The American capitalist saving children in Philippines, 'one at a time'
The Lingap Center offers children shelter from human traffickers in the Philippines
May 18th, 2014
10:11 PM ET

The American capitalist saving children in Philippines, 'one at a time'

By Jason Evans

(CNN) - It was 2002 in the Philippines, and American business traveler John Drake was presented with a disgusting offer.

He says a pimp offered him a four-year-old girl for sex "for about 25 bucks".

Drake returned home to Jackson, Michigan, but couldn’t forget the heart-breaking and disturbing scenes of child exploitation.

So, aged 58, he retired from his job as senior vice president of human resources for CMS Energy and Consumers Energy, where he'd worked for 32 years, and began a new phase of his life.


Topics: How to Help • Solutions • Voices
March 3rd, 2014
04:04 PM ET

This man is about to taste chocolate for the first time

This farmer from Ivory Coast has been growing cocoa beans for decades, yet he'd never tasted chocolate. As part of the CNN Freedom Project documentary Cocoa-nomics, Richard Quest explored the economics of the chocolate industry which is trying to eradicate slavery from its supply chains. And when he met some of the men, women and children who harvest the beans, he arrived with a KitKat and a box of luxury chocolates from a business class flight.

Read Richard Quest's story in full.
Cocoa-nomics: Will the chocolate industry now end child labor and slavery?
February 17th, 2014
04:48 PM ET

Cocoa-nomics: Will the chocolate industry now end child labor and slavery?

The chocolate industry is worth an estimated $110 billion a year, and yet its key commodity is grown by some of the poorest people on the planet, in plantations that can hide the worst forms of child labor.

Two years ago CNN uncovered slavery in the plantations of Ivory Coast. Now manufacturers are facing up to the growing demand for "ethical" chocolate and are taking measures to clean up their supply chains.

But do these measures go far enough and are they fast enough? In the forthcoming series airing on CNN International from February 27, CNN returns to Ivory Coast. Ahead of that, you can read more background about how slavery has tainted the industry. You can find out where in the world the demand for and supply of chocolate is greatest, look at the true cost of a bar of chocolate and see how it is made from bean to bar by scrolling through our info-graphics.

You can also take part in our iReport challenge to eat ethically, and you can meet the village elder who gets to taste a KitKat for the first time.

Read more about what Nestlé found when it sent a team to the Ivory Coast.
January 14th, 2014
08:59 PM ET

Watch in full: 'Slavery in West Africa'

In parts of Africa, still haunted by the 19th Century trans-Atlantic slave trade, new forms of slavery are thriving. According to the 2013 Global Slavery Index, four of the world's worst 10 countries are in west Africa. In this film, CNN reporters examine why slavery still exists, including among children. They talk to victims, activists and politicians accountable for stamping it out.

This Freedom Project film aired on CNN International TV in January. Now you can see it here in its entirety without commercial breaks.

CNN Correspondent Vlad Duthiers starts in Ghana, where many of the trans-Atlantic slaves were captured and where slavery now has its roots in different forms. The film also includes reports from Ivory Coast, The Gambia and Mauritania, the last country in the world to make slavery illegal, but where many people remain in servitude.

January 10th, 2014
11:29 AM ET

The Gambia: How one teenager stood up to child marriages

In The Gambia, child marriages help alleviate poverty for many families. But Ramatoulie Jallow, a straight-A student with ambitions to be a doctor, wanted a different destiny and stood up to her father. Now she is an activist for children's rights, fighting to replace a culture of silence and early marriage for girls with education and the confidence to speak out.

Topics: In The News • Life In Slavery • Solutions • Voices
December 18th, 2013
04:19 PM ET

South Korea's 'juicy bars': one woman's story of slavery and escape

Women who work in bars close to U.S. military bases in South Korea are often forced to do far more than serve juice. The U.S. military is warning its soldiers that the staff, often trafficked from the Philippines, are modern day slaves. But the bars are still in business. CNN correspondent Paula Hancocks spoke to one woman who managed to escape.

December 13th, 2013
04:06 PM ET

How students in Cambodia take up the fight against trafficking

Cambodia has a young population and awareness about the dangers of modern day slavery is spreading, thanks in part to student activists. During filming for the documentary "Every Day in Cambodia", actress Mira Sorvino met some of the teenagers who are warning communities against falling for the traffickers' false promises.

Watch Mira Sorvino's report
Mira’s Cambodia Journal – Day One: Arrival in Cambodia
December 12th, 2013
02:31 PM ET

Mira’s Cambodia Journal – Day One: Arrival in Cambodia

Editor’s note: Mira Sorvino, a human rights activist and Academy Award winning actress, went to Cambodia with the CNN Freedom Project to expose child sexual exploitation. This is an edited journal from her week in the country.

By Mira Sorvino, Special to CNN

Phnom Penh, Cambodia (CNN) – We have just landed in Phnom Penh, to begin one of the most important journeys I have ever embarked upon.

I have been an activist on the issue of human trafficking since 2004, the year I was expecting my first of four children. I was spokeswoman for Amnesty International’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign, which brought the issue of modern-day slavery to light for me. Before this, I was blissfully unaware that slavery was alive and well – it had just gone underground. Meeting survivors of human trafficking changed my life, and deepened my commitment to fighting this terrible scourge that affects most every country around the world.

Since 2009 I have been a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Goodwill Ambassador Against Human Trafficking, one of the greatest honors and challenges of my life. I have interviewed scores of survivors in many countries, as well as government officials, NGO workers, law enforcement and even a man responsible for sex trafficking about 4,000 girls from Latin America to European club-brothels.

I've also partnered with the CNN Freedom Project several times; this time I'm taking off my UN hat and joining forces with CNN to present this documentary. We are here to see why Cambodia continues be a hub of child sex trafficking and virgin sales, and what we can do to help expose the problem and suggest solutions.
I’ve never been to Cambodia, though I made a fictional movie, “Trade of Innocents,” about child sex trafficking in Cambodia (shot in nearby Thailand). I am excited to discover this new place, but feel trepidation over delving into our heartbreaking topic. FULL POST

Mira’s Cambodia Journal – Day Two: Meeting Heroes and Survivors
Lim, one of the girls working at the artisan space in Rahab's House, and Mira wearing a bracelet Lim made.
December 12th, 2013
02:30 PM ET

Mira’s Cambodia Journal – Day Two: Meeting Heroes and Survivors

By Mira Sorvino, Special to CNN

Phnom Penh, Cambodia (CNN) - Today we drove out to Svay Pak, a slum notorious as a hub of child sex trafficking.  There we met Don Brewster, a white haired, blue-eyed bespectacled man in flip-flops with a pleasant face and high energy. He runs Agape International Missions (AIM), a non-profit for trafficked and at risk children and teenagers. The residence, Rahab’s House, is filled with bustling energy with a school and a children’s center. It takes its name from an Old Testament prostitute who provided sanctuary and was blessed. He says this and every other building used by AIM is a former brothel."

Don takes me on a walking tour of Svay Pak; we pass “The Lord’s Gym,” a center Don started, filled with local guys—human traffickers-turned-kickboxers. How he did it: He invited a “power team” of U.S. bodybuilders to display their might through the streets, leading the young men to the gym to work out, where they are inspired by a coach who teaches them respect for women and children.  They have traded the high money (they used to make U.S. $200 or more a month bringing girls in from Vietnam and selling them to brothels) for the prestige of being known pro-fighters. I'm very impressed by Don’s outside-the-box methodology, proving transformation is possible in this generation of young men.

As we continue our walk, Don points out a group, mostly men, sitting around a couple of tables at the end of road.  They are all traffickers, he says: They sell not only other people’s children, but their own.

As we approach with the cameras, they start to disperse, like roaches exposed to the light.  A feeling of utter revulsion and ire rises in me. I finally burst out: "It's not ok to sell children! It's not ok to sell children to pedophiles … The world is watching."

I felt so impotent with a rage that could do nothing in the moment. I felt a little ridiculous but I couldn’t walk away saying nothing.

Don felt we should move out of there quickly. Then we looked at each other and both started crying. I just can't stand it, that little children and teenagers are being hurt a stone’s throw away and we can’t get to them, can't swoop in like guardian angels and pluck them out of harm’s way; that those men and shifty-eyed women are using children for profit and going through with their ipso facto destruction without a shred of empathy or humanity.  I’m crying again thinking about it. FULL POST

Mira’s Cambodia Journal – Day Three: The Front Lines
December 12th, 2013
02:28 PM ET

Mira’s Cambodia Journal – Day Three: The Front Lines

By Mira Sorvino, Special to CNN

Phnom Penh, Cambodia (CNN) – This morning Don Brewster takes us to the Agape Restoration Center, a secure facility in Phnom Penh for the protection and development of the most-at-risk girls. We are brought through gates into a lush courtyard with pools and a gaggle of smiling young girls, awaiting our arrival.

I’m experiencing déjà vu ; the very first time I met young survivors of sex trafficking was when I pulled into a secret shelter deep in the heart of Mexico City, and hoped desperately that the smallest kids I saw were the sisters or daughters of victims. This time I know better: At least three girls I met today were just six years old and had been rescued from sex trafficking.

In the courtyard, we interviewed another young virgin sale victim.  Kieu was probably somewhere between 13 and 14 (they have few birth records).  She was very lovely with the shy expression of a young doe. She wore an intricate braid plaited in her hair, and a pretty green dress.  She told of how she had been sold by her mother to a Khmer man of “maybe more than 50” who had three children of his own. The price set in advance for her virginity: $1,500, though she was ultimately only given $1,000, of which she had to give $400 to the woman who brought her to the man. Her mother used the money to pay down a debt and for food for the fish they raise under their floating house-their primary income source.

Beforehand, Kieu said, “I did not know what the job was and whether it was good for me.  I had no idea what to expect.  But now I know the job was not good for me.”  After she lost her virginity to the man, she felt “very heartbroken.” Her mother supposedly felt bad too, but still sent her to work in a brothel.  Kieu said she did not want to go, but had to.  She said, “They held me like I was in prison.” FULL POST

Mira’s Cambodia Journal – Day Four: Holding Feet to the Fire
Svay Pak, an impoverished neighborhood on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, is the epicenter of Cambodia's child sex trade.
December 12th, 2013
02:22 PM ET

Mira’s Cambodia Journal – Day Four: Holding Feet to the Fire

By Mira Sorvino, Special to CNN

Phnom Penh, Cambodia (CNN) - Today we scored a last-minute interview with Chou Ben Eng, the head of Cambodia’s Human Trafficking Task force: the Secretary of State of the Ministry of the Interior, and a woman to boot.

As I sat down I was impressed with her elegance (she wore a traditional floor-length silk-satin dress) and her forthrightness; she shook a firm hand and spoke excellent English. This interview would not need an interpreter.

I think it also allowed me to be a little more aggressive.  I was tired of getting the pat answers, of the party lines. I had seen the reality of the victims’ pain and was not going to be so polite this time.  She began by presenting the achievements of her working group. We then brought up the issue of the undercover authority for police in human trafficking cases. I had begun to realize that anything that was going to cost a big infusion of money might not be a realistic goal for us to press for in the here and now, but this bit of legislation, the explicit authorization for the use of undercover investigative methods and techniques, was something we could press for that might seriously change the equation in the pursuit of justice for this crime. FULL POST

Mira’s Cambodia Journal – Day Five: The Future
December 12th, 2013
02:18 PM ET

Mira’s Cambodia Journal – Day Five: The Future

By Mira Sorvino, Special to CNN

Siem Reap, Cambodia (CNN) -Today we drove two hours north in rural Cambodia to meet with a group of student activists. As we arrived at the school, we saw a group of bright green t-shirted teenagers at a picnic table under a tree. Our youth leader, Han Hunlida (nickname: Lyly), was instructing her peers on their plan of action for the day: split into groups of four and go door-to-door in the community to share information about human trafficking and how not to become its victims.

This region, Banteay Meanchey, is a crossroads for Cambodians migrating for work into Thailand and Malaysia. They are all at great risk for being trafficked by wily recruiters, who prey on impoverished people desperate for work, without local savvy or support.

Lida, 16, is a tiny powerhouse. Inspired by a Somaly Mam Foundation visiting lecturer at her school two years ago, she is a Cambodian girl taking stewardship of her country and its future. I was stirred by her palpable compassion for the vulnerable and victimized.  She emanated a kind of unstoppable positivity; her compatriots looked up to her, sharing in a powerful movement towards change.  They were humble and excited at the same time and - very encouragingly - there were teenaged boys with them, not only girls. FULL POST

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