nepal via:

Twitter.com/brooky

Facebook.com/brkhartman

Instagram.com/brkhartman

And the ol’ blog: www.brkwilson.wordpress.com

The Lottery: Princess puzzles, poverty and a globe-spanning sisterhood

I have three nieces: ages three, four and five. They adore tiny stuffed bunnies and princess puzzles. They sing Call Me Maybe from the backseat of the car in pink booster seats and star-shaped sunglasses. They carry zip-lock bags full of goldfish and kid-sized aluminum canteens of clean water. Their tiny fingers can pinch and zoom on an iPhone to my wonder and awe.

Girls

They are brand new to the planet, relatively speaking, and are totally oblivious to the winnings they hold of the highest lottery never played: they are among the 5% of little girls born into education, healthcare, independence, relative equality and material wealth inside the freedoms of the United States.

Before coming to Cambodia, I watched the documentary Half the Sky. I saw the little faces of three, four and five-year-old girls, the tiny lips and squishy fingers moving in a traditional Cambodian dance rhythm – little painted toes, tiny gold-plated earrings and a miniature strand of fake pearls. These preschool and elementary-aged girls had been rescued from the sex trade and were being cared for by a formerly trafficked woman at a safe house. A giant crack formed right in the middle of my beating heart.  I immediately thought of my nieces. Each one could easily have been born a baby girl in Cambodia.

If you are born a little girl in this world, you arrive with a lottery ticket and low odds. Somewhere in time and space, knit together in the wombs of oppressed women worldwide, these little girls burst forth brand-new and fresh-faced not into pink booster seats and princess puzzles, not into tiny stuffed bunnies or aluminum canteens of fresh water, but into ownership and disease. Into shanties and civil war and violence. Into refugee camps and brothels. Sometimes they are the result of violence perpetrated on their mothers. Sometimes they are born and then disappear. 107 million girls are currently missing in the world right now. Vanished! 107 million.

Even as I sit in Cambodia face to face with these realities, I can’t comprehend them. As a lottery winner, I could easily have lived my entire life squandering the winnings, unaware of what I so narrowly escaped. But I do know, and the aunt in me wants to scoop all the girls from the corners of the earth and kiss their faces, give them nicknames and star-shaped sunglasses. I want to play the game I play with my nieces: “Who loves you? Daddy loves you, yes! And Mommy? Mommy too! And who else loves you? Auntie and Uncle and Grandma and Papa and Mimi? And who else loves you?” On and on we play until she has named every single person who loves her, which takes forever.

I wonder if anyone plays this game with any of these little girls, and I wonder how long the game would last. This girl whose value is based on how many cows a family can get for her dowry, on how much her virginity will generate in dollars, on how light her skin tone is because it determines how many times they can re-sell her to purchase a new TV— it is too much for me. I am overwhelmed, and I know I can’t begin to fix any of it. The problem is too big and too deep.

Hopeless?

The easiest thing to do when I feel hopeless about the state of humanity is bury my head the Target dollar spot, a House Hunters International marathon and a DQ mini blizzard. These are the mind-numbing benefits to my winning lottery ticket.  But what if I could use the winnings to actually make a change in the lives of one of these girls?  What if I didn’t have to bear the burden alone or solve the problem myself? What if others were already working against these injustices, and I could pour into that bucket with lots of others to form an entire network to end—and even prevent—the injustices from occurring in the first place?!

Guess what. No, really. Guess.

I can do each of these things, and there is an organization in Cambodia working against these injustices! The organization is called The Center for Global Impact (CGI), and CGI’s sole purpose is to function as a vessel for each of us with skills, talents and resources to help others worldwide. Right now, as a result of the ideas of skilled and inspired people in central Indiana, CGI is working with girls and women in Cambodia through several vocational and micro enterprise programs to both prevent girls who are at risk from being trafficked, and to reintegrate formerly trafficked girls into the community with self-sustaining sewing and culinary skills. They’ve also started a brand new community-based outreach program in Kien Svay, a small community outside Phnom Penh, working to alleviate the effects of poverty.

As I prepared to leave for Cambodia, balancing my heart between my nieces at home and the kids I’d seen and heard about, I couldn’t wait to see CGI’s work firsthand. Would the issues be right out in front of me, or tucked below the surface? What would the helping look like, and how would I fit in? Would my skills and interests be used? And finally, how in the world would I manage the heat and the spiders?! They eat spiders in Cambodia, you know.

It took about thirty hours of travel to chill me out and a cold shower every 25 minutes to mitigate the heat upon arrival, but I finally settled into my (mostly spider-free) host home and embraced the chance to roll up my pants—literally, it’s rainy season here—and find out what CGI was all about. We had previously talked about my interests (adorable kids) and skills (social work), so I quickly linked up with Kien Svay Kids and a children’s home they partner with called Enzo Tina.

I’d heard that in Cambodia, students are ranked by performance, with the highest raked students promoted, encouraged, and given seats up front, while the lower ranking students are penalized, kept at the back of the classroom, and often-times ignored. Kien Svay Kids is using the primary school as a gateway into the rest of the community by identifying the three lowest performing students in each class, visiting those families, and assessing their needs.

Each morning I met Srey Leak, CGI staff, at the Machem Vorn primary school to speak with the teachers in each class. Usually we were greeted by excited and squirmy students, and the top one or two were selected by the teacher to stand up and perform a song or greeting, which was adorable. But we had come in search of the lowest-ranked students, who  were sitting at the back with embarrassed smiles and very little eye contact.  We walked home with a different struggling student every day at lunchtime to visit with the families and learn what might be keeping each child from being successful.

I realized early on that each situation was infinitely more complicated than it looked from the surface. No two stories of poverty were the same; no two barriers to education would have the same fix; no two kids at risk of exploitation follow the same formula.

We went home with students whose parents were fighting or divorced or used drugs. Our hearts broke with a student whose siblings were killed in a car accident and who was being called “a gentleman’s boy”—the equivalent to being called gay—by other kids in the class. There was a little boy whose parents had each abandoned him, leaving his two grandmothers in a deadlock over whether or not to sell the little boy to ‘His Excellency’, another term for rich man.  There have been orphans and single parent homes and homes with disabilities. We’ve seen families of four living in 10×15 sq foot rooms, and four families of too-many-to-count living in a four-bedroom house. We’ve seen families who simply don’t have the means to pay for afternoon classes or for lunch. We’ve seen kids who live too far away to walk back and forth every day. And we have visited with kids whose families can’t care for them at all and have arranged for their stay at a Children’s home, which most refer to as an orphanage.

The stories not told, however, were those things that happened when the poverty became insurmountable. When the snails didn’t sell, and the fish didn’t bite, and the kids had already dropped out of school, and there was nothing left to eat. In that tight spot, I found the underbelly of poverty. It wasn’t hunger or filth or lack of education—though these things are difficult enough. For some families, there is one last option, one final economic recourse: selling or renting out a child. The underbelly of poverty in this neighborhood was the sex trade.

It’s what happens when there is simply no other solution.

In the middle of this dark realization, however, I met two girls whose stories are living proof that hope exists here. For these two girls and their families, CGI has provided an alternative.

I first met Sreyka (not her real name) when I was visiting a yellow-washed bright and airy local Children’s Home, just a block from the primary school. Kids sang, jumped and played around the compound freely and happily. Sreyka was quiet at first, often looking back and forth to see what others around her were doing, but reciprocated any greeting with a bright and inviting smile—perfect teeth and long bangs that swooped down across her eyes.  We played classic hand-clap games we both knew in different languages and marveled at each other’s chipping nail polish. At 12 years old, her clothing and stature reflect a nine-year-old, but her beauty and culture would soon push her over the cusp of childhood into adolescence.  Although Sreyka’s family lives just two houses down from the children’s home, she stays at the children’s home, sponsored by CGI, for access to two things not available to her at her family home: safety and education.

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Sreyka is the fifth out of six girls, and, based on the secret lives of her mother and older sisters, would have been next in line to be sold for prostitution to meet the basic needs of the family. A few years ago, CGI began building a relationship with the family, and while the oldest daughter remains an active prostitute, CGI was able to draw the next two sisters into the organization’s vocational and rehabilitation program, now known as Imprint Project, to provide skills, value, and an alternative income for the family. One of the sisters graduated the program and now works at a factory; the other sister ran away and returned to the lifestyle of abuse, cash, and pretend value—having been previously abused and having grown up with this as the norm. Sometimes the smokescreen proves more lustrous than the work of recovery.

We met with Sreyka, her mother, and the runaway sister at their family home—a small tin shack with tarp and fabric draped for walls and overhangs, and a short wooden ladder leading to the interior two bedrooms. The kitchen and sitting area were outside, surrounded by piles of dishes, clothes, baby chicks, dog food bins, flip-flops and ceramic water basins, and we sat together with the family on top of the dual purposed bed/table. Although happy to be home with her family and giggling with her sisters, Sreyka mentioned, “At home I could not go to school. I could only cook and clean.”

After years of missing school on and off due to the inability to pay school fees and following closely in the footsteps of her older sisters, Sreyka could have easily become another rescue and rehabilitation story. But CGI, having already invested in the family and community, took notice of Sreyka’s vulnerability and the high risk of her being sold, and they began to provide for her needs through the Kien Svay Kids program.  Now, with her mom’s agreement and admitted desire for Sreyka to do something in her future and to “get more learning”, Sreyka lives at the Children’s home where her meals and clothing and school fees are paid for by CGI, relieving the burden of care from her family while protecting her at the same time. She is working hard to slowly rise from the lowest class ranking as she has difficulty reading and writing, but gets daily lessons and homework help.

I asked Sreyka what she hopes to be when she grows up, and she shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. She lives day-by-day, our translator explained, and all she can see are the lives of her family members. “I think I want to do the work of my sister,” Sreyka said, “but I don’t know what my sister does.”

And there, again, came the urge for face kisses and the Who Loves You? game. Left in her family environment, she could easily end up standing in her runaway sister’s exact footsteps. She has the potential right now to be so much more than her sisters, but she has no idea! Fortunately, CGI knows.  And they’ll hold onto that vision for her until she’s able to see a future for herself.

While we interviewed Sreyka, another sweet face kept popping around the corner. It was Sokha, another CGI sponsored girl living at the Children’s Home with the same needs as Sreyka – safety and education – but with an entirely different story.

Sokha, thrilled with the opportunity to go home and see her family, grabbed Sreyka’s hand (it was clear the two were becoming close friends) and we all hopped into a tuk-tuk for the 40 minute ride through the Cambodian countryside, through rice fields and farms, to Sokha’s family home.

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There, we saw the farm her family maintains on the land they rent for $100 per year and the factory where her four siblings work. As her dad cut corn from the stalks for us to eat, her mom began frying some eggs and rice to serve us for lunch. We sat on the floor of the family home and learned about sweet Sokha.

She first came to CGI about ten months ago when her mom approached the Children’s Home in desperation. Sokha’s three cousins, whose mom had died and dad had left, were living there, and Sokha’s mom knew there might be a chance for the same graces to be showered upon her youngest daughter, who was forced to quit school and work on the family farm. The youngest of five kids, the family had simply run out of money for Sokha’s school fees.  Even more concerning was Sokha’s vulnerability. At 14, she was becoming older and more beautiful, and with fair skin in a rural community, her parents began to fear letting her ride her bike to or from school in the country as she would be an easy target for kidnapping, rape, and trafficking.

“It’s dangerous to be born a beautiful girl in Cambodia,” our translator told us, Sokha’s mother nodding in agreement.

Because of the money and fear, Sokha had missed so much school she had to repeat a grade when she first arrived, but is now the top in her 6th grade class. “I want to complete my studies, so I can work in a bank!” Sokha told us, smiling.  “When I was 11 or 12, I saw the girl at the bank, and I noticed her beautiful uniform and hair. I knew she made lots of money, and I knew I wanted to be like her someday.”

Sokha’s mom and dad looked at her proudly and stroked her hair.

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When Sokha’s mom approached the Children’s Home, last fall, they contacted CGI as they had before for other partnerships. The two organizations came to an agreement that the Children’s Home would house Sokha if CGI paid for all the expenses, including food, clothing and school fees.

“It’s safe and easy for her there. She can go to school, and she has enough food,” Sokha’s mom said. “We used to be a poor family, but now we are a normal family.”

Her parents gave us hugs and sent us back to the tuk-tuk with a bag of corn from the farm, and in front of us walked Sokha and Sreyka, hand in hand. I was certain Sokha could rattle off an endless list of those who loved her, and now Sreyka could list Sokha.

As I watched them giggle and run toward the tuk-tuk, I was reminded of my last niece, Rachel, who’s 13. She has a compassionate heart, is artistic and fun, loves glitter shoes and creative baking. I rode back to the Children’s Home with 12-year-old Sreyka and 15-year-old Sokha and thought if Rachel knew about the lives of her peers on the other side of the world, she would want to help. But how? I could hear her asking.

How can kids help kids?

That’s where the CGI Kids movement comes in. CGI Kids in the US exists to encourage and equip kids to use their God-given passions and abilities to make a positive impact in the lives of children around the world. Kids have all the creativity and none of the barriers of “grown up” practicality!

Take Mackenzie and Zachary. When they saw a picture of a dirty water bottle, they asked their dad, “Who would drink that?”  A conversation followed about kids all over the world drinking dirty water, and Mackenzie and Zachary were inspired to do extra chores and set money aside to help provide children with clean water for drinking, cooking, and bathing. They talked with CGI President Chris Alexander as he was getting ready to leave for Cambodia, and Chris explained that he was going to visit little boys and girls that live on an island with no access to clean water. Two families who live on an island halfway around the world now have a clean water filtration system because two kids from central Indiana wanted to make a difference.

While here in Cambodia, I learned about another group of kids in Fountaintown, IN. They heard a presentation about CGI’s work with kids in Cambodia and went nuts! The kids emptied their wallets and piggy banks raising enough money to fund new school uniforms and school supplies for 200 kids, which were being delivered on the days I was at the primary school.

A couple of other kids set up a lemonade stand in their neighborhood, earned $25, their mom matched it, and they sent $50 in cash on the next trip to Cambodia to meet a need of a kid who was struggling.

One last group of kids in Indiana gathered together at a park with buckets donated from Menards and tomato plants. CGI Kids hosted a gardening workshop for the kids, everyone took their tomato plants home to raise throughout the summer, and as the tomatoes become ripe, they’ll be sold and the money will be collected to help CGI’s culinary training restaurant, The Green Mango.

As I heard story after story about kids here and kids at home, it hit me: CGI Kids is the intersection of pink aluminum canteens and dirty water bottles; of stuffed bunnies and child labor; of Call Me Maybe from a booster seat and the lonely singing of a kid in Kien Svay who works a farm because she has no money for school. CGI Kids is the intersection of Rachel and Sreyka, a meeting point for little ones who won the resource lottery and want to use their grace-given winnings to help those who simply missed the odds.

Some adults and kids and entire families can drop their lives for a few weeks or a few months and fly over to provide the hands-on work of whatever inspires them and with whatever skills they have for the kids of Kien Svay. Others don’t have the flexibility or means to do the direct work, but they can educate the people around them about the invisible lottery that exists, about the vulnerability of kids on the other side of the world, and about the value they can add to a little life by pouring time, energy, skills and resources in to CGI, already forging the way.

I’m not sure how I managed to get a winning ticket, but I am a part of this sisterhood of oppressed women worldwide, and I have to do something to make life better for all of us.

I can’t scoop up all these girls and kiss their faces, I can’t rattle off an endless list of people who love them, but I know that CGI is doing this, providing each one with value and love, and I can pour into CGI my time, skills and money. I can sponsor one of the girls. I can give up a summer to run a kids camp. I can purchase my bags or clothes from byTavi. I can simply tell others about what I’ve seen and learned.  One thing is certain: I can’t just sit on the winnings.

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From the July 2013 Issue of World Next Door Magazine
More articles like this? Want to DO something about this? Visit http://www.worldnextdoor.org/magazine or click here to read the July Cambodia issue online.

My Big Fat Cambodian Monthly Update

Hey Guys.

If you were sitting around today (middle of the night) thinking, I wish Brooke would post a real long monthly update, this is your special day!

In Rwanda, I was frantically posting every 72 hours because Jeff & I were the only people experiencing most things, it was all brand new, and I felt like it would a) slip through my fingers too quickly to internalize if I didn’t write it all down and b) verify to 62 people who funded us we didn’t run off with a wad of cash to the Cayman Islands.

In Cambodia, there are 7 of us providing content (Anna, Sarah and Hannah and Tara each have blogs), my first feature was due 2 weeks after we got here which occupied most of my time and mental energy, and I feel generally less spazzy this time around. Also, at least 20 of those 62 people told me they felt confident Jeff and I were not rolling around in piles of cash on a remote beach somewhere, so that’s good.

Either way, here are some things I’ve been dying to share but just now getting onto paper/the internets.

Weather
I don’t care what the iPhone says, it’s not 90 degrees here; it’s 90 thousand degrees. Every day is a constant struggle not to rip off my clothes and run around naked OR to stand underneath the cold shower for 11 hours at a time with 30-minute breaks. It’s just really hot. Never have I ever spent so much time organizing clothing into tiers of importance and “saving” certain things for days when I know I’ll be out walking around. I tried to combat this issue by having one of the girls make me some traditional freely flowing lightweight pants the locals seem to love, but ended up with these beauts: yellow polka-dotted pants gone wild.

Housing
We are staying at a compound rented by CGI for the girls in the Imprint program, so although we have our own living space (kind of like a little apartment), we have 7 housemates ranging in age from 17-26 with a combined 20 words of English, and we have a groundskeeper/people-keeper named Mom-sung, who we have renamed Monsoon because of all the swooping in and helping.  Here is a little picture sequence demonstrating the Monsoon-ness, but yesterday took the prize when she tried to physically lift me onto her lap in the van because sunlight was streaming in the window onto my arm. She is the personification of the spiritual gift of hospitality, with a dash of crazy and a sprinkle of obsession.  Monsoon and the girls are sweet, though, and we’ve spent time together watching scary Cambodian soap operas, looking at photos of friends and family on the laptop, and eating dinner together every night. Speaking of food…

Food
We eat well. The girls feed us a variety of greens, veggies and meat, and mealtime constantly smells like fried garlic, which is awesome. Unfortunately, each meal also includes a 14-thousand foot mountain of rice or noodles, sometimes both, with chili and soy sauce. Every morning we are served two French baguettes each, which we protein-ify with peanut butter and a side of Nescafe instant coffee, but we are fighting off the squish with jump ropes and I-candy. Every meal, no matter what the food is, everyone yells, Nyam bai! Nyam bai! which means Eat rice! Eat rice!  Also, three people have put their hands on my belly and gestured a baby, then when we say no, they laugh and shovel pretend food into their mouths and say, Nyam bai? Nyam bai? Eat rice? Eat rice?  *Hangs head* I will not say anything else about that, because I’ve realized (this is profound) that if I continue to present myself in this way, although funny, people will begin to see me in this way. I will say that when our poor intern started puking, Jeff came up and said, in his best Cambodian accent, Throw up rice? Throw up rice?

Jeff has sought out a little more culinary adventure than I have: whole fried frogs and duck fetus. Gag me. He almost had fried tarantula, but lucky for him (me?), the team was sick that day and we opted to stay in. Somewhere inside the world wide webs are the videos of the fried frogs and duck eggs. We also visited this cool picnic area that served toasted turtle. We did not partake.

Language
Khmer is the hardest. Everyday we communicate with Monsoon and the girls through gestures, which we’ve gotten really good at. Picture me scooping up invisible ice cubes and dropping them into my empty glass, saying tink, tink, tink. Ohhh! Ice! Ice! Picture Jeff squawking like a chicken, laying a pretend egg, cracking it on the surface of an invisible frying pan and making a Chhhhh noise. Oh! Fried Egg! Fried Egg!  Imagine Monsoon with her hand above her head saying Shhhhh and washing her armpits. Oh! Shower! Shower!  And, if you dare, imagine Monsoon walking past the dinner table with my clean bra (she does our laundry) around her waist trying hard not to laugh. Oh!  Saggy boobs! Saggy boobs! Monsoon is funny even with no words.

Work
Each morning we meet Srey Leak, CGI staff, at the primary school to speak with the teachers in each class. Usually we’re greeted by excited and squirmy students, and the top one or two are selected by the teacher to stand up and perform a song or greeting, which is adorable. But we actually come in search of the lowest ranked students, not the highest, and they’re often times sitting at the back with embarrassed smiles and very little eye contact.  We walk home with a different struggling student every day at lunch to visit with families and learn what might be keeping each child from being successful.

We’ve gone home with students whose parents are fighting or divorced or using drugs. Our hearts broke with a student whose siblings were killed in a car accident three years ago and who is being called “a gentleman’s boy”—the equivalent to being called gay—by other kids in the class. There was a little boy whose parents had each abandoned him leaving his two grandmothers in a deadlock over whether or not to sell the little boy to ‘His Excellency’, another term for rich man.  There have been orphans and single parent homes and homes with disabilities. We’ve seen families of four living in 10×15 sq foot rooms, and four families of too-many-to-count living in a four-bedroom house. We’ve seen families who simply don’t have the means to pay for afternoon classes or for lunch. We’ve seen kids who live too far away to walk back and forth every day. And we have visited with kids whose families can’t care for them at all and have arranged for their stay at a Children’s home, which most refer to as an orphanage.

We are also learning that the stories not told over lunch are those things that happen when the poverty becomes insurmountable. When the snails don’t sell, and the fish don’t bite, and the kids have already dropped out of school, and there is nothing left to eat. In that tight spot, we’ve found the underbelly of poverty. It’s not hunger or filth or lack of education—though these things are difficult enough. For some families, there is one last option, one final economic recourse: selling or renting out a child. The underbelly of poverty here is the sex trade. It’s what happens when there is simply no other solution.

But! We’re seeing the prevention of this recourse through the program we’re working with: CGI Kids. CGI is working hard to identify and intervene through relationships and community involvement before the family reaches this level of desperation. J and I got the chance to meet two little girls and their families, for whom CGI has provided an alternative.

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My feature article in July will be the story of these two little girls and their families, about CGI Kids and Kien Svay kids and my little nieces and how all of these things fit together. So download the July issue! It will be broadcasted from a virtual blowhorn on all my social media accounts when its ready for download.

Church
You thought this update was over, didn’t you?

Church yesterday morning: hour-long van ride to the bank of a river with wooden steps leading into the water, a boat appeared and ferried us to an Island, we removed our shoes before entering the church, sang worship songs in Khmenglish, then voted on 2 of 4 singers who were competing in a singing contest to be the new worship leader. People around us wanted #2 and #3 to win, so they took our #1 and #4 slips, but somehow #4 won, and he was definitely in last place. All this was followed by a sermon and kool-aid communion, my legs lifted off the floor the entire time due to 3 big spiders roaming the tile, and with a couple of 4-year-olds sticking their little hands through my chair to tickle my armpits. Door to door? About 5 hours.

Play
Due to my lack of legit updating, it might appear via FB that all we do is play. That’s because I posted like 300 pictures of bike rides through our neighborhood, some bamboo picnic areas on stilts, a bamboo train ride with the team, and a fantastic 24-hour anniversary celebration in Phnom Penh. Some friends let us borrow bikes for the summer, and we’ve been making friends with neighbors, visiting the “ploating” restaurants on the river behind us, and finding ways to explore Phnom Penh by rooftop when we make it into town.  We’ve visited the S-21 genocide memorial, the National Palace and Museum, the Silver Pagoda, the Fine Arts District, a sunset boat tour of the Mekong, and will visit the Killing fields this week. We’ve also had a couple of team days in Phnom Penh and Battambang and will head to Siem Reap this weekend by boat for our mid-trip retreat. What?! Half over already?

Our anniversary was awesome because school was conveniently closed for testing, so we packed up and went to Phnom Penh.  For the entire 24 hours we did activities that benefited ministries all over the city. We ate lunch at Friends, a restaurant that trains and employs street kids, got massages by trained blind masseurs using their skills for self-sufficient living, and river toured with a company who’s profits maintain an orphanage.  Pics from the weekend: here.

Okay. I think that’s it for now, except everything else, which you’ll find in the July issue of World Next Door! Speaking of, did you download Rwanda’s Issue? DO IT! But if you can’t download the app, you can still find the content online here. It’s our first published content for World Next Door and we’re pretty pumped about it. People outside the family even like it :)

Welp. If you’re still here, you’ve made it until the end. For your diligence, here is a dancing kindergartener:

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For more pics of our time in Cambodia, click here.

For more pics around our Kien Svay neighborhood, click here.

For additional posts about Cambodia, click here.

Bye!

Insomnia, Insanity, and the ‘Bode

So far today: I woke up at 3a, then 4a, then finally got out of bed at 5a to do I-Candy, which is my own personal version of Insanity. I named it Brooke-CAN-ity (because I CAN do it, right?), then changed it to I-CAN-ity (to make it universal), and then shortened to I-Candy (because this is what everyone thought I was saying). It’s a little cardio/resistance circuit that represents my new attempt at routine and consistency in life, and it usually feels awesome. But today I lost half my weight in sweat during the first 20 minutes since it was 94 degrees at, like, 6am.

Oh yea. Which reminds me: WE’RE IN CAMBODIA! We made it safely here via Seoul after about 30 hours of travel to embed with our host ministry Center for Global Impact [http://www.centerforglobalimpact.org/]. We spent today doing things like eating tropical fruit, Thai noodles and Vietnamese coffee, visiting a riverboat village, meeting Tavi of byTavi(!), getting chopstick lessons, setting up all the phones and data stuff, banging my head against the wall when the phones and data stuff wouldn’t work, sweating, trying not to nap, singing If you’re happy and you know it with a bunch of kids at the children’s home, and listening to the kids sing a song back to us in French which none of us, not even the kids, knew the meaning of. We also visited the Phnom Penh programs each of us will be working with this summer: byTavi, Imprint Project, and the Enzo-tina Children’s Home.

From here our team will divide between four different programs in two cities to work alongside and document CGI’s mission for justice within the sex trade industry.

Some basic info:
Sex trafficking is transportation across international borders for the purpose of sex.
Sex slavery is when someone (usually kidnapped, tricked or coerced) is held against her will for the purpose of sex within the borders of her own country.
CGI deals with both.

The sex trade is divided into 4 categories: prevention, rescue, recovery (safe houses), and reintegration. CGI works primarily with the prevention and reintegration pieces. CGI believes that poverty + crisis = risk for trafficking. The solution to poverty in some families is to sell their daughters for weeks at a time to feed the family due to the high economic value of young girls. In this way, girls can be sold over and over as a source of income for the family.

One of our interns is embedded with ByTavi, a prevention program that empowers girls and young women to earn an income in safe ways by first learning how to sew bags and purses, and then being provided with an international market to sell the items they’ve made. A talented team in the US sells the product, and this allows the women to earn 4x the poverty level income in Cambodia. They are then able to provide for their families outside of the sex industry. ByTavi was named after Tavi, one of the women workers who was formerly trafficked and now able to provide a legitimate income for her family. We met her today! ByTavi info here: http://www.bytavi.com

Another intern and one of the other year-long fellows are embedded at the Green Mango in Battambang. There, orphans, girls-at-risk, and formerly trafficked women are enrolled in a two-year culinary training program that will prepare them to work in high-end restaurants all over Cambodia. http://www.greenmangocgi.com/

Our third Intern is embedded with the Daughters Project (currently being renamed the Imprint Project- girls who can’t read or write use their thumbprint as a signature, the program is named after that imprint). The Imprint Project is a two-year residential program pairing high-risk or formerly trafficked teenage girls with social workers who provide life-skills training, education, health care, money management and professional seamstress training. Initially the program was aimed at developing the girls inside the residential program and after the two years, the girls would return home. However, after discovering how the families adapted to life without the girls at home and how quickly marriages were arranged once the girls returned home, the program is has shifted to include the entire family, even providing them with land and a house to go through the program as a family. http://www.cgidaughters.com/about

Jeff and I will be living at the Daughters/Imprint house at night, but embedded with CGI Kids during the days. In Cambodia, the most educated and most successful students are given priority in school with front row seats, attention, and encouragement while the poorer, less successful, struggling students are ignored and fall behind. CGI partners with a children’s home down the road and goes into the schools, asking each teacher for a list of the least-performing students to work with, encourage, develop and come alongside. CGI also works with the younger siblings of the girls from the Imprint project who are living at the children’s home. This is all I know about CGI kids, but that’s our job. To find out more! I know one of GCI’s goals is to engage kids in the US to get involved helping kids all over the world.

Some photos from today- meeting the Imprint/byTavi girls at the shop, the WND dudes at the pattern-cutting table, and the riverboat village we visited:

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MAGAZINE!
We are so excited, because this week or next (we’re not sure when it will be released) the June issue of World Next Door magazine will be available to download and JEFF AND I WROTE THE ENTIRE ISSUE! This is our first content for World Next Door, and we have seen some of the article designs. Our graphic designer continues to be *awesome* and we can’t wait to see the whole thing. Hope everyone loves it :)

So. Thanks for following along. Updates from our trip will at http://www.brkwilson.wordpress.com, and you can click “Rwanda” for the last trip or “Cambodia” for updates on this trip from the menu along the right side of the screen.

Direct links to those categories are here:
Rwanda- https://brkwilson.wordpress.com/category/world-next-door/rwanda/
Cambodia- https://brkwilson.wordpress.com/category/world-next-door/cambodia/
World Next Door- https://brkwilson.wordpress.com/category/world-next-door/

FOR THE FUNDERS:

You guys are the best. Once again- THANK YOU for your support of Jeff and I with World Next Door. The sharing of your resources is what allows us to continue to do this work, and there are no words for how grateful we are!

I have received some emails with questions about how to maintain your monthly giving amount and want to try to help clarify! If you set up an automatic bank payment, you should be able to choose this to be a recurring check sent out from your bank account to WND each month on whichever date you choose just like a regular online bill payment. That’s one way.For those mailing in hand-written checks each month, we have an office staff of 1 (the graphic designer) while we’re out of the country, although we are desperately trying to hire an office manager, so we do not have a system that distributes reminders or bills or invoices, so sorry about that :( If you have committed to supporting us on a monthly basis, please be sure to send those in each month (or whichever interval you checked on your pledge card) and Tara, our graphic designer, will collect and deposit the checks. We will be reviewing the total amounts collected quarterly to evaluate the total amounts coming in.

The third way is to do an online paypal payment at the World Next Door website once per month. All giving instructions/directions are here: http://www.worldnextdoor.org/join-us/give/

Thanks again guys! Miss ya’lls…