CAMBODIA – It was in Cambodia in 2009 when former Sherburne resident Cathleen Angelo said she found her purpose in life, after meeting 12-year-old Chanty, a girl selling books on the street. Angelo later founded a worldwide organization, Fighting for Futures, which involved individuals use of the arts to assist the lives of those in need.
Fighting for Futures was co-founded with Tammy Warner after Angelo returned to New York. The two wanted to do something in order to provide Chanty with enough to go to school. Fundraising events were held for six months, and by July 2009, enough money was raised to put Chanty in school.
Since that time, those involved have traveled to Cambodia, Thailand, India, and various other locations in Southeast Asia aiding children.
“Fighting for Futures is helping in so many aspects to bring joy into the lives of children,” said Cathleen’s mother Blanche. “Whether it is through art, music, photography, or other workshops, it is something that leaves a lasting impact.”
In 2010, Angelo spent six months in Cambodia. During that time, Fighting for Futures was able to help build a double bathroom with a shower, replacing the village’s single toilet bathroom.
Per the organization’s website, the learning center in the school of the Krang Thmey village was able to be remodeled with the assistance of Fighting for Futures and Dr. Hannah Ryan.
Between 2010 and 2013, numerous trips were taken and assistance was provided in areas including Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.
“They also provided hands on disaster relief in Mazunte, Mexico when the beach resort they were staying on was hit and leveled by an unexpected hurricane,” reads the organizations website.
It was in 2013 when Fighting for Futures went to India and Nepal, where Angelo and the others in the organization became involved in the fight against human trafficking.
“When she was in India, they provided defensive classes,” said Angelo about her daughter’s endeavors. “I am extremely proud of Cathleen, but the stories she has told me are quite scary.”
Angelo shared that her daughter — and Fighting for Futures as a whole — is getting even more involved with human trafficking, citing instances where parents were selling their children, knowing they would be used for sexual purposes.
“In collaboration with Born2Fly, Fighting For Futures went to India and Nepal to help document the fight against human trafficking from several different perspectives,” read an update from the Fighting for Futures website. The various perspectives include, “A radio show and child's hostel for at risk youth in New Delhi, India, photo classes and anti trafficking training courses for young women in Kathmandu.”
“Perhaps there is a risk to her (Cathleen’s) safety, but she puts that behind knowing that she can make a difference,” said her mother.
From August until November, Fighting for Futures is holding a nationwide fundraiser in an attempt to not only raise awareness about the organization and the power of art, music, and photography in difficult circumstances, but also to raise funds so that the group can travel back to Cambodia.
“They are going back and hope to meet back up with Chanty, the girl who helped start it all,” said Cathleen’s mother. “She changed Cathleen’s life as much as the other way around.”
Those heading back to Asia for the next trip estimate they will need to raise approximately $12,000. Hopes are that the nationwide campaign to spread the word about the organization will help to generate funds and get more individuals and communities involved and cognizant of the issues at hand.
Those interested in donating or learning more about the organization can visit fightingforfutures.org or by searching Fighting for Futures on Facebook.