Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend! Ken was gone last week in Asia and came back over the weekend. While in Manila, he re-visited the Center of Hope, a shelter that Natori has been supporting. Here he is with an update!
I was introduced to the global epidemic of child / human trafficking through the amazing Cecilia Flores-Oebanda a few years ago. A victim of child trafficking herself, Cecilia has devoted her life to both rehabilitating and supporting its victims, and also helping root out and prosecute its organizers and enablers. The global child / human trafficking network is both organized and widespread, and thanks to Cecilia’s Voice of the Free (previously called the Visayan Forum Foundation) in the Philippines and similar organizations worldwide, at least some of its perpetrators have been caught and imprisoned.
I visited the Center of Hope a year ago, and was thrilled to be able to return last week to see the progress and visit with the amazingly strong survivors.
Located outside of Manila, the Center of Hope’s main purpose is to rehabilitate and support victims of child trafficking. The girls are provided shelter, education, and support as they grapple with all they have been put through.
This past Sunday, I ran as a guide for Achilles International, an organization for disabled athletes. Although it was my overall 12th marathon, it was my first marathon as a guide. It was an incredibly difficult, overwhelming, emotional, and beautiful experience. I was paired with a 25 year old blind runner, Eddy, who I had met with twice beforehand. Before our marathon together, Eddy showed me his spirit of positivity, gratefulness, and sincerity, so I knew that that would help carry me through our run together. And it did.
Me and Eddy after the marathon (and after the shower) at his family’s apartment on Roosevelt Island. Yes, I took a tram after running a marathon, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
One of my lifelong dreams is to be a ball girl for the US Open. Not as a joke or as a ‘maybe someday’ … but an actual ‘this is going to happen at some point’ dream. One of the prerequisites to be a US Open Ball Person is to volunteer at the Jana Hunsaker Wheelchair Tennis Tournament that takes places annually at Flushing Meadow (where the US Open is held). So, despite it being an incredibly busy time in the end of the school year rush, I signed up to volunteer (and even got two friends to join)! And I am so glad I did — truly a highlight of my week, month, and YEAR!
To say we were excited was an understatement. The three of us were giggling nonstop, before, during and after. Truly, a fun and highly enjoyable day. And we all want to do it again next year — this specific tournament as well as sign up to try out to be official Ball People at the US Open. I was a little unprepared and had to buy myself some tennis shoes — I only own running shoes (which scuff up the courts) — literally, they arrived the night before.
Here is Ken with an important guest blog post:
After our recent trip to India, the Josie Girl went home and I moved on to Manila, to work out of our factory for a week. While there, I also had the privilege of visiting the Visayan Forum Foundation, a charity we are now happily supporting. Visayan has for 25 years been innovating solutions to end human, and particularly child trafficking in the Philippines. In addition to fighting to shut down and prosecute trafficking organizations and individuals, Visayan has also been helping rehabilitate, train, and educate rescued victims of trafficking. My visit to their rehabilitation home, the Center of Hope, was beyond overwhelming.
The Center of Hope is located in the Philippines, just outside of Manila. The outside of the Center is protected, and beautifully painted, representing hope, rehabilitation, and a bright future.