Coming soon…

 

(Men’s bracelet above available for purchase at Eden website.)

Yesterday afternoon I got to sit and chat with Amber Runyon, the remarkable young woman behind Eleventh Candle Co. Amber shared her heart and passion to help, in every way possible, women that are affected by human trafficking, abuse, exploitation, and addiction. Her company is doing just that and I love that she is helping women right in our own backyard as well as around the world.

I got to smell each candle scent and I’m not just saying this- I couldn’t pick a favorite! Though if I had to pick, I’d say Spiced Chai and Lemongrass Coriander and worth a second whiff 😉 They are hand poured right in Columbus, Ohio, by women rescued from human trafficking. Stop by the website, learn more about bringing light to the darkness of human trafficking and addiction, and check out where your money will go when you purchase some of the candles.  And don’t forget to stop back here and let me know in the comments which scents you ordered!

 

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(Be sure to visit my previous post for more information about Eden Ministry and a few more pics.)

(Continued from previous post)

When we first arrived at the community center, the children were getting ready for a nutritious meal. It may not look like much, but the children gobbled it up. It was some sort of fortified rice meal, very healthy compared to what they may otherwise eat. The center provides the children with 2 meals a day, basic schooling and a place to be off the streets of the slum, away from potential trafficking for which they are highly vulnerable to.

This little girl and I became fast friends. She invited me over to her table after I took this pic and offered me some of her meal. She grabbed on to me and cried when I left. I hope to get back to visit her.

 

This boy takes care of his younger sibling pretty much all the time:

Except for when he is busy hamming it up for the camera:

It was Sunday and there was a short church service. Some of the parents joined their children.

Myanmar song book:

Also plenty of play time! The center built the play area first upon entering the community, “build it and they will come!” Kids quickly flocked to the place:

This little guy in red pants acted like the mayor of the community. He has strong leadership skills according to the volunteers. I think he has a bright future ahead!

Lisa with some of the children:

More looking around the center:

And more play:

 

Some members of the Eden team:

Right before leaving the center, one of the young Moms walked us to her newly built one-room home. She was quite proud of it. Here she is with her 5 children. She gave birth to all of them at home!

I hope it’s not my last time visiting Myanmar and the people served by Eden. I hope to share more stories and pics of the amazing work of Eden in the slums of Myanmar. My prayer is that all the children will remain safe, healthy, get a proper education and never fall into the hands of human traffickers, that the families in the slum will strengthen, and that there would be more work opportunities for the adults. The situations are so desperate, the people are so poor, and there is very little work for them to earn any kind of living.

Thanks for reading-xx

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My dear friend Lisa is a board member of Eden Ministries, an NGO Christian charity in Myanmar, and she was due for a field visit and invited me to join her. Myanmar is only about a 3-hour flight from Singapore so I was able to fly in to meet her and learn more about Eden as I tagged along for the visit.

A bit more about Eden, from their website:

Eden began in a very simple way: two housewives with only one evening a week to spare had a desire to do something about human trafficking in their city. They began to prayer-walk around the red light areas and build relationships with all those involved in the sex industry. The vision was to bring God’s love to everyone involved in the sex industry and to see them set free. Twelve years later, we have created multiple shelters in major trafficking hubs in Asia, established an international jewelry business and witnessed thousands of people from the sex industry be impacted with God’s love.

Eden Ministry provides skills, training and employment to empower each woman that comes through our doors to find their worth, dignity and fresh hope for the future.

Nearly every woman that has left the red light districts and come to Eden is a survivor of trafficking where they were coerced, forced or deceived into sex work for the commercial benefit of others. They were exploited because someone took advantage of the fact that they were vulnerable in one way or another. They have experienced sexual violence, other abuse and trauma in the process. In the red light districts, the women lived a life under the close watch or control of their bosses and others. They were intimidated and threatened into compliance. They were often confined. They became human commodities traded on the streets, entertainment establishments, or increasingly, on the internet. Most importantly, they lived in shame and hopelessness – believing that hope and freedom were out of their reach.

In recent years, Eden has also been receiving a rising number of women who have been trafficked across the borders, usually for sex. Some are sold into foreign countries as brides, married to men that they have never met before and often in socio-economic circumstances equal to, or worse than, the rural villages of the home country which they had travelled from. Many of these arranged marriages were premised on lies, deception and false promises. The marriages were often characterized by violence, abuse and sometimes rape from the husband and the husband’s family members. The long journey for these foreign women to return to their home country or to a safe environment is fraught with challenges because often they lack legal identification, and there are language barriers, racial discrimination and a lack of support of friends and family.

This was everyday reality for many of the women that we now work alongside in our international jewelry business and have the privilege to love and serve. It is also what we continue to see every week when we go out to the red light districts to invite women to our company. It is raw, complex and messy. But this is real – and it is still happening. This is not an embellished account of what goes on – you simply do not sensationalize the lives of women who have become your family. Because this is who they are to us.

All profits from Eden Ministry benefit each woman that comes to Eden (salary, services, shelter and other programs), so that more of the women that leave the red light districts can be provided with the opportunity to gain training and employment.

I hope you can check out and visit their website! The jewelry is really pretty and all profits from sales benefit the women Eden serves.

Before the trip, I had asked if there were any photography needs that Eden had. I was so excited to learn that they wanted me to photograph the women and young girls currently being served. When I arrived at the Eden center, they were all were finishing up getting ready for their photo shoot. I had learned that some of the younger girls were the same age as my daughters when they were first trafficked into the sex industry. It was heartbreaking. I was amazed at how joyful they all were despite the unimaginable trauma they had all been through, laughing and giggling as they helped each other get ready.

During the shoot, the language barrier didn’t even get much in the way. With plenty of pantomime-like movements, and some translation help, I was able to pose each of them individually and I don’t think any of us stopped smiling for the duration of the shoot! It was great fun for us all. I wish I could post all of the images I captured that afternoon but in the interest of protecting the girls’ and women’s privacy, I won’t share them publicly here. I was told that they loved the pictures and they were all shocked at how lovely they looked in them. I hope the images will always remind them how much worth they have and how beautiful they really are.

When each girl first arrives at the Eden center, they receive a blank canvas, like the ones pictured below. They are encouraged to dream of a future for themselves and paint an image representing that dream. It is one of the many ways the girls are encouraged to have hope for their future.

One of the girls was able to show me the painting of her dream, a family of her own.

I was able to spend some time with and get to know the founders of Eden. It was amazing to meet people with such selflessness and dedication, serving God by going into some of the darkest places in the world, meeting those in such desperate need.

After our visit to the Eden center, the following morning we visited the community center that Eden has established in one the Myanmar slums. We made our way across the city to the ferry terminal where we would be taken across the Irrawaddy river to the slum.

A few friendly faces we saw while awaiting our ferry:

Also somewhat familiar sights:

I wasn’t sure what to expect upon arriving at the slum. It was dirty but not as bad as I thought it would be. The grass huts were lined up in what appeared to be neat little dirt paths. It was the dry season so the smell wasn’t as bad I had expected. I was told that during the wet season things can be quite stinky due to the lack of proper sewage systems. When we pulled up in our tuk-tuk to the community center, one of the first things I noticed was this sweet little girl carrying her sibling to the center.

The community center was just recently painted. So bright and cheery! I loved the color.

I have more images to share of the community center, to be continued in a coming blog post. Thanks for reading!

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I’ve photographed Jackie and her beautiful family back in Beijing when we were neighbors, and here again as neighbors in Singapore. This time it was for the day of her son David’s high school graduation.

We had a great time getting these pics at her lovely home; everyone was so relaxed and the party started just as we finished up. Perfection!

Family images to come as well, but wanted to share a little peek at what I’ve edited so far.

Congratulations, David! All the best to you in your college years. xx

 

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I’d forgotten how much I loved this image and hadn’t even shared it here. Back on one of my visits to Beijing last year I got to photograph this cutie. I will also try to share some of his older baby images that I got on my next visit as well. Such a sweet family!

Young Lim-59

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