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Mother, daughter duo make trip to Cambodia

By: Amanda Calzada, Placer Herald Correspondent
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It was the most unforgettable trip of their lives. Mari Oxenham, a kindergarten teacher at Breen Elementary School, and her daughter, Karin Oxenham, a 2010 Rocklin High alumni, wanted to have one last travel memory together before Karin left for college. Such was a 15-day missionary trip to Cambodia. “Sometimes it is easier to pretend the poor do not exist, but when I realize I actually have the power to change lives, I want to do so,” said Karin Oxenham, who has traveled to Mexico three times and Fresno once for mission work with her church. Their mission entailed interacting with approximately 300 children through fun activities while always keeping an open mind and heart. Bayside team members learned to be accepting of every person they saw and interacted with, from the victims of sex-trafficking to the “pimps” and “ex-pimps.” “Pimp” is the name of the man who sells the girl to another man. Families can decide to sell their daughters for a night or decide to give complete custody to the stranger in return for a flat cash payment. Girls as young as age 3 are engaged in the horrors of Cambodia’s sex-trafficking. Thirty million victims of modern day slavery are in the world today and an estimated one million more each year. “After living in Cambodia for that short period of time, I cannot go an hour without thinking about the people there,” Karin Oxenham said. Karin and Mari Oxenham visited the female victims at a trafficking and rape treatment center and were surprised to observe the girls’ jubilant energy and vibrant zest for life. They see each girl as a miracle transformed by God, they say, since each girl forget what happened to her the night before and bounce into a room with a smile on her face. Trafficking is part of their culture, Mari Oxenham said. Mari and Karin Oxenham both helped children with crafts at “Kids Club” and remember seeing 18 year olds “feverishly” coloring alongside 3 year olds. Mari Oxenham said that the same crafts at Kids Club that kept the kids thoroughly entertained for 10 consecutive days would have easily bored her kindergarten class after five days. The Bayside team wanted to improve the Cambodia quality of life in different ways. From a medical clinic to a basic computer training class, the team helped both adults and children. The reason behind every deed was to ultimately eradicate the sex-trafficking in Cambodia by changing people’s hearts through love and hope, Mari Oxenham said. This goal also came through the form of an athletic competition. As an outreach to the men in the community, Lord’s Gym sponsored an event to see who was the “strongest man.” The event brought unprecedented feelings of pride and unity to the Cambodians through laughter, cheers, and clapping. Sex-trafficking does not only exist in Cambodia. The Oxenhams researched that Sacramento has one of the worst rates of sex-trafficking in the country. However, an organization called, Courage to You, is establishing the first Northern California home for girls rescued from trafficking. Girls that are victims of trafficking are placed into juvenile hall. Currently, there are 150 victims in juvenile hall waiting to be placed in the treatment facility. “Frankly, I was stunned to learn about the miraculous improvements in people’s lives. I could have heard a million stories about it, but being in the midst of the work there gave me a great sense of the magnitude of the changes taking place in Cambodia,” Mari Oxenham said. The Oxenhams observed that the Cambodians felt sincerely appreciative of their team’s efforts, especially since they traveled from the United States. For more information regarding sex-trafficking, go to couragetobeyou.org or aim4asia.org.