In 2008, Mississippi native Allison Mellon started a nonprofit, The Hard Places Community, to fight human trafficking throughout the world.
The Christian organization started in Phnom Penh, Cambodia — a city of 1.5 million that is the very definition of a hard place. In Phnom Penh’s sex tourist district, children as young as 3 live and work on the streets. Sex tourists are drawn to the area by pedophile websites that instruct them on exactly how to travel to a foreign country with the sole intention of abusing a child.
There, in the teeming, filthy streets of Cambodia’s capital city, THPC workers conduct daily mobile “Kids Clubs” — mobile because the children working on the streets are not allowed to take breaks long enough to go to indoor programs. So THPC workers take the programs to them, five days a week, from 7:30 in the morning until midnight.
Eight years ago, Allie Mellon and her staff were joined by Dr. Kim Parrish, an adjunct professor at Wilmington University. In explaining why she joined THPC, Dr. Parrish quotes from the nonprofit’s mission: “To see justice prevail, pain redeemed, hope reborn, and life restored in the hearts of those the world deems to be the most broken.”
Born and raised on a Georgia farm and a resident for the past 30 years of Jackson, Mississippi, Dr. Parrish speaks in a voice redolent of magnolia blossoms and lazy summer days. But make no mistake — she is not a delicate southern belle. Rather, she is driven and dedicated, whether in the classroom or in her work for THPC.
The mother of three grown children, she has a background in education, guidance counseling and family ministry. She has always worked with children, and that, along with her Christian faith, made her a natural fit with THPC.
Since joining the organization in 2011, she has made nine trips to Cambodia, leading teams that set up programs for the children of Phnom Penh.
Now, however, her focus is on Athens, Greece. Two years ago, Dr. Parrish conducted her doctoral research study on a refugee camp on the island of Chios, off the coast of Greece. Noting that there are more than 72,000 refugees and migrants in Greece, and calling it “a very vulnerable situation,” she convinced the leaders of THPC to establish a second international location in Athens last fall.
“Day-to-day work in Greece begins this summer,” she says. And she will be at the forefront, working with a group of 12 people, many of whom are college students. She notes that internships are available in Greece, which she calls “a relatively safe country,” especially compared to Cambodia. She invites anyone interested in an internship to contact her at email@example.com.
When she is not flying to Cambodia or Athens, Dr. Parrish finds time to teach Family Life Education and Family Resource Management online to WilmU graduate students. “Kim brings both an educational and a practical application approach to our students’ course experience,” says Dr. Mary Kay Keller, chair of the Applied Family Science Graduate On-Line Program.
Dr. Parrish joined the adjunct faculty in April last year. Of her WilmU experience thus far, she says, “It’s been a blast.”
Interested in learning more about The Hard Places Community? Visit thehardplaces.org.