Each time I decide to write on Patch.com, I wonder, "Where do I begin?" Every blog needs a starting point, and for this blog, I chose a statistic: "It is estimated that trafficking enslaves well over 27 million people around the globe." (STOP/start program) There are different categories in trafficking, such as debt bondage, servitude, sex-slavery and child labor. Every country is faced with this modern day problem as it is a lucrative crime industry, next to weapons and drugs, but because we are not aware of it or notice the signs, we miss it. The numbers of people being trafficked are ever-growing, but what's even more disturbing is the insatiable appetite for younger victims and more money. If we look at Cambodian victims, which I have decided to focus on in this blog, we find they are easily trafficked across the border to Thailand or Malaysia, as well as Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and other tourist centres in Cambodia. These women are promised jobs or nice clothes and that they will be able to provide for their children, only to find out they've been duped into human trafficking.
A young orphan, Srey Neang, was sold by her father to a woman in a different province of Cambodia who would take her as her own daughter. The woman sadly used Srey as domestic labor, leaving her unhappy, abused and lonely. When she was 15 years old, she was given a nice dress, a new hair style and make-up, thinking she would be visiting a busy city, but then she learned that she had been sold again, but this time, into a brothel where she was forced to live as a prostitute. After some time, she escaped but was again trapped in another brothel, until she fled. She had no recourse but to sleep on the street outside a hospital until one day she was brought into the Hagar Project, a place of refuge for young women who wanted to find a way out. When she arrived at Hagar, she attended literacy classes, child care and counseling, and was given a chance to learn a skill. She learned how to sew and is now a qualified seamstress working with products such as handbags and recycled bags. This now brings me to why I chose this subject.
In the world of Fair Trade, we see groups like STOP/start in Cambodia where abused women are finding new life skills, dignity and joy. Fair Trade works from many different vantage points: building up the person, providing resources, education and skill training, paying fairly, supporting them so they can build capacity and so much more. There is a long-term partnership started where the workers don't have to fear that the company will relocate or abandon them after a few years because of lower-paid workers in another region. Srey Neang found a new life, a future of hope and friends to support her new life.
I am happy to tell you that her products are right now in the World Village Fair Trade Market in Hampton Bays, NY, as well as many other products from women in her program. You can visit us Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri & Sat from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and purchase a rice bag for yourself or a gift for someone else. We have different rice bag products such as a beach tote, a small duffle bag, yoga mat bags, lunch bags, and handbags. There are so many to choose from in color and in design. In the Asian countries, rice bags are actually trashed after the rice has been emptied. Each bag is naturally colorful with words and pictures on it before they are cut into fashionable totes. Before they are re-fashioned, they are approximately 40" x 20" in size, in blues, greens, tangerine, yellow, white and pink. The Asian countries all use these bags for rice and they have a texture to them that is waterproof.
Keep Srey Neang in your mind when you are admiring a rice bag at the World Village Fair Trade Market and know that she is recycled just as much as the rice bag. Someone took her off the street, just like the the rice bags are picked up, and cared for her, cleaned her up and gave her a new purpose in life. She, too, has a whole new look! Fair trade: fair wages - long-term partnerships - recycling - elminating all forms of forced labor - environmental sustainability ... it's worth the time and the money to purchase one of these useful and multi-purpose bags. Special credit to: Rebecca and Glenn Fadner, fellow New Yorkers, who started the fair trade business, Kingdom Ventures, in 2005. Learn more about human trafficking at: