Age of Pacific Lecture – James Pond

This post was written by part-time MIM student Kim Morrison. Kim was on the extension trip of the MIM Asia Field Study that went to Cambodia and Thailand. While in Cambodia the students toured the Transitions facility. 


The Altruist stalks the Benevolent Angel

2007 – After returning from a Phnom Penh Habitat for Humanity build,  I saw on Dateline NBC a program on sex trafficking and Transitions Cambodia. James and Athena Pond started the organization to rehabilitate victims of sex trafficking and ran the NGO out of Hillsboro Oregon. I found (stalked)  them and said I wanted to help; communication and support have been ongoing since that time. An important part of my annual giving is a monthly subscriber donation to Project EveryGirl.

If you attended the talk, I don’t wish to be redundant but to cover what was not in James Pond’s fabulous presentation and candid discussion of sex trafficking.  Beyond that is some history and observations;

–          James and Athena Pond sold what they had and moved to Cambodia do start Transitions Cambodia.

–          James and Athena are fluent in Khmer.  Their children moved to Cambodia with them.

–          Cambodia is still in the top 10 most impoverished nations and in the top 10 most corrupt.

–          Doing anything in Cambodia as an expat is not easy.

The fabulous work they do is in progress.  The first talk James did in Portland that I was involved in was roughly 2008 for the World Affairs Council. It was tremendous, and different IMG_1070than the talk we heard in Lincoln Hall (gets better all the time). Part of the reasoning for changing his talk is statistic fatigue.  It’s true that human trafficking has outpaced weapons and is just below drugs in terms of annual revenue globally. A lot of people profit mightily, so this is not a situation that can go away easily. I am consistently amazed that there are people whose conscience allows them to profit off the backs and suffering of others – it is a substantive part of the human global condition.  But the message and the marketing needed to be softer, more personal. The organization name was changed to Transitions Global when the model showed success and James and Athena were approached by others in India, Europe, US and many other countries to replicate what they have accomplished in Cambodia.  For a roughly 11% drop out/recidivism rate (relative to >30% for other organizations), this is a model to be copied so the name and the scope had to change.  Imitation may truly be the sincerest form of flattery, but also desire to make an impact.  Transitions communicates with supportive organizations, this is part of the success. From building the “Fort Knox” of rehabilitation centers – from one confinement to another confinement, a huge part of their success is the humility to learn as they go and change directions.  Now to Shine and Dream House which are full of hope and light.

Two years ago (approximately) the website and donations methods changed to Transitions Global and  Project EveryGirl.  This is a way of donating monthly in the name of a girl and building a blog relationship with that individual.  Donors get a sketch of the girl; learn her name, get a t-shirt (I wore mine at the lecture), wrist bands and more. In return is the communication and knowledge that we can affect change.   By connecting with Bill and Leia Chiaravelle and brandnavigation the look of Transitions Global changed dramatically.

I am moved by the resilience of the human condition; while I have the intestinal fortitude to survive almost anything, the thought of being raped over 1,000+ times by people who don’t care at all about a girl, who would actively bring physical and emotional trauma on that individual for the ecstasy of power and control – that would bring into question any desire to continue living in that circumstance.  I would almost rather die, and yet with the help of Transitions many of the girls do thrive.  They are not victims of sex alone but of use, abuse, subjugation, pain, and suffering and yet they can smile again at some point.

We have many questions left for James.  Why does this continue to happen? What is the psyche of the perps who actually pay to abuse a young girl or boy? What are the obstacles? Picture1What are the numbers? How can we help?  The biggest message I think is this:  In any walk of life that includes individuals who work for and with anyone else, there is a message to be sent. That social responsibility needs to be part of our collective DNA, that intolerance must be amplified for any type of corruption, corrosion or use of others and that allowing someone their true empowerment is manifest. Easier said than done as we go back to our lives. But it touches us all directly or indirectly.   My part is housing  projects in Cambodian villages to give at least; shelter, water, sanitation, light and bring the denominator up a bit, hopefully to lessen the need for anyone to be subjected to the supply chain  of sex trafficking. The demand is still a problem.

You are the future of business and humanity, the status of girls (and boys) and the entitlement of men.  A couple of my friends are CEO’s and presidents who travel for work, they say upon arriving at any airport in Asia they have a limo, drinks and are offered girls…multiply that availability to the ones who actually say “yes”….it’s still an astounding problem.

I hope James Pond and AOP are an annual tradition.  Each of us will know or might be a CEO who can make a difference.  Remember, act accordingly, help the global destiny improve how we can.

Be the change


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Filed under Age of the Pacific Lecture Series, Guest Bloggers, Non-Profits

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