MANILA, PHILIPPINES – A partnership between the Consuelo Foundation (CZAF) and International Justice Mission (IJM) has provided a beacon of hope for survivors of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CZAF collaborated with IJM to assist 166 families of OSEC survivors during the global pandemic. Their goal was to meet the everyday needs of survivors by covering the costs of necessities such as groceries and medical supplements.
CZAF is a private, US-based foundation which seeks to inspire hope for children in need. They saw an opportunity to do so for Filipino children through IJM Philippines’ #DontJUSTsendflowers social media campaign, which highlighted the need for financial help for survivors as the global pandemic had reportedly shown a rise in OSEC cases.
Since the start of the lockdowns in March, collaborations among domestic and foreign law enforcement, in partnership with IJM, has led to 20 law enforcement operations that rescued and safeguarded 76 victims and at-risk individuals, and arrested 16 suspected OSEC traffickers. In the Philippines, the trafficking of children to create new child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM) has continued during the pandemic, as has the collective response to this crime.
“In all the chaos that this pandemic brings, it is our wish for survivors to know that there are individuals and groups out there who think about them, care for them, and find ways to help them cope,” said Atty. Carmela Andal Castro, Managing Director of Consuelo Foundation.
Coming at a crucial time for many survivors and their families who have been struggling since the Covid-19 lockdown caused many to lose their jobs, many beneficiaries of the gift expressed their gratitude for CZAF and IJM.
“The financial support you’ve given us greatly eased our day-to-day worries. You did not leave us without hope but instead encouraged us to move forward in life. You are an inspiration because you haven’t forgotten us,” wrote one of the beneficiaries.
Another beneficiary wrote, “I am one of many people who lost their job due to the pandemic. Your help has given me hope to move forward. It also helped ease my worries on meeting the daily needs of my family. There’s still a lot on my mind but this has definitely lightened our load.”
Deep indeed is the need of many affected by the pandemic but gifts, such as the one from CZAF, give hope. To survivors, this is more than a gift; it is an outstretched hand pulling them up to see a light in the dark.
Atty. Castro further states, “Hope is an important element of what we do in the Foundation and we would like for them to pass this on to others too.”
National Director of IJM Philippines Attorney Sam Inocencio said, “The Consuelo Foundation desired to give more than a financial gift to survivors but also a light of hope that they can carry on. The many letters received from the OSEC survivors who were beneficiaries demonstrate that their goal is being accomplished, and a beacon of hope has been lit.”
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