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When children become commodities

In Norway, there is a girl with an overly large school bag on her back, excited to see her friends again after a long summer holiday packed with ice cream and early-morning swimming. The night before school starts again, she has butterflies in her tummy, but finally falls asleep – safe and sound in her own bed.

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In Cambodia, there is a girl sat waiting for her next ‘customer’. Strange sounds and scents fill the room, and she longs to see her family again. It’s late, and she should be asleep – safe and sound in her own bed, just like our children.

Imagine if this was your child …

1.2 million children!

In various part of the world, roughly as many children as there are in Norway are bought, sold, exploited and forced to earn money for their families every year. And even though this nightmare is fortunately far-removed for most of us, we have the means and the opportunity to help children who are victims of human trafficking. Through a project close to our hearts – Sweet Dreams – we have seen that there is every reason to make the most of this opportunity.

“Since 2008, we have been working closely with UNICEF to fight for children’s rights all over the world. We work together on a variety of activities all year round, running campaigns such as #pulsforunicef, the Holmenkollstaffetten relay and special Christmas campaigns. We have collected millions of kroner,”relates Hedda Skaug at the Nordic Choice Hotels head office in Oslo.
“However, the tangible work linked to protecting children subjected to human trafficking began in 2012. That was when we at Nordic Choice Hotels asked all our employees which issue should become our primary focus. It was important for us to get together on an issue close to our hearts.”

Safe, secure nights are what we care most about

In the survey Hedda Skaug is referring to, a list was drawn up of challenges children are facing all over the world. All employees were asked to consider the list and then choose a focus area. It may have been the thundering roar of unfairness that affected what quickly stood out as the most important issue to us.

“The response we received from our employees could not have been clearer: we wanted to help UNICEF in its battle against the trafficking of children,” relates Hedda Skaug.

It may also have been due to a kind of recognition that we, as a major player in the travel industry, indirectly keep this horrendous industry running. Not everyone is aware that what is known as ‘orphanage tourism’ is widespread in countries such as Cambodia. This is an industry that plays on the desire of Western tourists ‘to make a difference’ while they are travelling in poor countries. Children are sold to orphanages run by human traffickers. They then receive gifts of money and donations from well-meaning tourists.

As a hotel chain, we want to shoulder our share of the responsibility and work to provide a safer, more secure life for children who have been abducted and had their childhood stolen from them.”

From forced prostitution to a safe night’s sleep

“Two years ago, we were on a field trip to Vietnam. There we met some of the 1.2 million children who are the victims of human trafficking every year,” relates Hedda Skaug.

“This resulted in some emotionally overwhelming meetings, but we also saw signs of hope in courageous children battling every day to win their lives back. One of the children we met was 11-year-old Loin, who had been abducted by human traffickers and forced to work as a prostitute. After three years, she succeeded in running away. She now has protection, goes to school and finally sleeps safe and sound in her own bed.

“This is precisely what our Sweet Dreams project is all about. Together with UNICEF, our goal is to give children like Loin a safe bed to sleep in,” explains Hedda Skaug.

“Because it is hugely unfair for children to be forced into a gruesome reality that robs them of the best things in life, such as love, care and schooling. While our children sleep exhausted after an eventful first day at school, watched over by caring adults in secure surroundings, we will continue to work for a world in which children who currently live a life of violence and forced labour can do the same.”

The goal is to contribute to more than 100,000 safe nights every year

By Choosing Nordic Choice Hotels, you are contributing to the work to provide a future comprising schooling and safe nights for children who are currently subjected to the horrors of human trafficking. We are proud to say that when you stay with us, you can sleep with a clear conscience!

You can follow our work at https://www.facebook.com/wecare.nordicchoice/

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