Sunday, May 8, 2011

What My Mom Gave Me

Security. Love. A passion for words. A passion for helping those who are helpless.

My mom was a soft-spoken and generous lady (yes, she really was) whose gentle exterior hid a tenacious and passionate Irish soul. Much of her passion was directed at helping others - her family first, and then those around her. If she were alive today, she'd be on the bandwagon for the cause I write about here. That is why this post isn't the usual hearts and flowers Mother's Day wish: instead it is my wish that all children could experience the kind of childhood I did, in the arms of loving parents, without pain or suffering of any kind.

This picture of my mom and dad and son Kevin was taken a month before my mom died suddenly and unexpectedly.

This is a post I wrote for Mod Podge Bookshelf's Month of Forgiveness. For each comment to this post, I'll donate an additional dollar to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Please help spread the word.

I want to warn you right now: this blog post contains information that is deeply disturbing. But please bear with me.

When I set out to write my second YA novel, FORGIVEN, I began my research knowing a little about San Francisco in the early 1900s. I’d heard about the Barbary Coast; and of course I knew Chinatown. But I didn’t expect to uncover a dark world of child trafficking, and what I learned broke my heart.

From the mid-1800s on, girls as young as six were sold by their impoverished families in China to dealers who then transported them across the Pacific to San Francisco, a wild seaport and hub of the gold rush. Sometimes the girls were deluded into thinking they were bound for marriage, but those notions were dispelled once the children arrived and were sold to slave holders for as little as $100 (for a one-year-old girl) or as much as $2800 for a fourteen-year-old (this transaction took place in 1898). Most of the slaves were confined to “cribs” – tiny kennel-size enclosures just below street level – and then sold for 25 cents a visit. Few lived longer than six years; many were tortured; many were left to die of starvation if they were sick or pregnant.

We’ll never know how many were buried or burned alive in the San Francisco earthquake. They had no voice.

As I write these words, my hands are shaking. They shake because I cannot imagine the horror that these girls must have experienced in their short and miserable lives. They shake because this kind of abuse still exists worldwide.

As many as 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. Mexican agencies report that more than 16,000 children work as prostitutes. In southeast Asia, 35% of prostitutes are children.

What can we do?

There are a number of agencies that actively fight the exploitation and trafficking of children. I urge you to check them out and become involved. Some seek volunteer help; some sponsor awareness campaigns; some need donations.

But please don’t close your eyes.

Here are three agencies I recommend:

Thank you, Mom. I wish you were still here.


Sally Riley said...

Your mom would be (and in some way I believe she IS) very proud of you for shining the light on such a horrible situation.

Did you read SOLD by Patricia McCormick (another person who attended VCFA)? I remember hearing her tell how terrible it was for her to do the research for her book.

Thank you for your courage ... and for this message. Awareness and education are the first steps to help eliminate human trafficking.

Janet Fox said...

Thank YOU, Sally, for coming by!

I'll check out SOLD - have not read it but can now only imagine.

D said...

Great Mission Janet, we support your work!

Sarah Blake Johnson said...

Thanks for this post.
What you talk about is such a huge problem worldwide. Thanks for being a voice for those who have suffered and who are suffering.