Supporting positive causes is a wonderful way to use the holiday season as a means to connect with others, and make a positive difference in the lives of others. With so many fantastic charities to reach out to, I like to narrow down my personal list to a few to which I feel a close bond. Earlier this week, we talked about giving to Org4Peace, an NGO devoted to helping underprivileged families in rural Nepal gain access to education, and meet basic needs such as clothing. Another supportive collaboration is Soma’s change-making partnership with charity:water, which aims to help people in developing countries gain access to safe drinking water. This holiday season, they’re aiming to bring safe water to three Cambodian villages, through the Limited Edition Soma water filter.
Urban Light: Be the Light for a Boy in Need
The passionate journey of Alezandra Russell is one that constantly inspires me. As the founder of Urban Light, Alex has embarked upon a mission to shed much-needed light on the challenging topic of sex-trafficking — and the boys affected by it. I have been a firsthand witness to the Urban Light team’s life-changing work for the boys who are victims of sex trafficking in northern Thailand.
This issue is generally seen as taboo by society in both Thailand and America: the subjects of male sexual abuse, child prostitution, and sex-trafficking tend to get swept under the rug. Alex and her team work around the clock to ensure these boys have a safe place to go, supportive adults to speak with, educational opportunities, and a chance to just have fun — surely well-deserved, considering the hardship they have unwittingly endured. Alex shares with us some of the story behind Urban Light, and how we can help spread awareness about this important, oft-hidden cause.
K: What does UL do?
AR: Urban Light is a grassroots organization based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, dedicated to rebuilding, restoring and empowering the lives of boys who are victims of sex-trafficking, child prostitution, and commercial sexual exploitation.
K: Where are you located?
AR: The Urban Light Youth Center (ULYC) is located at the edge of the red light district in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
K: How can people help?
AR: Passionate individuals can change the life of an Urban Light youth by funding one of our various services that brings absent tools to our Boys: health services, education, housing, night outreach. It’s these 4 services that will forever change the life of an at-risk boy.
K: What inspires you?
AR: The smiles and the laughter of the Boys we serve is the sound that fills the Youth Center, and fills my desire to continue our movement to fight trafficking, and the exploitation of others.
Illuminating the future
Thank you to Alex for answering our questions. The time leading up to the new year usually inspires contemplation of the past twelve months, and Alex is no exception; reflecting over the previous four years since Urban Light’s inception, she shares her feelings of gratitude about her work, along with hope for the future:
Four years ago, under the darkness of the night, eyes belonging to young Boys could be seen peering through the dozens of bars that filled the red light districts of Chiang Mai. Over the past four years our team of passionate advocates have lit a torch in the darkest corners of Chiang Mai’s sex-trade, allowing a swell of hope to illuminate the lives and hearts of the Boys we meet. Housing, health services, education, hot meals, and unconditional love are just a few of the services that have restored hope, and healed the broken hearts of more than three hundred Boys whom we have served in 2013.
Alezandra encourages us to continue holding the torch for Urban Light this upcoming year “so that together we can pour hope into the lives of three hundred more Boys in Thailand,” and reminds us that in doing so, we are choosing to “pursue and fight an issue that many fail to realize even exists.”
From people who suffer from lack of access to safe drinking water, to boys who are victims of sex-trafficking and child prostitution, many tragic realities in our world remain unnoticed all too often. And yet, it is these same unseen challenges that are in most need of our attention — and action.
Be the light.