WASHINGTON — Rebekah Pinkham loves to travel, and has traveled throughout the world since leaving her home in northern Daviess County. She has been to 20 countries in her travels.
In June, she will combine her love of travel with a mission of helping others when she begins a year-long internship with International Justice Mission. The group works for human rights in areas where basic human rights are not guaranteed.
“They take on a wide variety of human rights issues but the two major ones are labor slavery and sex trafficking,” Pinkham said.
IJM works in the world of human rights that few get to see. Countries where millions of people are held in economic bondage, sex slavery and child labor.
It is a world, although reported, is something that does not register for most of us unless one has seen it.
Pinkham, while working in South Korea as an English teacher, has. From forced labor of Russian women to outright sex slavery of Filipino women, helping those women is the inspiration for her IJM internship.
“You do see a lot of open prostitution. Just seeing small glimpses of it in Korea and going to places like Thailand,” Pinkham said about her experiences. “You see like 12-year-old girls on the arms of 50-year-old men, it just disgusted me and it made me think - What can I do about it?”
She got to know about IJM’s mission through church events in Korea. After she returned to the U.S., she got to know a person in Las Vegas who did work for IJM and she applied for an internship.
The mission, started in 1997, goes into the seediest of brothels and factories and rescue those held under captive. The mission then helps the exploited.
“There may be some physical wounds that needs to be healed,” Pinkham said. “There’s a lot of mental and emotional wounds and try to help them.”
IJM, according to Pinkham, also works to prosecute those who take advantage of others and lobbies governments to fight corruption.
Pinkham, daughter of Times Herald correspondent Tim Pinkham, will be using her skills in human resources to help the mission.
“I found out some opportunities even though I am not a lawyer, I’m not an investigator and I’m not an attorney,” Pinkham said.
For her, the mission is personal because of what she has seen.
“You hear about a lot of people wanting to be aware of things,” Pinkham said. “Being aware is great, but I want to do the next step and actually be involved because awareness only goes so far.”
To help make this opportunity possible, Pinkham is fundraising throughout the state. She has been giving presentations and lectures in churches, centers and homes about her internship. She hasnÕ’t reached her fundraising goal, but that will not deter her from her mission in Asia.
“You talk to friends, family, churches and like-minded organizations,” Pinkham said. “It is slow but steady.”
IJM has 16 field offices throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America. The purpose of the organization, created in 1997, is human rights advocacy at the local and governmental level.
According to the organization, around 27 million men, women and children are held as slaves throughout the world. The organization UNICEF says 2 million children are exploited in the commercial sex trade in developing countries.
To donate to Pinkham’s mission or for more information, visit www.jim.org/getinvolved/internshipsupport or contact Pinkham directly at firstname.lastname@example.org