Sunday, 11 March 2012

Project Futures Challenge Global SE Asia 2012

With 2012 being the year of venture I decided to bite the bullet and take action to raise much needed money and awareness for the Somaly Mam Foundation. The Somaly Mam Foundation is  one I have been passionate about since reading Somaly Mam's book The Road of Lost Innocence back in 2009. The reality of sex trafficking in south east asia and the rest of the world is horrific. It is pure exploitation of an innocent human being, sexual, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual abuse for some seedy person's sick pleasure and another's monetary profit. It's disgusting.

I had started my fundraising campaign receiving sponsorship from family, friends and clients for me to shave off my golden locks when I stumbled across the Project Futures Challenge of cycling 500km throughout Cambodia. The cycle's objective was to raise money for the Somaly Mam Foundation, the cycle through Cambodia and visiting the AfESIP shelters where the rescued survivors live. In these centres they are given all the necessities, an education and a family support network of fellow survivors. With only 12 days before the cycle was commencing I signed up and joined the group. I wanted to be a part of this for an array of reasons, the primary one being that I believe it is one thing to give the survivors money which they are in desperate need of, but to give them your time, energy and love, to show them that you really care, to listen to their stories and give them a hug is priceless for them.

The 500km cycle through Cambodia was an experience that penetrated deeply beyond words. So much so that now 3 days later and many miles away I am still processing all that was experienced, shared and learned. My life has been changed by Somaly Mam, the survivors, the fellow riders and by Cambodia itself.

Visiting the AFESIP shelters and meeting Somaly Mam was so real and powerful. There were no walls or barriers with Somaly Mam, she is genuine, full of energy, living her truth and her calling. Everything she has endured, created, established and is continuing to achieve is inspirational. Her message to us Riders when we visited the shelters was simple - love unconditionally. Treat the survivors as your sister, your family, love them for who they are, they may not be "perfect" but in that they are perfect just as they are. To the women in the group she asked us to show the girls love and friendship with acceptance and without judgement. One of the problems for these girls is that they are abandoned by their families as they are seen to bring shame on the family for their past, they are seen as dirty. However, the past wasn't of their own choosing they were innocent victims. One of the older survivors tearily told me that she doesn't like going home to see her parents and family because they don't love her. My heart reached out to this girl.

 In the group of predominately female riders there were 5 guys, the fact that they survived the 10days of cycling surrounded by chatty, headstrong and powerful women was remarkable! I was extremely grateful for their presence for their masculine energy yes but also for what they brought to the girls in the shelters. The girls in the shelters all have  a past of sexual abuse and exploitation by men. But as Somaly Mam highlighted it is important to teach these girls that not all men are horrible pigs who are out to take advantage of them. The guys showed the girls love, friendship and compassion and you could see the girls really enjoyed interacting with the men and having their pictures taken with them which was awesome. 

When we visited one of the shelters some of the girls wanted to share their stories with us. Somaly explained that this was a good therapy for them, having a group of people who care and wanted to listen to what they have to say. When sitting opposite these young girls as they told their story, seeing the tears, the pain written on their faces and the sorrow in their eyes my heart and love reached out to them. Simultaneously there was fire in my belly and my throat, pure anger towards these men who rape these young victims. Some victims are so young (3 years old) that their pelvis isn't formed and so they are cut in order to be penetrated. What I cant comprehend is how these men can do such things to another human being? And why is there nothing being done to these men? No punishment, prison, nothing. The girls that are lucky are rescued into safety of the shelters and are given a real chance at life, whilst the men continue to walk free. And you cant tell me that these men wont be repeat offenders.

The men who cause such harm to these precious girls should be arrested. The ironic thing is that I was almost arrested or at least fined whilst I was in Cambodia. We were at Angkor Wat temples and I had accidently left my entry pass in the car and so a friends suggested i just use hers to get in. I stupidly agreed it was a good idea and needless to say it wasn't a good idea and we got busted. It turned into a bit of an event, securty came, police got involved, I explained what had happened and they showed me the "non transferrable" ticket policy. I understood it was my mistake but it was such a big deal over such a petty issue. I couldnt get my head around what a big deal they were making of it when just when there is absolutely nothing being done to stop innocnet girls be raped by foul men. I think the Police, their laws and policies and their time could be put to much more serious and beneficial causes that's for sure.

Sex trafficking is happening globally. In Cambodia and many countries in south east asia it is obvious and in your face, you can see it happening. Westerners are flocking there to take advantage of the rape they can purchase cheaply in bars like "Pussy Cat" which was directly opposite our hotel. At Bangkok airport on my way out of Cambodia an American man who was 50 odd years old started talking to me about meat (literally, bad conversation to start with me) and then the conversation turned to where I had just come from and what I had been doing in Cambodia. His response was that he would never go to Cambodia because he wouldn't want that stamp on his passport, associating it with the prostitution scene. happening there He quickly added that Asian women don't do it for him anyways. I had to stop myself from punching the living daylights out of him, his comment was so beside the point and as you can imagine after I gave him a verbal lowdown there wasn't much more for either of us to talk about.

The ignorance of the issue is as much a issue as the problem itself. We have to stop human trafficking and sex slavery. How? The root of the issue needs to be addressed (no pun intended). How can we make this happen?

To end this blog on a positive note, I have walked away from this cycle with more love in my heart and understanding for human beings.Cambodia has strengthened my understanding that we are all friends, we are all brothers and sisters and at our essence we are all on and the same. Love unconditionally, and that includes yourself and everyone that you meet. Life is precious. Its is a very special gift that we have received and it is your to live. You are the greatest gift you have to share with the world. 

Be inspired to let your light shine.

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