Local teens fight against child trafficking
TWO Hervey Bay university students have joined forces with local charity Forget Me Not to help put a real dent in the child trafficking trade.
The pair joined the Change Agent Program in 2017, which teaches the younger generation about the work the charity does, and how they could help.
After returning from Nepal and meeting young victims of trafficking, Olivia Hay, 17 and Thomas Biden, 18, said they want to educate the region about this illegal industry.
"In Nepal, illegal orphanage owners will go up to remote villages where nobody is educated and say, 'look if you give us your kid and a bunch of money, we'll take them, we'll go and get them educated, we'll give them a life you could never provide for them'," Ms Hay said.
"They're used as tourist attractions.
"So for people like us, if we were to travel to somewhere like Cambodia or India, they'd say, 'go to an orphanage, help out, meet the poor little kids and give us some money to help the kids,' but really the owners are just embezzling all the money."
Mr Biden said the children, who are aged between five to nine years, were made to behave a certain way in front of unsuspecting tourists.
"They're made to look happy when tourists come along and act like they're having a great time there," he said.
"When they're taken from the villages they're basically written death certificates and are given new birth certificates."
Ms Hay said Forget Me Not worked in partnership with other organisations in Nepal to bust illegal orphanages and reunite the children with their family.
"Forget Me Not works with other companies that go on the ground and bust into these places with the government and save the kids," she said.
"And we have a little home where they stay while we find their families, but it's a huge process to try and find families of little kids like that, because you can't put in on social media in Nepal and say, 'who owns this kid?'."
Mr Biden said the charity is holding a fundraiser to assist in reuniting trafficked children with their families, but more than anything, he wanted to educate the region about what is happening.
"The idea of the Colour Stampede isn't just to raise money to help out with the reuniting process, it's also to spread the awareness in Hervey Bay and the Wide Bay region so more people are talking about it."
Forget Me Not's fundraiser Colour Stampede will be held from 10am on Sunday, May 20 at the Susan River Homestead Adventure Resort.
For more information, visit stampede.org.au.