While Compassion First started out offering aftercare for girls rescued from sex trafficking, we soon began to ask the question – how can we prevent these girls from being trafficked in the first place? Our answer: Community Development.

Supporting children living in extreme poverty is one of our most important responsibilities. These kids face vulnerabilities that are nearly impossible to overcome on their own. Young girls are often preyed upon by traffickers, and boys are lured into drug dealing. We also believe in the importance of supporting the child’s family as a whole, especially their mothers who have often turned to what they see as their only choice: selling themselves for sex in order to feed their children.

Since opening our first community center in 2012, we have seen children graduate from high school, enroll in college, and find stable employment, breaking out of the cycle of poverty and exploitation. We have watched mothers realize their self-worth, learn new skills, start their own businesses, and build a new future for themselves, their families, and their community.

Through educational scholarships, holistic care, entrepreneurial opportunities, and community events, we prevent vulnerable children from being trafficked. More information about each of these pillars is listed below.

Educational scholarships have been instrumental in helping children enroll and stay in school. Children come daily to the community centers to work on their homework with staff and specialized tutors in math, language, and science.

We are seeing children graduate from high school, find jobs, and transform the trajectory of their lives through stable employment.

Some of the students are pursuing college, inspiring the younger children to dream of a future they never thought possible. Educational support is not only making a powerful difference in the lives of children, but we are also seeing a positive impact on their families and the surrounding community.

Overall health care and support provide a critical component for the well-being of those we serve.

Compassion First community centers provide nutrition for the healthy development of young children, assist mothers in accessing local medical clinics, and provide health education for teens.

Individual and group counseling is available for teens and their mothers at the centers. The centers provide a safe space for teens to gather for pursuing healthy alternatives to nightlife in their communities.

We offer a variety of classes at our community centers for mothers. Topics include business training, cooking classes, and other programs designed to educate, empower, and create opportunity. Parenting classes provide space for mothers to gather and dialogue with one another and local leaders on child development and parenting support.

Children and teen enrichment classes include music, public speaking, English, dancing, martial arts, cooking, and other extracurricular activities or programs.

We have watched in amazement as a group of mothers have taken the initiative to start their own sewing business. They make beautiful handmade Indonesian batik clothing items like skirts, wallets, and bags and then sell them, providing stable income for their families.

We also host several community events every year. These events allow us to understand the dynamics and values of each family. Two of our annual events include Family Camp in February and the Thanksgiving Celebration in November.

Our family camps provide a necessary respite away, where families can relax and have fun together swimming at a waterpark. There are times for family strengthening through sharing, counseling, and play, as well as times of education and celebration.

Thanksgiving celebrations are a time for families to gather and celebrate. The children love to perform dance and theater for their families while they dine together.

Right outside the major cities of East Java, Indonesia, you will find large cemeteries with thousands of sarcophagi spanning over several acres. These cemeteries in East Java are home to communities of people who are in the margins of society both economically and socially, many of whom are migrants from all over Indonesia. The poverty, instability, and risks due to migrating from conflict or disaster makes these populations extremely susceptible to trafficking and exploitation. Most of them do not have the necessary documentation to be able to access government services in the large cities.

Many are victims of abuse, sexual exploitation, and trafficking. Some are disabled, orphaned, ill, or widowed, and all of their situations are informed by severe poverty. Women here turn to what they see as their only choice, selling themselves for sex.

This is where we work.

We currently run community development programming in two different cemeteries. We first began working in the first community in 2012, and were invited to expand into a second community in 2020.

This is a rapidly expanding work with reach to more than 600 families, resulting in street knowledge that traffickers are leaving alone children known to have education scholarships. Through our community development efforts, we have reached hundreds of individuals through education, holistic care, entrepreneurship opportunities, and community events.

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