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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Non-profit is trying to end human trafficking




October 13, 2011 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- Twelve years ago, Lia Valero spent time working in Cambodia as a volunteer for the Peace Corps. What she saw there had a permanent impact. Now, she has started Stop Traffick, a non-profit organization to help stop human trafficking in Chicago and abroad. It's how she shows her "spirit of giving."

It is these faces of the children that keep Valero motivated. These children live in a Cambodian orphanage called Goutte D'eau. It specializes in rescuing children who were victims of human trafficking. One little girl lost her eye after an infection went untreated. She was then reportedly sold into a begging ring.

"I witnessed firsthand victims of human trafficking, and I didn't have any idea at the time what was going on and then later I put it together," said Valero.

Valero set out on a mission to help. Six years ago, she started Malia Designs, a fair trade company that sells purses and accessories made by women in Cambodia who were victims or are at risk of human trafficking. She then donates part of the profits back to the women's' groups.

"By providing a job, it effectively can trickle down to the children as well, so the children are less likely to become victims," said Valero.

Valero still wanted to do more. So she started Stop Traffick, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds to help victims in Southeast Asia as well as in Chicago.

This year, Valero has partnered with the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. That organization focuses on ending the demand for prostitution by educating the public and lobbying for laws that stiffen punishment for solicitors.

"Without people willing to buy commercial sex, there would be no commercial sexual exploitation," said Lynne Johnson, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. "We're trying to reduce the exploitation of human beings by holding the people who are doing it accountable and that's the same principal and logic that's applied whether we're talking about an international trafficking ring or a local pimp who is recruiting girls on the West Side."

Stop Traffick is hosting its third annual fundraiser on Saturday, October 22, at Intuit Gallery.  You can find ticket information at:

 stoptraffickbenefit.eventbrite.com.
www.gouttedeau.org
www.caase.org
www.maliadesigns.com
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Cambodia cancels festival as flood death toll rises

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday cancelled the nation's biggest annual festival as he announced that the death toll from the worst flooding in over a decade had risen to 247.
The funds needed to put on the popular Water Festival, due to take place in the capital from November 9 to 11, would be better spent helping the tens of thousands of families affected, he said.
"If we don't spend the state budget for the (festival) preparations in Phnom Penh... we can save some money to improve the living standards of our people and repair the damage," Hun Sen said in a televised speech.
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Cambodia cancels festival as flood death toll rises

PHNOM PENH — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday cancelled the nation's biggest annual festival as he announced that the death toll from the worst flooding in over a decade had risen to 247.

The funds needed to put on the popular Water Festival, due to take place in the capital from November 9 to 11, would be better spent helping the tens of thousands of families affected, he said.

"If we don't spend the state budget for the (festival) preparations in Phnom Penh... we can save some money to improve the living standards of our people and repair the damage," Hun Sen said in a televised speech.

He also said the precariously high water level of the Tonle Sap river that flows through the city would present a "high risk" to revellers.

More than 270,000 families nationwide have seen their homes or livelihoods waterlogged in two months of flooding caused by heavy rain that has resulted in the Mekong River bursting its banks, according to official estimates.

Hun Sen said the government, the Cambodian Red Cross and several other relief organisations were racing to provide emergency aid to the victims, reaching more than 76,000 families so far.

The country's deadliest floods since 2000, which have inundated some 390,000 hectares (960,000 acres) of rice paddies, represent a huge challenge to impoverished Cambodia but the government has not appealed for international assistance.

In neighbouring Thailand, the worst monsoon floods in decades have left more than 280 people dead.

Cambodia's Water Festival, which marks the reversal of the flow between the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers, usually draws two million visitors to the capital to enjoy dragon boat races, fireworks and concerts.

Last year's event ended in tragedy when more than 350 people were killed in a stampede on a packed and narrow bridge.
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