There is a dirty little secret that most people don’t like to talk about. But the thing with secrets is this: the more they are exposed to the light of day (and the light of Jesus) the more that can be done to change things. Today’s topic is sex trafficking. Some of you reading this blog will think to yourselves, “I’ve known about sex trafficking for years, this is no secret.” And others of you will be shocked to know it’s happening in your cities, right outside your doors, no matter where you live.
In 2011, John and I went on a mission trip to Moldova and Switzerland. There is an amazingly stark contrast between the two countries. Moldova is the poorest country in Europe and Switzerland is the wealthiest. While we were in Moldova we spent our time visiting middle school through high school kids passing out information about human trafficking. Why? Because of the extreme poverty in Moldova, it is imperative that these kids know how to protect themselves from slick-talking predators who promise jobs in foreign countries or “boyfriends” who want to take them to a “better life.” Those “jobs” and “better lives” end up being a horrible nightmare of an existence where young girls could end up servicing up to 25-100 men a day. Yes, you read that correctly.
Leaving Moldova and landing in Switzerland certainly felt more “comfortable” and yet, before the week ended, we’d seen the other side of the coin. Not the young girls in school that we’d seen in Moldova, but the girls who’d somehow ended up in the Red Light District of Zurich. I hadn’t expected to see such young girls sitting in windows selling themselves, girls that seemed too young to end up in the middle of a nightmare. I had always thought that prostitutes chose that lifestyle, which is far from the truth. Many, if not most, entered that lifestyle as a result of human trafficking, childhood sexual abuse, and poverty. Few, if any, end up as prostitutes because of an informed and empowered free choice.
It all left me wondering what I could do to help, and today I have the opportunity to make a small difference in a big ocean of a problem. When we were visiting a church in Zurich, I met a young woman named Tabea. She has a passion to serve the victims of prostitution wherever God leads her. At that time she was volunteering as a massage therapist for the prostitutes in the Red Light District of Zurich. She’d found some office space available that she could use during the day to minister to these girls. I remember her telling me that when most of the girls came to her and she’d touch them to do the massage, their bodies were as solid as boards – the result of being used over and over again. This was their defensive state – a way to protect themselves from the horrors of their everyday lives.
In 2012 Tabea and her husband, Matt, learned about the rampant sexual exploitation in Israel and began visiting there. One night they were outside their hotel late in the evening and randomly met a woman who Tabea recognized from the Red Light District in Zurich. Women who are trafficked are moved around frequently in order to comply with visa requirements. Tabea and Matt made the decision to move their family to Israel in 2014 so that they might make a difference there.
With the full support of the local government, Tabea and others have created a social impact business that gives women escaping exploitation in the commercial sex industry the opportunity to earn an income. This allows the women to gain financial independence and helps them move forward to a better life. The name of the company is A.I.R. (Act. Inspire. Restore.) and they produce some pretty cool-looking furniture out of shipping pallets that would otherwise be wasted.
After extensive market research they know they have a viable business plan that will make a nice profit for the women who work there. They have orders in hand but what they need now is production space. This is where you and I can help. They are in the process of raising funds to outfit their space. Please watch this short video and consider what you can do to help them reach their goal.
Our little gift may not change the world, but it’ll make a world of difference in the life of someone in search of a little hope.
My blogs are normally posted on Mondays, but being as that is Labor Day, I am posting this early. I think it’s that important, especially since A.I.R.’s fundraising campaign ends in just a few days. Thank you for considering this important project!
For more information about Tabea’s work please visit http://glowbalact.com/en/.