Angie Harmon has spoken to UNICEF USA about her recent trip to Nicaragua, where UNICEF is fighting to protect children from sexual exploitation and keep them out of the hands of traffickers.

Angie Harmon In Nicaragua

Why are children and teens in Nicaragua at high risk for trafficking?

Poverty, of course, is always a key. In Mangagua, I saw kids made to work in the street for money. I saw women in Bluefields scouring through landfills, sifting through garbage trying to find food and things to sell.

Half of all children in rural areas are poor, often very poor. And you’ve also got a lack of education and lack of access to information. The country has two borders — children can be transited easily — and a lot of tourists, some of whom sexually exploit children.

These factors combine to make many children and teens vulnerable to the promise of traffickers. Girls are recruited in rural areas to work in urban areas. Then they’re forced into prostitution.

Tell me about the children you met

I met adolescents who lived through some of the most horrific circumstances imaginable, including two 11-year-old girls who had been sexually exploited. But I didn’t see victims, I saw survivors. I was awed by their strength and desire to help not only themselves, but also their peers.

How did the trip leave you feeling?

Inspired. Empowered. Energized. It was amazing to watch these Nicaraguan teens taking the lead, mentoring their peers, showing true leadership. We’re making real progress, in Nicaragua and elsewhere, but we’ve got to keep fighting.

You can read the full interview here.

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