It was almost two years ago...

that I first visited the Minefield Village in war torn Cambodia.  My heart was already starting to care about these dear people before I’d even met them.  I had learned so much about their country and the suffering they had and continue to endure. I was excited beyond measure to meet them and couldn’t even hold the tears back when our van slowly traveled the dirt road into their village.  The children literally ran to our van, freely giving hugs and jumping into our arms, accepting our embraces and love without reservation.

My focus was joyfully wrapped up in the young children the first few days in the village.  My hand was never empty as one little girl or boy held on as if they just couldn’t soak up every ounce of love in the time we could be there with them.  I hardly looked at the older children or the women in the village.  I hardly considered their lives and how difficult it must be to grow into adulthood under these harsh circumstances.

Then came the fourth day in the village that turned my heart in a direction of caring I had never anticipated.  I walked into the tiny, stuffy, steaming hot building where the LandMine Design women were meeting to fellowship, sing, laugh, and work together making beautiful beads and jewelry.  I was overcome with emotion - joy, heartache, tears, and an overwhelming feeling of love and acceptance by these precious Cambodian women.

"...the pain in their dark eyes flooded my heart and mind after I left the village that first time."

- Janie Thomas

As I sat with the older women, admiring their work, watching and listening to their stories and laughter and gossip, I couldn’t help but notice the younger ones in the room.  They were shy and reserved. They were young teenagers. My heart went out to them.  I’m a mom. I have teenagers.  Moms can see the pain in a teen’s eyes that sometimes no one else can.

Those beautiful teen girls and the pain in their dark eyes flooded my heart and mind after I left the village that first time.  I hadn’t had the opportunity to talk with them, laugh with them, cry with them, even embrace them.  The fear and reservation that is so typical in a teen girl was there in each of them.  I couldn’t shake a question that kept forming in my heart:  How can I make a difference in their lives, how can I show them I care?

Six months later I joined the LandMine Design staff.  I couldn’t wait to return to Cambodia to work with the women, especially the teen girls that never left my mind.  As I worked with the ladies’ beautiful beads and jewelry here in our Denver location I couldn’t stop thinking about three young women in particular - the teenagers that had filled my heart and thoughts since first seeing them.  I learned their names were Volek, Phun, and Samphor.  I learned their stories. Amazing stories of survival while living in a village built on a former minefield. 

This is a place of the world where young teen girls don’t have dreams of a future filled with possibilities.  Their lives focus on providing for their families right now, fighting against all odds to stay in school, trying to stay in their village without being sent away and forced into human trafficking.

My next visits to the village have been quite different from that first one.  I always embrace the little children waiting for us as we get out of the van and I always soak up their laughter, joy and hugs, with tears in my happy eyes. But now I’m quickly searching for three teenage girls that have captured my heart.  We are excited to be sharing more of their stories with you.  They are stories of longing, fear, hope, discouragement and so much more.

I hope you’ll feel compelled to read more as we share stories that give us reason to care in the battle against human trafficking.  Today, we stand with the #EndItMovement to shine a light on human slavery in the world. 

Today, we begin to share the stories of girls fighting for futures free from slavery … stories that demand us to care. 

- Janie Thomas, Customer Relations