Dina Kennedy

Dina Kennedy

Salvation Army works to end sex trafficking

Dina Kennedy has a passion that is probably unlike many others held by Canadians.

Dina Kennedy has a passion that is probably unlike many others held by Canadians. Kennedy, a local volunteer at the Salvation Army in Williams Lake, is a crusader for the rights of individuals who are trafficked into the sex trade and into slavery both globally and in this country.She recently returned from a three-week trip in Bangkok, Thailand where she volunteered at a home for women and girls who had been rescued after being sold or trafficked in the sex trade in that country. The home, called Home for New Beginnings, is not operated by the Salvation Army but by a couple who saw a need in the country and responded to it. When Kennedy first arrived there were 10 women (some in their teens) who had been rescued from the confines bars, brothels and strip clubs that litter the capital. That number had grown to 14 by the time she left. Bangkok is a well-known location for sex tourists from primarily Europe and North America. It’s not only Thai women who are held in slavery but increasingly eastern European and African women who are brought to Thailand for the purpose of providing sex. Kennedy says during her stay she and other workers at the home “ministered” in the red light district and in particular outside one facility  called the Nana Entertainment Plaza, a three-storey facility that caters to individuals seeking sexual encounters. Kennedy says she and her colleagues were allowed into many of the establishments but if they wanted to speak to any of the girls they had to “purchase” them first. “We invited them to come to the home,” said Kennedy of what, among many things, they talked to the girls about.  Once in the home, the girls tell their stories of how they ended up in the trade. Some were sold by their parents to pay debts or to simply survive, another was sold for a bag of rice as the family could not afford to keep her, another was involved in the trade to supply her husband’s gambling addiction, and others were taken by force into the trade.Kennedy said she felt “degraded and dirty” by the experience but remained deeply committed to help those in need. Once the women commit to leave the sex trade they live at the home and learn skills including English. Many return to school.  Kennedy hopes to return to the country next year to continue the work she started.Although a world away from Thailand, Kennedy says prostitution and the exploitation of women occurs in Williams Lake. “We do not see girls standing on the corner but girls are selling themselves,” she said. In the months of May and September the Salvation Army runs an awareness campaign on human sexual trafficking. Kennedy will have a display on that topic at Boitanio Mall on May 20 from 4-7 p.m.   In Vancouver the Salvation Army runs a safe home for trafficked women called Deborah’s Gate. For more information on the Salvation Army’s campaign against sex trafficking visit www.salvationist.ca/trafficking.

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