Most people are oblivious to the issue of human trafficking, but Mindy Kalee, originally from Seattle, Wash., has been living and working in Cambodia dealing with this issue.
Kalee, who has been working for World Hope International for the past couple of years, spoke on Oct. 16 in the Rotunda about the issue of human trafficking, which is known as modern-day slavery.
“I knew vague information about human trafficking,” said Kate Wegehaupt, a junior journalism major. “That it was bad, would be the understatement of the year. Unfortunately, human trafficking happens all the time.”
There is a three-prong definition of trafficking. It involves getting the person, learning to control them and exploiting them in some way. Exploitation can include forced labor or slavery, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, prostitution, forced combat or illicit removal of body parts.
“I knew what human trafficking was, and it absolutely disgusts me that there are people out there doing these horrible, grotesque things to little girls and women,” said Elizabeth Drown, a junior human development and family studies major. “It makes me sick that someone would sell a female’s body in such a brutal way.”
Kalee said that there are roughly 27 million people in the world today used in human trafficking and about 50 percent of those are children.
“I was in a hotel in Thailand that was notorious for being a brothel,” said Kalee. “There were girls sitting on frilly pillows in a room. They were waiting to go to guests’ rooms if they were wanted for services. I just can’t believe it’s real.”
There are many contributing factors to how human trafficking happens. If people are vulnerable because of family instabilities or abusive situations, then they may be targeted, said Kalee.
“Traffickers and abusers are known by the family they take advantage of,” said Kalee. “The traffickers go into a foreign country and befriend a family. They promise money, education or possibly marriage for their daughter.”
The act of human trafficking can include torture, brainwashing, family pressure or community shame. The victims learn to trust no one and they start to rely on the perpetrator.
“If a girl refuses a man, she could be tortured and killed,” said Kalee. “To think about escaping is utterly terrifying.”
The World Hope Assessment Center in Cambodia provides immediate aftercare for victims of trafficking. The needs include physical, emotional, spiritual and educational.
“It takes about $420,000 a year to operate the facilities in Cambodia, and the cost for care for one child for two months is $2,700,” said Kalee.
The people admitted to the center use art and music therapy to help them cope with their experiences. They have social workers and legal investigators at the center, along with tight security.
“We have three different facilities,” said Kalee. “One is where the girls are. Another is the office with all of the staff. The third one has only a security guard, and that is the building with the address. Not having anyone else at that location ensures security for the girls.”
Kalee talked about the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and the Bible verse “Unbind him, and let him go.” She said that in every room there is a Lazarus, and everyone is called to walk with each other.
“I can’t even fathom the dark things these girls have seen,” said Kalee. “We just love them and walk with them through this part of their life.”
Every year about 200 women or girls are brought into South Dakota for pheasant hunting season, said Kalee. Human trafficking can occur in any part of the world, but people just do not know about it.
“It was a great presentation that brought a lot of awareness to the topic,” said Drown.
In order to help human trafficking efforts, Kalee said people should educate themselves and others, donate money and raise awareness.
World Hope International was established in 1996 to deal with issues of poverty and injustice. It is a faith-based organization that helps the poor by giving access to education, improving quality of life and advocating for those not able to speak for themselves. World Hope works to prevent trafficking and to protect victims of trafficking.
“Mindy really surprised me,” said Wegehaupt. “It’s so easy to plead ignorance on the issue. She hit home with the topic, making me question my apathy on the issue and what I can actually do to help.”