Rani Hong speaks eloquently about human trafficking. She speaks from experience.
Last Saturday Rani told her story of suffering, slavery and survival to 420 guests at the Women of Vision 21st anniversary luncheon, held at the Balboa Bay Club.
Rani speaks around the country with passion and purpose to end human trafficking and bring hope and healing to victims.
Donna Phebus, a Newport Beach resident and chair of Orange County Women of Vision, explained that this year’s focus for the organization is on protecting children from slavery and trafficking.
“We chose Rani for our ‘Faces of Courage’ Luncheon because of her story,” Donna said. “Rani is genuine and highlights something most people don’t know about. We want to call attention to oppression, poverty and injustice in the world. We are excited to be part of God’s work.”
Before the luncheon, guests enjoyed a silent auction, art and fashion boutiques, and the opportunity to win a one-year lease on a Crevier BMW Mini Cooper. The vendors donated 25 percent of their sales to Women of Vision, Orange County.
Women of Vision, with 34 chapters nationwide, is a volunteer ministry of World Vision, the largest international Christian humanitarian organization, serving the poor in 100 countries throughout the world. The Orange County Chapter has raised more than $5.5 million and sponsors more than 400 children.
The audience viewed portions of Rani’s interview from the Oprah Winfrey Show in which Rani recalled her early years in southern India.
“I remember my life in India was happy, but very poor.” she said. Rani’s father became too sick to support their large family and a village leader made her parents an offer they couldn’t refuse.
“This woman said, ‘I can give her an education, just let her come with me. I will take care of her.’”
Rani’s mother agreed only because she was told she could see Rani any time.
“One day when she came to visit me, I was gone.” Rani said. “This woman sold me to a child broker at the age of 7. I was sold to child slavery. No child should become a slave to somebody else. I cried and cried for Mom, but she didn’t come.”
The compelling speaker then explained that children are being stolen around the world in staggering numbers for unimaginable profits.
“It is close to a $10 billion industry, taking advantage of innocent children,” she said. “There are approximately 27 million slaves today around the world and 17,500 cases in the United States. Many are in California, and there are documented cases in Orange County.”
“People are forcing children to do things against their will by ways we don’t want to talk about,” Rani said. “My owner took me to another state where I didn’t know the language. I couldn’t ask for help; that’s part of the system. They use force, fraud, and coercion to take advantage of the vulnerability of the poor. They prey on those in situations like earthquakes and tsunamis, where people really need help.”
By the age of 8, Rani’s physical and emotional state was so terrible that she was sold into illegal adoption. An American woman adopted Rani, thinking she was an orphan. That woman’s love brought healing to Rani, which eventually led to her mission today.
“When I first came to America, I didn’t speak for several months.” Rani explained. “I didn’t care about life, and here I am speaking. I am called to speak as an advocate for survivors of human trafficking. Once we are obedient, God opens up the door. I meet with people all over the world and many ask me where my hope and strength come from. God has given me favor; it’s my faith that helps me fight this battle.”
Rani and her husband, Trong, started The Tronie Foundation (www.troniefoundation.org) to mentor slavery survivors to become leaders and to work together with global leaders to end human trafficking.
Trong also survived a stolen childhood when he was forced to flee Vietnam to avoid becoming a child soldier. Fortunately he was rescued and made it to Washington state. Rani and Trong met on a blind date, and they have four children.
Twenty-one years after being sold into slavery, Rani miraculously found her birth mother.
“There is a lot of work to do, but if you were the child or the mother, you would do everything,” Rani said. “If World Vision had been in my village, I might have been protected. Human trafficking is a global problem affecting every country in the world. You can change a life; there are many ways to be part of God’s solution.
“World Vision is creating ways. (www.womenofvisionorangecounty.org). We need to come together as advocates for the children. “
Cindy can be reached at [email protected].