Aaron and Kevin Murray

Surf Photographer Aaron Chang and Jedidiah CEO Kevin Murray

Founded in San Diego, humanitarian-based apparel company Jedidiah has been working to raise awareness and give back to social aid programs since launching its Hope Collection in 2004, which donates $10 from every T-shirt sold to nonprofit organizations. In 2009, the brand acted as founding partner for 1% For Humanity, an association of businesses dedicated to giving 1 percent of their revenue to organizations providing assistance to those experiencing poverty, injustice, and other crises.

The brand has been instrumental in supporting solutions for a wide range of global causes, including working with StandUp For Kids, a Southern California agency helping homeless youth, as well as the relief efforts in Haiti and Japan. In May 2010, Jedidiah CEO Kevin Murray  traveled to Cambodia with well-known surf photographer Aaron Chang to meet with nonprofit organization World Vision about building a rescue facility for children involved in human trafficking, which is a widespread epidemic in the country.

“We want to be able to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves,” says Murray. “The idea of human slavery and the thought of children being forced into prostitution for the profit of others is one of the darkest elements of humanity. We felt compelled to try and shine a little light on the subject and also offer a little hope.”

The result of the trip was a series of photographs by Chang that represent the country’s culture and pay tribute to its people. The photos were used as design inspiration for Jedidiah’s Spring 2011 apparel collection, the proceeds of which will be donated towards building a rescue facility for exploited Cambodian children. We caught up with Murray to learn more about the project.

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Photos: Chang

Why did the brand decide to help in the fight against human trafficking in Cambodia?

The common thread in our projects is child and family protection. When we researched this issue, it was pretty clear to us that World Vision was the most active NGO working in this sector. And since they have been a past partner with Jedidiah, it was seamless to work with them again on this campaign.

We chose Cambodia because this country has really been the Mecca for child prostitution in Southeast Asia. We wanted to go where the need was the greatest.

Childrens Rights celebration

Children's Rights celebration, Cambodia. Photo: Chang

How did you get involved with World Vision?
I have been a WV child sponsor for the past few decades and have had the pleasure of meeting many of their staff members over the years. Their purpose is child advocacy and child protection and their organization has been built around child sponsorships. They touch many, many issues in their fight to protect the innocence of children including poverty, education, health care, clean water, and trafficking. Find out more at worldvision.org.

How did Aaron Chang get involved?
I have gotten to know Aaron over the past few years. He had expressed an interest in being involved with our humanitarian work. So when I mentioned this opportunity he jumped at the chance to partner with us. He is an immensely talented man with an equally big heart to make a difference in the world.

What was your experience when you visited Cambodia and what did the team take away from it?

It was May of last year that I traveled to Cambodia with Aaron Chang and our World Vision representative Keith Kall. We went as guests of World Vision on what they call a "vision trip."

As one of the largest, most effective NGO's in the world, they have access to people and places we would never have access to on our own. We saw, firsthand, how World Vision is a leader of leaders in this fight for human dignity. We met staff members of World Vision Cambodia that have dedicated their entire life to further the cause and protection of these children. We saw some of the saddest spots on earth: slums where street kids band together for their very survival. And we saw how World Vision plants themselves in the middle of all this heartbreak and despair, offering hope, medicine, education, shelter and love to these marginalized people. It was without a doubt a life changing trip, filled with images and emotions I will never forget.

We chose to focus our resources on the construction of a trauma recovery center because that is what World Vision indicated was their greatest need.

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Kevin Murray with World Vision team members in Cambodia. Photo: Chang

As with all our campaigns, 5% of all sales (not just profits) is donated to the NGO each season.

The trauma recovery centers are off the grid, underground shelters where children are taken when they are first rescued from a brothel. It is set up as a temporary housing solution where the children receive medical care and trauma evaluation. World Vision staff then help them reconnect with family members or find a more permanent housing solution.

How much will the center cost and what is the brand's goal for money raised toward this project?

Our seasonal goal is to raise $50,000 for this new center which will cover much, but not all, of the construction costs.

Will you work with World Vision to  build the center?
Physically, probably not, because of the location. Our goal is to help fund the project and raise awareness for what they're doing. We will leave this decision up to World Vision. They are a very trusted partner who will proceed at a time most efficient to meet their needs.