Today I want to introduce you to a women who is doing something to help these victims of child prostitution. Chyanne Ledbetter is selling soap and lotion through her shop, 27 Bath and Body, to raise funds so that she can move to Cambodia to start a project to provide safe jobs and a healing environment for rescued girls in recovery.
I'd like to share my interview with Chyanne Ledbetter about experience in Cambodia and her plans for the future.
Chyanne, when did you first learn about the issue of human trafficking and specifically child prostitution and what prompted you got get involved?
I first heard about the issue of human trafficking about four years ago, but it wasn't until I saw the documentary "Nefarious: Merchant of Souls" three years ago that I decided to get involved. The documentary discusses the issue of human trafficking globally; from those being exploited in Las Vegas, to the children being sold for sex in Cambodia. Before the documentary, I had just heard statistics, but viewing Nefarious showed me the flesh that brought the statistics to life. I realized that as humans, our liberties are bound together, and you can either sit on the sidelines, or become involved. Elie Wiesel says it best: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Tell me a little bit about your plans for 27 Bath and Body...
The plan is to officially launch 27 Bath and Body in Cambodia in 2015-2016. I'm moving there this year, and am planning to do a lot of research and relationship building up to that point. I am planning on initially hiring 3-4 girls, and letting it progress from there. Our main focus on products will be soap, but down the road we also hope to have lotion bars, body scrubs, candles, and lip balms. I'm striving to form relationships with businesses in the United States that will sell our handmade, wholesome products, so we can be truly sustainable. The goal is to help end slavery one soap bar at a time, and bring awareness to the issue. I would love to see many girls rescued, restored, and loved. I would also love to see our soap in houses all over the world, shining a light on the issue.
How long have you been planning this project?
I went on a Mission's trip to Cambodia in May of 2013, and I feel like God gave me the idea at that point. When I returned to California I thought about the idea of 27 Bath and Body for a couple months. I wanted to use my talents to fight this, and in July of 2013 I committed to the idea. We officially launched for fundraising on October 27, 2013.
Why did you decide to start a new project in stead of just supporting or working with another organization already doing work in Cambodia? (Or will you be collaborating with an another organization there?)
The past year and a half I've been volunteering with Agape International Missions, an awesome organization that is fighting human trafficking in Cambodia. When I move to Cambodia, I will be serving as an administrative assistant at the school they offer for the children. I decided to start 27 Bath and Body because I saw that there was an opportunity to spread awareness, and change more lives from a different point of view. A lot of organizations have bracelets, t-shirts, things like that, which is awesome, and it works great. I saw that there are not a lot of social justice soap lines, so this was a chance to spread the message further. One of the missionaries while I was in Cambodia told me they are always looking for more jobs for the girls who are out of recovery, as having an income allows them to truly flourish. He told me there can only be so many hairdressers, bracelet makers...and I realized that I could contribute to helping a few (hopefully many) girls grow into women with vision. I am not opposed to joining forces with other organizations, I think there is strength in numbers- and look forward to building relationships with the NGO's over here and abroad.
Apart from raising money, how are you preparing for working and living full-time in Cambodia? What challenges do you expect to face there?
I'm currently trying to learn Khmer (kuh-my) which is the official language of Cambodia. I'm also doing a lot of studying as far as cultural differences, and the history of Cambodia. I think it is really important when going into another country that you respect and understand their culture. Before moving, I'm planning to do a month long intensive missions cross-cultural training. And lastly, I'm reading my bible a lot. That helps me prepare spiritually. As far as challenges go, I know there will be some, and I can't really have expectations of what they may be. I know there will be challenges regarding cultural differences, and there will be challenges with starting my business in a different country. There is also the challenge of facing human trafficking head on. There are great organizations that are rescuing girls from slavery, but there is so much more work to be done. In Cambodia they don't attempt to hide that they're selling young virgin girls--it is more blatant.
What kind of support system do you have in place?
I have an amazing support system! My friends and family have been praying for me, and have offered me financial commitments as well. They have been great in this whole process, I haven't had one person shut me down, or disregard my idea, which has been a blessing. One friend even told me they would send me spices so I could cook my favorite type of food (Mexican). I will have a support system in Cambodia found in Agape International Missions. There are a lot of great missionaries serving over there, and I'm actually moving to Cambodia with a great friend of mine, who is also serving with AIM.
You've of course traveled to Cambodia before. Can you share some of the things that are different from Cambodian culture than here in the US?
I definitely have a lot to learn, but there are some stark cultural differences. There are simpler things- such as the superstition that taking pictures with three people is bad luck, especially for the person in the middle. They invest in people, over time, which is more rare in the United States. They are a primarily Buddhist country, so there are differences in that aspect. There is also a cultural difference in the respect for women: In Cambodia, they have a lot less rights. You look at their history, with the Khmer Rouge, and you can understand more about where the country is at now.
Just a random Question. I love your name, Chyanne. It's very unique, even here. I've had friends from other countries that picked an "American" name when they came hto the US because people had trouble pronouncing their real name. Is that a problem you've had to tackle? Have you needed to have a Cambodian nick-name?
Thanks so much! That is an interesting question. Children, and adults in America actually have trouble pronouncing my name sometimes. I've been called everything from Shane, to Sha-nan, to China. When I went to Cambodia it was hard for them to say my name, so they called me OG (which stands for original goat in my context). I know that sounds really strange, but they asked me when I started making lotion, and I told them I had raised goats all my life. And my friend said, "The original goat that started it all--you are the OG." So that stuck, and it was easier to say, so I just started introducing myself as such. Honestly though, I respond to pretty much anything: One of the disciples there even called me "lotion" (because that is what I was teaching him to make), and I responded. I'm thinking when I move back I'll introduce myself as CC--simple, and easy to pronounce :-).
Anything else you'ld like to share?
I just want to encourage everyone to get involved! We all have unique gifts and talents that we can use to help fight this issue! If you can't contribute time, or your talents, consider helping financially. I know that committed people can bring an end to this injustice, because our liberties are all at stake.
27 Bath and Body
27 Bath and Body soaps are made with quality ingredients and unique and appealing scents. Today you have a chance to win some samples of the following soaps: black amber, lavender, sugared spruce, chamomile, and chai poppyseed. (These are sample sizes, not full size). To enter, just answer a question on the Rafflecopter form below. Extra entries are available after you answer the first question. (We also have another giveaway going on where you can win $25 to spend at 27 Bath and Body or other featured shops that are helping victims of human trafficking. .)
You must be at least 18 to enter. Entries accepted through Feb. 15. Winner will be chosen and announced here on Feb. 16. Full entry rules are listed at the link on the bottom of the Rafflecopter form.
FOR THOSE OUTSIDE THE U.S.
This giveaway is only open in the United States, Canada (except Quebec), The United Kingdom, and the following areas of Australia (QLD, NT, TAS, and VIC only). I would love to make my giveaways open in more places, but it's hard to meet all the legal requirements for various countries.
a Rafflecopter giveaway