We protect boys & young men by meeting their life development needs by empowering them to see their own resiliency, autonomy & purpose through education, counselling and overall health —all to give them freedom to choose a life beyond exploitation.
THE ROOT CAUSE
Human Trafficking is extremely profitable. It generates approximately $150 billion annually around the world.
There is no definition of child pornography and no prohibition or punishment for those who disseminate, offer or possess child pornography.
There is a domestic demand for sex services from children, which receive a degree of social tolerance due to a variety of contributing factors, including local constructions of gender norms.
According to the United Nations, there are over 27 million modern-day slaves in the world. These numbers are often under-reported but Urban Light exists to change that. The stories of these young men can no longer be neglected. Many of them are forced to move from the hill-tribe villages of Chiang Mai into the night life of the red light district. In order to find work and provide for their families, many fall victim to a harsh life stuck in the sex trafficking system.
Urban Light is one of the only organizations of their kind to specifically focus on helping young men and providing an outlet for safety, health and renewal. Most people in Thailand and around the world don't want to acknowledge the existence of male sex trafficking and exploitation – but Urban Light is here to educate, advocate and bring attention to the dark realities these young men face.
THE FOUNDER'S STORY:
While visiting Thailand in 2009, I witnessed firsthand the horrors of trafficking, exploitation and the violence committed against an overlooked and unimaginable population of Boys...yes, Boys! While walking through the Red Light District of Chiang Mai, I observed a thriving and booming sex-trade that was taking hold of vulnerable Boys as young as 11 years old. That night, unwilling to walk by, I instead chose to walk deeper into the alley of boy bars.
Finding refuge at a table, I immediately befriended one working boy. Through broken English, a love of soccer and the ability for me to lose gracefully at Connect Four (over 18 times!), a friendship was quickly formed. I had unexpectedly befriended this young, kind and protective Hilltribe Boy—his name, “Oi”. The friendship and trust between myself and Oi--two complete strangers from two completely different worlds, would only intensify over the next 5 days. On my fifth and last day in Chiang Mai the desperation of knowing that there would be no one to play Connect Four with Oi, and no one to talk soccer stats with him other than the male customers in the boy bars left me frantic.
Upon arriving back to Washington, DC I quit my job, informed my husband and family that I was going back to Thailand and quickly made arrangements to pawn my engagement and wedding rings. I was able to use that money as start-up capital (this was before Kickstarter existed!) and just 3-months after meeting Oi, I traveled back to Chiang Mai and started Urban Light.
With the help of Oi, Urban Light soon became an organization dedicated to empowering, restoring and providing emergency services and support to boys in Chiang Mai who are victims of trafficking exploitation. Urban Light has become my life purpose and beyond that an advocate and torch holder for the millions of overlooked Boys around the world.
In just the past five years, Urban Light has provided services to over 3,000 Boys, over 10,000 hot meals and over 15,000 hours of services. Together, we are impacting the lives and bring hope and light to the depths of the darkness.
-Alezandra Russell, Founder of Urban Light