I have the cool opportunity of working here at Swell-O-Phonic/Wilai/Chane.com and love it. However, since 2011 it hasn't been my only job. My sister Alli Mellon founded an organization in 2009 called the Hard Places Community that quickly found itself working full time against the child sex industry in the Southeast Asian country of Cambodia.
Yes, child sex trafficking is exactly what it sounds like. In the 2000's if you were to dive into the back pages of the internet looking to sexually exploit a very young child for money then you would likely be directed to Cambodia. As a country torn by civil war in the late 1970's, Cambodia has never quite recovered. During the war, Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge took over the country, evacuated the cities, and murdered 1/3 of the population in one of the world's worst genocides.
The years since have been marked by the need to rebuild and survive in the face of devastating tragedy. This is when prostitution and sex trafficking really took hold and began to grow.
The Hard Places Community came to Cambodia looking to serve other organizations in whatever way we could and in 2011 we began our first center for sexually exploited children. We have since grown to multiple centers across 2 cities that work with children, adult men, and conduct other projects that seek to both prevent sex trafficking, but to also restore those who have already been abused.
We employ over 30 Cambodian nationals who work as social workers, counselors, teachers, and outreach leaders. At our centers we take a holistic approach as we treat our children's minds, bodies, and souls through various programs from computer and English class, to our school of worship where children learn an instrument and how to lead, to our soccer ministry where kids get to be a part of a team and learn to work well with others. We also have the difficult task of walking children who have been abused through legal proceedings, including being their advocate in court cases against their abusers.
I wanted to let you know how you can be a part of saying no to sex trafficking by attending a fundraiser that we have coming up at Hal & Mal's on November 30th called Dine Against Darkness . It is a meal that is served in the dark to highlight the darkness of the sex industry we work against. It is an awkward, weird, and hilariously unique experience that you get to participate in. Not being able to see what you are eating (it's a nice meal provided by Hal & Mal's - don't think Fear Factor) forces you to rely on other senses other than your sense of sight.
The event starts in Hal & Mal's Red Room at 6:30 with a silent auction, 50/50 drawing, and music by Tommy Bryan Ledford. At about 7:15 the guests will move into the dark room for the meal. During the dinner we will have a live artist doing a painting, Hard Places Executive Director Alli Mellon will speak along with our Lead Social Worker Panha Yin who will tell some stories of past and ongoing cases and introduce a new video of our work.
You can get ticket information at the link below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out our new video series about the event below. We hope that you'll join us on November 30th and be a part of a brighter future.
Dine Against Darkness Jackson, MS - Tickets and Info