Monday, November 30, 2009
In the midst of a lot of commotion at the Love146 table after I spoke, a girl wearing the number 146 pinned to her shirt walked up to me with tears running down her face. She just simply stared at me, unable to speak. She reverently reached for the number which was pinned over her heart, and placed her hand over it. She wrapped her fingers around the number, clutching it with desperation as if she was trying to reach through time to that young girl in the brothel who wore the same number years ago. She closed her eyes and wept. Was she picturing herself reaching out to hold that young girl who still had a fight left in her eyes? Was she picturing herself pulling “146” out of that glass prison called a brothel?
I was speechless. After what seemed like an eternity, the only words I eventually came up with were; “Thank you.” We both knew. We both understood that this is not the way it was supposed to be for children. And I think we both walked away more determined than ever to change that.
To those of you who care deeply…Thank you.
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Friday, November 20, 2009
We are on vacation in Colorado, visiting friends and family. This morning we went to the very well known “breakfast playground” in the Cherry Creek Mall. If you are from Denver you know what I’m talking about! My son was running around like crazy jumping over the giant bananas and sliding down strips of bacon. I was with him helping him make it up the massive bowl of shredded wheat. My hubby, being the amazing dad + photographer combo, was taking pics of the big climb.
Slowly two mall security guards walked up behind my husband and just stood there. They hovered near my husband for quite a long time. I started to get this frustrated and offended feeling inside me. I could tell they had their eyes on him thinking he was some creep taking pictures of kids. They finally broke the silence and asked him if he was with any of the kids there. My son and I walked over to assure them that my husband was indeed with us.
My gut response to all this was to be offended. As you can imagine, working for Love146 I read stories everyday about sexual abuse, exploitation and horror that children in our world face everyday. And here I am in the mall and MY HUSBAND is being approached like he is a perpetrator of such abuse and perversion!
Then, a slow second thought followed, “Wait Kellen! Isn’t this a good thing? Aren’t you willing to be personally offended or held suspect so that children can be protected?” After that thought my defenses dropped and I was thankful that someone was looking out for the children playing this morning.
So here’s my question: are you willing to be offended so that children can be protected? As a businessman traveling all around the world would you be willing to be suspected and questioned upon your arrival into a place like Cambodia about your intentions during your stay? Would you be willing to report suspicious activity or something you thought might be trafficking with the chance that you might offend an innocent person? Food for thought!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
This year, there has been one donation in particular that has stayed with me in my heart and thoughts. A family sent in a check for $3.00 – they heard of our work through watching “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” and hearing Stephen Baldwin share about the work of Love146 on the show. This particular family was in severe economic distress, with both parents being out of work. They wrote to us that once a week, they would search the house for change so they could go get a special treat. That week, the kids asked if instead of spending the money on treats, they could send the money to Love146 to help children.
These recent months have been the first in which Love146 as an organization has started to feel the impact of the economic downturn. So we are in a weird place of unbelievable thanks for all who partner with us – yet also compelled to ask for continued giving. As we head into Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I am thankful for all our donors. For kids that will search through couch cushions for change & then choose to donate it rather than use it for candy. All so that other kids – whether they are in North Carolina, Cambodia or the Philippines – can experience love that empowers, restores, protects and defends.
Love146 Accounting Administrator
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I have been back in Cambodia for 3 months and one of the most disturbing things have heard about was about the situation with youth leaving orphanages in Cambodia. There are more than 200 orphanages in Cambodia that have often been set up by well meaning people (including many expatriates) who just wanted to ‘do something’. Without considering the long term implications of taking in a group of children they opened the doors and children came. The selection criteria was often not clear and they didn’t have the man-power (or sometimes the language) to ensure that those who came did not have a family/community who could take them in. As a result children who shouldn’t really be in orphanages are there.
And now, the children are older, in fact some cannot be called children anymore and they are no longer considered "cute" or "fundable." Those children who are compliant and institutionalized are the perfect children for an orphanage but what about when they need to leave the orphanage? They don’t know how to live in the real world. In contrast, those children who start to push against the system and the hormones kick in are not perfect children for an orphanage and they may well be thrown out on their ear, even before they are adults.
Both sets of children are primary targets for sexual exploitation! Orphanages must be a last resort and those that exist must have better selection criteria. There must be better re-integration strategies for all children in residential care.
Glenn Miles, Director of Asia Prevention
Friday, November 13, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
The words, “abolition” and “movement” are words that I have come to hold sacred. When I hear these words used merely for a campaign, fundraising scheme, or marketing tactic, I honestly cringe. They are diminished.
To think of the price that abolitionists have paid throughout history to end slavery, or the sacrifices people have made for movements that have challenged and changed unjust structures and systems that oppressed multitudes, I recoil at anything that might cheapen those words.
Sometimes I think we have the belief that if we use the word “movement” often enough, maybe we can actually start one. Or we mistake growing awareness as “the movement.” While awareness is vital and certainly part of “movement”, if awareness doesn’t lead to further action, it is only a shouting into the wind. Mark Twain said; “Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid.” Or as my Mom, used to warn… “Don’t be all bark and no bite.”
A trend is defined as; “The general direction in which something tends to move.” So, at the end of the day if the movement to end human trafficking is a “trend” but is moving us all in the right direction, then that is a good thing. If, when the “band wagon” rides by, and the dust eventually settles, there are more people still standing & fighting then there were before… then count me in!
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Friday, November 6, 2009
This weekend Love146 is at the Generation Conference, a conference in up-state NY with several youth groups from churches throughout New England. Rob is speaking at the conference tomorrow. I came up early to set up our table and hang out with students. WOW! It has been a long time since I was in high school. High Schoolers are amazing. They are full of life and energy. They are idealists... I almost forgot! It is kind of fun (and a little strange!) to be brought back down memory lane.
The conference is focusing this year on how students can “live to make a difference.” The hosting church is putting a lot of energy and effort into growing support throughout the region for us. They ordered over 1600 Love146-patches for the conference. They are using them as the “badge” each attending student has to show to get into the conference center.
Last night every student that walked by me wore a patch. It was both beautiful and eerie to see hundreds of youth all wearing her number at once. Some of them knew what they were wearing. They would come up to the table and say things like, “I love you guys!” or “I think what you are doing is amazing.” Most of them however just wore the patch as their badge of entry, not really knowing what it stood for.
As the evening continued and they showed a little video about the reality of slavery on our planet, awareness began to rise in the room. Someone told a brief story of 146… consciousness awoke just a little bit. After the main session finished, many students just stopped by the table now curios about Love146 and the issue. They were beginning to see the meaning of the patch.
I am sure as the weekend continues awareness will continue to rise. After Rob speaks on Saturday there will be a flood of passionate abolitionists in the making, each having a deeper understanding of the patch that they wear. Many will continue down this journey of the modern day abolitionist movement. The meaning of the patch and understanding of the issue will deepen further along the way, as it takes over the crevasses of their hearts.
I couldn’t help but think of the thousands of children and teens who literally wear a number…the 1.2 million who will have a price tag placed on them annually, literally bought and sold. I wondered what it is like as their own consciousness rises to the fact that they wear a number and have a price tag that binds them. What emotions, thoughts, fears they might have today… and I prayed for freedom.
My hope rose yesterday at the thought of what could happen when the number of children, teens and people who choose to wear the patch in solidarity and fight for freedom with their lives overpowers not only the pimps, traffickers and exploiters in the world but those who wear any number and are bought and sold for any price. That is the reality of a movement. That is the reality of the world shifting, changing and choosing to amplify the voices screaming “freedom.” ABOLITION AND RESTORATION!
NOTE: Above is a glimpse of people being added to the movement. In some of the pictures you have to look close to find the patch, but it is there.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
“Yesterday *Nira came back home to the Round Home for a visit. This morning I asked her what makes her want to come back to the Round Home from time to time.
She became nostalgic and cried.
She said she remembers when they were still complete here, having fun, chatting, singing, playing the guitar. She just misses everybody. She said she was very happy here because of the people and the beautiful place. This was her family, her home.
I asked her what the most important thing she learned in the Round Home was while she was here. She said it was becoming strong. She said she developed strength because of the support of the staff and the other children.
I asked her about the things that she experienced for the first time when she came to the Round Home. She said it was having a loving family. The Round Home staff and children were her family that she never had before. She also experienced being truly loved and being happy for the first time. She experienced being respected for the first time. Such respect, she said, she never experienced before.
She said that for this kind of family, joy, love, and respect, she will always come back to the Round Home.
I also asked another one of our girls, *Maria, about the things that she experienced for the first time when she came to the Round Home. Her answers were quick and sure.
She said she first came to know love, to give to others, to know God, and to be treated like a real daughter. It was her first time to actually be “heard.” It was her first time not to be told hurtful things by adults.
She said, “It was my first time not to be bothered about the past anymore. You were the ones who helped me forget about the past.”
She said it was her first time to really look at herself and accept herself and her experiences and introduce herself to others with courage.
She said it was her first time to go to school. It was her first time to have a happy Christmas. It was her first time to have quarrels and have those quarrels quickly sorted out, so that now, for the first time, she has no enemies anymore.”
When I read this report, I was deeply moved, humbled and challenged. The “firsts” that so many of us take for granted are life-changing for children who have waited far too long to experience them. Education, respect, family, love, joy, etc.
We will change this. We will continue to provide “home”, family, care and love for children like Nira and Maria. We will restore and empower children, and see them “becoming strong”, moving from “victims” & “survivors” to “thrivers.”
But we will also work to protect and defend the innocent and vulnerable, preventing the exploitation from happening to begin with. We will continue to ensure that “firsts” happen for children…when they’re supposed to happen…while they are children.
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* Pseudonyms have been used to protect the children who Love146 serves