“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31:8.
Throughout 127 different countries, nearly 2.5 million people are sold for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor. Out of that, about 1.5 million of those are children, some as young as four years.
Chandler Jones ‘17, a freshman this year at Houghton College, learned of these facts through a movie called Baat. The faces on the screen were of young girls and boys who have been rescued. There was a fear still lurking behind round eyes; memories that the children couldn’t seem to escape, but there was hope in their future. Being an older sister, Chandler was able to imagine herself with the fear of never seeing her little sister again, of never knowing if her sister was alive or dead.
The movie was sponsored by an organization called Rapha House, whose goal is to love, rescue, and heal children from human trafficking. Chandler didn’t want to turn away, nor forget about the faces that she saw in that movie. Instead she chose to take action.
Still in high school at the time, and doing what she knew best, she organized a fundraiser. It was a dance filled with music, crunchy food, fizzy drinks and colorful lights. Chandler’s event raised $1,000 as well as awareness in her hometown about human trafficking. But she did not feel that was enough.
Still wanting to do more, Chandler set off to Cambodia on a mission’s trip to meet some of the little girls and boys like those at Rapha House. She felt a calling to live her life with those who were rescued, to be able to hear their stories and do something to help with the healing that was so desperately needed. The first place that she arrived in was Phnom, Penh, the capital, where she was ushered off to a Kids Club.
There were small children, homeless, who were just off the street. They were ones whom in the movie, the Rapha House was trying to prevent from becoming targets. The poor, the homeless, the starving; those are the ones that are most susceptible to being forced into sex slavery. At Kids Club, food and shelter were provided, and most importantly a place where the children could be safe.
She went to the main compound where she met those who had been rescued. Young girls and boys who, even though they had physical and emotional damage, some with seizures or blindness caused from their abuser, sang songs, laughed and danced as they wore traditional Khmer dresses. Bright, colorful clothing with fabric flowers and butterflies sewn into the design. Shocked by their happiness, Chandler observed the way these children loved Jesus. How they refused to wallow in the sadness of their circumstances but rather embraced the joy that came from the love of Christ.
Chandler helped where she could, but she still felt the Holy Spirit tugging on her heart to make a bigger impact. Wanting to know what she could do, Chandler approached her team leader in Cambodia and he told her to pursue a law degree. That fighting the laws that enable the slave trade would be most impactful. But to Chandler, being a lawyer and arguing wasn’t what she felt was her life calling.
When her trip ended, she came home with more passion and motivation than ever. With tears in her eyes she pleaded with her father, wishing to know what else she could do. “You can do more than just argue,” commented her father.
With this advice, Chandler has come to Houghton, majoring in international development and communication so that she may be able to fulfill her passion and help change the laws that enable sex slavery. Chandler wishes to help set these children free, to make it so that every child has a chance at a good life. To have freedoms the way her sister does; to be “out of harm’s way.”