Inspiration of the day

After a traumatic childhood of her own, Somaly Mam is helping Cambodian girls escape sexual slavery.

Published September 23, 2008 9:18AM (EDT)

There's plenty to get depressed about in the world of sexual slavery (in fact, one might argue that there is everything to be depressed about), but here is a small sliver of something good: A Cambodian woman named Somaly Mam who has moved past her own traumatic past (raped at 12, forced to marry at 14, sold to a brothel at 16) to try to help others. According to the Washington Post, Mam has rescued more than 4,000 women and girls in the past decade, and has built up a 150-employee NGO -- the Somaly Mam Foundation -- that shelters 220 women in Cambodia in addition to others in Laos and Vietnam. What's more, she recently testified in front of the United States Congress to try to get them to pass a law about human trafficking.

Mam has also written an autobiography, "The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine," that includes a passage, quoted by the Post, that is inspirational for anyone, like me, who questions what a difference one person can really make:

"I don't feel like I can change the world.... I don't even try. I only want to change this small life that I see standing in front of me, which is suffering. I want to change this small real thing that is the destiny of one little girl. And then another, and another, because if I didn't, I wouldn't be able to live with myself or sleep at night."

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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