Anti-Trafficking

A few of us were set to go on to India, but ran into problems with visas. Instead, we stayed on for an extra two days in Phnom Penh and are flying home via Hong Kong and Los Angeles late tonight and tomorrow.

Yesterday we checked into a hotel downtown by the Mekong riverside.  We were able to go to dinner with our new friend Matthew Robinson – an Academy Award Winning British Producer, dubbed the “Pope of Soap” in the UK, who moved to Cambodia 7 years ago on a BBC project and never left.  He co-owns a hotel downtown and rented us his studio for shooting video on Wednesday.  He also found us an actress for some parts in an anti-trafficking film we’re working on who evidently is like the Jennifer Aniston of Cambodia (she plays the receptionist on the Cambodian TV series Matthew produces that has a viewership of over 5 million in a country of only 13 million.)

The extra time also allowed us to connect at length with the two girls Don Golden befriended midweek.  The two, one who speaks great English and the other who doesn’t, gave us a detailed account of the prostitution industry and how it operates.  These very special women somehow represented both what is beautiful about Cambodia and what is the dark underbelly of Cambodia.

By staying longer, we also got to connect with James Pond one more time.  James, and his wife Athena, moved to Cambodia with their three kids after seeing a Dateline special on sex trafficking in Phnom Penh back in 2004.

They run a transition house for girls who have been trafficked called Transitions Global.

On Friday of our trip, the team interviewed two of the women who have made it through the program.  They wanted to tell their stories in the hopes other girls might be saved from the violence and the nightmare of sex trafficking.

It’ll take me weeks to process everything I’ve experienced.  The whole problem seems so urgent yet intractable all at the same time – I told someone on the trip it’s like trying to grab a handful of water.

The bottom line right now, however, are the girls I know who are being saved from this fate through the interventions of World Relief Cambodia and the amazing children’s programs.  Education is essential for young girls in villages to learn about and stay safe from traffickers.

I’m also incredibly challenged by the examples of such people as James and Athena Pond who labor endlessly to redeem young women – who otherwise would be thrown aside and forgotten.

Below is a picture of one of the young girls we made friends with…

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