Long before Tara Teng was crowned Miss Canada 2011, the 23-year-old wanted to put an end to modern day slavery and exploitation.
Teng knew it was her calling when she was 12 years old.
“For me it is not a cause,” said Teng, a Langley, B.C. resident.
“Really it picked me… as a youth I spent entire nights of my life researching and trying to understand. It was just something that kept coming in front of my face.”
The discovery five years ago that a neighbour’s daughter was sold into slavery cemented her path into advocacy.
“All of a sudden this wasn’t a problem in Thailand or Cambodia or some other place in the world,” said Teng.
“This was literally a problem in my neighbourhood, right at my doorstep. This was something I knew I had to take action on.”
The former beauty queen and international speaker was the guest speaker at the Pasta Fiesta and Silent Auction fundraiser hosted by the Magdalene House Society on Saturday night at the Canyon Ski Hill.
The society is raising money to open an aftercare facility for victims of human trafficking.
Teng handed over her crown to Jacyln Miles, Miss Canada 2012, earlier this month. Teng said she was thankful for the opportunities that allowed her to travel and bring human trafficking to the spotlight.
“I am a unique position that people don’t really get,” she said.
“I get to work with victims and see it from that perspective.”
Teng works primarily in education and awareness but also works with victims in an aftercare capacity around the world. Teng said many people do not believe that people are bought and sold and used as commodities in Canada.
“It happens in every single community,” she said. “I can guarantee you in some form or another.”
Through her advocacy work, Teng has witnessed first hand the effects of human trafficking through her work Thailand, Cambodia, India and throughout North America.
She has an education degree from Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C. She was also Miss British Columbia 2010.
This year, Teng will head to Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
“The government has promised a national action plan,” she said.
“That’s great. We want that but what we’re saying as a community, we are not waiting for the government to do all the work. We are taking responsibility and doing what we can on a local level.”