How the project began:

A good friend of mine (Clay) has just flown back to Cambodia. This time to stay for the better part of two years. He is working with an organization called Agape International Missions to bring an end to the rampant child sex slavery that has destroyed so many innocent lives in that country.

Before we dive into that though, lets rewind back about eight or nine months in the past to the point where I inadvertently become involved. Clay had just finished telling me what he had decided to do with the next few years of his life. He had recently met with a man named Don who is spearheading a philanthropic organization in Cambodia. Don runs a restoration center for young girls who have been rescued from the sex industry. He is also supporting a network of over 500 Churches throughout Cambodia and is training them to effectively attack the sex trafficking industry at its heart. How they do all this will be an explanation for a later date. While Clay is describing what he is planning on doing, a crazy thought enters my head. “Can I come out and visit you?” I ask. “I don’t see why not,” Clay replies. Immediately I begin thinking about what I could do to help out while I am there. This would not be a vacation. In fact, far from it. The likely options run through my mind at first. I could bring medicine and other supplies that are needed, or I could just make myself available and do whatever I can to help the organization while I am there (ie. paint walls, sweep floors, whatever). None of these benefits that I offer though seem to make my trip out there worth it when compared to the distraction that I might cause to Don and Clay. Then it comes to me, “I could bring a camera and video tape what you guys are doing! That way you have something to show people who are interested in supporting you guys” (now I am in no ways a professional videographer, but I do know how to hold a camera so why not give it a go). Clay likes the idea and we leave it at that.

Now fast forward about five months or so. I had been thinking about the possibility of going out to Cambodia and I just could not get it off my mind. I was currently visiting a friend (Micah) and I started to tell him about the idea. He is a film major at Chico state and a talented one at that. I decide to ask him if this might not be something that he would be interested in. He says he would think about it. A few weeks later, he is on board 100%. I email Clay, and to my surprise, the organization was already very excited about me coming out to film a “documentary” on what is going on out there and what they are doing about it. Apparently things had grown to be much larger than I expected. I had no idea that this would be received so well on their end. Micah and I began to write up a rough outline of what we want the film to be and discuss equipment needs and options.

Fast forward again, about four more months. It is January 08 and Micah and I are hammering away at Clay with the questions that we have over dinner. Some friends and family are present as well. We discuss scenarios and options and it is becoming apparent that this thing is actually going to happen. We have enough money for the first camera and our flights have already been taken care of. Our tentative date is set for sometime between the end of May and the beginning of June this year.

Now we are finally back to the present. Clay has just arrived back in Cambodia and the NY Giants have just routed the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. All I can think about is this documentary (part of this is probably due to the fact that I am procrastinating from my “curriculum and methods” course homework). I have been watching documentaries on sex trafficking in Cambodia and it is apparent that we are attempting to do nothing new, except in one way. The documentaries that I have watched so far have great content and most do a terrific job of communicating what is going on in the region (or so it would seem with my current understanding). There is just on problem. None of them offer a lasting solution to the problem. Most only tell you how awful the situation is and leave you miserable at the end. All they seem to hope for is that greater public awareness will influence foreign policy and put pressure on the Cambodian government to crack down. There are a few films which have taken a crack at offering a way to fix the problem but their methods are poorly thought out and ineffective. They encourage purchasing girls out of the trade and then releasing them, which is about as sensible as buying up all the drugs from a drug dealer so he will not be able to sell the drugs to children. This does nothing to end the problem and actually ends up inadvertently validating the pimps by acknowledging their perceived right to sell these girls in the first place. The pimps will just go out and get more girls, just as the drug dealers will purchase more drugs.

The situation in Cambodia is complex and is deeply rooted in the countries more recent history. There is no “quick fix” and one should not be duped into thinking that there is. This blog will serve as a reference point for me to write out my thoughts as we prepare to film Agape International Missions campaign to bring about a sustained decrease in Cambodian sex trafficking that will lead to its eventual (I pray to God) elimination. Some posts will be short updates on unfolding details, whereas others will fall more in line with this one as we continue to mentally and emotionally process what we have gotten ourselves into. Stay tuned.

2 Responses to How the project began:

  1. Kassia says:

    I haven’t seen it yet, but Call + Response, the documentary that’s in theatres this week, seems to be the ineffective kind you mentioned. One of the singers in the preview said he bought a bunch of girls out of slavery and returned them to their villages. Hmm.

  2. hope4cambodia says:

    Yah, unfortunately most, if not all of those girls will end back up in the brothels since the singer did nothing to deal with the real problem. All he did was reinforce the pimps (or slave owners) belief that what they are doing is ok. Good intentions, but very bad idea.

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