“I Was Just Working on Hope for the Sold”

by Michelle Brock on September 28th, 2012

sleepSometimes I crawl into bed at night after a long day of researching, writing, interviewing, or speaking about human trafficking, ready to close my eyes and let my dreams take me to a place where thoughts of injustice, or fundraising, or a full email inbox cannot reach me.  A little while ago as my head hit the pillow, Jay asked me what I had been working on so late at night.

“Oh, I was just working on Hope for the Sold,” I replied as my eyes closed.

I was just working on Hope for the Sold.  Sometimes I forget that the name “Hope for the Sold” describes the very thing we are pursuing.  Hope for those who are being sold, exploited, and abused. Hope for better prevention so that people are never sold in the first place.  Hope that we can inspire compassion and changed hearts.

I must remind myself that Hope for the Sold is not simply the name of our organization, but our motto, our goal, our cheer.  When my head hits the pillow and I should say, “I was just working on Hope for the Sold.”  The word “just” implies that Hope for the Sold is simply a pet project, or an ordinary activity akin to brushing my teeth.  It is not.  My dream is for there to be hope for the sold.  And effective prevention for the would-be sold.

“To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded.”  

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

While success for me goes beyond this, it is a good starting point.  If we impact the life of one person through the work we are doing, this is all worth it.

What is your goal?  What is your motto?  When you crash into bed every night, what do you want to be exhausted from?

**We begin filming our documentary on prostitution, sex trafficking, and preventative models that reduce sexual exploitation in 17 days.  Find out more about this project and how you can help HERE.

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Policeman Says ‘SORRY’ to Human Trafficking Victim

by Michelle Brock on September 26th, 2012

Timea Nagy, human trafficking survivor and founder of Walk With Me, an organization that provides aftercare to victims of trafficking in Ontario, regularly trains law enforcement on the issue of human trafficking.  She recently gave me permission to share this story on my blog.   In her words:

“I was speaking yesterday in Simcoe for a mixed audience of social workers and police officers. One police officer came up to me at the end and couldn’t hide his tears. He said he remembered me…He was working around the motel where I was kept in 1998, they were doing a lot of drug arrests.  He said he remembered my group, and remembered me.  He saw me with my traffickers leaving the motel every day….he was constantly clearing his tears, and he said, ‘if I only knew what you were going through at the time… I am really sorry I couldn’t be the one to save you.’”

Below is a picture of the moment he said this to Timea:

T with police officer

For those of you who are police officers, be encouraged.  Though human trafficking has been going on for a long time, only now awareness is spreading far enough for you to get equipped and trained to deal with it.  Regardless of what you may have missed in the past, you are now in a unique position to find victims and spot traffickers.  I cannot thank you enough for your efforts.

I am grateful that this police officer had the courage to share his heart with Timea.  I can only imagine how hard that must have been, but how much relief he must feel today.  I feel so blessed to live in a country that is taking this issue seriously, and that there are many in law enforcement who have both compassion and courage on the front lines.

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It’s Still Not Too Late to Join the Ride for Refuge!

by Michelle Brock on September 24th, 2012

Happy Monday everyone!

The RIDE FOR REFUGE is fast approaching, the first batch of rides taking place this coming Saturday, September 29!  If you live in or near the following cities, your ride is scheduled for that day: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Leamington, Brampton, Ajax, Aylmer, Muskoka, Waterloo, Niagara region, Ottawa, Saskatoon & Sault Ste. Marie!  If you live in Guelph, Hamilton or Maple Ridge, your RIDE day is Saturday Oct 13, and Moosomin is October 6.

We would love for you to register for the RIDE FOR REFUGE, and ride for Hope for the Sold!  This is how we are using the money to fight sex trafficking.  Our riders have raised $1,850 so far!!  Woohoo!

It’s not too late!  REGISTER HERE!

If I can get on a bike for the first time in 5 years – on camera, while wearing a crooked helmet - perhaps you will be inspired to get on yours!  There are different ride lengths to accommodate everyone.  We would love love love for you to join us!  Find out more about the RIDE FOR REFUGE at rideforrefuge.org.

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Interview with Jamie Walton from The Wayne Foundation

by Michelle Brock on September 18th, 2012

Jamie WaltonMy husband Jay recently had the privilege of interviewing Jamie Walton, Founder and President of The Wayne Foundation.  It is a U.S. based organization whose mission is to provide victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking with a means of leaving the sex industry for good.  Here is what Jamie had to say about her important work.

So tell us your story…what was the journey that brought you to becoming an abolitionist?

GA FL 300x294I would say that I came to be an activist because I am a survivor of domestic minor sexual trafficking, and I have successfully managed my recovery.  At the age of 14 I was transported monthly from Florida to Atlanta, GA for the purposes of commercial sex.  Lucky for me, I was able to break away from that situation and go on to become a fairly successful woman with a very bright future. I would like nothing more than to spend my life imparting what I have learned on my journey with others.

What’s the Wayne Foundation all about? Why the name?

The Wayne Foundation was founded because I believe that victims should have a safe place to rehabilitate after encountering something as horrific as sexual trafficking. The trauma these people face is similar to that of a solider returning home from war.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is common among DMST (Domestic Minor Sexual Trafficking) victims. Without a safe environment that provides high quality mental health care and education assistance, sexual trafficking victims risk becoming re-victimized. With TWF I hope to eventually raise enough funds to provide such a place for victims.

thewaynefoundation1 300x281While slowly working towards our brick and mortar goal, TWF also works to raise awareness of sexual trafficking with the public. I give lectures and presentations about the issue of DMST, as well as explaining my own experiences as a survivor.

This past year I have also started working directly with Sen Daylin Leach of PA to pass legislation that would post the national human trafficking resource center hotline throughout the state. (1-888-3737-888). I have sent a letter to the PA Assembly addressing the issue of human trafficking, and urging them to pass the proposed bill immediately. This past week I went to Pittsburgh to meet with several senators to ask for their support. We believe that this effort was greatly successful.

The name actually came from our co-founder and vice present, Kevin Smith.  Those who are familiar with Kevin will know that he is very fond of Batman and of Wayne Gretzky.  Our charity name ‘The Wayne Foundation’ I think it’s a mash up of his two heroes.

TWF

Jamie Walton with Kevin Smith. Photo Source: The Wayne Foundation

Is there project that you’re working on right now?

While in PA last week trying to convince the local politicians to pass our legislation, we also held a fundraiser with two of the stars from AMC’s Comic Book Men, Ming Chen and Michael Zapcic. They both ran in the Run For Your Lives event, all in the name of The Wayne Foundation. It was a ton of fun! Everyone seemed to have a very good time. The totals for the fundraiser have not come in at the time of my response, but I believe we did very well.  This money will go towards our brick and mortar goal of purchasing a building to house our rehabilitation facility.

In addition, at the end of the month I will be speaking at the Mental Health America of Montana annual conference. The focus of this lecture will be about my experiences with childhood trauma, and what tools I needed to overcome recurring issues in my adult life. I defer my speaking fees to The Wayne Foundation itself, so this too will get us even closer to our fundraising goals.

How can people get involved?

I think spreading awareness of DMST in the United States is of the utmost importance. We cannot find a solution to the problem until our citizens are aware the issue exists, right in our own backyards. I encourage anyone interested in the issue of human trafficking to take a look at the following resources:


Anyone can spread awareness, any time. Share it on social media accounts, start a conversation with friends, add the NHTRC tip line to your contact list, get involved with local charities, or support legislation in your state that helps strengthen anti-human trafficking laws. Fighting for this cause does not have to cost money; caring and compassion have infinite value.

ebay giving worksAny upcoming events you’d like to promote?

The Wayne Foundation will continue our auction extravaganza on eBay Giving Works.  A new item is available every week. To bid, visit Kevin Smith’s eBay Celebrity page

As mentioned earlier in the interview, I will be appearing at the Mental Health America of Montana annual conference. This lecture will focus on childhood trauma and its effect on adult development, Sept 28, 2012 8:30- 9:45 AM. For more information please visit their website

Currently, Bill 338 is being considered Pennsylvania Senate. This potential law would post the National Human Trafficking Resource Center tip line throughout the state, in full public view.  I would encourage anyone, especially Pennsylvania residents, to support the passage of this bill during the next session. For more information please visit Daylin Leach’s website

What’s the one question you wish people would ask you?

I’m not sure I really have one.  I am an open book, so most people just ask what is on their mind.  If I were to actually ‘wish’ I would say, ‘Where do we send this grant for $500,000?’ Now THAT is wishful thinking, if I do say so myself.

Jamie, thank you so much for sharing your heart, your vision, and your insight with us.  We wish you all the best with your important work!  For those of you who want to donate to this cause, you can do so here!  And don’t forget to take a gander through The Wayne Foundation website, and follow them on twitter at @TheWayneFDN and @JamieWalton.

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It’s Crunch Time: We Start Filming Our Documentary in 33 Days…And Need Your Help!

by Michelle Brock on September 10th, 2012

CountdownFor the last year we have been raising funds to make a documentary on legalization of prostitution, its connection to sex trafficking, and preventative models around the world that work to decrease sexual exploitation and demand for paid sex.  It is a highly charged, complex topic, and based on the generous donations many of you have given over the last 12 months, it is also an important one worth addressing.

Why Are We Making This Film?

Governments around the world are currently making legislative decisions about prostitution.  In Canada it is going before the Supreme Court soon.  Both research and the personal stories of sex trafficking survivors indicate that prostitution and sexual exploitation are inextricably linked.  But how?  And to what extent? Does legalization make the sex industry safer?  If not, what are alternatives that prevent sexual exploitation?

plane 1024x640We are embarking on a journey to find out.  We are travelling to several countries to explore what the impact of different prostitution laws are on sex trafficking, and what prevention looks like in different cultural contexts.  Our hope is that through a feature length documentary, we can change the way people think about prostitution and help leaders make policy decisions that decrease, not increase, sexual exploitation.

Where Are We At?

Thanks to the generosity of many of you, we have raised $30,000 to date.  WOW!  We feel so humbled and blessed by your investment into this project, and a thank you really is not enough!  In order to step on that plane in mid-October, we need a minimum of $10,000 more on top of that.

We have 33 days to raise $10,000!  

Fundraising will continue after we leave as well, for the costs that will come with post-production etc, but in order for us to begin filming we have to have a total of $40,000 by October 15.  Since this is a timely issue, we must begin filming this fall.

5 Ways You Can Help Us:

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Make a Donation Online.  ALL Canadian donations receive tax receipts (under charitable # 12659 9919 RR0001).  DONATE ONLINE HERE!  If you prefer to donate by cheque, make it out to Hope for the Sold and send it to this address:

DONATE NOW3

International Teams Canada
1 Union Street
Elmira, Ontario
Canada N3B 3J9
 
**American donors, you can get tax receipts as well by scrolling down for instructions on this page

number22 300x300Join us for the RIDE FOR REFUGE.  It is family-friendly bicycling fundraiser that supports a bunch of different charities, including Hope for the Sold.  Ride with your family & friends!  Rides take place in several cities across Canada and the U.S.  Depending on your city, the ride will take place either in late September or October.  You do NOT need to be an experienced cyclist!  We have 11 riders so far.  We’d love to have 40!  Ride for Hope for the Sold and register today!

number3 300x300Give a business donation.  We are looking for businesses who are willing to support this project!  If you are a business owner or know one who might be interested, please consider giving to Hope for the Sold.  Once again, all donations will receive a tax receipt.  Any questions can be send via our contact section.

 

Number4 300x300Have us come speak at your church, school, or community group.  We come equipped with a list of practical ways that people and communities can fight sex trafficking, both in their communities and abroad.  We ask that our travel costs be covered and for a donation to be given to Hope for the Sold.  Keep in mind that we plan to leave mid-October, so send us your request and we will see what dates would be available!

number5 300x300Organize a fundraiser.  Have a garage sale.  Invite your friends over for a dessert party.  Put together a silent auction.  Offer to babysit for a donation. Have a good ole fashioned game of BINGO!  Have a bake sale.  Sell some crafts. Throw a party.  Be creative, the sky is the limit!

 

number6 300x300Spread the word.  Share this post with your friends, family & co-workers, via facebook, twitter, email, or other social networks you use!  If you’re a blogger, write a blog post!  For you facebookers, like this post. Or tweet it.  Or digg it.  Like our our facebook fan page and follow us on twitter.  I often ask myself whether I am stewarding my online presence well.  If this issue resonates with you, please consider spreading the word!

make a differenceIt took one film, 6 years ago, to make us aware that sex trafficking was happening.  It was the catalyst that pushed us into action.  Now it is our turn to play it forward.  We have seen the devastating impact of sexual exploitation and learned that rehabilitation is extremely difficult. If we can change the way that people think, maybe, just maybe, we can prevent the abuse of thousands before the damage is done.

That is a vision worth fighting for!

Would you consider supporting our documentary project so that we can hit the road on October 15?

We would truly be honoured.

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How I Ended Up With a Car Trunk Full of Cell Phones…And How Aashika Damodar Will Use Them to Fight Human Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on September 6th, 2012

Ever had a moment when you wish the police didn’t pull you over?  I had one of those moments recently.  Not because I was doing something criminal, but because it would have been an awkward situation to explain.  You see, in my trunk I had two big boxes full of used cell phones, most of them in very good condition, some of them still with full batteries in them.

Rewind.

My husband Jay and I do a lot of public speaking about sex trafficking, and we try to give people practical steps that they can take to fight exploitation.  One of the things we recommend is donating their old cell phones to Phones 4 Freedom (a campaign of Survivor’s Connect), an organization that recycles or refurbishes them, and then sends proper technical equipment to anti-trafficking organizations and individuals on the ground in developing countries for anti-trafficking operations.  You can read more about that here.

Phones 4 Freedom1 768x1024After one of our sessions in July, we had a man come up to us who said, “I think I can hook you up with some phones.” In any other context this would have been an odd thing to hear, and memories of persistent market vendors from our travels came to mind.  As it turns out, Bill worked for the City and knew that when the city workers got new phones, there was not much they could do with the old ones. After clearing it with the security department and jumping through various other hoops, he gave us a call and told us he had a delivery for us.  Of over 140 cell phones.

Much to my relief, on the way home we did not get pulled over by the police and therefore bypassed the necessity of “Oh, officer, this is not what it looks like, you see we know someone who works for the city…”

Aashika DamodarWe are sending the phones to Survivor’s Connect. I had the privilege of interviewing Aasika Damodar, the founder of Survivor’s Connect, about where my shipment of cell phones was going.

What inspired you to start Survivor’s Connect and how did you get it off the ground?

 

I started Survivors Connect shortly after my first major job at Free the Slaves. I had worked, interned and volunteered for several anti-trafficking groups by that point and had a lot of ideas for creative ways for enhancing anti-trafficking work. It is often difficult to experiment with new ideas/projects with existing/established NGOs, so I felt like maybe starting a new NGO was the best way to do it.

Also, during this time, I had traveled to a number of countries and saw how even in the most poverty-stricken and vulnerable communities, families owned or had regular access to basic mobile phones, and mobile phones were increasingly becoming the first point of entry for people into the digital world. People were using mobile phones in ways that even we don’t – from getting weather alerts, learning about food prices at the market (before traveling long distances to get it), mobile banking and more. I thought that these very technologies could be used to advance human rights efforts as well and that’s where many of the ideas for SC’s work were born.

Survivors Connect Phones 1024x768

Photo: Courtesy of Survivor's Connect

Once the Wireless Source reburbishes/recycles the phones, what is the process of getting the phones where they need to go? 

 

So first, the phones are fully recycled. Depending on the current value, the Wireless Source assigns us “points” or credits which are used to purchase back proper equipment for our helpline projects, and/or are cashed so that we can buy other equipment beyond mobile phones. We keep them in a savings until the $ is needed. For example, for a project in Haiti, we bought a few GSM modems, a small laptop computer and 10 smart phones.

Survivors Connect Demo

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Photo: Courtesy of Survivor's Connect

How are the phones used on the ground to fight human trafficking and sexual abuse? Do you have a story you could share about the real-life impact of the technology on the ground?

 

There are many!  Check the story of our project in Haiti and in Guatemala.

Tell us about your new venture, Breaking Heels, and the top 3 reasons you are excited about it.

 

So this venture has been quite literally an adventure of a lifetime. While I was in college in the UK, I accidentally broke my high heel shoe when getting it caught on a cobblestone pathway. Upon arriving home, I was so frustrated that instead of simply throwing out the shoes, icing my foot and going to bed, I decided to bring out my sketchpad and draw concepts for height adjustable high heel shoes. Girls willingly suffer for fashion, and it was my goal to have the best of both worlds. After a few hours, I had some concepts down. I’ve been working with engineers since to make it happen.

BH Demo 11

The whole thing seemed very much out of scope for me. Me, the abolitionist?  The non profit do-er, now into fashion? The irony was I’ve always loved fashion and fashion design and I found myself back in it again via this accidental invention. On my way to meet some engineers, I had my iPod on shuffle, and i got to the song “can’t stop pimpin” by lil job. I hate the song, but it was on my iPod because I used lyrics from this song in my senior thesis as an undergrad to discuss the nature of glamorization of pimping in popular culture. There is a line in the song where he says “bitch break your heels off and make me rich.” I dug into that phrase “break heels” further and found out that it’s used quite commonly to describe what pimps what women to do in order to meet their quota. This is when I decided that my new venture could actually be one for good – where we are literally “breaking heels” and reclaiming the phrase to be a positive statement against trafficking and sexual exploitation.

BH Demo 41I suppose then my top 3 reasons for my excitement are:

1. The shoe is really comfortable and provides women with a 2-in-1 where the design isn’t compromised for comfort, and looks awesome!

2. Breaking heels is both a company and a cause, where with each pair sold, we’re sharing a survivor’s story (designs are inspired by survivors via fashion workshops as well as a song donated by an artist.

3. I firmly believe social entrepreneurship is the way forward towards creating socially and financially sustainable solutions to problems as relentless as this one.

Phone Demo 300x225If you could sum up your experience as an abolitionist so far in 5 words, what would they be? 

Interesting question! I would say Exciting, Evolving, Trying, Inspiring & Innovating

What can people do to support Survivor’s Connect or Breaking Heels?

 

Survivors Connect – Recycle/donate your old phone to Phones4freedom.org.  Canadian donations, please send your donation with Fedex (Account #183021400, for free shipping) to: The Wireless Source, 794 Industrial Court, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302, Attn: Phones4Freedom Enterprise Program code: SCONNECT.  Also, if you’re interested in piloting your own SMS resource line, contact us at [email protected]

Breaking Heels – Help us launch today by making a pledge! We have 11 days left to get to 25K. Make a pledge here! Or if you would like to volunteer/get involved, tell us about your skill sets and we’ll plug you in! Email us at [email protected]

Aashika, thanks so much for your passionate heart, and for using your innovative mind to fight injustice around the world!  Everyone, don’t forget to check out the Survivor’s Connect and Breaking Heels websites.

Michelle

 

 

 

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Mourning the Passing of Time

by Michelle Brock on September 3rd, 2012

tireSwingSwings.  Amusement parks.  Family Christmas traditions.  Camping trips.  School musicals.  Horse riding lessons.  Airports.  Bed time stories.  Beach days.  Bird watching.  Snow fights.  Slumber parties.

Do you ever think about your childhood? Reminisce about how easy life was back then – uncomplicated, wonder-filled, innocent?  I am a sucker for living in the past, and often find myself comfortably taking a seat amongst childhood memories of joy, of adventure, of family and friends.

Sleeping on dad’s side of my parents’ bed when he was away on business trips.  Selecting the perfect treat on “karkki päivä” (candy day).  Selling mud figurines to neighbours.  Helping mom put her socks on when she was pregnant.  Doing New Year’s fireworks with dad in Finland.

Sometimes I mourn the passing of time, longing to once again be a child and simply trust my parents to make all the important decisions, oblivious to poverty, greed, and exploitation.  Do you ever wish you were a kid again?  Have you ever mourned how fast time flies?  What is your favourite childhood memory?

Last week as I was pondering happy memories with a hint of sadness that those days are forever in the past, a thought came swirling in, like a tornado, rudely sending my daydreams into a frenzy.

I mourn that the carefree days of my childhood are gone, while others mourn that they never had a childhood at all.

 

GirlsLikeUsIn Rachel Lloyd’s book “Girls Like Us,” I read something this weekend that confirmed what my heart had been feeling:

“The ‘luv-life’…will stay in my mind as a perfect description of those who seem untouched by life’s horrors and tragedies, for whom childhood memories conjure up joy and innocence, for whom the thought of family evokes comfort and safety and for whom the word love remains undistorted and untained by disappointment, by violence, by fear.”

The privilege and blessing of a healthy family, quality education, and food on the table in a way separates me from those who never had those things.  And it almost makes me feel guilty of having those gifts, even though I had nothing to do with it.

I did not realize as a child that not everyone had parents like I did.  That there were kids my age who were being abused at home.  Or went to school hungry.  Or were being raped in seedy brothels.  Or bounced around from foster home to foster home. Or were caught in the middle of a messy divorce.  I have written about these feelings before.  And yet this sense of undeserved privilege still chases me, pouncing on me when I least expect it, leaving me with an odd mix of sheer gratefulness and paralysing guilt.

What I have to remember is this:  I did not choose where I was born or to whom I was born.  I did not choose how I was raised, or educated, or the vacations I got to go on.  I did not choose my class, my nationality, or my family lineage.  Therefore, I must not be ashamed of these blessings, but simply receive them as a gift, an undeserved grace, something to celebrate.

However being grateful for these things is not enough.  I was given them for a reason.  At some point it must translate into action – an overflowing of grace that will provide others with refreshment and hope. Though some may judge me for having so much blessing throughout the course of my 26 years, and though I may struggle relating to those who have had lives of pure struggle and pain, I hope that the actions of my life speak in such a way that unquestionably demonstrate my compassion and my commitment to steward my gifts well.

I am grateful for people like Rachel Lloyd who, despite their own painful experiences of abuse and exploitation, choose to reach out to those who desperately need some real love.

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