When Camphill Primary School teacher, Laura Rainey, went along to a talk about ‘Human Trafficking’ at her Church in 2018 little did she know that it would change her life forever.
At that meeting, the young mum learned that 1.2 million children in southeast Asia are trafficked every year. What’s more, within just 48 hours of leaving home, one in three teenagers are lured towards sex work. Believe it or not, there are more slaves in the world in 2020 than ever before!
Upon hearing this, Laura decided that she had to do something. Initially, she spent some time working as a volunteer administrator for Asialink before resolving to take another exciting step of faith.
This compassionate Ballymena woman decided to found Hope and Light, which sells handmade jewellery made by women from sex industry hotspots like Bangkok, Cambodia and Laos. Making this beautiful range of jewellery, which includes bracelets, necklaces, earrings, rings, headbands, keyrings and even bookmarks, provides gainful and safe employment for these young women.
Quite simply, they are given a life-changing and life-saving opportunity to get off the streets, away from prostitution and people who would hurt them.
Laura says: “It is only when you visit these places for yourself that you realise how awful the situation is. Many of these young girls are taken away from their families with the expectation of having a better life and opportunities to work. Very soon afterwards, they find themselves being raped and abused by men with no hope of escape.”
“I know that Bangkok, Laos and places like it seem far away but we are only separated by geography and birth; it could just as easily be your daughter or mine”, she added.
Talking about her charity in greater detail, Laura went on to say:
“What initially started as one connection has now developed into nine projects across several countries in Asia, each giving women an alternative to the work they are trapped in. We are offering them freedom, teaching them skills and providing them with safe work. Most of all we seek to show these women that they are worth so much more, that they are valued, and that they are loved. We want them to grow in strength and dignity, find freedom and spiritual hope along the way.
“Across the various projects with which we partner, teams are addressing issues of slave labour, child labour, sexual trafficking and prostitution in women, child sex trafficking, debt bondage, illegal adoption and baby selling. We believe that poverty is the leading cause of this exploitation, and that jewellery production is one way of protecting those who want to provide for their families.”
Laura promised: “When you buy Hope and Light products, you are supporting women who have acted with purpose to escape exploitation, leaving economic temptations behind to work in safe, dignified environments. We have personally visited each project in Asia to ensure that the girls are paid fairly and receive the highest levels of care.”
To find out more about Hope and Light and to buy some of the jewellery it sells, log on to www.hopeandlightshop.com
Laura also travels around Ireland speaking at ladies groups about trafficking and brings along her extensive selection of handmade jewellery and bags. If you would like Laura to speak at your ladies group or event, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.