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Hometown Woman Working to Stop Child Abuse Overseas

According to her research, St. Mary’s County native and SMR graduate, Amy (Spelz) Travis has found that approximately 1 in 8 international nonprofits which focus on youth, has had child abuse.

She believes this estimate is low, given her experience, the general global statistics on child abuse, and the more recent reports on sexual exploitation and abuse within the UN.

Travis spent 14 months at an orphanage and school in Liberia from 2010 -2011, where she worked on creating a comprehensive child protection program.

This program included writing a new child protection policy, conducting trainings, and working with the girls on relationship and sex education.

During her time there, she knew of several US-funded charities that were dealing with child abuse, unbeknownst to their donors. “Some abuse is intentional. Sexual predators volunteer or work at these charities in order to access children easily and without much risk of prosecution.

Much of the abuse, however, is unintentional. Caregivers and staff grew up with brutal discipline and they’re employing the same techniques for what they see is the good of the child – going to school, learning how to work, etc.,” says Travis.

This discipline can include canings, burns, depriving children of food or the toilet, and tying children up. Travis says that when she’s worked with staff, they agree that they wish they knew of other methods for discipline. Despite these sad stories,

Travis is hopeful, because organizations and staff want help to prevent and stop abuse.

“I am building off of my program in Liberia in order to make a holistic program for international nonprofits to protect children,” Travis says.

This program will include manuals on how to write protection policies, training videos for staff and children, risk assessments, and much more.

The videos will be on a variety of topics from recognizing abuse, to conducting investigations, to using positive discipline.

In order to offer this program for free to nonprofits, Travis is fundraising for the project on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.

To date, just over 40% of the $20,000 goal has been funded. For more information on the project, go to www.childprotectiontoolkit.com

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