You Can Save a Child From SlaveryAn estimated 5.7 million children are forced to work in factories, fields, and brothels all over the world. Help to stop child labor by doing one thing on this list.
1. Face the facts. Many people think slavery ended after the Civil War, but, tragically, there are more slaves today than at any point in human history. Millions of child slaves — some of whom are sold by their impoverished parents — work in fields, brothels, private homes, mines, and restaurants overseas and even right here in the United States. "I had read about trafficking, but I was completely blown away when I saw young children being sold for sex on the streets of Thailand," says Desirea Rodgers, 34, who traveled there with friends for the first time in 2002 to see what she could do to make a difference. Unable to shake the heartbreaking images from their minds, they started plotting the launch of a nonprofit that could help young girls and boys. "Rescue workers told us they weren't able to help as many children as they wanted to because they didn't have enough safe places for them to live," Desirea says, so she and her friends created Love146, which runs a shelter in the Philippines, another Asian country with major child-slavery problems. There, victims receive counseling and education that prepares them to return to their families or reintegrate into society on their own. The nonprofit's name comes from a young girl, enslaved in a brothel, who was known only by the number clients used to identify her, 146. The Love146 founders were never able to track that girl down again, but they've helped dozens like her, including Serey, who was trafficked into a brothel without her parents' knowledge when she was 17. Serey was rescued by local cops after several months and brought to Love146's Round Home, where she attended school and worked with a therapist for 18 months. "The Round Home is where my life changed," she says. "It's where a new me was born. This home heals the broken." To help more children find a safe place to restart their lives, give at love146.org/donate. Five dollars provides a victim with a new pair of shoes; $15 buys a school uniform; $80 pays for school books for one year.
2. Shop for fair-trade jewelry and handbags at store.madebysurvivors.com. Started by husband-and-wife team John Berger and Sarah Symons in 2005, the nonprofit has helped more than 500 rescued trafficking victims and their children attend school for the first time and make a living by handcrafting the products sold online. "Education, employment, and economic empowerment are so important. If survivors can support themselves without selling their bodies, they'll never go back," Sarah says. Without such intervention, less than 10 percent of children born into brothels escape for good, she says. "I've seen traffickers wait outside shelters and toss in notes and cell phones to lure girls out." The program saved Anjali, who was kidnapped from a train station in Calcutta, India, at 11 and was forced to work as a sex slave for two years. "With this jewelry program, my future is brighter because I'm able to support myself and my mom," says Anjali. Now she attends school for free through the charity's education-sponsorship program.
3. Find out how many slaves work for you by answering 11 questions at slaveryfootprint.org. You'll discover how much slavery plays a part in producing the things you buy, from the mica that gives certain eyeshadows their shimmer to the cotton in some T-shirts — some raw materials are mined or picked by children as young as 6. "By understanding just how big the problem is, we can start demanding that companies are accountable for who's mining their products and working in their factories," says Amy Nyquist, a 37-year-old mom of two who helped create the tool.
4. Educate a freed child slave in East India for one year. All it takes is giving up a $3 latte once a week for 52 weeks and pledging it to the charity Mercy 29's Lattes for Legacies program (mercy29.org/lattesforlegacies.html). Since 2009, the group has negotiated the release of 380 children from India's quarries, where they worked 12-hour days extracting slate and marble.
5. Scan the barcodes of your favorite products using the Free2Work smartphone app to find out which companies are working to eliminate forced labor from their supply chains. Not For Sale, the nonprofit behind the app, has graded more than 300 brands, which include jewelry, electronics, and even chocolate.
6. Givewhatever you can to Save the Children (savethechildren.org/donate ), a nonprofit that helps vulnerable kids in more than 120 countries. In 2010 alone, the group trained nearly 17,000 children in El Salvador to protect themselves from traffickers; in Indonesia, they rescued 10,000 kids from dangerous working conditions.
7. Report a potential trafficking situation. If you suspect that a child in your city may be a victim, call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 888-373-7888, or submit your anonymous tip online at polarisproject.org/report-a-tip. "Child trafficking is hard to spot," says Sarah Jakiel, deputy director of the Polaris Project, the nonprofit that runs the hotline. "The biggest red flags are children who are working when they should be in school, have an unreasonable lack of freedom, and show any signs of physical abuse." Since the hotline opened in 2007, they've helped more than 5,000 victims find safe housing, counseling, and legal help in states including Florida and Texas. "Children are lured here from places like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico with the promise of education," says Kathleen Morris, who leads the International Rescue Committee's anti-trafficking programs in Seattle. "They know they'll have to work a little bit, but they often never get to go to school and are forced into jobs with long hours and no pay. What many people don't realize is that this is happening in places we see on a regular basis, like small coffee shops and construction sites we drive by. It's hidden in plain sight."
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