IN THE BEGINNING...
After spending several months a year for five years backpacking different parts of Asia I had learned of a world I never knew existed, human trafficking for sex and labor. After extensive research and purging my belongings I sought a solid purpose.
In January 2009 I set out as I had several times before to my favorite place, Cambodia by way of Bangkok, Thailand via train, bus and tuk-tuk. By my side for that month, Tammy Warner, my childhood best friend. Tammy also had a humanitarian nature, an amazing skill set and passion for adventure.
Half way through the trip my purpose found me in a restaurant in Phnom Penh. Chanty, a twelve year old (previously said to be 9) girl was selling books to a nearby table full of tourists, she immediately caught my attention with her sales pitch and rebuttals, a young me was standing there and I was instantly down to do whatever I could to better her situation. Chanty would be my purpose. For the next few days she taught me the art of book selling, and I learned about her life, we visited her home and I taught her how to use my camera, she allowed me to document our days so I could tell her story.
Before leaving Phnom Penh Tammy and I bought several kilos of food and bottled water which we distributed to some of the 800 plus people living at the Steang Meanchey garbage dump.
Back in NYC February 2009, I co-founded Fighting For Futures with Tammy under the belief that we can all use what we have been given to give back and that if we utilize creativity as a way to empower we can help change the course of trafficking and suffering. My first endeavor would specifically be to provide Chanty with enough to afford a proper education and get her off the streets. For five months I held fundraisers for Fighting For Futures and by July 2009 Tammy and I were on a plane back to Phnom Penh, Cambodia to find Chanty and enroll her in school. We had no real plan just a desire to make it happen and that is just what we did but not before being extorted and threatened. We quickly learned the real price of getting a child off the street and into a classroom.
January 2010 I moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and implemented photography workshops with intent to empower the children of the high risk Boeung Kak Lake area of Phnom Penh. Three weeks into my new Southeast Asian living I met Doctor Hannah Ryan, she to had moved to Phnom Penh to volunteer herself and together under Fighting For Futures we worked in a small village called Krang Themy, a bumpy 45 minute ride outside the city. There we funded and helped build a double bathroom and shower for the village school as well as cleaned up and refurnished their learning center. We also implemented 6 weeks of photography workshops and adorned the walls of the learning center with the children's pictures. To celebrate our work a local creative collective Klap Ya Handz joined us in painting the new bathrooms and hosting a live performance for the entire village.
In May 2010 I returned to NYC to build a team and grow FFF even bigger, that is when I met singer Adrienne Mack-Davis, she quickly became a part of FFF as an official artist and to date has utilized her voice, lyrics and hands to uplift people worldwide. Adrienne is currently in preparation for her fifth international endeavor with FFF.
Since the day I knew I would call the organization Fighting For Futures I vowed to use my talents to document, bring awareness to social issues and assist in relief work worldwide both physically and emotionally. Fighting For Futures allows myself and others to use our unique gifts to empower, inform, protect and encourage others to do the same.
Fighting For Futures is currently focused on the prevention of human trafficking in high risk areas around the world. Utilizing music, fitness and other creative outlets to inspire, build confidence and raise awareness amongst children and families that may not otherwise have access to this type of art or information.
Cathleen Angelo aka feleciacruz