Human Trafficking is a world-wide problem

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Human Trafficking – the politically correct term for present-day slavery – is a world-wide problem. Poverty is an underlying factor that makes children vulnerable to Human Trafficking. That’s why Jon and Angie Sullivan founded Global Relief Association for Crises and Emergencies (G.R.A.C.E) to tackle poverty around the world four years ago.

Jon and Angie were the guest speakers at the April 24 meeting of the Pattaya City Expats Club. Jon, who has more than 28 years’ experience as lead pastor and in various staff positions in churches, and who has led many international mission teams to Russia, Peru, Ukraine, and Thailand, said millions of children will miss their childhood because of poverty. He said poverty makes them vulnerable to misuse and discrimination, and death.

Jon Sullivan explains to his PCEC audience how poverty is one of the main underlying causes for human trafficking.

Citing statistics from UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund), Jon said that: a) At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day; b) More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening. In other words, the middle class is disappearing; c) The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income; d) Each day, 22,000 children die due to poverty – and they “die quietly” in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world – being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death; e) Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names; f) Less than one percent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen; g) Rural areas account for three in every four people living on less than US$1 a day and a similar share of the world population suffering from malnutrition – however, urbanization is not synonymous with human progress – urban slum growth is outpacing urban growth by a wide margin; and h) Approximately half the world’s population now lives in cities and towns. In 2005, one out of three urban dwellers (approximately 1 billion people) was living in slum conditions.

MC Roy Albiston presents Jon and Angie Sullivan with the PCEC’s Certificate of Appreciation for their presentation on the work their G.R.A.C.E. organization is currently doing in Thailand and their plans for future projects.

Further, he stated, “There are steps that governments could take to alleviate poverty, but they don’t seem interested.” So in 2012, he and Angie formed G.R.A.C.E. as a tax-exempt foundation based in the United States. “We weren’t sure where we would end up, but we wanted to be able to operate worldwide.”

Angie said they chose Thailand to begin working in because they were able to establish relationships with honest people here. She mentioned they had also tested the waters in several other countries, but found that usually the people there wanted a large cut of the donations on which the foundation relies, and were more interested in lining their pockets than helping the children.

Member Ren Lexander interviews Jon and Angie Sullivan after their interesting and informative presentation to the PCEC. To view the video, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9RWFZ3HqtI.

Angie explained they are currently working with the Agape (AH-gah-pey) organization and have one pre-school center, located on Sukhumvit opposite the Big C at Pattaya Tai. She said they are in the process of applying for NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) status in Thailand, and hope to attain that foundational status within a year. Once they have attained that status, they hope to open three additional centers, one in East Pattaya, one in Issan, and one near the Malaysian border.

Angie described their G.R.A.C.E. Dental Project, which was one of the first programs they started. “There is a connection between oral health and general health,” she said. Oral diseases are linked to socio-economic status. Oral diseases are higher among poor and disadvantaged population groups. The poor and disadvantaged suffer from a higher burden while at the same time having less access to appropriate care. “We saw that so many children have bad teeth, and we thought if their teeth are that bad, how bad will their bodies be when they get older!” She noted that the Dental Project is simple; it consists of a bag containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss which they give each child one bag each month.

MC Roy Albiston welcomes members and guests to the regular Sunday meeting of the PCEC and ask any new visitors to introduce themselves.

At the pre-school center, G.R.A.C.E. also provides basic medical care, as well as two meals – breakfast and lunch – each day. The center is near one of the slums, and the kids come there rather than running the streets looking for plastic bottles to sell.

They also have plans for an adult educational enrichment program, teaching English and financial management, as well as hygiene, to the children’s parents. Angie said their goal is to keep families together, not to have the children adopted.

Angie Sullivan describes one of their first projects in Thailand. The G.R.A.C.E. Dental Project to provide needy children with the means for adequate dental care and hygiene.

Angie said most of their funding comes from the USA, and from Finland. People can donate through Friends of G.R.A.C.E. or make one-time donations. People can also fund Educational Sponsorships for individual children. For more information, visit their website http://globalreliefassociation.com.

After the presentation, MC Roy Albiston brought everyone up to date on club activities and happenings around Pattaya before calling on Ira Wettenstein to conduct the Open Forum, where questions are asked and answered about Expat living in Thailand, especially Pattaya.

For more information on the PCEC’s many activities, visit their website at www.pcecclub.org.