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INSPIRED FOR CHANGE

Lucia

A lot of what Lucia Hou is today is inspired by her background and heritage. The youngest of 11 children, she was born in Laos, came to Australia when she was one-year old. Her family upbringing was a happy environment of love, support and multiculturalism. “My immediate multicultural family alone expands over 100 members, in which over 30 of them are my nieces and nephews and now great nieces and great nephews,” she says.
Growing up in Australia gave her ample opportunities, although she modestly admits to starting off with very little confidence. Today, Hou is a photographer, media manager and a winner of many coveted beauty queen titles such as Ms Oceania 2018 World Class Beauty Queen, Ms Oceania 2017, Mrs Globe, first Asian to ever win a crown in 2016 for Mrs Australia Globe. Hou has since connected herself with many charity works. Last year, she was awarded the 2018 Woman of Year internationally by World Class Beauty Queen for her philanthropy work around the world. As the official ambassador for Project Karma, an Australian based not-for-profit charity organisation to combat the sexual exploitation of children throughout South East Asia, Hou is an aspirational figure.
When asked where she derives the secret to her energy and beauty, Hou who juggles her many roles as a mother to two young children, as entrepreneur, photographer, beauty queen and media manager laughs, “I have only just begun.” But more seriously, she says, “My greatest personal secret lies within my faith, the more I became in pursuit, the bigger the revelation of who I am, a child of Christ, loved and crowned with favour, wonderfully, lovingly, boldly and fiercely made, anointed and appointed for such a time as this.”
This June 8, Project Karma is launching Amber Day, their national campaign, where they will be asking all Australians to help fight for the rights and protection of every child. Speaking with The Indian Weekly, Hou talks about the project, and more.

What is the Amber Day all about?
It is Project Karma’s National Campaign Day which will take place on June 8. An Amber Alert is used to notify the public when a child has gone missing. Majority of these cases has led to sexual exploitation, trafficking and, in worst cases, death of the missing children. Our goal is to raise $150,000 to continue Project Karma’s work in children’s rights advocacy, the protection of our children and to put an end to trafficking and sexual abuse. We will be fundraising through the support of campaign matchers and much needed donations, a giving campaign organized through mycase.com.au, Australia’s largest crowdfunding platform for causes.

What is your role at Project Karma?
It was founded by Glen Hulley to save children from sex exploitation and slavery across South East Asia. We work on four key areas – investigate, rescue, rehabilitate and educate. As the first official ambassador for Project Karma, my focus is to spread awareness on a topic that for decades no one wanted to talk about and continues to be a huge human rights violation going largely unnoticed around the world.
The global industry for under-aged sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of children is worth at around $36 US billion a year. An estimated 5.5 million child victims were trafficked last year, where the majority of these children live in South East Asia. This number is growing at an estimated 20 percent per year and exists mainly because it is targeted at the world’s poorest children by organised crime. Not only do some of these children live on less than $2 a day, these children routinely face sexual and physical violence being trapped in the worst forms of exploitation such as drug trafficking and prostitution. As a mother of two young children, my heart aches from knowing the reality that so many millions of children have to endure this injustice at such an innocent age. I am still in disbelief that we live in the 21st century with so much advancement in technology, and yet the world is so behind in humanity within this taboo topic.
Project Karma is prepared to take the risks necessary as its focus is to disrupt the Organised Crime networks that create and supply a market of children for sexual exploitation.

What is the three-year Sentinel Pilot Project about?
Project Karma is currently implementing a three-year Sentinel Pilot Project aiming at working with government bodies to review current allocation systems and establishing crisis assessment centres and aftercare programs in the following regions including: Bali (Indonesia), Cebu (Philippines), Bangkok, Pattaya and other regions of Thailand. Following a review of these pilot projects, Project Karma will expand the model to India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Through delivery of the Sentinel Project, Project Karma aims to deliver training packages on investigation and vigilance of these crimes to local South-East Asian police and other law enforcement agencies, create trustworthy intelligence networks and private investigation teams, facilitate legal action against child abusers and traffickers, rescue sexually exploited and abused children, support for welfare, rehabilitation and legal services for victims, create and deliver ongoing programs of advocacy, awareness and education to local community members, universities and beyond and establish local partnerships for ongoing project delivery including signed memorandum of understandings.

Tell us about your journey into the world beauty pageants and the philanthropy work now?
As a professional photographer, I have been photographing beauty queens and pageant finals for over five years. In 2016, I was invited by a former Mrs Australia Globe title holder to enter and reluctantly dismissed the idea at first, as I had just turned 40 years of age, had no modelling or pageant experience, nor did I even own any makeup products at all. After being further encouraged by fellow friends whom I had mentioned the idea to, I imagined the possibility of the ability to expand my platform towards advocating about issues that are close to my heart, so I said yes.
In 2016, competing alongside more than 20 finalists in my first ever pageant at the age of 40, I am proud to look back and say that I was the first Asian in the Mrs Australia Globe to have ever won two titles in the one pageant year – Mrs Australia Globe People’s Choice & Mrs Coral Sea Globe. The last Mrs Coral Sea title was awarded six years ago.
In 2016 I competed alongside more than 60 countries internationally in the Mrs Globe international event in China Hainan and placed in the top finals.
In 2017 I was awarded at an international level, the title Mrs Oceania Globe, as the regional favourite of the world, where I also placed in the top finals in China Shenzhen out of 72 countries at the Mrs Globe international event.
In 2018 I was awarded again at an international level, to continue the title of Ms Oceania for World Class Beauty Queens and was also awarded in December 2018 Woman Of The Year, which is an international award given for my philanthropy efforts. This award is chosen out of 40 top candidates out of 500 women from all over the world representing every pageant system and charity platforms.
In all my experience working in the pageant industry as a photographer and stylist, I have never imagined beyond my wildest dreams that I would be inspired to change from ‘hiding behind’ to ’shining in front’ of the camera.
As a reigning queen and the ambassador for Project Karma, I have been able to grow awareness through the media. I have also used my title to support a range of other charities and causes at their events such as Bully Zero Australia Foundation, The Victorian Cultural Association Inc, The Holi Festival, The Melbourne Indian Film Festival, Heart Kids Australia, Women In Need Foundation, Western Health Foundation, CDF Transport Charity, Scleroderma Australia, Anti Poverty Week and many more.
I am also proud to announce that I have just been appointed as a 2019 multicultural ambassador for Mental Health Foundation Australia (MHFA).
I am just one person, but the opportunities given to me in raising my platform will network to influence change and also duplicate into an army of lion hearts and champions of hope saving millions of vulnerable children.

What next?
I believe that a big part of my journey has simply been that I have taken on the ‘courage’, that step of faith, that paying attention to that tiny murmur of a dream that then leads you toward fulfilling that purpose for whatever you are believing for. Interesting enough, the word ‘courage’ is embedded in the word ‘encouraged’. This year I look forward to my titles awarded by the World Class Beauty Queens brand; with the focus to empower, educate and inspire.

Donations welcomed: amberday.org.au

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