Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Cebu, Philippines: Focus On Human Trafficking.
Cebu is a province in the Philippines, consisting of Cebu Island and 167 surrounding islands. The City of Cebu is the capital of Cebu and is the Philippines' main domestic shipping port, home to about 80% of the country's domestic shipping companies. Cebu also holds the second largest number of international flights in the Philippines and is a significant center of commerce, trade and industry in the region. Cebu City is the center of a metropolitan area called Metro Cebu and has a total population of about 2 million people.
As with any port city, especially one with commercial ports of any size, including many in the U.S., human trafficking is always a possibility and most often a distinct probability. Such is the case in Cebu. Of the 100,000 sexually exploited children in all of the Philippines estimates range that 10 to 40 thousand minor girls have been trafficked into prostitution in and around the metropolitan Cebu area. Add to Cebu's commercial ports the fact that the region is billed as a tourist destination where one can mix business with pleasure, and it becomes evident how Cebu has become one of the top five areas in the world for child prostitution and sex tourism.
But there is good news. There are those standing in the gap, those demanding justice, those defending the defenseless, those healing the broken girls and giving them back their stolen lives.
Four years ago International Justice Mission opened a new office in Cebu and began working with the local government to stop traffickers who had been operating with impunity for many years. Today more than 250 trafficking victims have been freed and more than 100 suspected traffickers in Metro Cebu have been charged. Independent researchers found that this concerted effort, called Project Lantern, has led to the number of minors available for exploitation in the commercial sex industry in Metro Cebu plummeting by 79 percent. By being proactive and literally changing the political atmosphere of a city, girls can be rescued before the abuse even happens as in Glenna's case (abridged from IJM's website):
Glenna had been spending time with friends when her group was joined by a friend’s acquaintance. The man invited her to join him in a waiting taxi, and when she refused, he physically forced her into the vehicle. Glenna quickly realizes that the man was a pimp, and that he planned to sell her when they arrived at a nearby hotel. But when she and her trafficker arrived at the hotel, it was the criminal, not the teenage girl, who was most vulnerable. The pimp had been under surveillance for months by IJM investigators and local police — and the waiting “customer” was an undercover police officer partnering with IJM. Glenna was rescued before ever being abused; the pimp was placed under arrest and taken to jail. Today, Glenna is a happy young wife and mother. She has graduated from IJM Cebu’s job-readiness training program and is grateful for and proud of her new career, working at a local bakery.
Many more stories of rescued girls can be found on IJM's website. More about IJM's Project Lantern and the entire text of the report can be read here and donations to IJM for their continued fight against injustice can be made here.
Another group, My Refuge House, "provides an immediate safe home to young women and children rescued from sex-trafficking in the Philippines. [They] are dedicated to alleviating the effects of abuse and trauma sustained by these victims."
Above is an artist's rendering of the future permanent home of My Refuge House. The new facility will allow the improved care of sex-trafficked victims and expand the reach to more children and teens in the Philippines. But as with most NGO's and other charitable organizations, budgetary shortfalls continue to hamper their efforts. Donations to My Refuge House can be made here. And more about the building project and the services My Refuge House offers can be found here.
MRH's director Crystal Sprague describes her experience of helping rescued girls: "When a girl first comes into the building or into aftercare, you can see the despair and hopelessness in her eyes, and then you watch how she changes when she realizes she is surrounded by people who love her, people who believe in her. You watch her life slowly begin to change. When I've seen girls in those initial stages and then get to see them progress... it's simply amazing!" To get updates from Crystal direct from the Philippines visit her blog.
IJM's president Gary Haugen sums up the reasons for the reactions of rescued girls , "What they do not expect is fearless, sacrificial love that does not go away."
Please partner with Conspiracy Of Hope in funding these two incredible anti-trafficking organizations. Let us resolve to be fearless and to love sacrificially, and until the evil of human trafficking does, let us never, ever, go away.