Tara Teng

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Tara Teng
Beauty pageant titleholder
Miss BC Tara Teng.jpg
Tara Teng wearing her Miss BC World sash
Born (1988-08-16) August 16, 1988 (age 25)
British Columbia, Canada
Other names Oi Kwan
Hometown Powell River
Residence Fort Langley
Education Bachelor of Education
Alma mater Trinity Western University
Occupation Abolitionist
Fashion model
Public speaker
Human rights defender
Television presenter
Years active 2010–2012
Height 1.63 m (5 ft 4 in)[1]
Hair color Brown
Eye color Brown
Title(s) Miss BC World
Miss Canada
Miss World Canada
Major
competition(s)
Miss World 2012
Official website

Tara Teng (born August 16, 1988; Chinese name: Oi Kwan) is a Canadian human rights defender, beauty pageant winner, professional public speaker, and television presenter[2] . She grew up on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast and has a Bachelor of Education degree from Trinity Western University. Teng was named Miss BC World in 2010, Miss Canada in 2011, and Miss World Canada in 2012, despite withdrawing from the corresponding swimsuit competitions. She represented Canada at Miss World 2012 in Ordos City, China, and the Chinese government later added her name to its blacklist of keywords, which Teng believed was because she spoke about human rights issues and Jesus during the competition.

Teng works as an abolitionist against human trafficking, using various social media to raise awareness to her cause. She has participated in awareness initiatives, including Buying Sex is Not a Sport, Freedom Week, and Ignite the Road to Justice. She calls for Canada to adopt a law to make purchasing sex illegal in the same way as Sweden's Sex Purchase Act, which she said "has a proven success rate for protecting women in prostitution and decreasing human trafficking."[3]

Teng has called attention to human trafficking incidents relating to cocoa production in Ivory Coast, the textile industry in Asia, and sex trafficking in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia. She helped convince Louie Giglio to make human trafficking a primary focus of the 2010 Passion Conference. She founded Undies for Africa, a charitable organization that sends panties and brassieres to Zambia. She also founded Send Love, a campaign to connect India's Dalit children with children in North America. In 2012, the Joy Smith Foundation awarded Teng the International Freedom Award in recognition of her defence of human rights. That same year, she was one of thirty Langley residents to receive the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Early life[edit]

A photograph of a blonde woman wearing a white shirt, a purple jacket, and black dress pants standing in front of a black microphone
Tara Teng did an internship with Joy Smith (pictured), helping her to promote the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, Bill C-310, and general human trafficking awareness.

Tara Teng was born on August 16, 1988[4] to Terry Teng, a pastor, and Lori Teng, a businessperson;[5][6] both parents are immigrants to Canada.[1] Teng's ancestors came from both Southeast Asia and Western Europe;[7] her father is Chinese Singaporean and her mother is European Canadian.[5] At the age of two, Teng's parents gave her the Chinese name Oi Kwan, meaning "loves groups of people."[8] Her parents raised her on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast;[9] she grew up in Powell River[4] and later moved to Fort Langley[10] in Langley,[11] which is part of Metro Vancouver.[12] In this community, which boasts a large Korean Canadian population, Teng became familiar with South Korean culture, and she was introduced to several other cultures at a young age.[7]

Education[edit]

Teng was homeschooled until the age of 15; she learned Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Cantonese.[5] In the fall of 2008,[13] Teng began studying education with a focus in Spanish and English language[14] at Trinity Western University (TWU),[15] a Christian school in Langley.[12][16] She was a member of the school's International Social Justice Club, and in 2010 became the club's president.[17][18]

Teng spent four months[19] of the fourth year of her degree studying at TWU's Laurentian Leadership Centre (LLC) in Ottawa,[20] participating in the Laurentian Leadership Program.[21] While in Ottawa, she worked on Parliament Hill[22] and did an internship with Joy Smith,[13] Member of Parliament (MP) for Kildonan—St. Paul in Winnipeg,[20] who had been working to implement laws to reduce the demand for prostitution in Canada.[13] As part of this year-long internship,[23] Teng helped Smith to promote the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, Bill C-310, and general human trafficking awareness. In January 2011, Teng hosted a screening of Enslaved and Exploited: The Story of Sex Trafficking in Canada at TWU.[14] During her studies, Teng went on a month-long trip to Honduras and Guatemala where she taught English and learned Spanish[8] as part of a three-week student exchange program.[18] The extreme poverty she encountered there made her reflect on social justice and her Christian faith.[8] She later received her Bachelor of Education degree from TWU with a specialization in teaching secondary school.[7]

Religious views[edit]

A photograph of a woman speaking into a microphone behind a golden sign that reads "TRINITY WESTERN UNIVERSITY" in black letters
Tara Teng attended Trinity Western University, a Christian university, and is a member of Re:Generation, a church that is affiliated with the Canadian National Baptist Convention.

At a church where her father Terry pastored, Teng had a negative experience with people there when she was 15 years old. She has said she reacted to the situation by rejecting Christianity and by making selfish decisions about her apartment, car, job, and boyfriend.[8] Five years later, she began to feel that her life lacked purpose;[24] she left her job, became dissatisfied with her boyfriend and broke up with him, and found it difficult to pay for her car. She said that these difficulties made her realize that things work out poorly when she makes her own plans for her life, so she decided to live according to what she believed to be God's plan from then onwards.[8] She said that she could almost hear the voice of God telling her what she was learning.[24] She later wrote on her blog that, before this experience, she had only been a Christian in theory, but thenceforward was a Christian in action.[8] She said that, despite having grown up attending a church, she "didn't really... meet the person of Jesus Christ until" 2009.[25]

While growing up, she volunteered at sports camps and missions.[26] Teng cites the book Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot as an inspiration for her faith.[24] Teng attends Re:Generation, a local church that was planted by her father, who is also the church's pastor.[16] Re:Generation is located in Langley and is affiliated with the Canadian National Baptist Convention.[9]

Teng believes that it is God's will for her to work in opposition to human trafficking, and specifically that she raise awareness about human trafficking in Canada. She said, "It's God's cause ... If it was me doing all of this, it would have fallen apart a long time ago."[27] She also considers fighting human trafficking to be a moral imperative.[28] She said that she wants soli Deo gloria to be the theme of her life, meaning that God's glory would always be her sole focus.[29]

Pageants[edit]

Miss BC World[edit]

Teng first considered trying out for beauty pageants when she was a university student; she mentioned an article about the Miss BC World competition to a friend, who encouraged her to enter. Teng then went to an interview for the competition and was immediately accepted. Three days later, she went on her trip to Honduras and Guatemala,[8] where she fully decided to enter the competition,[18] which takes place annually in Fort Langley.[30] At the 2010 competition,[31] Teng was one of 46 contestants;[32] the event raised $32,000 for the Cops for Cancer program.[33] The pageant had replaced its swimsuit competition with a sportswear competition in which the competitors wore such things as ice hockey equipment, boxing gloves, and soccer kits.[34] Teng's platform at the Miss BC World competition was human trafficking.[35] In preparation for the pageant, she and the other participants were trained by professionals to improve their assertiveness, public speaking, self-esteem, etiquette, modelling, stage presence, self-defence, and interview skills.[33]

On July 4,[33] Teng won the Miss BC World competition, making her the seventh person and the first Christian to be crowned Miss BC World.[18][31] She also won the pageant's People's Choice Award.[33] She said that appearing in the competition was "not about the crown" but "about the message and standing up for truth and justice."[18] As Miss BC World, Teng, on her own initiative, appeared at two camps on Vancouver Island, where she shared her Christian testimony with the young, female campers. Teng said that "the crown seems to capture real authority with the younger girls." After the camp was over, she received e-mails from some of the girls and began to mentor them. She planned to return to one camp the following year.[18] In July 2011, she passed on her Miss BC World crown to the 2011 winner.[36] Darren Storsley, the producer of Miss BC World, called Teng "the most inspiring person" he had ever met,[17] and also called her "an amazing ambassador for our province [and] for our country."[37] Hannah Seaman, also from Langley, was crowned Miss BC World in 2012 and said Teng was her inspiration. Seaman called Teng an "amazing representative for Canada" because of her work towards ending human trafficking.[38]

Miss Canada[edit]

A photograph of a blond man wearing a silver suit, a white dress shirt, and a black necktie while looking at the viewer and smiling
Soon after her reign as Miss Canada, Tara Teng appeared at the Vancouver Fashion Week opening gala with Ron Wear (pictured), a former Mr. World Canada.

After winning the Miss BC World competition, Teng planned to compete in another pageant, but withdrew after discovering that it focused on body image and included a bikini competition. She said that she did not "want something like the bikini swimwear contest to water down [her] message" about human trafficking. Within days of her withdrawal, the host of the Miss Canada competition reached out to Teng personally, asking her to compete for the title.[39] Teng agreed to participate.[40] At the opening dinner for the contestants, Teng made a speech, saying that human trafficking is something that she has been fighting against for a long time, that she did not choose it simply as a beauty pageant platform, and that the judges should not pick her if they did not like her stance on the subject, because she would not change it for the sake of winning a pageant.[40]

The Miss Canada competition started on January 26, 2011.[39] Three days later,[17] Teng was crowned Miss Canada[41] in Montreal, making her the first winner from British Columbia since Nicole Dunsdon won in 1992.[35] According to Teng, the Miss Canada competition is about choosing a role model to represent Canada rather than choosing a supermodel,[40] unlike the Miss Universe pageant.[19] Teng said that, once she was crowned, she became even more active in raising awareness about human trafficking.[41] She said that the title fits naturally with opposing human trafficking.[10] She further said that she "never would have dreamed that [she] would be Miss Canada, or that [she] would have the provincial title of Miss British Columbia." She found that being Miss Canada gave her new opportunities to raise human trafficking awareness.[40]

Following her victory, Teng was featured on several Iranian websites, which praised her for her modesty of dress.[34] In June 2011, in her capacity as Miss Canada, she was the marshal for the Community Day parade in Langley.[42] Joy Smith said that, "as Miss Canada, [Teng] has been such a strong voice among her generation and all Canadians for the abolition of human trafficking."[21] Teng's reign as Miss Canada lasted until January 2012.[13] Teng has collaborated with Jaclyn Miles, her successor as Miss Canada, in her anti-human-trafficking efforts.[43] On March 20, Teng appeared as a former Miss Canada with performance artist Marika Siewert and former Mr. World Canada Ron Wear at the Vancouver Fashion Week opening gala.[44]

Miss World Canada[edit]

A photograph of a woman with brown hair and brown eyes looking at the viewer and wearing a black dress and a white sash with blue letters
Tara Teng was named Miss World Canada 2012 despite withdrawing from the swimsuit portion of the pageant, and went on to participate in the Miss World 2012 competition in Ordos City, China.

In May 2012, Teng competed in the Miss World Canada pageant,[5] which was held at Richmond's River Rock Casino Resort. Teng won this competition,[45] despite withdrawing from the swimsuit portion as a matter of personal conviction[46] - she has never appeared in a beauty pageant's swimsuit competition.[47]

The Miss World Canada competition involved charity fundraising; Teng's charitable organization of choice was Variety, the Children's Charity.[48] As part of her prize, she was awarded leadership opportunities, scholarships, and a fully funded trip to the Miss World 2012 competition.[49] Ike Lalji, chairman of the Miss World Canada competition, said that Teng had made a more significant contribution to improving the lives of people around the world than any previous Miss World Canada. He also stated that Teng "is a great representative not only for Canada, but for the world."[50]

The 62nd Miss World pageant, Miss World 2012, took place that July in Ordos City, China;[50] more than 2 billion people watched the competition and 116 countries entered contestants.[51] At this competition, Teng met three women with whom she became close friends:[23] Iris Thomsen, Miss World Denmark; Jessica Baldachino, Miss Gibraltar; and Nives Orešnik, Miss Slovenia.[52] Teng invited Thomsen, Baldachino, and Orešnik to visit her in Canada for a week.[23] Although beauty pageant contestants are often of above-average height,[5] Teng, standing at 1.63 m (5 ft 4 in),[1] defied this norm.[5] The Chinese government added Teng's name to its blacklist of keywords around the time of the pageant, resulting in a system shutdown should anyone type her name into a web search engine there. Teng believed that the Chinese government blacklisted her because she spoke publicly about human rights issues and Jesus during the competition.[51] Miss China World Yu Wenxia was crowned Miss World 2012; when news articles said that Yu had won solely because the competition was held in her home country, Teng said that Yu would have won no matter where the competition was held.[5] Teng's birthday was the day after the last day the competition.[46]

That October, Teng attended the finale of LG Fashion Week in Toronto and commented to the media about some of Sunny Fong's designs.[53] In February 2013, Teng attended a sleepover called "Beautiful, You" at G.W. Graham Middle-Secondary School in Chilliwack in her capacity as Miss World Canada, after receiving an invitation from one of the school's students. In keeping with the theme of the event, Teng spoke about self-esteem and body image, as did Marika Siewert and Chilliwack mayor Sharon Gaetz.[54] Also that month, Teng hosted Thomsen, Baldachino, and Orešnik as they visited Vancouver[52] for more than two weeks.[55] During their visit, they appeared on a telethon run by Variety and visited some of Teng's other favourite charitable organizations, including Deborah's Gate, a safe house operated by The Salvation Army. The four also participated in the Women's Memorial March on Valentine's Day.[23] When Orešnik returned to Slovenia, she said that Teng believes passionately in the causes she promotes, living in accordance with what she believes, and called Teng very religious and hard-working.[56] On May 4, Teng, as Miss World Canada, served as one of three judges at the finals of a local talent contest: Langley Has Talent. The other two judges were television news presenter Steve Darling and record producer and songwriter Mitch Merrett.[57]

Activism[edit]

Teng is a professional public speaker[52] and works full-time as an independent activist against human trafficking, partnering with various organizations rather than working for one in particular.[40] She has partnered with World Vision International[58] and has given speeches at events raising funds for International Justice Mission (IJM),[37] which rescues children from brothels.[51] She has gone around the world, helping human trafficking victims[58] and speaking with government agencies on the subject.[59] She has drawn attention to human trafficking incidents relating to cocoa production in Ivory Coast, the textile industry in Asia, and sex trafficking in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia.[10] Teng has raised awareness about human trafficking in the Dominican Republic, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Singapore.[51] She has met with people who are not officially recognized by their government, and with heads of government.[60] In the United States, she mentored children in inner city Brooklyn[37] and Harlem.[33]

Inspirations[edit]

A black-and-white photograph of three people, two children and one woman, one of the children standing and smiling at the viewer
One of Tara Teng's first inspirations to oppose human trafficking was a book she read as a child about Amy Carmichael's work, seen here with two young girls in India.

Teng first learned about the Atlantic slave trade and the Underground Railroad when she was 10 years old.[14] As a child, she read about Amy Carmichael, who had sought to end the prostitution of children in India. The book is about devadasis, young girls in India given to priests as brides.[16] The film Bangkok Girl inspired Teng to begin opposing human trafficking.[4] She continued to encounter documentaries and articles about human trafficking throughout her teenage years, and eventually began to seek out these materials.[14]

In 2006, Teng discovered that someone in her neighbourhood was a human trafficking victim.[11] This victim was 14 years old when she was trafficked[61] by someone posing as a boyfriend. She also learned that she had friends whose sisters and cousins had been trafficked.[12] Teng was also inspired to oppose human trafficking by historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, who brought slaves to freedom in Canada at the risk of her own life; Nellie McClung, who was successful in achieving women's suffrage in Canada;[28] William Wilberforce, an 18th-to-19th-century member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom who, three days before he died, abolished slavery in the British Empire;[8] and Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan.[51]

Philosophy[edit]

A photograph of a brown-haired, brown-eyed woman looking to the left and smiling while wearing a crown, earrings, and a purple dress
Tara Teng prefers to be known as an abolitionist than as a beauty queen.

Teng identifies herself as an abolitionist[11] and prefers this label to that of "beauty queen".[15] She also considers herself a feminist, but uses the label "feminist" with reservation because she is concerned that it will make people think that she is a misandrist.[28] She calls herself a feminist because she believes that the most common human rights violations are those of women's rights.[28] Teng said that human trafficking is an issue in Canada and not just in developing countries,[15] and that that no Canadian cities are free of it.[62] She said that she is encouraged by the people who daily join her cause[11] and by the personal stories she hears.[4]

In 2010, Teng said that 80% of human trafficking victims were female, and 50% were children.[32] In 2011, she said that there were 27 million slaves around the world,[15] together comprising a $32-billion-dollar industry,[61] "more than Google, Nike, and Starbucks combined."[25] She said that the illegal drug trade is the only industry that generates a greater profit overall than human trafficking.[63] In 2012, she said that human trafficking was the world's fastest-growing crime.[25] She also said that slavery had changed over the previous 200 years, but that its devastation remained the same, and that some trafficked sexual slaves are as young as 12 years old.[41]

Teng placed the average age of victims in Canada at 13 and said that children in other countries are sold as young as age three.[12] She said that the youngest human trafficking victim she has ever worked with was 18 months old.[61] She also advocates labelling human trafficking victims "not as prostitutes but prostituted [because nearly] 98% of the women don't want to be in the industry," which she argues is growing faster than any other industry in the world.[12] Teng identified the root causes of human trafficking as being sexual objectification, political corruption, organized crime, and poverty.[61]

In response to people attempting to legalize prostitution in Canada, Teng said, "you're talking about an industry that capitalizes on racially oppressed women, on impoverished women, on minors, on children, it capitalizes on immigrants... I can’t believe that we’re having that conversation." Teng has also argued that, throughout history, the legalization of prostitution has never made life safer for prostitutes and will not do so in the future either.[63] Teng said that one of the biggest difficulties that needs to be overcome in addressing human trafficking is stereotypes of prostitutes; she said that she hates the term "hooker".[64] Teng uses various social media to raise awareness about human trafficking, including a personal blog, Twitter, and Facebook.[14]

In Canada[edit]

Political activism[edit]

A photograph of a grey-haired man wearing a red necktie and a white dress shirt looking to the left while facing the right and smiling
Tara Teng used her position as Miss BC World to meet with Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper (pictured), to discuss the possibility of implementing the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.

In October 2010,[12] Teng used her position as Miss BC World[16] to meet with Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to discuss the possibility of implementing the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.[12] She spoke positively about the Parliament of Canada's passing of An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), which established mandatory sentencing minima for those convicted with the trafficking of children. She said that more needed to be done politically on this matter, so she began to meet with MPs in the Metro Vancouver area.[32]

In November 2011, Teng and Joy Smith spoke at a breakfast in the Rural Municipality of East St. Paul about issues such as Smith's Private Member's Bill C-310,[65] which was eventually passed as An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons).[23] Also that month, Smith partnered with Bruce Stanton, Assistant Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, to host a reception in Teng's honour, at which she gave a speech to Senators and MPs about human trafficking and how to address it.[21]

In January 2012, Teng, Todd Hauptman, and Danny Ferguson of Langley Youth Unlimited hosted an event called "Wake Up: A Night Against Exploitation" at Langley Township Civic Facility. A film, Enslaved and Exploited, was followed by a discussion facilitated by Langley's two mayors about combatting sex trafficking.[66] Members of the Langley board of education and Derek Cooke, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superintendent in Langley, attended the event. One member of the audience recommended the creation of a human trafficking task force in Langley,[67] which eventually came into existence.[64] In April 2012, Teng and Hauptman presented Langley Township with their "End Exploitation Langley Action Plan"; they asked the township to accept the plan's first two stages, which focused on prevention and education.[68] Teng likened this portion of the plan to the Block Parent Program.[67]

Public awareness initiatives[edit]

Teng participated in Buying Sex is Not a Sport, a campaign that took place during the 2010 Winter Olympics.[33] In July 2011, Teng attended a screening of Enslaved and Exploited hosted by Five Stones Church as part of a series of documentary screenings at the Heritage Grill in New Westminster.[69] That September, Teng participated in Toronto's second annual Freedom Walk, hosted by Stop Child Trafficking Now, Freedom Relay Canada, and Oakville's Free-Them.[70]

In March 2011,[15] Teng and Todd Hauptman[41] organized the Freedom Week campaign in the Lower Mainland.[15] Before the campaign, she was in talks with Not for Sale, Exodus Cry, and IJM.[32] Speakers at the information session included Peter Fassbender, Mayor of the City of Langley; Mark Warawa, MP for Langley; and Jamie McIntosh, founder of IJM Canada. Teng expected 2,000 people to attend.[41] Portions of the Fraser Highway were shut down to accommodate the events.[15] Some of the week's events were held in Surrey and Coquitlam, including a dance performance at Chandos Pattison Auditorium, a prayer meeting in Coquitlam, and a performance of Limbo, a human-trafficking-themed play, at Christian Life Assembly.[41]

Also in 2011, Teng led the Ignite the Road to Justice Mission Tour,[71] which began at Vancouver's Coastal Church on August 14.[11] The tour continued to Kamloops, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, and St. Catharines.[12] The tour came into being as a result of the Freedom Week campaign Teng had organized the spring prior.[72] Teng's team for the tour included singer Kevin Boese, former madam Tania Fiolleau,[11] Anna Demian,[73] and several human-trafficking informants,[13] such as Glendene Grant,[74] mother of human trafficking victim Jessie Foster.[63]

Schools[edit]

A photograph of a many-windowed building with a white flagpole in front of it and several shrubs all under a clear blue sky
Tara Teng has spoken about human trafficking at Walnut Grove Secondary School on multiple occasions.

In early 2011, Teng spoke at Walnut Grove Secondary School[75] and urged the school's students to petition the Government of Canada to pass laws opposing human trafficking.[41] She had been invited to speak at the school by student Anna Demian.[75] In response to Teng's visit, students at the school wrote to their MP, Mark Warawa.[13] The day after the letters were delivered, Warawa approached Teng, saying that the letters had convinced him of the need for an action plan to combat human trafficking in Langley.[60] That May, Teng hosted a concert called "Heart of Hope – Destination Thailand" at the Chief Sepass Theatre in Fort Langley to raise funds for Samantha Pasielski and Janna Cressman to go on a six-month short-term mission to Thailand with Power to Change. Performers at the concert included The Source Dance Company, Zachary Park, and Courtney Bridge.[76]

In December 2011, Teng spoke about human trafficking at Rideau High School in Ontario, having been invited by Kourtney McCordic, a Grade 12 student and member of React, a group at the school that engages in social activism. Teng brought three petitions to the school for the students to sign. One called for Canada to adopt a law to make purchasing sex illegal in the same way as Sweden's Sex Purchase Act,[61] which Teng said "has a proven success rate for protecting women in prostitution and decreasing human trafficking."[3] A second petition sought to impose penalties for traffickers, while the other demanded the implementation of a national anti-human-trafficking strategy.[61] In 2012, Teng attended two Zumba fundraisers for anti-human-trafficking initiatives at Walnut Grove Secondary School, and gave the opening address at the March event.[77] Teng's speech at the school the previous February was one of the primary inspirations for these fundraisers.[78] She gave a talk at Hillcrest Elementary School in June 2013.[79]

Overseas[edit]

Cambodia and Thailand[edit]

In June 2011,[24] Teng visited poor towns[11] and slums[40] in Cambodia and Thailand in which none of the families still had their daughters; all had been sold into sexual slavery[11] by their families.[12] She spoke with the family members of human trafficking victims in these towns.[20] She also spent time in red-light districts, visiting bars and brothels where she heard the stories of victims, many of whom were from Moldova and had been tricked into moving to Moscow under a false promise of work, shipped to Turkey to be broken in, and then moved to Thailand.[12] One of the red-light districts that Teng visited was Thailand's Patpong, where she partnered with Rahab Ministries Thailand to spend time with female human trafficking survivors.[60] In Chiang Mai, Thailand, Teng spoke to an audience of 40,000 people at the MTV Freedom Concert in support of MTV EXIT, a campaign to end human trafficking and exploitation.[13][42] The Cambodia trip was in partnership with Traffic Jam, an advocacy group;[13] and World Orphans, another organization that opposes human trafficking.[42] In Cambodia, she also visited Ratanak International, which works with children who have been sexually exploited commercially,[25] and met with members of the Somaly Mam Foundation.[80]

South Korea[edit]

In February 2012, Teng was a keynote speaker at the Freedom and Honor Conference[40] in Seoul, South Korea.[81] She also visited Paju where she met with Eco Gender, which runs aftercare centres for former human trafficking victims, and spoke about human trafficking at Onnuri Community Church, where she encouraged the members of the church to become involved with Eco Gender.[25] Before arriving in the country, Teng researched the state of human trafficking in South Korea and found that sex trafficking is prevalent despite the illegality of prostitution in the country. She said that she was inspired to see Koreans beginning to combat human trafficking, found the awareness-raising work of Not for Sale Korea successful, and expected that this work would continue after she left the country.[40]

Sri Lanka and the Philippines[edit]

In late 2012, as an ambassador for World Vision International, Teng travelled to villages in Sri Lanka and the Philippines to visit children sponsored by Canadians through this charitable organization.[52] She was accompanied to Sri Lanka by MuchMusic VJ Sarah Taylor, pop singer Tyler Medeiros, and illustrator Gary Taxali.[82] In Sri Lanka, she visited World Vision's development programs in Thanamalvila Divisional Secretariat and Bogawantalawa to help fundraising efforts.[83] She had a near-death experience in rural Sri Lanka while being photographed feeding corn to a wild, adult elephant under an electric fence next to a road. Instead of grasping the corn, the elephant wrapped its trunk around Teng's arm and began pulling her under the fence. She was rescued by villagers.[47] Teng considered the trip the most exciting one she undertook during her year as Miss World Canada.[52]

Responses[edit]

In response to Teng's opposition to human trafficking, several local churches have labelled themselves "justice churches" and have developed social-justice-related events and initiatives.[13] Teng helped convince Louie Giglio to make human trafficking a primary focus of the 2010 Passion Conference; the conference raised $3 million for anti-human-trafficking organizations.[25] Additionally, Teng has been singled out for her activism numerous times in the Canadian media, with observers calling her "compassionate" and a "role model."[14][24][84][85]

Other activities[edit]

A photograph of three smiling women standing in a row while balancing bowls on their heads, all in front of a white tent under a blue sky
Tara Teng supports a variety of humanitarian organizations, including the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation.

In 2009,[32] while working for lingerie retailer Nectar Lingerie,[26] Teng founded Undies for Africa, a charitable organization that sends panties and brassieres to Zambia,[17] where another charitable organization, Villages of Hope, distributes the clothing to women there to raise their social statuses and help prevent their being sexually assaulted.[32] Undies for Africa sent its first shipment of undergarments in April 2010, and Teng received many letters from Zambian girls and women expressing their appreciation.[32] That October, Teng appeared at Diamond Delivery in support of fundraisers for the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation.[86]

In 2011, Teng founded Send Love, a campaign to connect India's Dalit children with children in North America.[22] In mid-2011, she visited California to speak about social justice and represented Dalit Freedom Network Canada, speaking in Ottawa about the significant risk of exploitation that Dalits and other vulnerable groups face.[13] In July, she was invited to be a special guest at Wellbrook Winery's Summerfest in Delta,[87] where she appeared at a booth run by Hope for Dalit Women, a local organization raising awareness about the Dalits and selling items handmade by Dalit women.[88] At a November 2011 mayoral debate for Langley City and Langley Township, Teng asked the candidate Mel Kositsky what his passion was; Kositsky said his passion was "helping others achieve their goals."[89]

In October 2012, Teng appeared unannounced at restaurant Szechuan Chongqing in her capacity as Miss World Canada to mark its joining of the Ocean Wise program.[90] Teng supports marine conservation and likes to visit the Vancouver Aquarium,[29] particularly because of the beluga whales there.[22] Teng has also worked in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside with homeless people there.[37] Teng's beauty pageant fame has also given her opportunities to model for fashion photo shoots.[9]

Awards[edit]

A photograph of a row of shiny silver medals hung on ribbons striped red, blue, and white all attached to a black surface, the leftmost the closest
The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal was granted to thirty Langley residents, one of whom was Tara Teng.

In 2010,[9] The Globe and Mail nominated Teng for its list of 25 Transformational Canadians because of her work in advocacy.[62] In 2011, Chatelaine named Teng one of Canada's 29 Women of the Year for her activism.[91] More specifically, she was named one of the "Hot 20 Under 30" for being a member of "the next generation of leaders in" her field;[92] other young women named to this honour included Canadian Olympians and entrepreneurs.[19] As part of International Women's Day in March 2012, Teng was given an award by the Rotary Club of Langley Central to recognize her work in opposing human trafficking.[93] Also that month, she was added to the Catalyst Conference's Young Influencers List.[94]

In April 2012, Teng was nominated for a Young Woman of Distinction Award at the Vancouver YWCA's Women of Distinction Awards.[62] The winner is allowed to choose the YWCA program that would receive Scotiabank's CA$1,000 donation - Teng said that, were she to win the award, she intended to select a program seeking to prevent violence against women.[68] On October 27, the Joy Smith Foundation held an event called "Honouring Heroes" in Toronto, at which the Foundation awarded Teng the International Freedom Award in recognition of her defence of human rights.[51] That November, she was one of thirty Langley residents to receive the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, which recognizes exceptional contributions to one's country and community. Marika Siewert nominated Teng for the medal and Mark Warawa performed the presentation. Teng called the medal a "huge honour" and expressed her hope that her reception of it would bring greater attention to the plight of human trafficking victims.[58]

Personal life[edit]

Teng was married in late 2013. The ceremony was held at Tunkwa Lake, British Columbia, Canada.[95] In her spare time she can be found rock-climbing, hunting, writing or visiting the belugas at the Vancouver Aquarium with her new husband.[96]

References[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Sandra Gin
Miss BC World
2010
Succeeded by
Cheryl Dietrich
Preceded by
Mélanie Paquin
Miss Canada
2011
Succeeded by
Jaclyn Miles
Preceded by
Riza Santos
Miss World Canada
2012
Succeeded by
Camille Munro