Cheers! Delta Airlines and Hilton Hotels Join the Fight Against Sex Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on May 30th, 2011

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I hesitate to call the airport my second home, because at times it feels like my first home.  As the daughter of a humanitarian development worker, I was raised in several countries – which has resulted in a flood of memories rushing at me whenever I find myself walking through the sliding glass doors of an airport.

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Little Michelle on a mission

Some of these memories include me proudly carrying package of Huggies diapers through customs as a toddler, watching floating sheets of city lights pierce the darkness of night through my airplane window, and jumping on hotel beds before my parents even had a chance to set down their luggage.

These lovely childhood memories have been somewhat hijacked during my travels lately. Since becoming an abolitionist, I catch myself keeping an eye out for young women or children travelling alone or with someone suspicious.  I watch the way people interact and occasionally even sit strategically in places where I can eavesdrop on conversations.  Calling me a paranoid creep is perhaps not an overstatement, and I am always embarrassed when my “trafficking suspect” merely ends up being a dad with his two teenage girls on their way to visit grandma.

As silly as my self-assigned spy missions seem most of the time, the reality is that international trafficking takes place at airports around the world every day.  A man I met with a number of months ago opened my eyes to the difficulty and complexity of spotting trafficking victims at airports, as many of them do not realize they are being trafficked until they have left the building. Hotels are often the next step in the sequence, and victims find themselves on lock down in a foreign land.

delta logoFor this reason, I am extremely pleased that two big companies in the travel industry have decided to step on board with ECPAT International to do their part in the fight against trafficking.  In March of this year, Delta Airlines became the first major airline in the world to sign the ECPAT tourism Code of Conduct.  As such, it will implement policies to stop child trafficking and provide training to help its employees identify and report trafficking activities or victims they come across. Delta will also raise awareness through its Sky magazine.

As posted on their website, the executive director of ECPAT-USA had this to say:

All travel companies could unwittingly be facilitating the sex trafficking of children. If they do nothing to raise awareness or to prevent child trafficking, they risk becoming an indirect and unintentional conduit for the abuse that takes places.  We applaud Delta Air Lines for taking the first step toward helping fight the sex trafficking of children that has become a global epidemic.

hiltonHilton Hotels, the world’s leading global hospitality company, followed suit last month. Though some are concerned that addressing such a grim reality will hurt the hotel chain’s image, others say that taking a stand against exploitation is in fact good for the hotel chain’s reputation. I agree.

The downside is that many traffickers use seedy motels instead of luxury hotels to keep costs low, but hopefully Hilton’s example will inspire some smaller chains to adopt similar initiatives.  There also needs to be a movement that goes beyond stopping children from being trafficked, as many victims are over 18.

Regardless, these companies are taking the lead on an important issues, and for that I applaud them. There needs to be more trained professionals watching out for warning signs – the warning signs that the average traveller (like me) may overlook or misinterpret.

For more information on the ECPAT Code of Conduct, you can see their website.  You can see Hilton’s press release here and an article about Delta Airlines here.  To see a list of all the companies that have signed the code, click here.  To sign a petition to get other hotels to do the same, click here.  Maybe this will impact where you choose to spend your money on your next vacation!

Michelle Brock


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A Day in the Life of a Sex Trafficking Victim

by Michelle Brock on May 24th, 2011

A great abolitionist friend of mine, Seth Johnson, is going to Cambodia with his wife Marlo.  They are working with Transitions Global, and you can read my recent post about their trip for more information.

Seth and Marlo need to raise $4,000 by the end of May and so far have $1,923.  There is currently a raffle for an iPad2, each donation of $27 buys a ticket.   Whether you want an iPad2 or not, donate here to invest into these amazing abolitionists and the lives they are changing…

…like the lives of those represented in this video clip.

Michelle Brock

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Fight Resistance

by Michelle Brock on May 20th, 2011

resistance

“Resistance is the shadow cast by the innovative self’s sun.  Before the dragon of Resistance reared its ugly head and breathed fire into our faces, there existed within us a force so potent and life affirming that it summoned this beast into being, perversely, to combat it.  But the urge to climb came first.  That urge is love.  Love for the material, love for the work, love for our brothers and sisters to whom we will offer our work as a gift.”

-Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

Don’t give up the fight for justice.  Combat resistance with everything in you.  Get uncomfortable.  Make sacrifices.  Surround yourself with people who support you.  Live for a purpose.  And know that you are making a difference.

Michelle Brock


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Head of IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn Charged With Sex Crime

by Michelle Brock on May 18th, 2011

predatorlenderStructural Adjustment Programs. Political scandals.  Riots in the streets of Latin America.  Oh the reputation of the International Monetary Fund.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with this intergovernmental organization, the IMF oversees the global financial system and gives out loans to countries in need. Unfortunately there is a long history of such loans being attached to conditions that have undermined the ability of those countries to provide even the most basic services to their people.

Though my memory of the details is a bit rusty, I remember the strong distaste many of my professors expressed toward this institution, especially the one who was born and raised in Latin America and had seen the controversy first hand.

The IMF is now under a different type of scrutiny.  Its chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was recently boarding a plane at JFK Airport when he received quite the surprise – arrest, followed by some time in a jail cell.  A 32-year old woman who worked at the hotel Strauss-Kahn had stayed at in Manhattan reported that she had been forcibly attacked, locked in his room, and sexually assaulted.

What is the likelihood that these allegations are true?  Strauss-Kahn has a reputation for being a womanizer, to the extent that in 2009 comedian Stephane Guillon did a bit on France’s public radio on the security measures the station should take preceeding Strauss-Kahn arrival.  He jokingly mentioned that women should wear long, dark, unsexy clothing, avoid isolated places like the bathroom facilities, and keep an ear out for emergency sirens that would act as a sign to evacuate all women from the building.

On a more serious note, various female IMF employees over the years have requested to never work with him alone in a room.  Clearly this man is a sexual predator on some level.

old boys clubIn an interview I heard on CBC radio yesterday, some questioned the corporate culture of the IMF.  The institution was set up in 1944 and many see it as an old boy’s club.

What is their hiring criteria? Is it based on personality or character?  One of the radio guests mentioned that people hire in their own image, and Strauss-Khan was most likely chosen based on his ability to get people to do things for him. He is a seductive charmer.

Considering that the IMF’s mandate is to reduce poverty, and that the load of poverty falls disproportionately on impoverished women, perhaps it’s time for the IMF to re-examine its corporate culture in respect to women.  If the head of such a powerful institution views women as objects to be used and abused, there is a danger that this attitude will affect decisions that are made and trickle down through the ranks of the organization.

For the sake of the world’s impoverished, vulnerable, and exploited women, Strauss-Kahn needs to say good bye to his prestigious and powerful positions at IMF.

IMF 122214f 300x194How do you think corporate culture can be changed to respect women?  Do you think this is important for institutions like the IMF?  If these allegations are proven true, what should be done with Strauss-Kahn?  For those of you who know France’s history of letting their leaders get away with sex scandals, do you think this goes too far considering that Strauss-Kahn was a possible presidential candidate?

Michelle Brock

 

 

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Can You See Me? Flash Mob in Trafalgar Square to Raise Awareness About Sex Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on May 16th, 2011

Love146FlashMobWhat happens when passionate abolitionists join together with top stars and dancers from London’s West End musicals? A flash mob in Trafalgar Square! Rachel Tucker, the star of Wicked, leads this performance, bringing awareness about exploited children that go unnoticed and what Love 146 is doing to help.

Make sure to read this blog post by Rob Morris from Love 146, which is where I found this clip:

This goes to show that raising awareness about serious issues does not have to be gloomy.  Let’s remember that there is HOPE!!  These dancers and singers gave it their all and made people smile, inspiring thought and action.

Well done Love 146 & team!

Michelle Brock

 

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Leaving on a Jet Plane: Meet 4 Abolitionists

by Michelle Brock on May 13th, 2011

I’d like to introduce you to some friends who are preparing to head to Southeast Asia on abolitionist expeditions.

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SETH AND MARLO JOHNSON

My husband and I met Seth Johnson first through twitter, and later met up with him in person in Jacksonville, Florida. Last year I wrote a post on Seth and the work he is involved with at Transitions Global, a fantastic organization that fights sex trafficking in Cambodia.

Seth and his wife Marlo are heading to Cambodia with a team of abolitionists, where they will be learning about the country and its recent history with genocide, taking an in-depth look at human trafficking, meeting with Transitions Global’s partner organizations, and doing community service along side the brave girls that they’ve worked so hard for and love very much.

There is no doubt in my mind that this couple will come back with even more vision, energy, and vigour for their work to restore the lives of those who have been exploited.  This is more than just a trip – this is leadership development, dream building, and vision-loaded investment into people who are already good stewards of the influence they have been given.

Seth and Marlo are raising $8500 USD for this trip, $2000 of which will  go towards the yearly care of one of the girls in the safe home with Transitions Global.  The first deadline is coming up fast – $4000 by the end of this month.

Please check out their story and give a donation toward their trip here. My hope is to interview them when they return so you can see what impact your support can have.  Let’s get this couple to Cambodia!

 

220789 10150549691315468 815895467 17964723 6845292 o 680x1024TARA AND TERRY TENG

Tara Teng, who currently holds the title of Miss Canada, is also heading to Southeast with her father, Terry.  I had the opportunity to interview Tara in Langley BC in March, and got to hear about her passion to end modern day slavery.

This June, father and daughter will be participating in an amazing journey with the Traffic Jam Campaign to raise awareness in the fight against child trafficking in Southeast Asia and around the world.

Their experience will begin in Bangkok, Thailand, where they will encounter the country’s flourishing child sex industry that enslaves children as young as four years old. They will also be visiting ministries who are working the front lines to rescue these precious children from further abuse and exploitation.

From there, the team will head North to participate in MTV EXIT‘s Freedom concert in Chiang Mai. Traffic Jam is supplying MTV with an incredible band, Sargent Avenue, who will bring a message of hope to the 30,000 to 40,000 people in attendance. Tara has been asked to be a speaker at this concert.

The Thailand portion of the trip will finish in Pattaya, where so many young women, girls and boys are trapped within a wicked sex tourism industry frequented by predators from the world over.

They will then spend a few days in Cambodia, principally visiting the Vietnamese communities that live on the waterways. These families are so poor that 30% of them have sold a child into the Cambodian sex trade in order to survive. Traffic Jam partners with churches to provide skills-development programs to give these vulnerable children an alternative future.

Traffic Jam has partnered with World Orphans to facilitate this trip. World Orphans has prevention, rescue and care programs for orphaned, abandoned, sold and trafficked children in over 50 countries.

The portion that they need to raise for the team is $6,600 USD and they need to raise it rather quickly (by May 15th). Contributions can be made online here.

Instructions: (1) Upon clicking on link above, scroll down to the bottom and click the “DONATE NOW” button (2) Designate the amount (3) Under fund designation select Re: Generation. (4)  Under message instruction, write the following: Thailand/Cambodia Mission 2011.  For those of you who would like to get prayer updates, include your requests to get prayer updates.

Via Mail:

WestCoast Baptist Association
131 East Kings Road,
North Vancouver, BC
V7N 1H4

Make cheque payable to: WBA Re: Generation
Write in Memo: Thailand/Cambodian Mission 2011

The effects of the Thailand and Cambodia trip will be seen right away, as in August Tara will also be leading a team composed of a band, dancers, actors, and human trafficking specialists on a tour called Ignite the Road to Justice.  They will be visiting 10 cities across Canada raising awareness about human trafficking, waking up the country to the importance of pursing righteousness and justice.

All excess funds that are raised for the Southeast Asia trip in June will go directly in to the general funds of Re: Generation and will be able to be directed to the cross Canada trip in August. Many have been asking how they can be involved in supporting both of Tara’s trips. This opportunity allows you to support both.

airplaneI would challenge you to support Seth & Marlo and Tara & Terry as they head out to Southeast Asia to learn more about human trafficking and fight for what is important.   Keep in mind the deadlines that are fast approaching.  Know that your support will go a long way as these four amazing individuals step onto that jet plane!

Michelle Brock



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Magdalene Rehabilitation House: Helping the Exploited

by Michelle Brock on May 11th, 2011

Here is a video clip I received recently from a friend.

  • Time and time again I hear about how girls on the street were sexually abused as children.
  • Time and time again I see how their so called ‘choice’ really just came out of desperation and manipulation.
  • Time and time again I witness how drugs are used as a vice for control.
  • Time and time again I am enraged that these women get criminalized and imprisoned while johns continue on their trucking routes.

But…

  • Time and time again I hear about places like Magdalene.
  • Time and time again I am moved by stories of radical change.
  • Time and time again I am inspired to hope.

Michelle Brock

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Lattes & A Lotta Love: A Revolutionary Coffee Shop

by Michelle Brock on May 9th, 2011

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Comfy chairs.  Baked goods.  Friendly staff.  Art on the walls.  Aromas in the air.  Welcome to Origin Coffee & Tea in Rocklin, California.  Their website claims they failed Business 101 and this was the result:

  • They are for-benefit. In other words, Origin Coffee & tea is a registered non-profit.  Money is a tool for freedom and they give it all away!
  • Their workers don’t get paid. What?!  These baristas are volunteering their time on a rotation basis because they believe in the mission.  All funds exceeding overhead costs go directly to those fighting sex trafficking.  And don’t worry, volunteers are not hard to come by (they’ve had 279 applications to date!)  In addition to being trained on how to make delicious drinks, workers are also taught the basics of human trafficking so they can have meaningful conversation with customers.
  • Ethical business practices are a must.  This means striving for simplicity and using fair-trade products.

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I read about this amazing coffee shop in an article two weeks ago and was blown away. What a novel idea!  Instead of making a one-time donation to fight for the cause, pastor Mark South (right) and Chad Salstrom (left) wanted to create a model that would generate continuous funding opportunities. Considering that North Americans love their coffee, that friends love to grab tea and snack while socializing, and that students are strangely drawn to the sound of espresso grinders, steam wands, and clanging dishes while studying, this place is well-suited for drawing a crowd. My husband’s desire to ask lost of questions has rubbed off on me, and I wanted to find out more about this venture.  Here is my interview with Chad Salstrom, who manages the coffee shop and is the only paid person on staff. 171279 196209793728007 126271440721843 831117 8169750 o1 1024x682If you had to share your experience so far in 5 words, what would they be? Messy, overwhelming, scarring (as in a fight leaves you scarred), exciting, redemptive. Have either of you ever worked at/managed a coffee shop before? Never. Nor anything like this. I went to Bible college and was selling shoes at Nordstrom before this. I only started drinking coffee three years ago when my second child was born. I read that this idea came to life because of your experience as fathers. Do you think fathers have a unique role to play in the fights against sex trafficking? Absolutely, the way we feel is that this is primarily a man issue. The vast majority of the pimps and johns are male. So we call men to lead the fight against this. It think that should resonate with all fathers. 134155 192003214148665 126271440721843 799309 8366427 o 682x1024How did you choose the supplier for your coffee and tea products? The criteria for us was (1) A heart for the mission (2) Fair Trade Organic (3) High quality (4) If possible, from within our city.  We found all of those for our coffee and pastries. Our teas come from a great family owned operation in Kentucky. Both our coffee roaster and tea distributor have either been to the farms personally or worked with the farmer for years to assure that people are paid a fair wage in good working conditions. What has been the biggest challenge so far? The biggest challenge is keep the mission in front of all of us. None of us enjoying thinking about what goes on. But it is critical so that we will persevere through the long, tiring, messy days. The money is being put towards rescue, recovery, and cultural development – what does cultural development involve? Cultural Development is a broad term that represents ground level infrastructure that can sustain the anti-trafficking fight long after Origin Coffee has gone away. Some areas have been devastated for generations by the commercial sex-trade. We want to break that bondage. Depending on the area it may look like putting money towards education, law enforcement training, church planting, job training etc.

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Is there a story (funny, sobering, or inspirational etc) that sticks out in your mind regarding the coffee shop? 167674 196810840334569 126271440721843 835862 3416636 n1An incredible moment for me was when a group of 5 teenage girls came into the shop. These girls looked like any other girls of Asian descent. However, the five girls were survivors of the child sex trade in Cambodia. They were rescued by IJM (the primary organization we support), they spent time in the Agape recovery house (the founders are friends from this area) and are now here. The group of girls are in the US to testify against an American which is a brave and rare effort. They have been granted amnesty and are current enrolled in school. To meet them was sobering and inspiring. This fight works and is worth it. They were so sweet, humble, beautiful and innocent. There were no signs of the nightmare they have lived through. And to top it off, one of them wants to run a coffee shop someday and would like to volunteer with us. Wow.  Thanks Chad for the work that you do and for sharing about your experience with HFTS readers.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me these guys are a true inspiration!  Coffee shops like this need to spring up all over the U.S. and Canada…and perhaps this will get the wheels turning for some of you entrepreneurial types! Stop by the Origin Coffee & Tea website and check out their facebook page too (where these pictures are from!).  For those of you lucky enough to live in the area, get some summer drinks today.  For the rest of us, let’s dream big and visit when we can!

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Canada’s 2011 Election Results: My Thoughts

by Michelle Brock on May 4th, 2011

CDN Parliament1

Monday was an important day in Canada, as millions headed to the polls and ushered in a majority government.  I am personally non-partisan and always vote for people based on their character and their commitment to vote either with their party or against it, depending on the issue.

Manitoba’s MP Joy Smith, who is a woman of deep character and the champion of the abolitionist movement in Parliament, was re-elected. This is great news. With a majority backing her up, Canada’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking will now be able to move forward with vigour.

However, my years of studying political science and international development at the University of Guelph have taught me that everything is interconnected.  When big business and corporate interests gain momentum and power, laws can, in a sense, contradict themselves.  For example, one of Joy Smith’s proposals is to introduce penalties for Canadian companies which knowingly import or use products made by forced labour or child labour.  Will a majority that is generally known to be pro-corporation and laissez faire support legislation that could jeopardize company profit?

My childhood in Africa and my travels throughout Southern Africa and Central America have imprinted the plight of the poor on my heart.  Why is it that women and children from impoverished countries are usually the ones who are trafficked across international borders and exploited?  The capitalistic structure of the international economic system has created a glass ceiling which has stunted the growth of many in the developing world.  Traffickers are able to use this to their advantage.

I am a huge proponent of preventative strategies, and hope that the new Canadian government will look at structures of economic injustice as they push forward MP Smith’s National Action Plan.  I know that her goal is to be as thorough and comprehensive as possible, and it is my hope that the majority will back her up as she seeks to make a difference.

And in the words of Philip Yancey, “Politics can legislate justice but not compassion.”

That’s our job.

Michelle Brock

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What Laryngitis Taught Me About My Civic Duty

by Michelle Brock on May 2nd, 2011

sore throatLately I have been quite contemplative. Thinking, pondering, and reflecting instead of talking, debating, and expressing.  I wish I could say it is by choice because of some newfound conviction or personal experiment, but my season of silence is caused by none other than laryngitis.

During the last few days I have discovered that speech is a tool.  To greet people.  To answer the phone.  To get someone’s attention.  To ask for help.  To offer help.  To acknowledge another’s comment.  To meet a new person.

All weekend I have tried to avoid people altogether for the following reasons:

  • My family feels the need to whisper because I am whispering.  I find this weird.
  • My husband thinks I am mad at him because I am not the chatterbox he is used to.
  • I don’t want to be in the awkward situation of having someone ask me something and me not being able to answer.
  • I feel rude at the store or at the bank because I can’t even offer up a “How are you?” without gasping for air and launching into a coughing attack.

This time of silence has made me appreciate my voice.  I am tired of being unheard.

I wonder if that is what victims of human trafficking and exploitation feel on a daily basis. Like no one cares.  Like no one hears their cries for help.  Like they are invisible.  Repulsive.  Not wanted.  Forgotten.  Like what they have to say does not matter.  Like they have no voice.

speakupFor those of you living in Canada, today is election day.  It is a day to use your voice.  My husband and I emailed our local candidate and made sure he supports Canada’s anti-trafficking efforts.  Do not waste your voice. Empower your local representatives so that they can speak up for victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

And don’t be fooled: I may have laryngitis but I am far from being silent!

Michelle Brock

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