How two women joined the battle against human trafficking, slavery and sexual exploitation

Join them: Michelle Stern and her daughter Brittney will travel to Cambodia in July to get first hand knowledge of slavery, exploitation and human trafficking. Photo: Ivan Sajko
Join them: Michelle Stern and her daughter Brittney will travel to Cambodia in July to get first hand knowledge of slavery, exploitation and human trafficking. Photo: Ivan Sajko

It is difficult to understand or comprehend: how can a girl, a child, of just two years of age be trafficked?

That confronting image proved a spur for Port Macquarie woman Brittney Stern and her mother, Taree-based Michelle.

The mother and daughter were hearing first hand accounts of the shadowy world of trafficking from Project Futures CEO Clare Pearson over the Australia Day weekend. They decided to act on the factual stories they were being told.

Some of the stories were so horrendous they beggar belief.

In July they will travel with a small group to Cambodia where Project Futures has set up several safe houses and runs education programs for survivors of human trafficking, slavery and sexual exploitation.

The tour will include visits to disadvantaged youth and survivors' businesses, to the safe houses and see where their $6000 fundraising effort will be spent.

They also plan to deliver items including toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, colouring pencils and books, hand soap, bras and women's hygiene products they are receiving as donations.

The pair have described the trip as 'intense'.

"This is a world-wide issue. It is happening in Australia," Michelle said.

"We expect to get very emotional at times during the trip.

"These women and girls are very vulnerable. They have no sense or understanding of their sense of worth.

These women and girls are very vulnerable. They have no sense or understanding of their sense of worth.

Michelle Stern

"They live one day at a time; their only hope is to survive that day.

"Project Futures is about giving hope by transforming the lives of women and children affected by human trafficking, slavery and sexual exploitation in Cambodia and in Australia.

Brittney said education was key to the success of Project Futures.

"By going there, we will see where the funds we have raised will be used. We will see what impact this has on the women and girls," she said.

"Once I learned the amount of girls who are trafficked and raped every single day and just how badly they are treated I felt a huge need to do something.

"While I alone cannot change the world, I hope I can have a positive impact on these girls' lives and hopefully empower and educate others.

"We will be attending an intimate dinner with some survivors that have been saved from trafficking and sexual exploitation, we will also go a meet with women and children who are currently 'owned' as well as many other activities.

"It's important to us that the $6000 we raise will be directly given to the centres which help to transition the girls from victim to survivor through, medication, living expenses, and education, which helps them to reintegrate back into the community."

Brittney said she hopes to have more insight into the trafficking industry following the trip.

"I hope to inspire others to do the same and do their part to change this industry as well as start to educate others," she added.

The two women described trafficking as the biggest criminal industry in the world.

"And it all stems from western, civilised countries," they added.

To make a financial donation, go to https://chuffed.org/fundraiser/2018-cambodia-immersion-tour-3488

To find out more about Project Futures go to their website.