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A vital response to human trafficking ELCA companions in Thailand offer new life for victims


By Karris Golden


The New Life Center Foundation in Thailand serves young women who are are at risk for or are victims of human trafficking. This work is funded in part by ELCA World Hunger (elca.org/hunger).


As senior administrator of


the New Life Center Foundation (NLCF), Jennifer Pedzinski’s work involves shedding light on the realities of human trafficking. In doing so, she regularly encounters two misconceptions: human trafficking is all about sex and the major issue is parents who sell their children. “While both of those things


are still part of trafficking in the world, the issue is much more than that,” said Pedzinski, a Baptist pastor. The U.S. State Department defines “trafficking in persons”


30 JANUARY 2018


as “modern slavery.” This can include sex trafficking, involuntary servitude, debt bondage and forced labor. NLCF is based in Chiang


Mai, Thailand, an area the State Department identifies as a high risk for human trafficking. While forced prostitution remains a major problem, labor trafficking is becoming more prevalent, Pedzinski said. Most at risk are those who are


undereducated, impoverished and lacking in professional job skills. “To find work, young and old, male and female alike are


migrating out of impoverished, rural areas with little or no education to more developed areas and countries,” she said. “They are recruited and offered a job. Because of a range of factors—statelessness, illegal migration and force, threat or coercion—they end up in situations of exploitation.”


The root of the issue Much of the problem lies in human traffickers who prey upon those seeking better lives, said Franklin Ishida, ELCA director for Asia and the Pacific.


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