“These children will never have had a present all of their own without any sexual favours being demanded of them.”

(Stock image)

(Stock image)

There’s a reason we can’t share the faces of our most recent recipients in Cambodia. These are girls in a ‘safe house’, where many were once sold into prostitution and have escaped or been rescued from slavery. Others have been gang raped and needed somewhere safe to start again.
Now living together in a safe compound, some can hardly remember a time when they weren’t owned and abused by someone else. “The centres have girls as young as 4,” wrote Stella, a visiting teacher delivering goods on behalf of Crossroads Foundation.

Over recent years, we have sent carryout goods like educational equipment to this sparsely resourced Cambodian centre, as staff seek to love, support, rehabilitate and train the girls for a brand new life. We thought of them when we had a recent offer from a Hong Kong freight forwarding company: a container of beautiful new fluffy seal toys, unable to make it to their destination in time for the holidays. At first we were unsure of how we would find homes for these 45,000 now orphaned seals but once we put the offer to our partners, we were overwhelmed with interest from over thirty two NGOs wanting to accept some!

“It broke my heart to see how very, very happy and excited they were to receive a seal,” wrote Stella, after distributing them amongst their rescued women. “Some of them carried their seal around with them for the rest of the day, eating their meals with their seal on their lap, dancing and holding their seal….”

We sent 500 seals for distribution among other children at risk of sex trafficking in Cambodia and will be sending a further 2,500, later this year. Many more of them were given out to groups in Hong Kong working with people in need. We saw them distributed in elderly homes, women’s shelters, a soccer club for disadvantaged young people, children in foster homes and kindergartens and others in low income areas.

One shelter for domestic helpers in crisis wrote, “Our job is not just to provide them with physical shelter and food, our job is to make them feel loved and cared for too. Receiving a cuddly toy like this demonstrates that there are people out there remembering them and wanting them to feel happy – the seal is thus a symbol of empathy and concern (as well as looking quite cute!!).”

Wherever they ‘swam’, the little seals brought happy, smiling faces and so much joy and thankfulness. They’ve reminded us once again that even the smallest gift can bring a powerful message of love and care.

 

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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When we think of ‘slavery’, we easily picture 18th century shiploads of people in appalling conditions, or Roman captives under a merciless whip.

It is tempting to think the issue of ‘slavery’ belongs to yesteryear. Yet, extraordinarily, the world has, today, more slaves than it has ever known before.

One hot spot is Romania where many are lured by the offer of work in other countries only to find, upon arrival, they have been sold into the sex trade or other ‘forced labour’.

Romania is a tragic ‘trifecta’:  a source, transit and a destination country for human trafficking. Global Hand saw a unique match come about when an Australian research organisation, Social Compass, wanted to help.

They used the Global Hand website to offer pro bono research and evaluation for any NGO working in the field of sex trafficking. The offer was snapped up by Romanian NGO Pro Prietenia Arad, who does indeed serve people tangled up in such heart-breaking situations.

The two parties are now working together to see research that will bring freedom to some of those who are trapped by this modern tragedy.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

Romania Snapshot

Population: 21.77 million
Capital: Bucharest

Population below national poverty line of US$3.50 per day: 21.5%

Infant mortality rates are among the highest in Europe. Access to health care is not commonly available for the poor.

Based on GDP stats, Romania is the 9th poorest country in Europe out of 50, with an average income of USD 12.80 per person.

A74

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When Katya* was found by local schoolteacher Eva, she was filthy and infested with lice, living without parents in a small village house. She had not bathed in several weeks and was traumatised after her alcoholic mother abandoned her, and her older brother was killed by a car.

It’s children like Katya, alone and vulnerable, that are easy targets for human traffickers. Official statistics estimate there are 25,000 Moldovan victims of human trafficking, and 40% of them are children.

Katya shows Crossroads staff the squalid conditions of the home in which she lived with her brother before being fostered.

Katya shows Crossroads staff the squalid conditions of the home in which she lived with her brother before being fostered.

Thankfully for Katya, Eva and her husband couldn’t bear to leave the little girl alone in the village, and brought her into their own home as a foster daughter. Today, Katya is a bright, well-dressed, articulate teenager, who loves her foster parents. The family, though, still struggles to make ends meet in a place that has been classified as Europe’s poorest nation.

Crossroads partnered with an NGO in the region to help foster families like Katya’s, shipping a container of goods that would help relieve the pressure of poverty. Today, Katya is happy, healthy and thriving in her foster family.

We shipped toys, stationery, household goods for foster families, and a large quantity of educational items that they are now using in their support centres. Families living in poverty, who may be tempted to give up their children to state-run institutions, are given the care, support and respite they need to keep their children within the family home.

*Not her real name

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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Moldova Snapshot

Moldova Population: 3.55 million

Capital: Chișinău

Moldova is the poorest nation in Europe. There are currently 7,000 children in staterun institutions but only 2% are orphans (BBC). Moldova is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, formerly part of the Soviet Union. Our partner project is actually based in Transnistria, a breakaway state, autonomous but with limited international recognition. It has a population of 505 thousand, and its capital is Tiraspol.Of children who pass through orphanages in Moldova, one in 10 commits suicide and one in 5 become involved in crime

Moldova map

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