Creating the Tassa Tags at the Regina Center

Do any of you intrepid Reality Tours travelers need a new luggage tag? If so we strongly recommend you purchase a Tassa Tag. Here’s why:

TassaTag is a special luggage tag that helps you claim your luggage more easily and is a visible voice against child sex tourism for the travel industry.

Tassa Tag is a project of ECPAT-USA and stands for Travelers Take Action Against Sex Slavery and Trafficking. TassaTags are big, bright  4”x6” hand-woven cotton, fair-trade luggage tags.

The TassaTag project raises funds (in the US) for the following purposes:

  • To train people in the Travel Industry to take an active role against sex tourism.
  • To Inform the public that sex with children is against the law everywhere, and if caught the person will be prosecuted and extradited to their home country, if necessary.
  • To mobilize congress against child sex tourism

Five colorful TassaTags

While the mission is compelling enough today it is the motivation behind the tags and the personal passion of  the founder of the project, Brenda Hepler that we wanted to share with you.

When asked what motivated the her to get involved Brenda states:

“ The horror of a child being a sex slave was so horrendous to me, I could not turn away.  So I created the TassaTag, was led to the Regina Center where the women perfected the prototype, and then gave them to ECPAT-USA where I continue to volunteer as the director of the TassaTag Project.”

TassaTags provide work with dignity for women at the Regina Center in Nongkai, Thailand and funds the pre-schooling for their children.

At Global Exchange we know the power of Fair Trade and advocacy. When you support Tassa Tag you support ECPAT-USA’s work to raise awareness of the sexual exploitation of children in the travel industry and the community they employ in Nongkai.


  • Become a visible voice against the sexual trafficking of children while finding your bags easily by picking up a TassaTag of your own;
  • Learn more about efforts to combat human trafficking on an advocacy Reality Tour!

Yesterday I shared with you some of the background on our Reality Tours trips to Uganda. Today in Part 2 of this two-part series, you’ll read my firsthand account of traveling on a Reality Tours trip to Uganda:

Follow along on a Reality Tours trip to Uganda

Arriving into Kampala I recall the delightful heat of the air. I had to wait in line to purchase my visa and was behind a group of missionaries from the US who were eager and complaining about the slow speed of our processing. I felt awkward about one of the gentleman’s statements about bringing God to “these people” and decided not to engage in a discussion about salvation and religion at that moment. Instead, I pondered about what I was about to experience,  and the stereotypes I brought with me.

After arriving at the airport I was met by one of the hotel staff and was whisked away into the night for a long drive to the hotel. There I met up with some fellow trip participants, a group of free spirited students from Suffolk University. We sat and talked about our first day in Uganda. These young women knew the issues and were really excited and nervous to meet with youth from Sister Rosemary’s Girl’s Tailoring project the next day.

Over the course of the next week and a half we met with many individuals and organizations that are committed to rebuilding their communities and lives. We met with folks who work to rehabilitate and provide psychological support services to children who are former “child soldiers” and “bush brides”.

Here are highlights from some a of the many amazing stories that came out of this inspiring trip to Uganda:

Meeting with “Child Mothers”: Picture a large living room shared by about two dozen North Americans and two dozen Ugandans. We had invited two women from some of the groups  working with the child soldiers in Gulu and Lara to travel to Kampala to meet with our group, share their stories and exchange. What a fabulous encounter this was.

First we met with Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe who is the Director of the St. Monica’s Girls Tailoring School located next to a refugee camp in Gulu, Uganda. Her school works with ‘child mothers’ -a term Ugandans use to describe women ages 12 to 18 who were abducted child soldiers.

During our visit, the young women shared personal stories of abduction and rape by their captors, their struggles to survive and their hopes for their future and for those with children, their families’ future.

The next day we were joined by Lina Zedriga (who now runs  the Trauma Healing And Reflection Centre-Gulu or THRACE-GULU) and heard similar but unique experiences shared by the youth under her care. Lina is a lawyer and magistrate who has tirelessly advocated for women, peace and security. We all listened silently to story after story told by the courageous young people, each of us connecting to the stories, some of us with tears, some of us with clenched arms, and others feverishly taking notes.

This was quite a moment for many of us, including the children who were able to listen and share with each other their stories of struggle. For many this was their first visit to the capital. As one of Lina’s girls spoke, she had to stop and gather herself to resume her story. Her strength was admirable.

As the exchange ended, we dispersed after hugs and thank you’s, ready to break for a spell before dinner. Some of the youth went off to play soccer. Over dinner our group processed and discussed, but also shared moments of laughter, a choir of voices, all of us mingling, talking, and sharing. I closed my eyes and listened to giggles and heard people talking about music and the best places to dance. Plans were made for groups to go out and enjoy some local night life.

Friendships had been made. I wrote in my journal that night a rhetorical question:

How can one so young, so innocent, see so much brutality, endure so much pain, inflict pain on others still find the internal reserve to live, laugh, heal and dance?”

I left Uganda imprinted with the faces of the children I met, remembering the image of one of them carrying a 25 kilo sack of sugar on her head into the bush, starting off on her hours-long trek. This travel experience left me with an amplified respect for the tenacity of the human spirit and with a broader understanding about our human capacity to endure, feeling compelled to hear truth, unconditionally love and take a stand.

Join Us on an Upcoming Reality Tours Trip to Uganda! Learn more  by joining us in Uganda this year. Visit our website for all you need to know about upcoming trips to Uganda.

Watch this great series! Check out  Bridge the Gap’s Uganda Series, a wonderful web-based TV program that highlights some wonderful transformational stories, including linking Uganda and community development to the importance of Fair Trade (through bees!)  Here’s a spot on Bridge the Gap about Global Exchange:

2011: Global Exchange: join the network for people’s globalization! from Global Exchange on Vimeo.

Prof. Judy Dushku with Ugandan Children, Suffolk University Delegation to Uganda

This is Part 1 in a 2 part series about Global Exchange Reality Tours trips to Uganda. 

History of Global Exchange Reality Tours Trips to Uganda: For decades many of us here at Global Exchange talked about adding more trips to Africa to our list of destinations. Given our  commitment to social justice advocacy, citizen diplomacy and socially responsible tourism surely there are dozens of African countries where folks would want to meet the people, learn the facts, make a difference.

It wasn’t until 2008 when we started seriously considering creating our educational human rights journeys to Uganda, just two years after we began working in partnership with the abolitionist organization Not For Sale.

As a human rights organization, we partner with like-minded organizations to educate groups of individuals who travel abroad to learn about the root causes of human trafficking and to inspire and mobilize participants into the international abolitionist movement.

After organizing delegations to many other countries to explore the issues of smuggling and trafficking of human beings for slave labor and sex slavery, we recognized the importance of examining what has been happening for decades in Uganda with the mass abduction of children into armed conflict.

Learning About Uganda:

Visiting the IDP Camps in Gulu, Uganda 2009.

I started reading about “child soldiers” and about the political struggles in Uganda and what led to the birth of the LRA (the Lord’s Resistance Army). Established in 1987 the LRA engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government in what is now one of Africa’s infamous conflicts.

I visited Uganda and got the chance to visit one of the IDP camps (for internally displaced peoples). We drove by one of the old haunting spots of the LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, and I could not help but feel the immediacy of this place and the astonishment and fear that many must hold in their hearts for their leader.

Reality Tours Trips to Uganda Began:

Eventually we decided to develop a reality tour trip that would examine not only the beauty and biodiversity of Uganda, but also investigate the legacy of conflict and the last remaining active rebel group, the LRA.

The LRA is accused of widespread human rights violations, including murder, abduction, mutilation, sexual enslavement of women and children, and forcing children to participate in hostilities and incursions. LRA fighters have achieved a sad notoriety by turning on the Acholis people they claimed to represent, hacking off lips, ears and noses, killing thousands and abducting more than 20,000 civilians, mostly children.

The conflict continues to have devastating effects on the Ugandan people, Museveni’s political legitimacy, and countries in the region that have experienced increased strain due to the flow of irredentist populations. The need for people to learn from the stories of communities in Uganda that have been affected themselves compelled us to offer a series of delegations in the summer of 2009 called Human Trafficking in Africa and Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Trafficked Girls and Boys coerced into being Child Soldiers in Uganda.

That’s it for Part 1 of this 2 part series about our Reality Tours trip to Uganda. Tomorrow in Part 2 on our Reality Tours blog, I’ll share with you some of my memories and pictures of the Reality Tours trip to Uganda that I participated in. 

Join Us on an Upcoming Reality Tours Trip to Uganda! Learn more  by joining us in Uganda this year. Please also check out  Bridge the Gap’s Uganda Series. A wonderful web based tv program that highlights some wonderful transformational stories, including linking Uganda and community development to the importance of Fair Trade.  In fact, check out the Global Exchange spot live today!


picture by Malia Everette

Boreth Sun's visit to Global Exchange in San Francisco, California

This is the second in a two-part interview by Global Exchange Reality Tours Intern Sue Sullivan with our Cambodia and Thailand program officer, Boreth Sun. Follow along to discover what it means to be an in-country representative of Reality Tours and our partnering organization Not For Sale.

This past October, Reality Tours’ in-country program officer for Cambodia and Thailand, Boreth Sun traveled to the Bay Area to speak at the 2011 Global Forum on Human Trafficking.

Reality Tours has been honored to work and partner with Boreth since 2007 and we took advantage of his visit to show him the office and take him for a brief tour of San Francisco…after all, a few of us here at Reality Tours have traveled with him throughout his beautiful country.  We also had the opportunity to interview him about his experiences working with us and facilitating Reality Tours.

Boreth’s perspective is informative, compelling and inspiring. Learn more about what it means to be an in-country partner and why it is important for the international community to visit and learn first-hand about life in South East Asia in the second in this two part blog.

Sue: What has your experience been as an In-Country Program Officer in Cambodia?

Boreth: It has been a learning experience for me because I have had a chance to meet with a lot of people from the US and elsewhere through Reality Tours. I take it for granted that everyone should know about these issues; about community issues, human rights issues, human trafficking, poverty, the community struggle for people to improve their livelihood, to manage their own resources, about the big fight against corporations coming to take over their land, I thought people should familiar with all these issues, but Reality Tours, you realize that through people coming in that sometimes, its their first time they are seeing things and looking at things from a different perspective. For me it has also been good to help show people, link people and promote cultural change, a change of mindset to look at things from different perspective. It really is rewarding for me that some of these participants, from the delegation Reality Tours, the Reality Tours have changed their life, it has changed their career, and they’ve become more socially aware and conscious. They even started working to promote social issues; to begin to look at issues far away form their community, far away from their homes. What they’re doing in the US can have big impacts elsewhere in the world. So for me, it’s rewarding to see that. Some of the people who participated on the tour also went back to Asia, went back to Thailand, went back to Cambodia and they are providing some support to local NGOs. Its not that they just went back and offered support, they went back, they learned more and then they give more and they can become sort of an agent of change, promoting, spreading news of what is happening elsewhere in the world that some people sometimes take it for granted.

USF Cambodia Customized Reality Tour 2007

Sue: What are some of the most impactful moments you have witnessed while facilitating GX Reality Tours?

Boreth: Some of the most impactful moments were when the first time I showed people around, some students from the University of San Francisco, they were young, energetic, willing to learn and experience new things, we took them to a dump site where they see lots of people and kids as old as two years old up to teenagers scavenging for whatever in the dump site they could make a few dollars and also make their living.  I think at that moment, in the students you could see the mind shift and how people react to these types of issues. Some of the students have come back and start working for Not for Sale Campaign to promote children’s rights, basic rights of people who don’t have access to education and school… I think that’s what gets me see that we can make a difference. A visit like that can make a difference. A visit like that can help people change because nothing is more powerful than going to experience things, see things and then doing things afterwards. Its not just organizing a trip for people to learn, to see to experience, but to actually transition people into taking some action and doing what they believe is right. I think that’s what gets me going and why I’ve been doing work with Global Exchange since 2007 and I’m still doing it now.

Sue: What are the most compelling issues that Global Exchange members and travelers should learn about?

Devotion at Ankor Wat, Reality Tours Delegation August 2010

Boreth: You see, a lot of people in the US, they know about Cambodia mostly for the killing fields. They know about the Vietnam War, they know about the genocide in Cambodia, the killing fields in Cambodia and Angkor Wat, one of the oldest temples in Cambodia. But there’s more to it than that. The most compelling issue in Cambodia is mostly looking at poverty. After many years of war, poverty is the biggest issue. People are desperate, the majority of people are still poor, and that’s why they’re vulnerable to be trafficked; to be bought, sold and traded into different entertainment industries of the world. So those are the most compelling issues. But we should not focus on the symptom or the survival of the issue, we need to address the grassroots of the issue, which is poverty and food securities. Right now because of climate change, you look at Southeast Asia, you know Thailand and Cambodia; Cambodia is underwater now. People are going to loose their crop, their pig, their chicken, their duck, everything, their livestock. So the people are being affected by the climate change, by this flood and this pushes them further and further into poverty. So people become so desperate, they will do anything to survive. I think another big issue in Cambodia is environmental degradation. A lot of corporation companies from around the world, mostly Chinese are going there to destroy a lot of Cambodian resources. Deforestation is big, land concession is big, they take away people’s land and give the right to the corporation to grow different crops soybeans muang beans as part of the corporations trying to make big money. Also minerals, they extract minerals from the ground and again they are destroying the resources. In the future, in Cambodia, I think the biggest compelling issue, the biggest challenging issue will be environmental degradation because it impacts food security and people’s livelihoods, and destroys the social fabric, the social structure of community villages throughout the country. That’s going to be the biggest challenge. You can see that’s what’s happening now. The flooding is just the beginning of what’s to come I think.

Sue: Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your experiences as a Global Exchange in-country program officer?

The Power of Recycling and Reclaiming- A visit to a dump and meeting with SCARO, a Cambodian NGO working with garbage collectors.

Boreth: What I just want to say is that I think what Reality Tours and Global Exchange are doing in Cambodia and Thailand is great. I think we become a bridge between the West and the East and Asia. I think we build a bridge for change. We exchange information, we exchange experiences, we exchange skills, the know how, the technologies. We are connecting the world and I think this is great work that Global Exchange is doing. And linking with the institutions such as NFS and the socially responsible NGOs and enterprises. We are helping build the bridges. In doing this, we become some sort of agent of humanities and change. When we do this, we can build the world to be a better and more peaceful place for everybody, not just the rich and powerful.

Past Cambodia Reality Tour trip participant Photo by: Tammy Gustafson

Special thanks to Sue Sullivan, Reality Tours’ intern for conducting this interview with Boreth.

Take Action!

Find out about how you can travel to Cambodia and Thailand on a Global Exchange Reality Tour.


Photo Credit: Tammy Gustafson

Accurate statistics are difficult to compile, but it is believed that between 600,00 and 800,000 human beings are trafficked across international borders each year, 80% of them women and children. It is estimated that approximately $9 billion dollars in profits are generated annually through slavery and trafficking, placing the trade in human trafficking in the top three most profitable criminal enterprises along with the drugs and arms trades.

The numbers are staggering, and actually confronting them and the shattered lives they represent can be an overwhelming prospect. Yet we are not powerless in the face of this monstrous industry, and the first step towards bringing it to a halt is education. That’s why the Not for Sale Campaign and Global Exchange Reality Tours together facilitate delegations to Thailand, Cambodia and other countries.

What are these trips all about?

A Not For Sale & Global Exchange trip (called “Delegation on Human Trafficking”) enables participants to understand the causes of human trafficking, meet with those who have been freed out of slavery, learn what it means to build a life as a survivor, and engage with those who are fighting human trafficking on the front lines. These educational trips are geared specifically to confronting the realities of the global trade in human beings.

Not for Sale is giving away a free trip!

Thanks to Not for Sale, those who register for the upcoming Global Forum on Human Trafficking will be entered for a chance to win a FREE trip to a Not For Sale International Project of their choice. You get the airfare, they get everything else (value up to $2300)

Register for what? For a chance to win whaaaaaat?!

  • Register for the Global Forum on Human Trafficking (hashtag #globalforum) happening Oct. 21-22 in Sunnyvale, CA, which is a gathering of people from all walks of life- from business leaders, people of faith, students, athletes, law enforcement and others brought together under one roof  to learn and explore different models being deployed to mobilize individuals to combat trafficking;
  • For a chance to win an (almost) all-expense-paid Immersion Trip/Reality Tour Trip to a Not For Sale International Project of your choice. *Almost means Not For Sale will pay for all program costs including all in-country costs. Winner will be responsible for round trip airfare to and from trip location.

Global Exchange’s Chie Abad will be speaking at the Global Forum on Human Trafficking.

For more about this upcoming event, here’s David Batstone, President and Co-founder of Not For Sale:

Global Forum 2011 – David Batstone Promo from Not For Sale Campaign on Vimeo.

Ready to Register for the Global Forum on Human Trafficking?

If you’re planning to register for the Global Forum on Human Trafficking, do it soon for your chance to win your FREE trip.  Not For Sale will randomly select the one lucky person who registers during the month of August to win the trip. The *Big Winner* will be determined the first week of September 2011.

It just keeps getting better!
When you register for the Global Forum on Human Trafficking, use the discount code “GXNFS” to receive 10% off your registration.

Good luck to all of you planning to register for the Global Forum on Human Trafficking. There’s a trip of a lifetime in it for one of you lucky attendees!

On Tue May 31st Chie Abad will be speaking at the Not For Sale Academy Facility located at 301 Lyon Street in San Francisco, CA.

Carmencita Chie Abad will speak from personal experience about hardships endured by millions of workers in sweatshops around the world. She spent 6 years as a garment worker on the Pacific Island of Saipan- a U.S. territory. She endured wretched conditions, frequently working 14 hours shift in order to meet arbitrary production quotas for her employer SAKO Corporation which makes clothes for the GAP and other U.S. clothing retailers and subcontractors in which in Saipan they use the Made in the USA label.

When she tried to organize a union, she met by forced resistance from the management & eventually lost my job. Now, she live in the U.S. and working for Global Exchange where she educate Americans about the inhumane factory conditions occurring worldwide including on U.S. soil. She was instrumental in forcing 26 major U.S. clothing retailers and subcontractors to settle the class action suit for $20 Million Dollars to improve the conditions in Saipan.

Chie’s story was an inspiring example of how people can win if they stand up for their rights and the leadership she offered from years of organizing with the anti-sweatshop movement.

For more information contact:
Not For Sale Academy
562 260 1154

To find out about all of Chie Abad’s speaking engagements:
Visit her speaking engagement page

This past June, Reality Tour participant, Amy Murray went to  Peru on the Not For Sale Advocacy Delegation on Human Trafficking. Read on as she shares her experience with us.

I am a graduate student, and, as a requirement for my school, I had to do a cultural immersion.The immersion required me to spend75 hours outside of my own culture. I decided to use this requirement as something helpful for my personal growth and something that would help me learn more about the issue of human trafficking. The last time I had been out of the country was 10 years ago. My passport had just expired, but I decided to renew it and go on an adventure.

In my search for the perfect opportunity, I found the link for immersion trips through the Not for Sale Campaign’s website. Each of the offerings sounded like an excellent opportunity to learn more about a different culture. The Peru immersion experience seemed to offer an in-depth look into the Peruvian culture, as well as some tourism such as: the economic, governmental, and social realities. The main focus of the trip was on the human trafficking issue, which is an issue I have been passionate about for some time. Our group met Lucy Borja, the founder of Generacion, who was such an inspiration in how she loves the “unwanted.” We also met some of the kids from the streets who were so welcoming. It was overwhelming to walk into a small house and see a large group of smiling kids, singing and dancing. They greeted us one by one with a hug or kiss. We learned some of the troubles street kids face daily. They are treated poorly by the government and the Peruvian citizens because of their status. The Peruvian government outwardly and openly demonstrates their distaste for the street kids viewing them as a nuisance. We met one girl who stood outside our van and asked us to take her to the states with us. Much of the trip was emotionally overwhelming because of the hardships the kids face.

My adventure started as soon as I sent in my application to Global Exchange. To prepare for such an extensive trip was something I’ve never done before. I haven’t gone out of the country in so long that I needed a lot of help getting ready. I heard from many different people their thoughts on booking flights and what I should pack. I think packing may have been the most difficult part of the pre-traveling process. I tried to pack light, but I had so many “just in case” items that I felt I was packing way too much. Meanwhile, my friends thought I wasn’t packing enough. I read reviews online about traveling specifically to Peru. I got some vaccinations and finally, after months of planning, I was on my way to Lima, Peru.

Before setting foot in Peru, I realized an immediate difference in culture beyond my own preconceptions. On the plane I met a man from Peru who was trying to teach me Spanish during our 6 hour flight. When we got off the plane, there was a woman who yelled something in Spanish. The man looked at me and asked if I knew what the woman said. When I said no, he just smiled and walked off. I still have no idea what that woman said.

Throughout the next ten days I became immersed in a culture that I knew little about. I not only learned about the many cultures and subcultures of Peru, but more about other parts of the US. My traveling companions were four people from different parts of the US.

I think the biggest culture difference was the diversity from one town to the next. One day I ate potatoes and cheese in a small kitchen in an adobe hut, and the next day I was sitting in one of the best restaurants in Lima eating, well, different potatoes I guess. One constant was that Peru has many kinds of potatoes, and, rich or poor, everyone eats potatoes. That didn’t concern me at all. I am predominately Irish, so potatoes are a staple in my diet.

Most of the trip I was in overwhelmed emotionally. Sights and sounds were different than I had ever experienced and it was sometimes hard to focus during group discussions and meetings. The language barrier got to me eventually. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t seem to ask a question without making hand gestures and limiting everything I could in the 10 or so Spanish words I knew. As soon as I stepped off the plane in the US I smiled because I was immediately greeted with a “hello,” instead of “hola.” It was comforting to be able to speak in my native language. I had never realized how much power there is in language. In the midst of this trip, I realized how incredibly hard it must be to immigrate to a new country. I had a group around me that did know my language, so that I could ask questions if need be. I don’t know what I would do if I was completely alone. Some things that seem simple, such as getting a cab, ordering food, or buying merchandise are completely different in another country. In Peru when I wanted to go to town in a cab, I was told that I should pay no more than 3 soles, if I wasn’t told that I’m sure that I could have paid more than 10 sole without knowing any better.

I have tried to gather cultural differences and things I learned into something concise, but haven’t been able to. I have actually been learning more since I’ve come home. I did find out that because I was in Peru for 10 days- 10 days longer than many of the people I know- I have become the “expert” on the country to people I talk to.  I am far from being an expert. I have had one trip and I feel that there is so much more to learn. From what I did learn, I am questioning if I am even an expert on American culture. It is so easy to generalize people for what you think they should be from what you heard, but until you experience the culture or subculture for yourself, you are not truly informed.

Because of this experience, I have been able to educate others about the realities of Peru. I gave a presentation to my class about everything I learned culturally. I also presented to the Western Washington Coalition Against Human Trafficking. I have shared my experience with everyone I know because people are fascinated with other countries and cultures that they don’t know. It is an easy way for me to lead people to discuss the trafficking issue in the US. Most people are shocked to find out that trafficking does happen in the US. The same thing that is happening in other countries is happening in our own country. I understand the issue more because of my first hand experience in Peru. I also was shown a way that the victims are being helped. Lucy is being proactive by spending time with the girls while they are prostitutes, so that they can find a way out before they are fully immersed into modern day slavery, or while they still have the freedom to walk away from it. I have come back to the US with new understanding of what is happening in our country. Since it’s not widely understood in our country that trafficking happens within the US, it is hard to find a solution to an already too big problem. Most of the time that could be spent on finding a way to help is spent on educating others that it really does happen.

I met some amazing people on my trip: heroines in the fight against Human Trafficking, people who are helping others by their willingness to be available to help, and our US team who is now more aware of Peru’s reality. Everyone who has acknowledged this issue as one that is actually happening, a human rights issue, and is doing something to help fight it is a hero. It doesn’t take much to become an advocate; by just speaking up against trafficking is helpful to the fight. People cannot be expected to change when they don’t know there is a problem.

I have always been a compassionate person, if anything, this trip has helped me become even more compassionate. I am pursuing my masters in counseling psychology, so naturally, I like helping people. I am curious how people handle joys and trials in life. I am so glad that I went on this trip to expand my knowledge and cross cultures. There is nothing more eye opening than to experience the “unknown;” in other words, to get out of your comfort zone. Even traveling within our own country is an eye opening experience. I encourage everyone to leave their comfort zones and travel; it is always an adventure whether you love the country you visit, or decide it’s not for you.

Amy Murray is a graduate student at Northwest University pursuing a MA in Counseling Psychology. She is actively involved in the fight against human trafficking and serves in several different places such as, the Not for Sale Campaign and the Western Washington Coalition Against Human Trafficking. In her spare time, Amy likes to work on art projects, run, and play tennis.

Where you stand determines what you see…

In May of 2009, Erasmus Community students from the University of San Francisco went on a Customized Reality Tour to Uganda to learn about human trafficking with the Not For Sale Campaign.

During the delegation, the students met with various groups and organizations dealing with human rights, human trafficking, youth groups, met IDP camps, and more. The experiences and meetings were captured on film to originally just document the students’ travels, but then emerged into a documentary called ‘Ugandan Days‘ by Erika Myszynski. A synopsis of the film:

Initially created to document USF’s Erasmus Community students’ travels to Uganda, the trip became more than just an immersion, observation and social analysis of the Ugandan people. In researching child soldiery in war-torn Gulu (northern Uganda), many of us had been surprised to witness a world quite different from what we had read. Instead, we found a peaceful and progressive nation. The documentary reveals a people little scarred by their past struggles and Joseph Kony’s 23-year long war against order. Ugandan Days exposes how the war victims’ underlying pains are transformed into a humbling determination to improve the current situation. A message from Ugandans to Americans: Africa is not such a dark place. It is a place filled with  strength, community, resilience, and joy because of an undying hope to forgive and to survive.

Ugandan Days, a Documentary from Global Exchange on Vimeo.

A few words about the film from director, Erika Myszynski:

My documentary focuses on forgiveness and recovery—thus a major reason why Ugandans are still welcoming of foreigners and open to an understanding of our intentions. Social change or global improvement can only exist if people forgive one another and open their hearts, originating from faith in God and faith in community, which Ugandans embrace unconditionally. Fascinated by the Ugandan perspective on recovery, the video served as an inquiry for me into their faith and religion, both of which I discovered worked as their adhesive to keep their country unified and towards their hope for a better future. The Ugandans whom I met entrusted me with their stories and belief that I will share their truths as a plea to all Americans.

Watch the video and see and hear the stories of the people of Uganda through their own words.

Learn more about our Reality Tours delegations to Uganda or find out about our Customized Tours.

Since returning two weeks ago from the Reality Tour to Peru, scores of friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances have asked me, “So how was your trip?” and for the first time ever upon returning from a vacation, I stumbled over the answer. “Great” or “we had a wonderful time” certainly did not describe the experience, nor could any other short, polite answer adequately describe a trip where we spent a majority of our time gaining an understanding of the issues of human trafficking. So after two weeks of contemplation, how would I summarize the trip? I think I have narrowed it down to three words- breathtaking, overwhelming and hopeful– each of which needs further elaboration.

While tourism and sightseeing were not the primary purpose of the tour, we did have time to visit some of the major Peruvian tourist sites- Lima, the Incan capital of Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Visiting Machu Picchu has long been a dream of mine and while I have seen hundreds of pictures of the site, nothing prepared me for the actual experience. Like experiencing the temples at Angkor Wat, the Cathedral of Notre Dame or Niagra Falls for the first time, pictures just do not prepare you for its scale and sheer beauty.  So, as I stood on the top of the ridge at 7am as the sun rose over the Andes and illuminated the slopes of Huayna Picchu and the ruins lying below it, I could just stare in wonder and try to catch my breath- both literally and figuratively.

But, back to why we were really in Peru. The issue of human tracking is a problem that plagues us on a global basis, and Peru is certainly no exception. A 2006 report by Anti-Slavery International identified three primary trafficking issues in Peru:  domestic labor; sexual exploitation of women and children; and forced labor (primarily, in mines in the Amazon basis).

Visit the Not For Sale Campaign Website to learn more

Our on ground coordinator, Lucy Borja, is a modern day abolitionist who has fought for the rights of Peruvian street children throughout her life and provides social services and support to children through her organization, Generación (more about Generación later). Lucy provided us with her perspectives local trafficking issues, arranged for meetings for us with various other NGOs dealing with the issue, and took us to the streets of Lima one night where we were able to meet and talk to some of the girls (some as young as 13) who were caught in a life of prostitution, some forced there by pimps, others by boyfriends and others by family members.

As I listened to the stories of these girls and reflected on all we had learned, I became overwhelmed by both the sheer scope of the trafficking issue as well at its personal impact on the individuals that are caught in its grips. How can we effectively address an issue that is so vast in scope, yet also so personal?

Well, Lucy had an answer for that, as well. She shared with us what she and other likeminded individuals and organizations in Peru were doing to deal with both the victims of trafficking and their efforts at prevention. In Cusco, we met with organizations that are focused on community development in an attempt to relieve poverty in rural areas. Poverty is the issue that puts people at the most risk of traffickers as they look for a better life in the cities or work in the mines, only to find themselves caught in the grips of slavery. We also met with representatives of Yanapanakusun which provides a safe house for girls that are victims of domestic slavery, and sponsors education programs in the countryside to try to keep girls in school and out of domestic work. And in Lima, we were able to visit Lucy’s work at Generación.

Generación operates a home that currently houses approximately 18 children that formerly lived on the streets of Lima. At the Generación house, the children receive all the support they need to build their lives-a safe place to sleep, food, clothing, access to education, and most importantly, love and support. Generación also operates Veronica’s House, which is a safe house for at-risk women and children that had been forced into prostitution, and provides vocational training so that the victims can learn skills that will allow them to find work off the streets. The day we spent at each of these locations filled me with hope that, while we may never be able to eradicate trafficking, there are things we can do and organizations that we can support that are making a difference in the areas of prevention, rescue and healing.