GEORGIA MORRISON IN CONVERSATION Casual chats with Peninsula people By Kate Sears

Free To Shine believes keeping vulnerable children in school dramatically reduces their likelihood of falling prey to sex trafficking.

Free To Shine believes keeping vulnerable children in school dramatically reduces their likelihood of falling prey to sex trafficking.

Georgia Morrison spent a few months volunteering in Kenya, and then in Cambodia. Through this she became even more passionate about the development needed in these areas, but she remained sceptical about development organisations considering the corruption that she had witnessed first-hand. It was after this that fate served Georgia her next step in life. While working in a café in Mornington, she served Nicky Mih, the managing director, founder, and board member of Free To Shine. After an enthralling chat with Nicky, Georgia became a volunteer for Free To Shine in 2013. Six years later, Georgia’s now a board member. She talks about her role, the organisation’s work and its next fundraiser. 

Tell us a little about your journey with Free To Shine.
I left that meeting (with Nicky) with a newfound appreciation for non-government organisations, blown away by the earnest transparency that she offered me, the thorough research that the organisation was founded on, and the scope and rational optimism of Free To Shine's vision. After a number of years, my involvement grew to the point where I was asked to join the board of directors and it has easily been the most challenging and the most rewarding position I have held — working with the most incredible people who genuinely want to make a real impact.   

Georgia Morrison started volunteering with Free To Shine in 2013 and is now a board member.

Georgia Morrison started volunteering with Free To Shine in 2013 and is now a board member.

Free To Shine is an organisation that empowers with education to prevent sex trafficking. What does Free To Shine’s work entail?
At Free To Shine, we dream of a world free from sex trafficking, and there are three main goals that we are working towards to get us there: creating communities that are safe for children, getting girls in school and keeping them there, and creating women leaders. Before Free To Shine existed, Nicky Mih was in Cambodia working with survivors of sex trafficking, and all of those young women had the same wish — they wanted nothing for themselves; they wanted someone to prevent girls from being trafficked in the first place. From there began two years of research that eventuated in Free To Shine. Nicky had found that the survivors of sex trafficking had something in common — they weren't in school when they were trafficked. We found that, critically, children in the most marginalised communities with the lowest levels of education, or none at all, are the easiest targets for traffickers to manipulate because they are more likely to accept the false promise of lower paid and unskilled work, such as construction or domestic servitude.  Once granted access to education, girls are physically protected by sitting in the classroom, and by becoming more self-assured and empowered through their academic achievements they become more able to make decisions, critically evaluate situations, and exert control over their own lives. Evidence suggests that even keeping children in school until age 16 dramatically reduces their likelihood of being trafficked and will significantly improve their standard of living. 

The impact of Free To Shine has been amazing, with 753 girls enrolled and kept safe from trafficking thanks to your team. How has this been achieved?
Keeping girls safe would not be possible without the support of our generous donors and over 300 sponsors who individually support a girl through until she finishes high school. Along with our two main campaigns, Shine & Dine and Luna Workshops, we are able to employ over 20 people in Cambodia to run and maintain our program. Our team workshops every difficult situation with our social workers to ensure we come up with the best plan for keeping girls safe, in school and with their families.

Tell us more about the upcoming Shine & Dine event.
Food brings people together — couples, families, friends, even strangers. So in July we are hosting our annual Shine & Dine campaign. It’s an opportunity for Australian cafes and restaurants to help prevent sex trafficking in Cambodia simply by doing what they do best — serving you great food. The venues nominate a dish to be their Shine & Dine dish for the month, and $5 from each sale directly supports Free To Shine. It's an easy and delicious way to support Free To Shine. 

We hear that the dishes are chef-designed, so could you give us an inside scoop on what diners can expect?

Commonfolk Cafe is our headlining venue this year after raising over $1600 in last year's campaign. For the rest of the line-up you'll need to keep an eye out on our socials as we unveil them in the lead-up to July — lots of your Peninsula favourites are in there. Each venue has the option to design their own dish or choose from one of the dishes that our chef, Luke Hagel from Commonfolk, has created. There are a bunch of Cambodian-inspired recipes on the list, and trust me, they're all worth trying. 

You can follow Free To Shine on Instagram via @freetoshine or on Facebook at @freetoshine.org. For more information you’re encouraged to visit www.freetoshine.org

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