Sep 29, 2009

Run for their freedom... Run for their Lives

by Cheryl Cooper


Pun was married at the age of 16 because she was unwanted by her family. Her husband eventually left her, leaving a heap of debt in his wake.

Pun was forced to work at a bar in Bangkok’s red light district. She serviced 10 customers per month. Each customer paid $24 to have her for 24 hours.

Thanks to Beginnings and Freedom 4-24, Pun and many women in Thailand receive an education and are freed from prostitution.
In Thailand an estimated $300 million is sent home yearly by women engaged in prostitution, according to www.freedom4-24.com. On Oct. 24, residents of Lynchburg, Va., and the surrounding area will have the opportunity to give Thai women like Pun freedom for one night through an event called Run For Their Lives (RFTL).

RFTL races will be held at Heritage High School, and includes a 10k, 5k and a 1k for children. The entrance fee is $24 per person, and 100 percent of the proceeds are used for the benefit of Thai women, according to Sarah Kline, one of the chief organizers of RFTL.

“We have enough sponsors … so that when you sign up, everything is 100 percent going toward Freedom (4-24),” Kline said. “We want to make it as family friendly as possible, because these girls don’t have any family.”

Freedom 4-24 is the organization that gave birth to RFTL and was founded in 2009 by Christine Pettit, Kline’s sister and a Liberty student.

In the summer of 2008, Pettit went to Thailand for five weeks to work with a ministry called Beginnings. According to Pettit, Beginnings works with sexually exploited women in Thailand, and Bangkok specifically.

“I lived right at the center there, where former prostitutes who have come out of (prostitution) are living,” Pettit said. “I couldn’t get the women and their stories out of my mind. So that’s kind of how Freedom 4/24 started. I wanted other people to know about their plight as well as figuring a way for our generation to get involved.”

According to Kline, many times women are forced into prostitution as a way to provide for their families. Families, usually from poor rural communities, pick a daughter and send her into the city, knowing full well how she will be earning a living.

“What they (Beginnings) do is they will go to the bars, and they will pay … the bar fee, and they will offer the women a night to just come and relax, and just … be loved,” Kline said.

The $24 for 24 hours that the women earn is what inspired both the name of Freedom 4-24 and the entry fee for RFTL, according to an article in Lynchburg Living.

RFTL was the idea of pastor Steve Pettit of Brentwood Church in Lynchburg who went with his daughter Christine Pettit on an earlier trip to Thailand in the summer of 2007.

“(Illegal prostitution in Thailand) is such a huge issue, yet we are so blind to it,” Kline said. “So how can we make (prostitution) an unavoidable issue in the United States? We want this to become humongous, like the Boston Marathon.

For more information about Run For Their Lives, visit runfortheirlives.net. For more information about Freedom 4-24, visit freedom424.com.

Contact Cheryl Cooper at ccooper2@liberty.edu.
 


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