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18 for 18: Jump for Somaly Mam

18for18 banner 2_0I love simple ideas that catch the imagination on fire. 18 for 18 started three years ago when Serinda Swan decided to raise $18,000 to end human trafficking, by jumping from an airplane at 18,000 feet. A buck a foot. It’s smart, catchy, easy to remember so others will discuss at school or the water cooler or dinner table. The funds went to Somaly Mam Foundation—one of my faves—to continue the fight to end modern day slavery. Now, three years down the road, and there are multiple events and celebrity supporters. August 10 is the event in New York, and August 17 in Santa Barbara, and there are also jumps in Australia and Canada. The jumpers will collectively raise $100,000 this year (probably much more), which will cover two years of rescue costs and support partners in Cambodia to free women and girls sold into the sex trade.

Girls in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos are sold for about $50 to brothels, where they can be forced to service up to 25-30  clients per day. The youngest sex slave freed by the Somaly Mam organization was only two years old. You can jump and support (100% of the proceeds go directly to SMF) and absolutely find out much more about the work of the Somaly Mam Foundation and the amazing woman for which it is named.



Volunteer in Honor of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Photo: PEPY Tours

Today, March 25, is the 100th anniversary of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City. In 1911, when the fire broke out in a garment industry sweatshop that was locked to keep laborers inside and union organizers outside–many of the women workers–most of them immigrants working in inhumane conditions, perished.

What was a travesty of oppression a century ago still happens today. Modern day slavery and human trafficking keep some of the world’s industries going (agriculture, garment, mining, the sex trade) with forced labor and indentured servitude. When it comes to the clothing industry, sweat shops, and people working without the benefit of choice (or a living wage or humane working conditions), one of the hot spots on the globe–though by no means the only place this happens–is Cambodia. Somaly Mam is an inspiring advocate from Cambodia, fighting against slavery and bringing the fight to the worldwide stage with her foundation. Learn about her and her work–you will be glad you took the time.

A volunteer vacation opportunity in Cambodia that works with several community organizations for the betterment of situations faced by urban and rural populations, is a bicycle trip with PEPY Tours. The vacation money you spend with PEPY helps fund education programs throughout Cambodia, and your close-to-the-source immersion in the culture will make a difference in both your life and the lives of the children and adults of the programs where you’ll pitch in. Your participation supports education and literacy there, and educates you about responsible development and community progress among individuals with whom you will share time and stories and hard work.

Somaly Mam

Somaly Mam is one of the most extraordinary women with the most extraordinary stories I’ve ever heard. She was born into a family struggling with extreme poverty in Cambodia. In addition to economic despair, her family was an oppressed ethnic minority forced to make unspeakable decisions to survive. Somaly was sold into sexual slavery by a man posing s her grandfather. She was raped and tortured on a daily basis as she worked in a brothel alongside other young children, and when her closest friend was murdered in front of her, she found a way to do the impossible and escaped her captors. Ever since she has dedicated her life to saving victims and empowering survivors of the very current, and sadly thriving, slave trade.

She has, in the years following her liberating herself, come to great prominence for her tireless work and: ” is now a renowned leader at the forefront of the anti-trafficking struggle. Universally recognized as a visionary for her courage, dignity, ingenuity, and resilience, Somaly was honored as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2009 and was featured as a CNN Hero. She is also the recipient of the Prince of Austria’s Award for International Cooperation, The World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child (WCPRC), Glamour Magazine’s 2006 Woman of the Year Award, and has won accolades from the US Department of Homeland Security.”

The Somaly Mam Foundation is a charitable organization committed to ending human trafficking in North American and around the world. DO NOT, for one minute, think that this is a problem that only happens “over there.” Over two million women and children are sold into slavery every year–and the business is growing. The Somaly Mam Foundations works many paths: rescue and recovery, education, reintegration, voices for change, advocacy, and global awareness.

You can get involved from home and in the field. Make the buck stop here, and stand for the vision of the Somaly Mam Foundation and its heroic founder: A world where women and children are safe from slavery.