What would you do if you were told that a 10-year-old little girl was about to be sold into child prostitution? This is what founder of SHE Rescue Home Leigh was faced with back in 2006 as she was having a final meal in Phnom Penh at the end of a fact-finding trip to Cambodia. Leigh was cut to the heart as a 12-year-old girl said to her: "My friend, my friend, she is 10 - two men tonight - mother, father sell. You come, you help, please..." Like Leigh, perhaps your immediate response would be to jump into action - to do something, do anything! But what?
"There are complex issues that contribute to a girl being vulnerable to trafficking - factors such as poverty, abuse, trickery and deception, unemployment and addiction often leading to desperation in the family." While a child's tragic journey into prostitution is sometimes due to a family's financial struggle, many families are lured or tricked into thinking their children are being offered a legitimate job or an opportunity for education. "But once trapped in this world of unspeakable evil, they are held captive against their will, and threatened with violence, are soon imprisoned in a world of unimaginable pain and degradation ... as we say repeatedly but It's NOT OK!" And so SHE Rescue Home was born.
We caught up with Director of SHE Rescue Home Cambodia & Director of Operations Hilary Ramsey after a mammoth 800km trek of the Camino Trail to help raise awareness & fund for the organisation.
You recently completed the 800km Camino trail, tell us why you did it?
I wanted to raise funds and awareness for the IT'S NOT OK project and SHE Home in Cambodia by physically stretching myself (body, soul and spirit.) to intentionally make a difference
Can you tell us a little more about SHE Rescue Home, what it is & why it does what it does.
The SHE Home is an aftercare safe heaven for young girls aged 5-16 years who have experienced the injustice of rape, prostitution, human trafficking or extreme risk of these atrocities providing them full holistic care, including vocational training (where age appropriate) and a hope for the future.
What are some of the biggest hurdles facing young girls in Cambodia at the moment?
Prejudice, gender bias, a rape 'culture' and a lack of education due to poverty.
What is your hope for Cambodia moving into the future?
For the victims to not to be treated like perpetrators and feel and carry the weight of shame that they are not clean or have any worth because of the injustice that has been done to them.
You spend a bit of time in Cambodia, what is one of your favourite Cambodian experiences?
When taking missions teams I love going to the villages in the provinces and spending timewith families and communities that our girls come from.
My biggest adventure - On my way to the airport to board a flight bound to Australia, I was stuck in a major traffic jam in heavy rain and flooding. I had to leave all my bags behind and wade through knee high flood waters of waste water (YES with sewerage), beg a ride from someone going home from work on his motorbike and board a flight wet, dirty and smelly!
Back to the Camino, how did you prepare for the walk?
Daily walking and weekly hikes for 6 months to break in the hiking shoes and prepare my feet
What would be your best piece of advice for other women contemplating doing the walk?
It is an awesome adventure that you can do on our own to not only see beautiful Spain but to stretch yourselfby getting out of your comfort zone of thefamiliar, face your fears and meet people from all over the world.....do it you will love it !!!!
What was your highlight from the walk?
Meeting incredible people....we all have a story to tell and a reason to walk this pilgrimage trail
Words to live by: 'To succumb to the enormity of the problem is to fail the one'
What is your next adventure?
Camino May 2016 to fundraise for ITS NOT OK with anyone interested in doing it with me?
To find out more about SHE Rescue or to donate, you can go to their website HERE
Thank you Hillary