LAKE PLACID - A teaching assistant from Lake Placid recently visited Nepal to educate people there about illegal sex trafficking, and he says the experience proved to be enlightening both for him and students at Lake Placid Middle-High School.
Lee Kyler spoke to the Lake Placid Central School District Board of Education about his trip on Wednesday. His wife, Kaysie, joined him on the trek, which lasted from August to October of last year. The school district granted Lee a leave of absence to take the trip.
Lee said he and his wife read about the illegal sex trafficking industry and wanted to do something to combat the problem. They read a book called "Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal" by Conor Grennan to educate themselves about the issue, and then located two organizations to volunteer for.
Lee Kyler, a teaching assistant at Lake Placid Middle-High School, speaks to the school district’s Board of Education on Wednesday about his trip to Nepal, where he educated locals and tourists about illegal sex trafficking.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)
Lee said sex trafficking is a huge problem in Nepal.
"There's sex traffickers that go to rural villages that have very little exposure, if any, to the outside world," he said. "And this man usually will go to the village, go to parents, and say, 'You have kids. They have no future here for education, for any empowerment - sell your kids to me and I'll take them to the city to give them an education and housing.'"
The parents then sell their child to the person for what amounts to $20, a sum of money that for some families equals all of their material possessions. Lee said the trafficker will take young boys to cities like Kathmandu, Nepal's capital, to be sold into child slavery. The girls are also sold into child slavery elsewhere in Nepal, he said.
The Kylers volunteered first with the Umbrella Foundation, which works to rescue orphaned, abandoned and trafficked children. The organization placed the couple in a school where they taught for nine weeks, and they lived with a family during that time. The second organization they volunteered with is called Maiti Nepal, a nonprofit that helps victims of sex trafficking.
Lee said Maiti Nepal operates a compound that houses victims, mostly girls, and provides them with an education, healthcare and the resources to find a job.
"So we were the first volunteers ever, actually, to go on a trek to Mount Everest and hand out flyers on the way," he said. "So we handed out flyers both in English and Nepali to citizens and to tourists, if they were English speaking, that warned of the dangers of sex trafficking: what to look out for, who to look out for, if someone's approached to sell their kids, who to contact."
Lee thanked the school board for giving him the opportunity to make the trip and retain his position. He said the trip provided educational benefits to the school district. Before he left, he met with fifth-graders at Lake Placid Elementary School to set up a pen-pal program with kids in Nepal, and he also spoke to sixth-graders via Skype and answered questions about Nepal and sex trafficking.
Lee and his wife also did a presentation about their trip with 10th grade students.
"It was actually on Halloween, and an interesting anecdote off that was a girl was dressed in school, her costume was a pimp," Lee said. "And we gave a presentation all about how (in) the sex industry - sexual exploitation - the word 'prostitute' and 'pimp' are swear words. They're wrong. It's exploitation that is kind of the highlight. I think after the presentation I think she kind of understood why dressing up as a pimp is not right."
Lee said the district also benefited from his trip because administrators and the school board support staff development. Lee, who plans to receive his master's degree in emotional and behavioral disturbance later this year, said the trip has made him a more well-rounded teacher.
Kaysie Kyler said they were also able to ship more than 1,400 textbooks to Nepal. The books were donated by the Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake school districts, as well as local families and Northwood School.
"At Lee's school, there were enough books that they got their own book," Kaysie said. "And they carried it with them. It was their prized possession. They brought it to school every day."
After the meeting, school board President Mary Dietrich said she's glad the Kylers took the trip.
"I think Lake Placid - we in a sense have this contact with the world, but yet our students, a lot of them have a very narrow view of the world," Dietrich said. "So anytime we have a faculty member of foreign exchange student in the building they're really expanding the horizons of our students and making them aware of this wide world that's out there. And I think that's a real valuable lesson in today's world."
Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or