A sash and tiara might not be the best weapons in the war to stop human trafficking, but Tara Teng is putting them to good use.
Teng reluctantly donned the accessories, but is using her title as Miss Canada 2011 to spread stories and information about the cause in a tour called Igniting the Road to Justice.
The tour stopped in Kamloops Tuesday afternoon at Riverside Park, and in the evening at the Calvary Community Church.
Teng has been searching for ways to stop human trafficking since she saw a documentary, Bangkok Girl, when she was 12 years old. The girl who was the focus of that film touched her heart.
"She said something that changed my life. She said, 'No one cares about me.' Since then, I've spent nights consumed with how to stop human trafficking," said Teng, who turned 23 today.
Five years ago, the extent of the issue hit close to home for Teng, who grew up in Powell River. She found out her neighbour's daughter was trafficked at age 14.
"I felt I had to do something."
So although she doesn't like wearing the tiara and sash - too flashy - she donned them as she addressed a small audience at the Riverside Park bandshell to talk about the global problem she wants to end.
Teng is being accompanied on her tour by Tania Fiolleau, who herself ended up in prostitution and eventually became a madam. She has now turned to the other side and is working to abolish human trafficking.
"I do apologize publicly for exploiting these women. I was exploited myself," she said.
"I have to do what's right. It's all about making things right."
They were joined in their Kamloops stop by Glendene Grant, who has become passionate about the human trafficking cause since her daughter Jessie Foster disappeared in 2006 while living with her pimp boyfriend.
Grant met Teng in April in Langley. The two greeted each other with long hugs and big smiles when they got together at the park Tuesday.
Grant said she's relieved to have the support of people like Teng and Fiolleau.
"For two or three years, I literally felt I was doing this alone," she said.
Teng said she's heard a lot of personal stories since she began working to stop human trafficking. They fuel her push to keep going.
"I'll continue to fight human trafficking until the job is done."
© Kamloops Daily News