Change A Child's Life
Children are among the easiest populations worldwide to traffic - vulnerable because they can’t make their own decisions or fend for themselves; vulnerable because they are a “burden” to families that need income, not more mouths to feed; vulnerable because they represent easy income brothels serving pedophiles; vulnerable because they will grow up not knowing anything different, that their lives in a trafficking situation aren’t “normal”, and will become trafficked adults.
Yet, this is one area where Dressember can have the biggest impact.
This excerpt from the Dressember website explains how Dressember partners with local organizations to PREVENT child sex trafficking in Thailand, one of the worst offenders on the globe for child trafficking. An estimated 60,000 children currently work in the Thai sex trade.
”The greatest risks to trafficking for children are related to poverty, family history of trafficking or sex work, a history of abuse, and family breakdown. With Thailand being a source, transit and destination for child trafficking, education becomes paramount in combating it at the ground level. The children in Northern Thailand are specifically vulnerable as 15% of all secondary school aged children in the North are not in school, according to the UN MICS survey in 2016. With 22% of surveyed prostitutes in Northern Thailand never attending school and 41.5% having only some exposure to primary education, there’s a direct correlation between lack of education and risk. The Dressember Network addresses this issue by resourcing a Mentorship and Scholarship in Northern Thailand program to help children stay in school, learn new skills and thrive in the academic environment.”
I feel passionate about this because we should be defending children, encouraging them to stay in school, play and grow up to make their own choices. Yet, too many kids worldwide are stuck in bondage to a trafficker. In the US, runaways and kids coming out of the foster care system are especially vulnerable. In 2020 in Los Angeles alone, 80% of victims rescued from human trafficking operations came out of the foster care system, while nationwide runaways are the biggest group of minors rescued from human trafficking operations.
Why am I featuring this issue on a blog that centers around the Divided series? I've already shared that I feature trafficked individuals and slavery in the books. In preparation for creating the fictional drug farms and factories in the western part of my Federated Republic of America, I wrote a scene featuring an 10-year old girl. This girl was born into slavery, her parents trafficked to the FRA from the South Asian territory inhabited by the Hmong People. Before the time frame of my series, during the global collapse which occurred after the Prologue, China annexed this region, placing millions of ethnic minorities and marginalized people on the market for the highest bidder.
The Hmong People are one of many tribes worldwide without a homeland. Numbering more than 1.2 million, the Hmong currently live in the mountainous regions of northern Thailand (where many of their children end up in the Thai sex trade), Vietnam and Laos, as well as eastern Myanmar and southern China, though their numbers in those two nations are falling rapidly due to ethnic persecution. As an ethnic minority population in five different nations, the Hmong are discriminated against, reviled, and have experienced ethnic cleansing under various dictators and conquerors throughout their history. Supreme Commander Martin “acquired” thousands of Hmong people, entire villages, in an exchange with China that involved the former USA’s military technology, weapons and the promise of future narcotics shipments, which China could then sell on the global market.
Here’s Phiab's story.
Rio Grande National Forest, former state of Colorado, FRA
The ten-year old girl knelt in the wet soil, harvesting the poppy pods from the stronger plants marked with yarn in her row, laying them in neat lines in her basket as she worked the row behind the adults collecting the last of each pod's opium dust into containers hanging from their necks. The late spring sun warmed her bare shoulders and she shifted her long braid in back of her again.
The call for lunch. Finally. She wiped her brow and darted forward to find her mother and older brothers before filing into the line to lay the pods on drying mats. Others in far-off factories would use the opium dust, or latex, to make drugs, or so her oldest brother said. Where Nubia learned that, Phiab didn’t know. None of them had ever been to what some of the men and women of her father’s generation called “school”. Slaves didn’t need to learn. They only needed to obey and work hard, according to the Muas elder.
Phiab rubbed the sticky sap off her fingers onto her loose, colorful skirt, fading by washings in the creek. She untied her bowl from its tether around her waist, slipping into line behind her brothers and mother, lined up according to age as usual. She approached the serving table where a woman whose face was lined with her years scooped a ladle-full of rice and vegetables onto Phiab’s plate. Moving to the next server, Phiab nodded for the kua tob, a fiery hot pepper, smiling her thanks. There was no talking while in the food line.
She followed her family to sit under a nearby spreading tree, called a dogwood by the guards. Her father had only reluctantly told her older brother, Nhia, the tree originated in their native homeland. Phiab had long ago stopped asking to see their native land. The older people whispered about it often, though. Phiab had pieced together that her family had been sold into slavery in a move of ethnic cleansing so thorough she doubted any Hmong remained in their native land.
Would they ever want to return? She doubted it. Maybe they could carve out a new homeland in this Colorado place. It was a nice enough place, she thought as she breathed in the mountain air smelling of cook fires and poppies.
Phiab looked out at the valley spread below, rows of silvery grey poppy plants glimmering in the springtime sun, their red flowers long since shed. Her creative soul longed to capture the beauty of the flower's slow death in something other than dirt. She traced a finger through the fine soil under the dogwood. Mountains, clouds and crude people wearing long tunics and wide skirts appeared like magic under her nail.
She wiped the dirt from her hand, then thrust two fingers into the bowl, scraping the last of the meal into her mouth in one efficient swipe before licking out the bowl and hooking it onto her waist. She would wash it out later, after the evening meal of goat soup. Maybe she would get a piece of meat tonight, but Phiab doubted it. One goat for the entire camp didn’t go very far. Only far enough to give the soup its distinctive flavor.
As her family finished their meals in quiet conversation, Phiab’s mind wandered. What would it be like to be able to do nothing but draw all day? To not have to crawl along the rows of the field, her fingers sticky with the poppy sap? Maybe she could crush the red petals to color the walls of their tent. But if the guards caught her with any part of the plants, they would beat her savagely. They were so strong, they would probably kill her. And who wouldn’t be able to see the red evidence against the puke green of the tent walls?
Phiab shook her head, dismissing the impossible dream. After breakfast on their way to the fields, Nhia had shared the rumors of slaves in other parts of the FRA being freed. It had spread like the autumn wildfires through their camp, igniting hope in her heart for a minute. But Phiab knew those people had to be a long way away. And what did freedom mean anyway? All she’d ever known was working the rows during the day, running around the dirt encampment with the other kids and hiding in the pine trees ringing their homes at night, before dropping of exhaustion in their tent at dark.
She scuffed her foot across her dirt drawing so the others wouldn’t see. No sense in stirring false hope. If those rumors had been true, surely someone would’ve already come for them.
While Phiab is a fictional character and isn't trapped in the sex industry, there are countless children around the world today who are. We don't know their names, but this doesn't change the fact of their enslavement. It's so easy to help prevent human trafficking in this area through mentorship and school scholarships - one child at a time, one family at a time. But we first have to know, then we can care.
Would you consider helping real-life children trapped in the horrors of sex trafficking with a donation to our Dressember team? Our goal is to fund two rescue missions - from beginning of identifying victims where they are trapped to the police and combined liberation forces to free them to legal defense for petty crimes committed while trafficked and the economic rehabilitation of survivors. We can do all that for only $12,600. The link is below.