She Has a Name Theatre Performance Begins Canadian Tour

by Michelle Brock on May 25th, 2012

Andrew Kooman’s SHE HAS A NAME, a play about sex trafficking, is coming to a theatre near you on its Canadian 2012 tour:

Haunted by anguished voices, a lawyer poses as a john to build a legal case against a brothel trafficking girls into Bangkok. Can Jason win the trust of a young prostitute known only as Number 18 and convince her to risk her life to testify for the sake of justice?

In February and March 2011, SHE HAS A NAME premiered in Calgary and Red Deer to sold-out audiences and critical acclaim. Burnt Thicket Theatre and Raise Their Voice are now partnering to take this life-changing play to cities across Canada in 2012.

Inspired by an event in April of 2008 in which an abandoned storage container was found in Thailand containing 121 workers from Burma, 54 of them dead, Andrew Kooman’s SHE HAS A NAME dramatically gives human trafficking a face.

SHE HAS A NAME Tour production photo by Kelsey Krogman03SHE HAS A NAME Tour production photo by Kelsey Krogman01

The play will be showing in the following cities:  Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, London, Winnipeg, Calgary, Victoria, Vancouver, Kelowna, Edmonton & Red Deer.  Get more details and purchase tickets here.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Michelle7

 

 

Which Thread Are You?

by Michelle Brock on May 22nd, 2012

tapestry 768x1024During his session at the Justice Summit last week, Jamie McIntosh from International Justice Mission Canada painted a beautiful image of what the modern day abolitionist movement is like:

“We are all a thread, woven together into a beautiful tapestry used to keep others warm.”

 

I love that.  We fill in each other’s gaps. We all contribute different colours.  Each design complements the next.  Some threads are bold and bright, others subtle and slight.

Let us not become weary in doing good or wallow in the lie that our contribution is not significant. Instead let’s pick our thread, weave with purpose, and together create something beautiful that blesses those crying out for justice.

Michelle6

 

 

 

Ride for Refuge 2012 is Underway & Hope for the Sold is Looking for Some Champions!

by Michelle Brock on May 18th, 2012

Never Say NeverOkay, I’ll admit it.  I have Bieber fever.  So does my husband Jay.  We recently found out that a few years ago a bunch of Jay’s guy friends had been lured into the theatre by their wives to see Never Say Never, a movie documenting Justin Bieber’s rise to fame.  After being told that it was actually “not that bad,” we decided to give it a try.  And they were right – other than the screaming tweens, we found the story oddly intriguing.

Why on earth am I talking about Bieber on a blog about human trafficking?  I’m getting there. Stay with me.

The film showed how Justin Bieber was discovered by Scooter Braun, but things really started to roll when Usher became his champion.  It was Usher who got him signed by Island Records, and the rest is history.

cham·pi·on:  An ardent defender or supporter of a cause or another person / One who fights; a warrior

 

Who or what are you a champion of?  My heart beats for victims of sex trafficking, and I consider their plight inextricably linked to my own freedom.  Not only am I a champion of those already victimized, but I am also a champion of those who are susceptible to being trafficked – whether it be due to poverty, or abusive relationships, or tragic misconceptions.  It is for this reason that I write, and advocate, and speak, and research.  It is also the reason my husband and I are making a documentary about legalization of prostitution and its connection to sex trafficking.

ride4refuge

We are raising $80,000 for this film project, our hope being that through it we can shed light on the legalization debate (hot topic right now in Canada and around the world) and help change hearts and minds on the realities of prostitution.  We will also be taking an in depth look at preventative models that keep those who would be vulnerable from being trafficked and exploited.  We are well on our way with fundraising and would love YOU to be a champion to help us reach our goal!  Here’s one cool way you can do that:

Ali riding for Hope for the Sold2 768x1024Last fall when our fundraising efforts were just getting started, some of you hopped on bikes to raise money for Hope for the Sold!

This year we have high hopes and would love for the RIDE to take use the rest of the way, so that we can hit the road and begin filming.  This is an urgent issue as the legalization debate is headed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

So the question is this: would you be willing to ride for Hope for the Sold? Rides take place in September and October, and you can register here.

Rides are scheduled in the cities below, but don’t worry if your city is not listed! There is also a Ride Anywhere option where you can register a team and ride in your town.  For the rest, click on your city below for info!  US locations here.

AjaxBramptonGuelphHamiltonLondonMaple RidgeMarkhamMontrealNiagara RegionOttawaMuskokaNorth BaySaskatoonVancouver, Waterloo, Winnipeg

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Right now we are especially looking for TEAM CAPTAINS – who will take the lead and encourage others in their community to form a team.  Many of you ask how you can help in the fight against sex trafficking, so here’s your opportunity to put on your helmet, raise some cash, and make a difference! (Oh and p.s. – for those of you who are not in cycling shape, don’t worry!  There are different ride lengths!)

Ride for Refuge ad

Get started today at RideForRefuge.org!  Check out our RIDE page here.  Will you be our champion?

Michelle5

 

Lessons I Learned at the Justice Summit

by Michelle Brock on May 16th, 2012

roadtripMy husband and I LOVE road trips.  We have driven from Ontario to the West Coast, from Seattle to Chicago (x2), to Washington DC in a December blizzard, to Atlanta, Georgia for the Catalyst Conference (x4)…not to mention Jay’s diamond digging expedition to Arkansas with his best friend Richard (long story).  We were pretty excited a couple of months ago when we heard about the Justice Summit taking place in Ottawa – and the word “ROAD TRIP!” may or may not have been blurted out in anticipation as we began to envision our drive to the nation’s capital!  I was looking forward to meeting other abolitionists and learning from those on the front lines.  Here are some of my notes and thoughts from each session:

What I Learned From MP Joy Smith:

New Dreams Can Catch You By Surprise.  Joy was a math teacher with a dream of being the school principal, and she was slated to be the next one at her school.  But when her students opened up to her about a sexual predator who was involved with some of the kids on her school, she made a decision that changed the course of her dreams.  She immediately went to the principal and told her they needed to call the police.  Worried about the school’s reputation, the principal refused, and threatened Joy that if she called the police, she would kiss her chance to be principal the next year goodbye.  Joy called the police, and a dangerous man was arrested.  Her dream of being a school principal slowly began to transform into a new dream – one of ending exploitation and human trafficking in Canada and around the world.

Fighting Human Trafficking Requires Courage.  Fast forward several years – she became a Member of Parliament and has lead government efforts to combat human trafficking. She worked with one of the victims in Canada’s first human trafficking case. She has had 5 threats on her life, as well as her daughter’s life.  This is what can happen when you stand up to organized crime, but she is not letting fear cripple her.

Regular Life Does Not Stop Even When You Have a “Cause.”  I love how open and honest Mrs. Smith was at the summit.  She talked about being a mom to her 6 children, and about how when her bill passed in Parliament, she was in a rainy parking lot trying to find juice for her husband who was fighting cancer in the hospital.  Having a cause to fight for does not mean that the rest of life’s struggles end.

The Word That MUST characterize an Abolitionist:  Mrs. Smith said: “The only good thing about me is that I am willing.”  Let’s add “willing” to our vocabulary.

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Brian McConaghy, Justice Summit 2012

What I Learned from Brian McConaghy:

Unlikely Examples of Forgiveness.  Brian, who started the Ratanak Foundation, rescues and restores child victims of sex trafficking in Cambodia.  When he was part of the RCMP, he was also in charge of the freezer contents in the Robert Pickton case.  With this type of work it is a miracle he is able to talk about forgiveness.  He showed us a picture of one of the girls at his safe house writing a letter of forgiveness to her mother for selling her into the sex trade.  Wow.  We have much to learn from these beautiful young women.

The Hearts of Traffickers Can Change.  Brian’s team not only reaches out to victims of sex trafficking, but also to pimps, traffickers, and mama-sans.  Ratanak has set up a gym where the men can work out, and the team uses that as an opportunity to build relationships, have conversation, and help them to change their ways.  Progress and heart change is happening, albeit slowly.  This is revolutionary.  Many of these boys and men grew up doing this, with role models who did the same, and they need to be re-educated by people who understand what true love looks like.  After all, the song “Amazing Grace” was written by repentant human trafficker from the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Jamie McIntoshWhat I Learned from Jamie McIntosh:

We Are All Shackled.  Jamie, who is the founder of International Justice Mission Canada and just finished the Master’s program in International Human Rights law at Oxford University, reminded us that there is one chain that weaves itself around the world, and ridding ourselves from that may be the fight of our lives.  It’s so true.  We have to untangle ourselves from the system of exploitation that exploits us or allows us to exploit others.

In addition to hearing these amazing keynote messages, I attended two workshops.  Shae Invidiata from Free-them spoke passionately and practically on what effective activism looks like.  She pointed out that when we quote statistics, we have to make them relevant and easy for people to grasp.  For example, when we talk about 27 million slaves in the world today, we can mention that it is close to the population of Canada.  Imagining all of Canada in slavery puts the numbers into perspective.  I also got to hear the personal stories of two young women who were lured into the sex trade and how they are now on a journey towards healing.

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Justice Summit Presenters Receiving a Thank You

After the conference we had relaxed dinner with abolitionist friends from Walk With Me and Free-them, with conversations meandering from serious topics like how song lyrics affect teenagers and how we all got involved in the fight against human trafficking, to more light-hearted topics like the Ottawa tulip festival (which we never we able to find…) and what we all do for work when we’re not organizing awareness events, or making documentaries, or taking care of trafficking survivors.   I felt so full when we left – and not just because I had pasta for dinner!  It truly is a blessing to be part of a movement with such amazing people, and spending time with them was so refreshing.

Aboltionist Dinner

Parliament Hill3

On Monday we visited Parliament Hill and got to meet with MP Joy Smith in the morning.  I have so much respect for her – she is doing so much in Canada’s government to fight and prevent human trafficking, and it was an honour and delight to spend some time with her at her office.

MPs Office1

Meeting with MP Joy Smith

Our Ottawa visit concluded with my interview at Camino, an amazing fair trade co-operative that makes delicious chocolate, baking ingredients, drinks, and snack bars.  We received several travel snacks for the ride home, yum!  Thanks to our amazing and hospitable relatives who had us in their home, and for everyone who put the Justice Summit together.  Many blog posts will no doubt be inspired by this trip!

Michelle4

 

 

Tara Teng Wins Title of Miss World Canada 2012!

by Michelle Brock on May 14th, 2012

Miss World Canada 2012

Hope for the Sold sends out a HUGE congratulations to Tara Teng for winning the title of Miss World Canada 2012!  Tara has worked so hard for this – and not because she seeks glory for herself but because she believes that this platform can empower her to empower others.  Tara, thank you for your heart for justice, for your never ending energy to fight on behalf of human trafficking victims, for your willingness to declare war on exploitation, for your convictions about true beauty, and for your humility.  Your joy bursts out of you on that stage and we celebrate with you!

Tara Teng Crowned1

As Miss World Canada, Tara will be representing Canada at the Miss World Pageant in Inner Mongolia this summer.  I will be sure to post updates.  For those of you who have not been acquainted with this beautiful friend of mine, you can read my interview with Tara Teng (when she held the title of Miss BC) and learn about her journey with Miss World Canada here.

Tara Teng MWC Pageant

There are many of you who supported Tara through your votes and by helping her raise funds for Variety Children’s Charity, and a BIG thank you goes out to all of you as well!  She could not have done this without you.  I know Tara will not waste this opportunity to do some serious good in the world, and it is so exciting for us to stand behind her as a community of love and support.

Tara Crowned

Great job to all the ladies who competed in this pageant – I hope that you will continue the great things you are doing in the world to help others!

MWC

Tara interview

Follow Tara’s journey through Twitter @MissTaraTeng and on her blog.

Photo source (all photos): Kuna Photography, Miss World Canada facebook page

Michelle3

 

 

 

Taste Testing, Fair Trade & Transformed Communities: My Interview with Camino’s Mélanie Broguet

by Michelle Brock on May 11th, 2012

I was in Ottawa this past weekend for The Justice Summit, which was a great event I will summarize more next week.  My Ottawa stay spilled into Monday, and between meeting with an MP on Parliament Hill and getting to watch Question Period (in all its gory glory), I walked with my husband and a friend to the office of my favourite fair trade brand in the world – Camino – which is owned by the Ottawa-based La Siembra Co-operative.  They were the first registered importers of Fairtrade Certified cocoa and sugar in North America!  I was really excited.

camino

About two years ago I made a decision not to purchase non-fair trade chocolate bars, and I still shed the occasional tear for my beloved Kit Kat.  I was confronted with the fact that many around the world are being exploited or enslaved to make our chocolate, and that I wanted to support brands that pay fair wages and offer healthy livelihoods for my brothers and sisters in developing countries.  I love the idea of reducing vulnerability and preventing situations of poverty in which families have to sell their daughters or take big risks just to survive.  Since I made this decision, Camino chocolate has overtaken my taste buds, and I was delighted when Mélanie Broguet, the marketing and communications manager (and taste test panel member!) agreed to sit down with me for an interview. You guys are in for a real treat.  Note: The text in pink is my own commentary!

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Melanie at a CEPICAFE sugar cane field in Peru

Mélanie, what is it like to be on a tasting panel and what has been your favourite Camino taste test product so far?

There are 8 people on the tasting panel, and we are trained every 6 months.  We’ve learned to speak the same language.  For example, we learn to identify notes like red fruits, oak, and earth, which helps us develop recipes. After a day of taste testing we can’t taste anything anymore!  Taste testing is important because it ensures quality control.  Every harvest is a little bit different, so we have to make sure the taste is close enough in each batch to ensure consistency.  I like dark chocolate, specifically the Panama 80% which is more fruity.  The Dark 71% has a more complex taste to it. (At this point Mélanie brought in the Panama and the 71% and we got to experience this difference!)

Camino Gift Pack 253x300

One Yummy Camino Gift Pack!

If you could choose three items for a gift pack, what would they be?

The Panama 81% Extra Dark Chocolate bar, our Dark Hot Chocolate, and the Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Snack Bar.  (I wanted to take a picture of these three items, but ended up eating the Panama chocolate bar before my camera got to it! Oops. I substituted one of their delicious Raspberry bars, another of my personal favourites!)

What inspired you to work here?

I’ve always been very passionate about the environment and social justice.  I have a business background and realized that that there should be more to business than just trading and making money.  My boyfriend at the time got a job here and I loved what La Siembra stood for.  I liked that Camino works directly with farmers and fosters diversified, vibrant communities.  I have been here since 2007.

Camino Team Nov 2011 1024x612

Camino Team - A Happy Bunch!

Can you explain how fair trade works, and how Camino operates differently from big corporations?

Fair trade really focuses on community.  Isolated, small scale farmers often do not know anything about selling their product, like what the price of beans would in the international market.  In order to get fair trade certification, they have to come together as a co-operative.  This gives them more opportunities for knowledge and accountability.  Once they are registered with the Fair Trade International, Camino can work with them.  Fair trade is about transparency, long term commitment, and knowing who you work with.  (Camino sources ingredients for all their products from co-operatives of family farmers in 10 countries: Dominican Republic, Peru, Paraguay, Panama, Guatemala, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Costa Rica and Brazil.  There are over 35,000 of these family farmers!)

fair trade communities1

Camino is not only fair trade, but organic.  These two go hand in hand.  Our products are shade grown, meaning that less water is needed to produce a crop.  We also help farmers diversify their crops, so if there is a year where one crop does poorly, they can still harvest others.  Big corporations generally do not operate in this way, and usually require large amounts of water and pesticides to keep profits high.

Yani Whole brown sugar project manager at CEPICAFE head office Piura Peru 768x1024

Yani, Whole Brown Sugar Sugar Project Manager at CEPICAFE Head Office in Piura, Peru

Is there a story of transformation you’d be willing to share with us?

In Peru’s remote Montero area, people used to make a sugar called canchaca (block of sugar). It often ended up being used to make alcohol (aguagardiente) because it was so poorly processed, leading to alcoholism and violence in this rural town.  When Camino began to work with the farmers in this community, things started to change.  Now the region produces high quality brown sugar that has more nutrients, and can be sold internationally.

The number of producers in the CEPICAFE Co-op has grown to 6,663, and cheap sugar is no longer used to make alcohol. Violence has decreased. Kids see that their parents are earning a living wage from farming, and instead of heading to the cities to find work, the young generation is going to school and returning to their village with even more knowledge.  (I LOVE this!  Often youth are vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking when they try to make ends meet in cities.  Amazing how sugar can reduce vulnerability!).  The product is packaged in Piura, about 3 hours away, so the whole process provides livelihoods for many families.  This project started in 2003 and has been a success. Their crops have been diversified, so even though right now there is too much rain for a good sugar harvest, they still have other things to farm.

Sugar

Making Sugar

If you could share one last thing with Hope for the Sold readers, what would it be?

First, I would tell them to pay attention to who is behind the product.  When a big corporation that is not fair trade has a fair trade product, it is good for awareness but what are their motives?  Camino is about more than this, because our motives are about social justice, sustainable communities, and the environment, more than just about what looks profitable or trendy.

Fairtrade CanadaAlso, I would say to support your local farmers, gardens and communities here.  Increasingly the fair trade movement is focusing on local fair trade. When organic, fair trade items cannot be found at the local level (like cocoa beans since they don’t grow here), support farmers in other countries.

Wow.  So cool.  Mélanie sent us away with our arms full of Camino samples, which I am munching on as I write this.

Camino Samples2

Thank you so much Melanie for showing us that buying fair trade products can actually make a difference in the lives of others!  For those of you who want to try some Camino chocolate bars, snack bars, juices, coffee, hot chocolate, baking products, or treats, you can find a store near you by typing in your city or postal code here.  If you live in Canada, you can also order Camino products online at Well.ca, which offers FREE shipping for most Canadian locations.

Camino products make for great gifts – I even used Camino sugar and chocolate as game prizes at my bridal showers a few years back!  Really, the possibilities are endless.

I encourage you to check out the Camino website, the Fairtrade Canada website, and VOTE NOW for Camino’s Chocolate as the best fair trade item in Fairtrade Canada’s contest!  Finally, watch this video and register your first step!

Michelle2

 

 

Would You Yell STOP? My Thoughts on a Prostitution Awareness Event

by Michelle Brock on May 8th, 2012

Your Lucky DayA couple weeks ago I went to a prostitution awareness event put together by Sextrade 101 and Sheatre.  As I drove to Toronto I wondered what the evening would hold. All I knew was that some kind of interactive theatre was involved, and I felt a mixture of eager anticipation, nervous reservation, and peaked curiosity.  What does interactive theatre look like? Would I find myself standing up in front of a full room, forced to participate or answer some kind of difficult question I lacked the answer for?  What misconceptions would the event shatter and what lessons was I about to learn?

I walked into a packed room with tables and caught the eye and beautiful smile of Natasha Falle, the amazing woman who started Sextrade 101.  ”Good, I’m in the right place,” I thought.  I sat down at a table with the Free-them crew and some others, and immediately had a roast beef dinner set before me.  It was awesome to catch up with some blog readers as I ate (you know who you are!).

The event began with a keynote by Victor Malarek, the host of CTV’s W5 and author of The Natashas: The New Global Sextrade and The Johns: Sex For Sale and the Men Who Buy It.  He talked about how before he started investigating sex trafficking for The Natashas, he probably would have supported legalization of prostitution.  But after being held at gunpoint when taking girls out of a brothel in Kosovo, speaking with sex trafficking victims and hearing their stories, and researching what johns think about women, he has drawn his line in the sand as an abolitionist, a total abolitionist.  Prostitution is violence against women, because it is not about choice but about survival.  I am grateful for men like him who take a stand.

The play was about to begin.  A group of young women and one man took the stage and introduced themselves.  In this moment I realized the profound significance of the play…these young women were survivors of prostitution and would be acting out scenarios based on realities of the sex trade.  I held my breath as they began, acknowledging their courage to share with us experiences they’d probably rather forget.

One scene depicted what it is like for someone trying to leave the trade to be in a classroom, where classmates made fun of her for not having a computer.  Another showed the girls getting ready for ‘customers,’ and another revealed the violence they experience.  The one that haunted me most was the part in which the main character is talking/fighting with her boyfriend/pimp.  The invisible chains that hold these young women in the trade may as well be physical – that’s how strong they can be.  Finally, there is a scene of vulnerability and recruitment.

The first time through we watched it like a normal play.  Following this, the audience was asked to participate.  The team went through each scene again, but this time we had to yell “STOP” if there was some way to intervene.  The audience member would have to replace someone on stage and act out what the right course of action would be.

As you can probably imagine, this was challenging and uncomfortable for many who chose to propose a new course of action.  I often find myself sitting at events or reading books thinking, “well clearly I would do this in their situation.”  But when a complex scenario laid before me with room full of people looking on (including those who had experienced the horrors of exploitation), all of a sudden I found my heroic ideas melt into a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Would I actually care enough about fellow classmates to hear their real stories?  If one of my classmates in university had been trying to get out of the trade and was struggling, would I have ever even noticed? If others stigmatized them, would I do something about it?  If they needed some extra help to find resources, would I be willing to sacrifice my time?

If I was a bystander and saw a man push a woman down on the street, would I interfere?  Should I? Would that just make her receive punishment later because her pimp is threatened by ‘outsiders’ getting involved?  Would calling the police make her situation better or worse?  What if she didn’t want my help? What if he had a gun?

The crowd got into some lively conversation about these scenarios, and not everyone agreed as to what was the right thing to do in each one.  As I wrestled with the jumble of complexity in my mind, one of the actors said this:

“We can avoid having to make these difficult decisions on how to react if we prevent this situation from happening in the first place.”

 

Prevention.  There it is again.  The word that drives me and bothers me, motivates me and frustrates me.  Prevention is difficult to measure.  It does not seem glorious.  It is hard to show numbers on a progress report.  But as an abolitionist, I strive to be a preventionist.  One of the young women on the stage asked, “where was all the help when I was a child?  If someone had intervened then, I would not have gotten into this mess.”

Healthy, loving adoptive families.  Compassionate, intentional teachers.  Patient, devoted mentors. Brave, fully-present parents.  Caring, hospitable neighbours.  We all have a role to play in preventing these messy, uncomfortable, exploitative, harmful situations from ever happening in the first place.

The evening ended with a story from Angel, a daughter of one of the women who was murdered by Robert Pickton.  You could have heard a pin drop.  I was so grateful for her beautiful honesty and her willingness to share how she is finding healing step by step.  Natasha Falle, who herself left the sex trade a number of years ago with the help of someone who believed in her, gave all the women who performed the play a rose at the end of the night.  There were hugs, and tears, and laughter.

THIS is what redemption looks like.

To Natasha Falle and everyone who put this event together, THANK YOU!  It was truly one of the best awareness events I have ever been to.  To the brave young women who took the stage, thank you for allowing me to learn and be challenged.  This evening is forever etched in my mind.

Michelle1

 

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