There will be an event this weekend in Pleasant Hill that can have a direct impact on a country across the world.
The event, a Pumpkin Spice Holiday Bazaar, will be held on Saturday, Nov. 10 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Pleasant Hill Church of Christ, 84735 Flathead Ave. The public is encouraged to attend. Proceeds help prevent orphan Belarusian children from becoming victims of human trafficking.
The momentum behind the Pumpkin Spice Bazaar is a result of the DirectConnect Belarus-Eugene Team. DirectConnect Humanitarian Aid is non-profit organization designed to go into impoverished countries like Belarus, visit orphanages and help prevent human trafficking among teens in the area.
Belarus borders Russia to the northeast, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Belarus has been hit extensively by human trafficking, with 5,500 known cases since 2002, according to the International Organization for Migration in a March 2018 press release.
In 2017, The U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons placed Belarus in tier three category, which refers to, “governments (that) do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so,” in monitoring and combating trafficking.
Conditions are deplorable in Belarus orphanages, but more trouble awaits for those children as they turn 15 years old. When orphans are in Belarus, they are transitioned out of the orphanage at age 15. But unable to work until age 18, and without family or a place to stay, these kids are often transitioned onto the streets and become prey to human trafficking during that time, Pleasant Hill Church of Christ Evangelist Bill Compton explains.
The goal is preventing that from happening, and there’s a few ways to accomplish this. It’s about prevention, not intervention, Compton said.
One way to help prevent human trafficking, Compton said, is to identify Belarusian families, coined “family homes,” that will adopt these young people on the verge of being displaced from the orphanage at age 15. To not further financially burden these families, DirectConnect foots the cost of living expenses to support the orphan children in their new homes.
The team also finances “live free” camps. These camps help empower kids with interactive activities, educate them on how to have appropriate relationships and what human trafficking signs to look for.
DirectConnect funded a live free camp retreat at the Oregon coast, which is empowering for the participants to realize how big the world is, Compton said. They hope to do more of those in the future.
Compton said he’s always felt a strong desire to defend those who don’t have a voice, with a particular interest in helping people in the Soviet Bloc countries, even before the Iron Curtain came down in 1989.
In McMinnville, where Compton went to high school, he met a man with family still in Soviet sector. Compton listened to horrendous stories about the Hitler Youth and about life on the eastside, which only further stimulated his desire to help the helpless.
In 2000, Compton connected with DirectConnect Humanitarian Aid Executive Director Steve Doty. He spent a month in Belarus with the nonprofit, and found that all the shocking stories his friend told him in high school were true.
There, he realized that it was the kids in Belarus getting the short end of the stick. The sight, smells and feelings you get after entering a Belarussian orphanage make you sick, Compton relayed.
Compton came back from his trip and showed photos and told stories to his students in his Willamette High School class, where he taught economics and marketing from 1989 to 2008.
He’s been back to Belarus every year since, and has inspired his students to help out, too.
“Kids work for their way there,” Compton said. Kids fully fund their trips by chopping firewood in the summers and collecting cans and bottles for deposit money. They’ve been able to fund their airplane tickets that way.
Safety is the number one priority for the young volunteers and they are kept out of harm’s way at all times, Compton said.
The team is heading to the capital of Minsk in early December to work with the Octoberskya Orphanage and work with the youth there. Proceeds from the Pumpkin Spice Holiday Bazaar held this Saturday will help children in Belarus.
There will be baked goods, fun crafts, holiday decor, stocking stuffers, and gifts made with essential oils, as well as a Pie Walk. The bazaar will be held at the Pleasant Hill Church of Christ at 84735 Flathead Ave.
All proceeds will go directly towards buying gifts for the children and supplies for the camp.
“Financial fiduciary is something we take very seriously,” Compton said.
Compton is a Springfield Area Chamber Ambassador and networks with many local businesses. In his past four trips, he’s taken local business people on his Belarus trips to validate that the money being collected is being used as intended.
By taking business people along, “it assures the community that the money is not going to me, not going to you, not going to the black market,” he said. “The money is actually going to the people in need.”
For more information, visit directconnectaid.org, call Compton at 541-953-2156 or email [email protected]