Amelia Todd, GAIN’s social media intern and a second-year law student at Emory Law, spent the summer in the Philippines working to stop child sex trafficking. Read about her experience here.
I spent my first summer in law school working in the Philippines with the global anti-trafficking nonprofit International Justice Mission (IJM), an organization dedicated to making justice systems work for the poor. They do this through partnering with local authorities on every level to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems. The IJM Cebu office I worked in focused on child sex trafficking, and has witnessed a 79% decrease in minors sold in the metro Cebu area in the past 8 years of operation.
However, this incredible impact was not as evident walking through the streets of Cebu. Apart from the interns at IJM, the majority of foreigners in town were sex tourists, mostly men who preyed upon and associated themselves with extremely young-looking girls and boys in restaurants and malls around town. Even though I was doing valuable work with IJM, assisting attorneys in undercover rescues and subsequent prosecutions, I still felt helpless when men would solicit girls beside me in taxi or grocery lines. I knew I was doing all I could during my short time there, but I felt as though I needed to do more in those moments. The everyday reality of living in a place where injustice is very physically evident is unsettling. It is also a reminder that these wrongs happen in every community, no matter if they are deeply buried, lie just below the surface, or brazenly walk arm in arm down the street.
Despite the difficulty of seeing these injustices, I did have a wonderful time engaging with another culture for two months; I completely fell in love with the Philippines and the other countries I had the opportunity to visit, including Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Although riding on open air jeep-buses in a suit was not the easiest commute, I had a blast living amongst such a warm, welcoming, and generous culture.