Acclaimed singer and songwriter Kelita Haverland will perform Saturday at a Christmas benefit concert that will help victims of the sex trade.
A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Haverland has a passion to help children who are sold to brothels and suffer abuse. She has already raised $120,000 to fight the sex trade in Cambodia. This Christmas, she wants to raise $70,000.
"Most young girls play with dolls, ride bikes and go to school," said the Christian artist and five-time Juno Award nominee. "In Cambodia, 100,000 children as young as three define their childhood as sexual slavery. Innocent children are sexually molested and raped, serving grown men several times in a single day. This is an assault on their dignity, freedom and safety, and we can all do something about it."
When Haverland first watched a documentary in 2006 that revealed the ugly truth of the childhood sex trade in Cambodia, her heart broke for the young victims and she cried for the next three days.
"I wanted to reach inside that TV and pull each beautiful girl out to safety," she says. "I wanted to hold them in my arms, rock them gently and let them know that everything was going to be all right. That they were safe. That they were loved."
She soon found herself in Cambodia where she met 9- to 17-year-old girls who were rescued from brothels. She had the opportunity to sing to them, and speak and pray with them.
In 2007, the music artist began the "Heavenly Night" project, a Christmas benefit concert plus music CD that would draw attention to the plight of sex slaves and raise funds to help build a safe house for little girls rescued from the Cambodian sex trade.
"It sincerely has been my heart's desire to advocate on behalf of the child victims, to aid in the healing and rehabilitation of those being rescued and to encourage others to get involved," she says.
One hundred percent of the funds will be directed to the building of the safe house, which will be named Heavenly Hope Center. The annual concert has been held in partnership with the Ratanak Foundation, a Christian organization that has built hospitals and learning centers and funded programs to help victims of trafficking in Cambodia.
This year's concert is being held near Toronto, Canada. Gospel singer Hiram Joseph will be featured as a special guest.
Cambodia is on the Tier 2 Watch List of the U.S. Department of State's 2009 Trafficking in Persons report. The report indicates that the Government of Cambodia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, though it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these overall efforts, the government did not show evidence of progress in convicting and punishing human trafficking offenders, the report states.