Getting to know our 15-year-old MISSING Ambassador from USA: Carly Vanderkarr

Carly Vanderkarr

For a few months, we have been regularly receiving the online support of Suzy and Carly Vanderkarr, a mother-daughter duo from USA on our Facebook page. One morning, we woke up to the most beautiful message, where we discovered that 15-year-old abolitionist and artist Carly, who has been fighting slavery for many years with her family, had created the #missingirls stencil on the walls of a local skatepark near her house in California.

The #missingirls stencil at the skatepark.

A week later, she had created and distributed information flyers on the project and issue of sex trafficking across the city, asking temples, churches, synagogues, businesses and homes to allow her own little MISSING crew to put up the stencils anywhere and everywhere they can. Their goal is 800 stencils across California alone, which is no easy feat.

The MISSING flyer designed by Carly and her team

We are so proud to have brave Carly as our MISSING International Brand Ambassador, as she holds her own ground to carry this beacon forward. Let there be light, and let people know about the heinous crime they are allowing in their own neighbourhood. Here’s her interview with the MISSING team:

  1. What was your first reaction when you heard about MISSING Public Art Project?

When my Mom first showed it to me on Facebook, I was so excited about it. I said “I’m going to work for these people.” I just knew I had to be a part of it. Me and my family feel strongly about ending modern-day slavery and also love art. I did some research and then I made a stencil and spray-painted the MISSING silhouette on my skateboard. I keep on praying for the victims.

2) I’m aware that you have been an abolitionist and an artist since you were a child. How did you get involved in advocacy and social work?

Ever since I was little, I’ve known and prayed for trafficked victims. It’s really horrible. About 6 months ago, one of my favorite music artist Dominic Balli came out with an album that was all about ending and bringing awareness to modern-day slavery. It really encouraged us and so we bought 16 CDs and have been giving them away to people. We also buy fairly traded chocolate, rice and coffee and encourage other people to do so too.

3) Realistically, how much do you think awareness and prevention counts in helping the cause? What is it about MISSING that makes you want to join hands with us?

So many people are unaware of how much slavery is happening even in their own city. I think that making people aware of what’s happening will bring people to prayer and to action. Just being aware of it is not enough though. I think that when people are really aware of it, they will want to see it stopped.

Awareness is essential, because you can’t stop something you don’t know about. And I believe that if a lot of people are against it, our government leaders globally will have to take notice. Also, I hope that people will buy fairly traded coffee, soccer balls and chocolate and other fair trade items because that really makes a difference.

4) From your knowledge and understanding, how bad is the trafficking situation in USA, and specifically where you live?

I live near LA, California, which is the largest place for human trafficking in the world. Even though America is the ‘Land of the free’, according to the Attorney Generals 2001 report, it is estimated that between 14,000 and 17,500 people are trafficked here in the USA every year.

5) In your understanding, what do you think is the solution to the problem? How are children/girls/women supposed to fight for their rights in a society that is already so skewed, in a time when even one’s own parents are capable of selling you to pimps or harm doers instead of protecting you?

Honestly, I don’t know. And that scares me. The numbers are huge and I’m just one kid. But I can tell someone, and then they can tell someone else until the whole world knows and is fighting to stop it.

I also believe that you can fight with your money. A lot of chocolate, cotton, diamonds, coffee etc is harvested by slaves or people who are not paid or treated fairly. I don’t know exactly how to stop it. But I know how to make people aware of it.

6) I know that your family is working in the red light district in Thailand and is then off to Cambodia to work with children. Does volunteering not distract you from your studies?

That’s my older sister, Samantha, who has already graduated high school. I’m still studying and am only 15. I live in San Diego California with my other siblings.

7) What did you want to grow up to be when you were younger? Are you consciously aware of how you are giving up your innocence, in some ways, to fight against trafficking?

In some ways, I don’t feel entitled to innocence when girls all over the world my age and way younger then me are being treated so horribly. I mean, what if that was my little sister? What if that was your daughter?

I have always just wanted to be emotionally, spiritually and physically happy and healthy. And I want to bring that kind of life to as many children as I can. I can’t think of a better way to spend my life then helping others. When someone is given a lot, I feel like a lot is required. And I’ve been given a lot.

8) What are your future plans?

I just want to travel a lot and meet and help people. I want people to come to know Jesus’s love the way that I do. I especially like the work people are doing with art and music for helping trafficked victims recover. That’s really cool.

9) Your last words for our readers as MISSING’s Brand Ambassador.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“If we could just live for each other and not for ourselves, the world would be a really different place.” -Carly Vanderkarr

This is an open call to anybody who wishes to get involved and create the MISSING stencils on the walls of whichever part of the world you stay in. We have already started this art and awareness revolution in India, USA, and will soon make our way to Germany and Pakistan thanks to volunteers around the world! If you are an individual or organization that wants to collaborate with us, do write in to us at missingpublicartproject@gmail.com

Thank you! Do share this with as many people as you can and help us bring home the missing girls.