Louisville Rotary's 5K on April 20 to raise proceeds for a cause 1000s of miles away in Cambodia
This year's Rotary 5K in Louisville will support a cause close to Abie Bailey's heart. This winter she traveled to Cambodia to visit Rapha House and visited with girls who are in danger of being sold into the sex trafficking trade in Southeast Asia. She visited Cambodia.
"The organization's sole mission is to help girls who are in danger of being victims to sex trafficking," Abie explained.
She explained that Rapha House doesn't rescue the girls from their dangerous situation but they protect them once they are rescued. When they arrive at Rapha House they teach them a skill (hair dressing is the one Abie is involved with) and try to provide them with as normal a life as possible. They not only provide education and vocational training, they provide the safety of a home, social work services, medical care, three square meals a day, their own bed, and counseling.
In the Freedom Stylist Program the girls learn a skill they can use to raise money to support their families.
"It's for girls for high risk of being used in sex trafficking," Abie noted. "They go to school during the day and when they get back home they learn how to do hair."
The girls are also taught to sew and Abie says the bags they make resemble those made by Vera Bradley. Some of those bags will also be on sale during the Louisville Rotary 5K.
Abie explained the city of Siem Reap where she visited is impoverished and very little for them to do to earn money to support their families. And she indicated the city is a huge tourist area.
"Rapha House teaches them a trade so they can go earn money for their families," she continued. "These sex traffickers target families. And it's the women who are responsible for going out to earn money for their families--not the men."
Abie says the men who come into the city to lure them into their sex trafficking trade trick them into cooperation. And the average age of the girls in the sex trafficking trade is 12. Girls as young as four have been found, however, in the trade.
"The girls are completely broken when they enter the program," Abie related.
One of the girls she visited with while at Rapha House had gone through the program. She was typical of the group targeted by sex traffickers. She was 14 and had no money. A friend told her about a man she knew and went into the city without her mom knowing. When the girls got into the vehicle with the man and drove three hours they found the job he promised them was not the job they were thinking it was.
And although the girls can end up in other countries; for the most part they stay where they're at, according to Abie.
"The biggest thing for me was the brokeness of the girls," Abie said about her visit to Cambodia and Southeast Asia. "Cambodians, overall, are the happiest people in the world."
She noted the girls, when coerced into sex trafficking, are so innocent.
"They believe in the promises and hopes," she related. "It's just so hard for me to wrap my head around."
For the most part, Cambodians are Buddhist, according to Abie.
"These men play into their religious beliefs," she noted. "They use and manipulate them to get them to comply. Their debt kees building up so they can never pay it off."
"We want everyone to know that Saturday's 5K can be a family event," Abie's sister-in-law Kelsey Bailey stated. "You can walk or run and bring kids in strollers. Families will already be out that day for the Easter Egg Hunt in Louisville."
After the 5K, the Louisville Rotary plans to have a balloon launch to celebrate the girls who have been rescued.
"We want people to know it's not only bad stuff going on," Kelsey explained. "There's some positive stuff, too."
Abie said she found out about Rapha House last summer during a CIY (Christ in Youth) Convention two years ago and felt that mission/project was something she could be interested in and support.
Rapha House is headquartered in Joplin, MO. They have been operating safe houses since 2003 and have a 90 percent success rate.
The safe houses vary in size. The one Abie visited had 64 girls. However, there is one safe house with more than 200 girls.
The organization is currently in the process of raising funds to build more safe houses and to expand to Haiti soon. Currently churches and corporations support Rapha House.
Abie Bailey is currently a hair stylist at the Hair Garage in Flora.
Registration for the Third Annual 5K Rotary Run/Walk will begin at 8:00 PM with the run/walk beginning at 9:00 (prior to the annual Easter Egg Hunt). For anyone who registers now through Saturday morning, the fee is $25.
Join the Louisville Rotary in raising your voices for Rapha House as they gather together on April 19 in Louisville in order to give these young women hope and freedom.