I have always believed that a crucial part of my success was always having a willingness to give back. Not just in business or teaching life lessons, but charity. When I say charity, I don’t mean putting the left over change in the can at the crockery store with the starving kids on it, I mean “real” charitable acts above and beyond pocket change. For me, experiencing how it feels to help someone in need first hand, I couldn’t walk away from it and it has become a very important part of my life. On my last trip to South Eat Asia while visiting Siam Riep to go see the ancient city of Angkor Watt, My friend Natalie and I visited a school north of the city. We had to travel through the Jungle on a muddy dirt road for about an hour before we reached the shelter. I realized along the journey that after we had left the city limits, all of the villages that we were traveling through had no electricity, plumbing or any running water. We came to find out that the only clean water filtration system was at the orphanage and people from the village would come take the water from their when there was no fresh water so they were always running out. Earlier that day we had gone to the market to pick up all kinds of things like rice, school supplies, and sports stuff (these kids really like soccer). Our tour guide “Bob,” knew of the school and had gotten in contact with the person who ran the organization. After the market on the way out of town we stopped by the children’s hospital to tour the facility and give blood. We watched a very sad documentary about the children in Cambodia. They are a poverty stricken country that is largely uneducated due to the fact that the “Khmer Rouge” had wiped out more than 90% of the elder generation in Cambodia after the Viet Nam war in the late 70’s.
I was shocked to learn that the hospital struggled to get blood donations because the people in the community were so afraid of needles and believed folklore that it would make them sick. Most of the blood donations came from foreigners traveling through the country. Our tour guide “Bob” gave blood for the first time, he was a good sport about it, but we could tell that he was a little scared. I have to admit that I was nervous to because the hospitals in Cambodia are nothing like the hospitals in the U.S. and have to get by on older equipment the best they can. Natalie on the other hand was a trooper, she seemed to deal with it better than both of us. After the hospital we started our journey to the orphanage. When we arrived there, we were greeted by the director. He was a really nice guy and had a western education but had come back to start this School that was in his home village he grew up in. He explained that most of the children there were either abandoned at birth or parents just gave them up because they simply lacked the means to raise them. The school taught the kids hygiene, English and vocational skills. All of the children were extremely happy to see us. After all, not a lot of white people came through there. Especially not white people with tattoos or who were as young as Natalie and I were. When we finished touring the school and learning about the programs they were using, we gave the kids all of the gifts. Seeing how happy something as simple as a pack of colored pencils or a soccer ball made me very emotional. It made me think of how spoiled I was growing up as a kid, and how ungrateful I was to have all of the incredible things my parents gave me. Out of site, out of mind right? I think this is the reason most people don’t want to visit places like this. It’s not that people don’t want to help, it’s that when you surround yourself with people like this you realize that your perfect little world isn’t so perfect anymore. In fact, it goes deeper, it makes you start thinking back to all of the things in your life that you had taken for gradate. Personally it made me feel helpless to know that I as one person couldn’t even begin to ease the pain of these kids right in front of me let alone begin to tackle the same kind of poverty and hunger all over the world. I could give them some gifts and money, spend some time with them, but then I would have to leave. Just as fast as I came in to their lives, I was gone. Going back to the comfort of my reality, and leaving them to struggle in theirs. On the way back home I couldn’t help but think about this. I wanted to do more. I vowed that I was going to start some kind of giving organization that would help kids out like this directly. No more giving money blindly to bullshit non-profit organizations. No more donating money to charities where I didn’t get to directly see where the money actually ended up. My friend Natalie has been working with NGO (Non-Government organizations). She has dedicated a good part of her life working with these types of non-profits all over the world. I wanted to get her opinion and some information about some of the places and organizations she has worked with. Here is what she wrote. To some extent, I have always been aware of human trafficking. When you travel to countries like Thailand and Amsterdam, it is hard to miss the red light districts filled with young girls. Even in my own country, I have been exposed to seeing strip clubs and women being prostituted on street corners. I was always bothered in the moment to see the objectification, but it never stuck with me. It was just another injustice in the world that I was powerless to change. It wasn’t until I read the book “Not for Sale” that I would fully realize the severity of the issue and be moved into action.
(You can find the book “Not For Sale” Here http://amzn.to/17loW7H) The book affected me so much that I decided to attend the Not For Sale Backyard Academy (notforsalecampaign.org), a three day seminar offering practical ways on how to get involved in the fight against human trafficking. It was there that I met Alezandra Russell, the founder of Urban Light (urban-light.org). Urban light is a for-purpose organization dedicated to supporting boys who are victims of sex-trafficking and child prostitution in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Alex and her staff serve to rebuild, restore and empower the lives of boys who work in the red light district by providing education, health services, housing and emergency care. The Urban Light center is an open shelter that boys can come to escape the harsh realities of the streets. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a little over a month working in Chiang Mai at the Urban Light Center. Like most people, when I thought of prostitution, I pictured young women and girls being exploited. It had never crossed my mind that boys made up a significant portion of the victims of sex trafficking. That is why Urban Light and the work they do are so important. Many people in the Thai community have labeled these boys as “dirty” or “unworthy” of acceptance. Many organizations choose to focus on female victims, leaving this overlooked population without assistance or love. From the moment I met the boys I knew they were going to change my life. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I am so fortunate to be apart of the Urban Light family. It is funny how some of the most poor and disadvantaged people you meet are also the happiest. It was no different with these boys. Every morning they would welcome me into their center, with the biggest smiles on their faces. They were so eager to learn, make friends, and find respectable and fulfilling jobs that they so deserved. I have volunteered with other organizations before but usually left feeling frustrated with where my money was going or with the effectiveness of the organization. It was such an enlightening experience to finally find an organization that I could trust and fully support. Alezandra and the entire Urban Light staff have dedicated their lives to providing an opportunity for these boys to live happy and successful lives. If you would like to help please visit urban-light.org and see how you can be apart of the solution for these amazing boys. There are opportunities to donate, volunteer, collect school supplies, purchase items (backpacks, clothing, jewelry) or simply just raise awareness and make noise for the boys. Please don’t hesitate to contact me for any questions about Urban Light. Urban Light Website: http://www.urban-light.org/ To support and
get involved in a lot of ways. The worst thing that you can do is nothing. So please stop living your life pretending that everything is ok. If everyone pitches in a little bit, we can begin to solve these problems. Contact Natalie or I if you want to know more about the organizations written about in this post.
To purchase customized bracelets made from the boys please “Like” Akhaya on Facebook www.facebook.com/akhayabracelets or contact me at [email protected] with any questions!Ok here is the link for Urban light http://www.urban-light.org/ And http://www.freedompaks.com/ supports the prevention of children in the village for Urban light before they get into sex work.
For more education and community prevention efforts Please Visit: Http://www.Freedompaks.com (partner of Urban Light You ca
You can get involved in a lot of ways. The worst thing that you can do is nothing. So please stop living your life pretending that everything is ok. If everyone pitches in a little bit, we can begin to solve these problems. Contact Natalie or I if you want to know more about the organizations written about in this post.
To purchase customized bracelets made from the boys please “Like” Akhaya on Facebook www.facebook.com/akhayabracelets or contact me at [email protected] with any questions!