A young woman is dropped off at a bus stop in Kathmandu with her friend. They eagerly await their big adventure having spent most of their lives in remote, dusty, rural Nepal. India is their destination. It’s where fortunes are to be found and they’ve been promised steady work and a good hostel at the other end. The bus shudders into life and pulls away from the bustling station. A skinny man takes up a seat next to them. He glances across but doesn’t say anything—he just glares at them. It’s odd, he seems to know who they are, but his face is expressionless. They will soon learn he is their transport handler.  

This story is sadly far too common. Thousands of poor Nepali woman fall prey to human traffickers ever year. They think they are en route to a decent job, only to find they have been trafficked into India’s sex trade. ​


Maya-(2).jpgMaya, the woman in the story. 

This story has a happy ending. It’s about one of the young women Tearfund has assisted, trafficked many years ago. She escaped and returned to Nepal and has become a force to be reckoned with in her local community. She now educates young woman, like she once was, ensuring they don’t fall into the same trap. 

Tearfund’s partner, Share and Care, works with her and other previously trafficked women, to prevent further exploitation in Nepal. They bring village women and girls together in support groups that provide education and help develop their livelihoods.

They tackle the ignorance and the poverty that drives the vulnerable into such blatant human exploitation. Their success rate in this work is staggering. Not a single woman or child has been trafficked from the villages where they operate their support groups. The community barrier they have built is simply impenetrable to traffickers. 

 If that’s the fence at the top of the cliff, the safety net halfway down is our partner LIFT International in Thailand. They have spent a decade working alongside local law enforcement in Thailand. Together, they help prosecute human traffickers to enable their victims to walk free. 


body-LIFT-(2).jpgA Lift International social worker.

Taking their combined impact with the Royal Thai Police, they have been highly effective, achieving a conviction every 10 days for six years in the Thai courts. Their impact is truly one of the most impressive success stories today in tackling modern slavery. 
 
 The best development stories are local ones and here the Thai’s have really stepped up in their efforts to stop the worst forms of criminal exploitation.  It’s a beautiful story of collaboration between our two countries. New Zealand has played a key role in LIFT’s success. We have excellent investigative expertise in the New Zealand police force. New Zealand standards and skills have been greatly appreciated by LIFT’s Thai partners as they tackle the problem together. Several New Zealand police officers have served stints in Thailand helping cement the outstanding partnership. We are also extremely grateful to our supporters who donate to the work we do, without this, LIFT’s success would not be possible. 
 
Sadly, their work is needed today more than ever before. Covid-19 may have frozen air travel to Thailand for those all too willing to harm children, but it has not stopped the trafficking and abuse. Abuse has shifted online instead where we have seen reports of a 30 to 200 per cent increase in online sexual exploitation in some countries. LIFT International’s investigators have changed course to tackle this head-on. They recently prosecuted a mother in Thailand and a man in Europe, who had met in a chat room. The mother sold sexual images of her six-year-old daughter and they were preparing to exploit her physically when he could fly to Thailand. It’s a sad and shocking story. As we have seen, unchecked poverty and deprivation will drive people to make appalling choices, and we must act to safeguard children.   
 
 How about the ambulance at the base of the cliff? Some have to rebuild their lives after they escape the clutches of traffickers and abusers. Hagar in Cambodia and Homes of Hope in Fiji, provide a journey back to wholeness for survivors. It’s often a long process, and the communities they return to can either be supportive or judgemental. Our partners provide love, live-in-care where required, and community-based rehabilitation, as survivors address the trauma and move forward in life. 


body-homes-of-hope-(1).jpgHomes of Hope team with Tearfund staff in Fiji. 
 
Our friend in Nepal is a living testament to what can be achieved with good help, and the passage of time. She has daughters of her own who are now strong independent young women, who will more than likely never have to defend themselves against traffickers. They are well educated, have wonderful support around them and have a mother who has turned the darkest of experiences in her life into a force for good in their lives. The chain of exploitation can be broken, family by family, child by child, one by one. 
 
Tearfund is focusing on the ONE this Christmas. Just as the shepherd in Luke’s gospel leaves his flock to search for that one lost sheep, we are called to care for the ONE. We rejoice in the salvation of every child of God brought out of misery or protected through the diligent work of their community. You can participate in that campaign and learn more here. 

Will you join me this Christmas in bringing life and security to ONE of God’s precious children?  

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