A year ago, Stacey Dooley went to India with the BBC to film the acclaimed documentary Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts. She was one of a group but she stood out a mile, so refreshing was she in comparison to the bland, spoiled whiners that surrounded her. Now she's back for more, in Kids for Sale – Stacey Dooley Investigates, only this time she'll be in Nepal and the Ivory Coast, and without the peer-group entourage. Her trip to India, she said, changed everything. "I always thought charity was for hippies and do-gooders," she giggled. "And now I'm all, like, 'Yeah, charity rocks!'"
It's easy to see why programme-makers asked her back: she's utterly, utterly charming, brimming with off-kilter observations ("It smells like Whipsnade," she mused at one point, presumably in reference to the zoo). She's also admirably gutsy. When it comes to sticking up for the underdog, she's at the front of the queue, apparently wholly unintimidated by those in power.
Last night saw her in Kathmandu, where an estimated several thousand children are working, having been sold by desperate parents for piddling amounts. She was working with a local rescue charity, but soon became aware of just how Sisyphean their mission is. With only one sweatshop visit accomplished, all the factories in the vicinity closed down, their underage workforce terrorised into hiding. One little boy broke free, claiming he was regularly beaten and wanted to go home. Mind-blowingly, the charity couldn't do anything. They reported the incident to the police and hoped that something would come of it.
It was a similar situation later on, when they tried to rescue a 13-year-old girl from her position as a domestic slave. They were working with the little girl's sister, who was rescued a few years earlier. Despite the fact that such slavery is illegal, they struggled to get anywhere near her. Eventually – and, one imagines, thanks in large part to the presence of a TV camera – her "owner" allowed a representative in to negotiate. Several hours afterwards they emerged, victorious. The little girl was set free. Initially bemused, the prospect of a new life dawned slowly. By the next day, she sported a permanent megawatt grin. Stacey took her shopping, and she burst out of the changing room draped in colour. "Who's this beauty queen?" Stacey cried, much to the girl's delight. It's pathetically clear how little hope there is of any rapid change for these children. Their enslavement here is a cultural as well as an economic problem. Still, Stacey wasn't disheartened. "Changing one person's life is better than nothing, isn't it?" she asked the camera. "It's not great but... why wouldn't you do it?" She has a point.
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