On June 28th I will be returning to Costa Rica to continue missionary work with chilcren. Costa Rica is a beautiful country and a popular tourist destination. So what kind of mission work is there to be done? Lots.
Jacó is a city located on the pacific coast and has a population of 5,000- 6,000 residents. One of the major attractions in Jacó is surfing and it hosted the 2009 World Surfing Games. Tourists in Jacó see a life of luxury, fun, and relaxation. Residents of Jacó face issues of poverty, abuse, and exploitation.
Here are some of the identified risk factors in Jacó:
· Underage Prostitution & Human Trafficking
· High rates of school dropout (before 6th grade), students falling behind or not registered in school
· Breakdown of family structure
· Lack of Creative nurturing opportunities
What connections, as Americans, do we have to issues such as these?
According to World Vision,
“It is estimated that U.S. citizens account for 25 percent of child sex tourists worldwide. Some Americans take advantage of prostituted children while traveling to impoverished countries for business, tourism and other legitimate reasons. Others travel abroad specifically for "sex tours."
Sex tourists travel to countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Mexico and Brazil expecting anonymity, low-cost prostitution, easily accessible children and impunity from prosecution.”
Shocking, isn’t it?
Christians, churches and non-profits all over the world are getting involved in anti-trafficking organizations to create awareness, intervene, rescue and protect children, teenagers and young adults.
Youth With A Mission (YWAM) is an international, inter-denominational Christian missionary organization. There are 3 missionary bases throughout Costa Rica plus the ministry location in Jacó.
The Refuge is our answer to these issues and our way of becoming a light in the community.
Prevention is the idea- while some work to rescue children that have already become involved in underage prostitution and human trafficking, The Refuge works to prevent children from ever getting involved.
Through kids clubs, creative opportunities, nurturing adult relationships, and providing a safe place for kids to play and grow, The Refuge becomes place where these children are empowered and protected.
The Refuge is still in its pioneering stages. We currently have kids clubs in public places, such has libraries, parks and the beach. However, we are in the process of purchasing a property where we will build a tutoring center, skate ramp, run kids clubs and camps and start a community garden.
Watch this video, and catch the vision for the impact The Refuge will have on the children living in the slums of Jacó who are at risk of human trafficking and sexual exploitation :
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