A view of the red light district in Surabaya, Indonesia. With support from Australian sponsors, World Vision is working to protect children from a life of exploitation. Photo by Ilana Rose, World Vision.
Not long ago the ABC featured an investigative piece on child prostitution in Surabaya, Indonesia. Having recently travelled to Surabaya, the piece resonated with me and my own experiences of this heartbreaking issue. The journalist visited the same community I did, a community that lives in the shadows of Indonesia’s biggest red light district. She also visited a World Vision-supported crisis centre where vulnerable children and teenagers are cared for.
The focus of our work there is to give children opportunities for a better future and in particular to work with at-risk girls to ensure they have other career options. The centre offers counselling and a safe place for children to play and study, and simultaneously takes them away from the negative influences of the red light district.
It was in this community that I met one little girl whose mum worked as a prostitute in Surabaya and other parts of Indonesia. She was being brought up by her grandmother and was actively involved in World Vision’s programs.
Through these programs, she had come into contact with a local volunteer who acted as her guardian angel and was determined to keep her from following in her mother’s footsteps. This dedicated woman helped this little girl with her homework and encouraged her to attend the music and study groups available at the community centre.
It is people like this, as well as the Mayor of Surabaya who is featured in the ABC story, that give me great hope that the children of Surabaya will have a brighter future. Our programs there are supported through child sponsorship, so it is because of the support of Australian sponsors that World Vision’s work in Surabaya can continue. Child prostitution is not an easy issue to face, but it is through dialogue and awareness that I hope Australians will be encouraged to make a difference.
Tim Costello is the CEO of World Vision Australia.