Rachel Goble Helps Stop Sex Trafficking of Impoverished Children

By Jones, Marilyn | The Christian Science Monitor, January 25, 2013 | Go to article overview

Rachel Goble Helps Stop Sex Trafficking of Impoverished Children


Jones, Marilyn, The Christian Science Monitor


A few years after graduating from college, Rachel Goble made a radical decision. Rather than continue toward a career in marketing and business, she decided to return to the world of her youth: serving the poor. She felt drawn to working for social justice, which had been at the cornerstone of her upbringing.

Today, as the president of The SOLD Project, a nonprofit foundation that helps young girls in Thailand escape sex trafficking, Ms. Goble is passionate about her career, she says. In fact, she's certain that The SOLD Project will be part of her life forever.

Now approaching the five-year mark, The SOLD Project powered in large part by Goble's relentless drive and determination has transformed the lives of dozens of young girls (and boys) in northern Thailand's most poverty-stricken region.

To date, The SOLD Project has provided scholarships for 120 young students so they can stay in school and thereby exponentially better their chances of escaping the harmful effects of a life of prostitution.

With almost no other options for earning a living in rural mountain villages, Thai girls often yield to the promises of "older" women, usually about 21 years old, prostitutes who make money to support their drug addictions by recruiting children into prostitution.

These women tell of jobs and money that await the children in the city. A gift as cheap as a cellphone suggests riches and an easy life to these youngsters. Without an education, young girls fall for these false promises, only to wind up in a life on the streets.

The SOLD Project team believes deeply that education is the key to breaking this cycle. That explains why The SOLD Project focuses on prevention.

Goble has discovered that raising money to start programs or offer opportunities to children before they have succumbed to the lure of prostitution has proved difficult.

But facing daunting challenges comes naturally to Goble. She grew up in northern California, where she felt at home with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Her parents, who are committed to working for social justice, brought her from a young age along with them to work for nonprofit groups her dad founded in impoverished places such as Belize. This work instilled in Goble a deep desire to serve the poor, she says. She also has always loved working with children and wanted to advocate for children's rights.

"My childhood was so blessed," she says. "I had no real struggles, but I saw others in the world struggling." She wanted to help.

Goble knew she had a calling to work with young people, but she also wanted to develop her talents in the visual arts. Building on her degree in business with an emphasis in art, she became a professional photographer. Still, she knew that if she wanted to pursue advocacy for children and social justice, she would have to return to school for more education.

Friends suggested attending a seminary, and though she was personally committed to a spiritual life, at first she resisted. Eventually, she found the perfect fit Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., which had just started a program in cross- cultural studies. Goble had the opportunity to more or less design a program that would give her the freedom to develop her own interests.

Her graduate course work at Fuller sparked an investigation into children at risk, which led Goble to visit India and South Africa to research her capstone project. There, she says, she "listened and learned" about sex trafficking. She found that the funneling of young girls and boys into the sex industry wasn't only about coercion. Much broader forces, such as extreme poverty, underlie the decisions and mistakes young people make.

The real key to stopping the supply of naive children into sex trafficking, she realized, lay in prevention. However, she discovered that most aid groups focus on helping only after a life in prostitution has begun. …

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