I Am a Treasure

by Michelle Brock on January 27th, 2012

Beautiful.

When I was younger, I remember hearing that the most powerful comfort can come from a wounded healer.  Many of the women at Treasures have experienced exploitation, manipulation, self-loathing, regret, and abuse, enabling them to understand fully and empathize with those trapped in the trade who feel forgotten.  Check out the Treasures website to read stories and learn more.

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In Lieu of Wedding Favours, Help Hope for the Sold Fight Sex Trafficking!

by Michelle Brock on January 25th, 2012

weddingWedding planning is a crazy season, and for those of you getting married this summer, these next few months will be ones of busy preparation. Something that is becoming increasingly common is for the bride and groom to make a charitable donation on behalf of their guests instead of sending them home with a wedding favour.  On our wedding day, Jay and I decided to give the gift of water through Rwanda Clean Water and placed a bookmark shaped card in everyone’s water glass with some details.

We recently had the honour of speaking at a spa and awareness event put together by Trade Sensation, an event planning company based out of Toronto.  They suggested we make “in lieu of wedding favours” available through Hope for the Sold. Here’s what I came up with:

HFTS wedding favours

If you would like to make a donation to Hope for the Sold in lieu of wedding favours, you can select which style of card you’d like to give your guests.  Once I have your information, I will then customize it with your names, wedding date, and picture, and send you the PDF file that you can get printed for those attending your wedding.

All the money from the donations will be going toward this project.  All donations will receive a charitable tax receipt (this is possible for U.S. donations as well).  You can find out how to give online or by cheque on the bottom of this page.  If you are interested in donating in lieu of wedding favours, please contact me here, with subject line “wedding favours” so we can get the ball rolling!

If you know of any people getting married, just copy this link to send this post their way: http://bit.ly/HFTSWeddingFavours

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Life, Interrupted

by Michelle Brock on January 23rd, 2012

KMIt was a warm, sunny Sunday in the early spring – the kind where you feel that summer is not just a cruel myth but is on the verge of melting through the grip of winter.  I remember curling onto the couch in my living room for a sun-soaked nap, completely unaware that I was about to be plunged into a winter season of the soul.

The phone awoke me from my slumber.  My best friend Katharine had been in a car accident. Coach bus.  Airlifted.  Serious condition. Words became a jumble in my head.  Along with her family and closest friends, I spent the long, dark night at the hospital by her side.  The next day we were all ushered into a small room with very white walls, and the doctor told us what we’d all feared: at 19 years old, our Katharine’s vibrant young life was over.

Life, interrupted.

Fast forward five years to just 11 days ago.  My husband and I found out that one of our dearest friends, who was a groomsman at our wedding, had just been diagnosed with leukemia.  The chemotherapy began the next day, and as I write this our friend is still at the hospital, fighting for his life and trying to stay as positive as possible as we cheer him on and try to help in any way we can.

Life, interrupted.

Life has such heavy burdens, doesn’t it?  I think of all the split second moments when life is interrupted, and schedules, routines, and plans fade into the background.  Chances are some of you have been though this, and you know exactly what this is like.  Whether it’s a scary diagnosis, the loss of a loved one, financial crisis, betrayal, the death of a dream, or even the devastating moment a trafficking victim realizes they are trapped, life is often made up of what ifs and if onlys.

If only she hadn’t gotten into her car that day.  If only he hadn’t said that.  If only she had eaten healthier. If only I had not believed his promises.  If only I’d been a better dad.  If only If only, if only, if only.

Our minds and hearts can become so weighed down by the pain and suffering in our own lives, let alone the suffering we hear about all over the world.  Human trafficking, poverty, exploitation, war, disease, famine.  Discouragement, heartbreak, disappointment, despair.  What is our role in all this? How can we, even in the midst of devastating interruptions, live in such a way that we do not get overwhelmed?

I have been learning a lot from Ann Voskamp, author of a book called One Thousand Gifts.  I’ve been working through the concept of being more grateful, and here is a quote that really resonates with me:

“I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I’ve seen the hungry and the guns that go to war.  I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain the falls and all the good things that a good God gives.  Why would the world need more anger, more outrage?  How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us?  Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering.  The converse does.  The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest light to all the world.  When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows.  How can this not be the best thing for the world?  For us?  The clouds open when we mouth thanks.”

I am the last person who would flippantly tell you to grin and bear it.  That suffering is not real.  That pain is exaggerated.  That grieving is easy.  But I know that for myself, the suffering in this world often leaves me burdened and wounded so deeply that all my energy is sapped and I want to quit caring.

Let’s not stop caring.

holdingsunLet’s start noticing the little joys and the little gifts, intentionally practicing gratefulness, and taking the time to focus on moments that bring life.

Disappointment, interrupted.  Fear, interrupted. Anguish, interrupted.  Hopelessness, interrupted.

In doing so we can begin to flood light into a world that is so, so broken.

 

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My Apologies…

by Michelle Brock on January 20th, 2012

My husband and I were feeling under the weather this week, hence the lack of posts! But we are back to being healthy, and will be speaking at a Spa & Awareness event put together by Trade Sensations in Toronto this weekend.  Find out more here, and be sure to register by today if you can make it!  Get pampered and support Hope for the Sold!

We will post pictures of the event next week, and I promise to get back on the blogging horse now that I am feeling myself again.

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Mixed Up Priorities

by Michelle Brock on January 13th, 2012

people vs things

How true is that?!

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Spa & Awareness: Ladies, Come Get Pampered and Learn About Human Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on January 10th, 2012

I am excited to announce that Trade Sensation, a Toronto-based event planning company with Canada’s largest wedding planning team has partnered with Hope for the Sold to throw a Spa Day for brides, maid of honours, bridesmaids, mothers, mother-in-laws, and all ladies interested in having a day of pampering!  Whether you are getting married, know someone who is, or are single and just want to come get pampered and learn about what Hope for the Sold is doing to fight sex trafficking, mark the date in your calendar and come on out!  If you have trouble seeing the details below, click on the invite to enlarge:

TradeSensation SpaParty1Jay and I will be showing some clips from our documentary on sex trafficking in Canada as well as sharing about this very important and heartbreaking issue.  100% of the entrance fee is going to Hope for the Sold, as well as 10% from sales proceeds.  I am told there will be some Swiss-made organic make-up available for those of you who are interested as well as open forums on several topics.  We will also be highlighting how you can sign up to donate to Hope for the Sold in lieu of wedding favours.

Manicure PedicureSo come on out on Sunday, January 22 from 3:00 to 7:00 pm at 238 Supertest Road in Toronto, ready to feel good, learn lots, and take a stand on behalf of the exploited.

Please pass this onto other friends or family that might be interested, and RSVP to [email protected] before January 20th.

Hope to see you there!

Michelle

 

 

 

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Kilimanjaro & Feathers for Freedom

by Michelle Brock on January 9th, 2012

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I love hearing about people who do creative things to fight human trafficking.  Right now a group of women is getting prepared to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, with the purpose of raising funds and awareness to combat modern day slavery and exploitation.  As described on The Freedom Climb website:

Women from across the globe will begin their ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on January 11, 2012, the National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the U.S. Climbers will be raising awareness, prayers, and finances for women and children being oppressed, enslaved, exploited and trafficked. The Freedom Climb goal for 2012 is to affect the lives of 10,000 women through projects that break the cycles of poverty, shame, slavery, and despair. These projects include micro-loans, education, skills training, and protection from exploitation.

Why Mt. Kilimanjaro? The highest mountain in Africa, its summit is known as Uhuru Peak. Uhuru is the Swahili word for freedom. Climbing Kilimanjaro is symbolic of the huge climb to freedom faced daily by millions of enslaved women and children worldwide.

Women climbing for women.  Beautiful.

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Nikki Fairlie giving feathered hair extensions (Source: Welland Tribune)

One of the climbers, Regine Huettner, has a friend back home who is using her skills to raise some money for the cause. Hairstylist Nikki Fairlie is offering feathered hair extensions to clients in Welland, Ontario.  For a minimum donation of $2 per feather to help support the Freedom Climb, Fairlie will give you feathered hair extensions – which are suitable for all ages and most hair lengths.  Nikki is a great example of what it looks like to use your skills and ideas to do support the fight against human trafficking!

If you are in the Welland area, call Nikki at 289-820-9662 to book an appointment!  The climb is taking place this week, and Nikki’s offer last until January 16.

For more information, read this Welland Tribune article, check out the Freedom Climb website, or the Feather for Freedom facebook page.  If you want to support Regine in her climb but can’t make it out to Welland, you can sponsor her here.  Check out the rest of the team’s profiles here.  Regine & team, we are so excited for your climb this week and are cheering you on!

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Twelve Actions You Can Take to Fight Human Trafficking in 2012

by Michelle Brock on January 6th, 2012

footprints 263x300As promised in my last post, here are 12 things you can do to get started on the journey of fighting injustice.  Are you willing to pick up your pen?

1.  Find out how many slaves work for you. Think you’re off the hook?  That slavery was abolished years ago?  Take this survey to find out your slavery footprint.  It will take about 15 minutes, and is well worth it.  The key here is to be honest. The result may shock you – let that push you to reconsider your consumer habits because lives are actually on the line.

2.  Sign three petitions. Tell the government of Canada that: (a) Canada should adopt a national action plan to fight human trafficking, (b) that you do not support the legalization of prostitution, and  (c) that Canadians who traffic people outside of the country’s borders should be prosecuted for their crimes. Get more details about these anti-trafficking petitions and send a message to your representative!  For those of you in the U.S., you can find an amazing selection of petitions here.

cell phones 300x2813. Donate your old cell phones. Have a cellphone that is broken or is collecting dust on your shelf? Phones4Freedom reuses or recycles them to help warn remote villages in impoverished countries of trafficking operations.  Find our more about this innovative anti-trafficking program and send in your phones!

4.  Watch The Candy Shop. This short film uses beautiful but haunting metaphor to demonstrate how boys get lured into the business of trafficking girls and women.  Film length is approximately 30 minutes. Watch now.

5.  Get trained. Apply to the Not for Sale Abolitionist Academy, a program in San Francisco that offers intensive one week courses that prepare you to combat human trafficking effectively.  Do you want to learn about how to investigate trafficking situations or how to provide aftercare for victims?  Here is your chance.  The cost of attending the San Francisco Academy is $300 for the 5 day session or $575 for the investigative + aftercare package.  Dates are set in May and June, get more details here.  Who knows, it might be the first step to you fighting trafficking on the front lines, like my friend Saskia Wishart.

book1 300x2076.  Buy or borrow a book. Here are some ideas:

7.  The ten minute challenge. Set a timer and give yourself 10 minutes to check out these 10 organizations, spend one minute on each.  I have a sneaking suspicion you might end up shutting off the timer and spending more time, but start with the not-so-daunting challenge of just 10 minutes. (Bonus points: make a donation to the one that resonates with you most!)

card 240x3008.  Buy a greeting card. Not only do survivors of sex trafficking undergo an extensive healing process physically and emotionally, but they also have to learn some life skills.  Sanctuary Spring offers some of these young women opportunities to rebuild their lives, one greeting card at a time.  Instead of heading to Hallmark for your next greeting card, why not get it through Sanctuary Spring, where sex trafficking survivors craft these beautiful cards.

9.  Movie night. Rent, borrow, or buy TRADE or The Whistleblower. Feature length movies are a good way to see a story unfold.  Really engaging – it was TRADE that got me into anti-trafficking activism. Don’t bother making popcorn, these are tough movies to watch.  The Whistleblower should be available on DVD later this month, and TRADE has been out for a a few years already.

10.  Stop supporting the commercial sex industry. Trafficked girls and women are often used in pornography, strip clubs & massage parlours.  If you are providing demand, traffickers will keep filling supply.  Economics 101.

11.  Know the hotlines. If you are in the U.S. and want to report a tip, call 1-888-373-7888.  It is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.  Watch this clip to see how important it is.  In Canada, you can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 to report a tip, and if you are a victim of sexual exploitation and need to talk, call Canada’s national hotline at 1-866-528-7109.

12.  Support Hope for the Sold. We are working on an exciting project to help prevent sex trafficking on a massive scale.  We would love your help to make that a reality.  Learn more about this project and how you can support us here.

Once you’ve tried these action steps, let me know how they went and what you learned.  Let’s make this year count!

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If New Year’s Was a Blank Page…

by Michelle Brock on January 3rd, 2012

blank page3 300x240I love writing each year’s first journal entry on January 1st.  The new year always feels like a blank page to me, its emptiness full of possibilities and promises not yet broken.  Jay and I spent the weekend at a friend’s cottage up in beautiful, winter wonderland Ontario, and as I sat by the window – with tea and journal in hand – watching the snow fall outside, I pondered what surprises awaited me this year. When someday I read the journal entries from 2012, what will I have experienced then that I don’t even know about yet?

I always like to imagine that the year will be full of good surprises.  Great opportunities.  Fulfilled dreams.  Deep relationships.  New friends.  True contentment.  Exciting challenges.  Personal growth. Wild successes.  Memorable adventure.  Knowing full well that life also has its share of dark, mournful, and difficult times, January 1st becomes a strange mix of reflection, hesitation, and hopeful anticipation.

2012

These thoughts have led me to the realization that victims of sex trafficking also have blank pages that lay before them.  Some of these victims have not yet been trafficked but are vulnerable, and 2012 will be the year their nightmare begins.

Others are currently enslaved, forced to endure a horrific existence of exploitation and abuse.  Do they even know a new year has begun?  What is the hope that keeps them alive?  Their blank pages are being violently filled in for them, without much they can do to reclaim their pens, their lives, their voices.

Fortunately, for a portion of these, rescue or escape is on the horizon.  The count down is on, though they are unaware of this.  Tomorrow might be their day of freedom.  Or tonight.  If they only knew that they were days, hours, minutes away from their prayers being answered.  That their next page was truly a fresh start, a new beginning, a chance to live again.

holdingoutpen1Here’s the cool part: right now each of us holds a pen in our hand, with the opportunity to be part of writing into the stories of others.  Sometimes we only contribute a word, or a sentence, or a paragraph. But our actions can also fill pages, shaping the fates of the ones who are vulnerable, or enslaved, or trying to heal.

Will you join me by picking up your pen and get serious this year about ending modern day slavery and exploitation? My next post will be a 12 point guide to how you can get started, so make sure to check back this week to get some ideas.

Let’s make this year count by writing beautiful stories together. Who knows what we will get to reflect on come January 1st of 2013!

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