Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

When the Red Light District Inspires a Book on Prayer: Interview with Author Jared Brock

by Michelle Brock on May 26th, 2015


JMAmsterdam11 1024x1022When my husband Jay and I were on tour with our documentary, we’d sometimes encounter curious individuals who wondered if we had kids.  Jay would joke and say, “oh shoot, we forgot them in the trunk” (usually people figured out he was joking, but there was the occasional person who seemed concerned). The road life is not exactly kid-friendly, so we’ve opted to give birth to some projects before we start a family.

Humans love to create, and I have the privilege of being married to one of the most creative, hard-working, throw-spaghetti-at-the-wall-until-something-sticks people on the planet.  Over the course of the last two years, sandwiched between pieces of our North American documentary tour, Jay has been giving birth to another dream – writing his first book.

jaybThis last year, Jay (or Jared, as he is known in the literary world) embarked on a wild journey around the world in an attempt to revive his prayer life.  As you can imagine, anti-trafficking work can get pretty dark and depressing, and our faith has sustained us through some difficult seasons.

On this 37,000-mile global pilgrimage, Jay got to meet Pope Francis (who has made the fight against trafficking a huge priority for the Catholic church), spend New Year’s in North Korea, visit a bunch of monks on Mount Athos, dance with Jewish rabbis in Brooklyn, and even found himself walking across a bed of hot coals.

It’s essentially a humorous – yet earnest – memoir about Jay’s journey examining various Judeo-Christian prayer traditions, with the hope of re-igniting his own prayer life.  So, while the book itself is not about human trafficking (meaning this is a departure from what I usually write about here on the HFTS blog), I wanted to do an interview with Jay so you can learn more about his book and his passion for story-telling.

What was the moment that inspired you to write your new book?

I was in the red light district in Amsterdam. There was a soccer game going on, and there were hundreds of drunk guys outside of this one bar. When the game was over – depending on which team won – the men would either celebrate with the women in the windows or take out their aggression on them.  Either way, the girls lose. In the middle of the district is the oldest building in Amsterdam – an 800 year old church. The church bells were ringing, and it messed me up – I decided I needed to go on a pilgrimage to re-spark my prayer life.

As a guy, what was it like to visit the red light district for the first time? 

Honestly, I was surprised by how young the girls were. Obviously I tried to stick to eye contact with the women, and it was very interesting to watch the men. You couldn’t make eye contact if you stood on your head – they were either staring at women, or their eyes were zeroed on the pavement. It seemed almost… predatory, and somehow shameful.

It was interesting to see the women in the windows react to Michelle and her friend when they were chatting with them. The girls dropped the sexy act, and the guys cleared a wide berth around them. There was a look of disgust on many of the guys’ faces when they saw these women drop the act – if you believe the hype and stereotype, it’s uncomfortable to see real displays of humanity.

What interview has affected you most personally? 

We interviewed a 17-year-old girl in Amsterdam who had been out of the trade for less than a year. Her first client was in the back of a car in a parking garage when she was 12 years old. Forget shaking hands, she wouldn’t even make eye contact with me at first, and I certainly didn’t expect her to after what she’d been through. That was a tough interview, and at one point I apologized – on behalf of males – for the abuse she had endured.  I was so honoured when she smiled and shook my hand at the end.

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What are a few things you have learned about sex trafficking that you want people to know?

First: “Choice” is complicated. If a girl was trafficked at 14, but now she’s 18 and working out of free will, is it still a choice? If a woman has a drug addiction or is in debt, is it a choice?

Second: This is a male issue. Supply-and-demand economics make it pretty obvious: if men don’t pay for sex, women aren’t trafficked for sex. We need to stop looking at porn, paying for sex, and treating women like objects. Because they’re actually kinda great.

Third: This is a massive money business, and often organized crime controls it. It’s massively profitable, and we need all hands on deck to fight it.

Why are you passionate about telling stories?

Books and movies have changed my life. Beautiful Mind was the first time I ever thought about mental illness. Braveheart taught me about having conviction under pressure. Walden helped me simplify my life. Stories can make the world a better place, because they can make us better people. Thus, why my book is just a bunch of crazy stories about prayer.

coverThe book is called A Year of Living Prayerfully, and you can purchase it anywhere books are sold (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters, Christian bookstores etc).  Visit to download the first two chapters for free.

Between May 26 and 29, the e-book is on sale at Amazon for $2.99.

Lastly, new Audible customers get the audiobook for free with this link (complete with singing and a dozen accents!).

You can also connect with Jared on facebook and follow him on twitter.  And to top it all off, check out the book trailer below!


My hope is that whether you are a person of faith or not, this book with resonate with you in a fun and meaningful way.  May everything we do be full of mission and purpose, so that we can elevate human worth and love each other better.

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The Truth Behind Our Clothing – Interview with Andrew Morgan, Director of The True Cost Documentary

by Michelle Brock on May 20th, 2015


Two years ago, after reading a newspaper story about the tragic factory collapse in Dhaka that killed 1,134 people, Andrew Morgan found himself on a plane bound for Bangladesh.  He was embarking on a long, daunting journey around the world to document the global fashion industry, and he was terrified. The unknowns before him loomed large.

But today, all of those unknowns have become the names and faces of a documentary.  After pushing through various obstacles and sifting through a countless assortment of sobering facts and compelling stories, Morgan and his team have a final product ready for the world to see.  The True Cost reveals where our clothes come from, the social and environmental impacts of the fashion industry, and hopeful stories that we can all learn from.  The film had its debut at Cannes last week, and is sparking conversation about ethical fashion both on and off the red carpet.

I’m excited to introduce you to Andrew Morgan, the director of The True Cost, who kindly agreed to an interview with Hope for the Sold.

Andrew Morgan Director 223x300What is the most surprising thing you discovered while making The True Cost?

For me the most surprising thing was just the scope and scale of the impact this one industry is having. As the largest employer of people in the world, it is built on supply chains that have led to the continued exploitation of the world’s poorest workers.

As the number two most polluting industry on earth, it is causing devastating harm to our planet and leading to very direct impact on people’s lives today. All of this while generating almost three trillion dollars a year in profit and creating some of the world’s richest people and most powerful companies. The further into it I went the more shocking it all became.

What kinds of logistical challenges did you run into while making the film?

There were the expected challenges associated with making a film that took us to more than 25 cities in 13 countries. There was also the challenge of building relationships and earning trust in these countries. We had an extended team of fixers and journalists all over the world.  Sharing my heart for the film in a way that motivated them to open doors for us was a key aspect for it all working. Once we built the relationships with these incredible people, the rest of the pieces just began to come together.

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Photo Courtesy of The True Cost


Is there is particular person or story that really sticks with you?

In the film we meet a 23 year old garment worker named Shima and her daughter Nadia. Shima became the president of the very first labor union in her factory. Despite being beaten unconscious she continues to this day to lead the struggle for the voices of her fellow workers to be heard. Her bravery and the personal story of her life that represents millions of other garment workers around the world is both horrifying and incredibly hopeful.

What is fast fashion and why is it a problem?

Essentially, it is a process of producing mass amounts of clothing at a rapid pace and low price point. This has lead to a huge increase in the amount of clothes we consume (more than 400% more in the last two decades alone). We now consume over 80 billion new pieces of clothing each year and because so much of it is cheap, we also throw out a lot more than we ever have. Considering the natural resources that go into making clothing, the waste now being generated and the increased strain on supply chain price points – this has led us to a fundamentally unsustainable point in time where we can and must make a real change.

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Photo Courtesy of The True Cost


Has anything changed in Bangladesh since the Rana Plaza collapse?

There have been some improvements but not merely as much as many of us hoped there would be. There has still been no real change made in the need for a living wage and workers voices are continually ignored. This has to become something we as people care about before the brands that sell to us begin to really invest in meaningful change.

How has this experience changed your family’s personal shopping habits?

It has added so much meaning to my life. Before I started work on this film, I never thought twice about anything beyond the style or price of a piece of clothing I bought. Now I have so much to think about when I am purchasing something and it has really changed the whole process of consumption for me. I am buying mostly second hand clothing and looking for companies that align with my values when I do invest in something new. It’s not always easy, especially with four kids who are constantly growing but it has become a really important conversation for us as a family to constantly be having in regards to anything we buy.

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Photo Courtesy of The True Cost


The True Cost is available worldwide on May 29.  You can attend a screening or pre-order a digital or DVD copy of the film (which you can watch on May 29).  For more information, check out The True Cost website, follow them on Twitter and like them on facebook.

You can read more about the 2013 Bangladesh factory collapse and how these issues are connected to sex trafficking here.  For a tragic, more recent story about the working conditions of the people who make the things we consume, read about the May 14 shoe factory fire in the Philippines.  Let’s educate ourselves so we can effectively reduce vulnerability and promote equality around the world.

Thank you, Andrew, for making this excellent and timely documentary – we wish you all the best as you enter an exciting season of film screenings and important conversations, and hope that it is a meaningful and effective time for you and the team.

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Interview with Canadian Anti-Trafficking Champion, MP Joy Smith

by Michelle Brock on May 4th, 2015


mpjoysmith1After a decade-long career as a Member of Parliament representing Kildonan-St. Paul, MP Joy Smith recently announced she will not be seeking re-election in 2015.  For those of you who haven’t had a chance to meet Mrs. Smith or follow her work, she has become known as a champion on the Hill regarding the issue of human trafficking.

But before she stepped foot into politics, she was a math and science teacher and the mother of six children.  Her passion for kids and youth, coupled with her experience in education, is no doubt part of the reason she is able to bring such passion, patience, and persistence to her work in Parliament.

While many of us are sad to see her leave Parliament, Mrs. Smith’s fight against sex trafficking is far from over.

How has awareness on the issue of human trafficking changed during the time you have been in Parliament?

There has been a huge change in the awareness of human trafficking over the past 11 years. When I started, Parliamentarians weren’t aware of it, the public wasn’t aware of it and the media wasn’t aware. That’s why I had to bring in victims to tell their story. I started this with the study that I spearheaded in the Status of Women Committee in 2006 on sex trafficking. This study allowed me to bring in victims and stakeholders to officially tell Parliamentarians about human trafficking.

What are some success stories of bipartisan partnership and action on this issue of human trafficking?

On the Private Members Bills and Motions that I tabled over the years, I always sought to have bipartisan support. Motion M-153 received unanimous support. Bill C-268 was seconded by a Liberal and NDP MP and received largely bipartisan support (the Bloc Party and 3 NDP MPs voted against it). And Bill C-310 received unanimous support among MPs. Some of the MPs that I have had the pleasure of working with across the aisle include MP Cotler, MP Comartin, MP Stoffer and MP Mourani.

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You husband was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2007.  What has it been like to fight the battle against trafficking in Parliament while simultaneously fighting the battle against cancer on the home front?

It was extremely difficult. I felt like I had no options because I knew victims were depending on me.  So I knew I had to press on. It was my faith that kept me balanced and propelled me through it.

You’ve had tremendous success in passing legislation. Can you briefly highlight the importance of each?

Motion 153 – This motion set the stage for Parliament. Under this motion Parliament unanimously agreed to take action to fight human trafficking and develop a national strategy.

Bill C-268 – This bill was important because it ensured child traffickers received a sentence that reflected the gravity of their crime. It provided victims with the certainty that their traffickers would go to prison for significant amount of time, giving them courage to come forward and testify.

Bill C-310 – This Bill enhanced and clarified the definition of exploitation in the human trafficking offence. Police and prosecutors were having challenges proving exploitation and securing convictions.  The Bill also made all human trafficking offences extraterritorial, reflecting the international scope of the crime.

Bill C-36 – This Bill changed Canada’s approach to prostitution from viewing it as nuisance crime to instead see prostitution as a crime of gender inequality and commodification, reflecting the Nordic Model. Under the new laws, the demand for sexual commodification is criminalized but not the prostituted individual. The law also prevent the advertising of another’s sexual services.


In your opinion, what is the next step our government can take to end sexual exploitation?

Our government needs to focus more on two areas: we need more awareness and we need more programs and services for victims.

What will you miss about working on the Hill?

I will miss my staff, who have become like family to me. I will miss my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who I have built strong relationships with over the years.

What won’t you miss about working on the Hill?

I am not good at politics. I don’t like the partisan way good initiatives are blocked due to politics. That will not be missed.

What is one of the most significant things you’ve learned about your time as a Member of Parliament?

That you can make a difference.

What’s next? What are you excited about?

I am excited about leaving politics to focus on the Joy Smith Foundation full time. Through my Foundation we are saving lives. The Foundation has to main objectives: first to increase awareness to Canadian about human trafficking and second to raise funds to support NGOs who rehabilitate victims of trafficking. We have done great things over the past two years and I am looking forward to seeing it continue to grow and impact people.

Joy Smith Foundation smThank you, Mrs. Smith, for all your hard work on behalf of trafficking victims in our country, and for setting such a great example of what it looks like to truly care.  As you wrap up your time in office, I hope it is a rewarding and celebratory time.


For those of you who want to learn more about Mrs. Smith’s anti-trafficking work, check out the Joy Smith Foundation.  You can also take the Up All Night challenge, Canada’s no-sleep-a-thon on May 29. Register today and you can raise funds for the Joy Smith Foundation!






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Want to End the War on Women? Fund a Film!

by Michelle Brock on December 3rd, 2013

Evan Grae DavisWe know some amazing people who are sewing seeds of justice around the world, and one of those people is filmmaker Evan Grae Davis. Our relationship began about a year ago when we interviewed him about his documentary, It’s a Girl. He is currently working on a new project, which he is excited to share with you!

Evan Grae Davis…can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a husband, father, documentary filmmaker, speaker, and social justice activist. My passion is to leverage the power of documentary storytelling to confront culture and inspire social action. I have traveled the world with camera in hand for nearly two decades, advocating for social justice through writing and directing short documentaries and educational videos mobilizing support for non-profits and NGO’s championing the cause of the poor and exploited.

I’ve consulted with and worked along side over 100 regional, national and international organizations, helping them tell their stories and mobilize support for their cause. In 2012, I released my first independent, feature length documentary film, It’s a Girl, asking why nearly 200 million women are missing in the world today– killed, aborted and abandoned simply because they are girls. Shot on location in India and China, It’s a Girl reveals the issue and asks why this is happening, and why so little is being done to save girls and women.

Tell us about “It’s a Girl”… why did you make it, and what was the impact?

During the years I worked with non-profits around the world, I witnessed a lot of injustice. I began asking the question, what are the cultural roots and mindsets that allow for human rights violations on the scale seen throughout the world today? I set out to explore this question through a documentary film. I and the team traveled to nine nations capturing stories for this film. One of the nations we visited was India, hoping to understand how the subjugation and devaluation of women could be justified by the deeply established son-preference culture.

IAG poster webWhat we discovered while filming in India about the epidemic of missing girls and dramatically skewed sex ratios and related abuse and neglect of girls was a game-changer for us.

After hearing the UN statistic of as many as 200 million girls missing in the world today as a result of ‘gendercide’ we researched the issue in China, as well, and were completely astonished by how few people seemed to be aware of what appeared to be the greatest human rights issue of our time, and certainly the greatest form of violence against women in the world today. There seemed to be very little out there on the topic. It was then that we determined to dedicate the film project to exposing this untold story and educating and mobilizing a movement to end gendercide in India and China.

It’s a Girl has screened in hundreds of locations around the world in over 20 countries, with nearly half a million people joining the cause to end gendercide so far as a result of the film. I and the film have been featured in countless radio and media interviews, articles and reviews, including BBC Radio, NPR, New Internationalist, Ms. Magazine, World Magazine and many more. I have spoken at screenings and events globally, including colleges and universities, film festivals, at the European and British Parliaments and on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.

I have also been privileged to take the film and the issue of gendercide to some of the largest TEDx stages in South Asia and the U.S., challenging leaders and influencers from all over the world to act to stand against gendercide– one of the most significant human rights issue of our time and the greatest form of violence against women in the world today.

So what’s next? Why this?

As the It’s a Girl campaign continues to gain momentum, and with the successful release of It’s a Girl on DVD and iTunes, it’s time to think about what is next for me. I have recently launched a new film following up on the theme of It’s a Girl and answering some of the questions that have come up as a result of the film.

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My new film, Female — The World War on Women

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(working title) is a documentary film addressing the various forms of violence and abuse suffered by women on every continent around the globe. While exploring personal stories illustrating an array of issues such as the feminization of poverty, gendercide, female genital mutilation, child marriage, and the objectification and exploitation of women, experts will seek to identify the cultural mindsets and traditions that result in such human rights violations while activists will offer hope of change through viable solutions.

Why now?

The devaluation and subjugation of women worldwide continues today on a scale never seen before in history. What kind of epidemic is at the root of such widespread and methodical violence targeting half of the world’s population?

The answer is misogyny: the hatred of women, or the belief that women are inferior to men. It comes in many forms, including social discrimination, physical abuse, legal discrimination, and the generalized objectification of women. Misogynistic cultures often give husbands and fathers full legal rights over their wives and daughters.

Misogyny can be found in every part of the world, where one out of three women will become a victim of violence in her lifetime. In many parts of the developing world, however, misogyny is even more deeply woven into the fabric of the family and social culture – making the violence inescapable.

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Millions of women throughout the world continue to suffer in silence, and I hope to give them voice– to tell their stories, and the stories of those who are leading the way to greater rights and freedoms for women within their own cultures, who are inspiring movements demanding equality and justice.

How can we all help?

I have recently launched a crowd funding campaign for the film. The distribution model for an effective social action documentary cannot be driven by profit, so my films are made in a non-profit model, freeing me to focus on impact instead. This means I fund the production and distribution of my films through partnership with others who, like me, believe in fighting for the dignity and worth of women.

I am inviting those who want to be a part of making this film to back the project and help spread the word. Even small donations can make a big difference. You can learn more about the film and how to help by checking out my campaign here. And there are some great rewards for those who give, including the It’s a Girl DVD and a copy of the new film once it is complete.

Together, we can tell the stories that need to be told and help restore dignity and value to millions of women.

Evan Grae Davis is currently running an indiegogo campaign to raise the first $30,000. This will fund the development and pre-production, allowing him and his team to conduct research, identify key stories, travel to capture some preliminary footage, and put together a trailer and other tools they will need to raise the remaining funding for post production and distribution.

You can contribute to the campaign here!





Interview with Natasha Falle from Sextrade 101

by Michelle Brock on June 3rd, 2013

NatashaNatasha Falle – a Canadian prostitution survivor who now runs an organization called Sextrade 101- recently did an interview on CBC about her experiences. She also talks about where Canada’s prostitution laws are headed.

Listen to Natasha Falle on CBC here.


There is a Supreme Court hearing scheduled for June 13 on this issue, during which over a dozen groups will be sharing their input.  This case will ultimately decide whether brothels and living off the avails of prostitution are to be legalized in Canada.  I am following this closely and will keep you posted on details as they unfold.






The Catalyst Leader: Interview with Brad Lomenick

by Michelle Brock on April 22nd, 2013

CatalystLeader LargeCVRCoincidentally, the catalyst that launched Jay and me into anti-trafficking work was the Catalyst Conference in Georgia six years ago. This annual leadership conference is where we first heard about modern day slavery, sparking a passion in us to fight sexual exploitation.  We have learned that good leadership is a vital part of any movement, and are always looking for resources to help us become better leaders and influencers.

Brad Lomenick, the executive director of Catalyst, has recently released a book entitled The Catalyst Leader.  For those of you who are wanting to lead with excellence, this book is a treasure chest of counsel.  Here is what Brad has to say about The Catalyst Leader.

What can leaders expect from the The Catalyst Leader?

The Catalyst Leader provides practical help for all leaders at any stage of their leadership journey, ultimately defining what it means to be a Catalyst in this generation, and inspiring us all to be true change makers wherever we lead.  I believe the book is defining, practical, inspiring, and timely.  The book provides perspective and practical application that leaders can put into practice immediately in their leadership today.  I hope the book is both a kick in the pants, a punch in the gut, and a pat on the back. Both challenging and encouraging.


Why write this book now?

Because I believe we are at a crossroads of leadership in the US, and ultimately around the world.  In fact, I believe we have a leadership crisis in our country.  And based on the research we did in partnership with The Barna Group for the book, the survey and data would validate that assumption. We currently have a dearth of leadership in our country. In general, we trust our leaders less today than we have in the past.  There is a lot at stake. And it’s time for a new generation of leaders to rise up and take charge.

Cat50pics C38Catalyst has gathered leaders for 13 years now.  We wanted to create a leadership guide, the “ultimate” handbook on influence. It’s our turn to lead now, but we have to make sure we are leading well. I want to see leaders all over the world take their leadership and influence to a whole new level.

Lots of great leaders have created great leadership resources, but most of them aren’t peers to me or my generation.  We wanted to create a community driven resource that would be a practical guide for leading over the next 20-30 years. I’m passionate about raising up great leaders, and I’ve devoted much of my life to convening and equipping leaders of all ages and stages in life who want to grow in their leadership abilities.  And I’ve written the Catalyst Leader to empower you to lead better, and lead longer.

Perhaps never before have so many young leaders been poised and positioned for influence. Scores of twenty and thirty somethings are running companies, nonprofits, churches, and social innovation projects.  They don’t have 10-15 years to figure things out anymore; they need to be equipped and prepared for the journey now.  Many leaders today have platforms that exceed their wisdom, experience and maturity.  These leaders need the tools and know how for getting it right.  I hope The Catalyst Leader is a resource for them to do just that.  A roadmap for our generation to lead well. 

Our tribe and community of Catalyst leaders are in need of practical and relevant help in regards to their leadership and influence.  We currently are dealing with a demise of leadership mentoring in our culture, especially in organizational life, and I want to truly help leaders lead well.

Cat50pics C32Can you tell us about the importance of calling?

To start with, here’s a working definition of calling: God’s personal invitation for me to work on His agenda, using the talents I’ve been given in ways that are eternally significant.  In essence, calling is where your greatest talents and deepest passions intersect.  Our vocation should flow from that crossroads.  It’s imperative that you discover God’s unique calling on you life.

I’ve come to realize that living and leading from one’s calling is a necessary first step to leading well and becoming a change maker wherever God has planted you.  Without understanding your calling, you’ll end up bogged down in the mud of life.  But when living out your calling, your work will be better, and you’ll naturally want to work harder.  Calling should give us life, and provide us direction. Our vocation should flow out of who we’ve been uniquely designed by God to be.

Think back to your childhood.  Identify the things you were good at and energized you.  Do they still? What did you naturally look forward to?  What barriers are preventing you from pursuing the stuff you love to work on?  God desires for a sense of mission to burn within us, driving us forward in the perilous journey of life.  I believe God has a unique purpose that He desires to carry out in every single person he creates.  He’s carved a specific and significant path for us all.  A Catalyst leader is called. Find your uniqueness.

How does someone create legacy where they are right now?

Your legacy, regardless of where you are in your leadership journey, starts now. The way you start determines how you finish. Start with the end in mind. So many of us don’t think about our legacy until we reach the finish line. But creating legacy has to begin when we begin. Starting well means finishing well.

Cat50pics C26How do you become collaborative without becoming competitive?

Collaboration has to flow from a place of generosity, truly believing that a higher tide lifts all boats.  Be more concerned with others. Listen instead of talk.  Be interested over interesting.

To be collaborative we must understand that it’s not about me.  It’s not about your organization, your non profit, or your project.  It’s about connecting people, not competing.

Collaborators are okay sharing their wisdom, their knowledge, their connections, and their networks, because collaboration means working together alongside others.  Co-laboring. Building bridges instead of constructing walls.  We at Catalyst have partnered with those who might be seen as competitors, because we believe in an abundance mentality. When you have an abundance mindset you are more likely to collaborate instead of compete.  Avoid the scarcity mentality – the idea that there is only so much to go around. 

You can purchase The Catalyst Leader via the book website as well as through ( for us Canadians!).  And, just in case you were wondering if Brad can bust a dance move, the answer is yes.

Let’s take the influence we have seriously and make an impact in this world!






It’s a Girl Documentary: Interview with Director Evan Grae Davis

by Michelle Brock on March 25th, 2013

I recently watched It’s a Girl, a documentary about gendercide in India and China.  It opened my eyes to how issues of gender inequality – domestic violence, rape, gendercide, sex trafficking, and income inequality – all bleed into each other.  Evan Grae Davis, the director of It’s a Girl, kindly agreed to an interview with Hope for the Sold.

If you could use 5 words to describe the experience of making of It’s a Girl, what would they be?

Shocking. Life-changing. Challenging.  Humbling.  Inspirational.

What are some things you learned that surprised or shocked you?

As the Shadowline Films team traveled in India, we experienced many instances where we were surprised or shocked by discoveries we made about gendercide. For instance, we had understood that it was primarily poor families who were ridding themselves of girls because they could not afford dowry, so we were taken aback when we discovered that it is often just as common, and in some communities, more common among the wealthier class. The story of Dr. Mitu Khurana, who comes from a well-educated family of doctors and married into the same, but yet was tortured and harassed to have a sex-determination test and to abort her twin girls, was a real eye-opener.

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The scale of devaluation and neglect of girls and women, from birth to old age, dismayed us. We were horrified to hear that dowry violence and bride burning was so common still today.

And the medical ethics issue, which was addressed by Dr. Puneet Bedi and Dr. Sabu George, surprised us. They spoke of the profit motive of doctors and purveyors of ultrasound technology to exploit the son preference culture in India for personal gain.

How does gendercide in China and India affect sex trafficking?

In both China and India, as a result of sex selection, there are far more men living today than women. In China, there are currently 37 million more men than women and over one million more boys are born than girls each year. In India, there are entire villages in some regions where there has not been a single female birth in a generation.

These severely skewed sex ratios have resulted in an epidemic of sex trafficking. In China, 70,000 girls are stolen from their families every year to be sold to other families who would otherwise have no hope of finding brides for their sons.

On a personal level, what was the most difficult interview for you to conduct and why? 

Its A Girl 1024x764Finding myself standing at the edge of a field in Southern India listening to a woman sharing how she had personally strangled eight of her own newborn daughters in her quest for a son was by far the most difficult interview. She shared so matter-of-factly, often smiling or laughing, as she talked about how she couldn’t afford to raise daughters and made statements like, “Women have the power to give life and the power to take it away.”

Later in the interview, she shared a song about her plight as a woman and the pain of being given in an arranged marriage at a young age. She told us how when she was 15, she was excelling in school and had high hopes for her future, when it was decided that she was to be given as a second wife to her sister’s husband because her sister was unable to have children. Her purpose in life was to bear her husband a son.

This was when gendercide took on a whole new meaning for me, because I realized she was simply a product of the environment in which she lives.

You mentioned that our post on compassion fatigue resonated with you. What was it like to hear such heartbreaking stories, day in day out, and how do you take care of yourself?

After nearly two decades of traveling the world capturing stories of human need for humanitarian and development non-profits and NGOs, I have learned the dangers of compassion fatigue. I have had to learn the balance between not allowing oneself to become numb or uncaring while at the same time protecting your heart from overloading on the seeming hopelessness and overwhelming scope of the need in the world.

But I have to admit, this project challenged me on a whole new level. Besides the multiple trips filming, editing 80 hours of footage into a one hour film over a year and a half sent me right to the edge. I have learned I have to keep reminding myself that I am doing what I can and making a difference and it isn’t up to me to single-handedly solve all the world’s problems (as much as I would like to).

How can we inspire men to be part of the movement? Clearly men feel they have much to lose by empowering women, but what do you think they could gain by doing so? 

I have often been asked at film screenings by audiences of 99.9% women why so few men are involved in the movement to end violence against women. I can’t speak for other men, but my journey to becoming an VAW activist began when filming for It’s a Girl in India. I felt intense anger towards the men perpetrating this violence on women. At the same time, I imagined my own wife and daughter (who was 11 at the time) suffering the same fate and felt anger at the thought of good men who might be in a position to defend them, but chose to stand passively by.

But I also think it must be acknowledged that many men may not become involved because the women’s empowerment movement can often feel like a hostile place for men. Sometimes, the most vocal and aggressive women in the feminist movement can make statements implicating all of mankind. The message this sends to the majority of good men who honor and respect women is that we really can’t win in this, we are going to be lumped in with the bad men anyway, so why try. The men who we want involved are the men who are practicing values of honoring women in their own lives , and often don’t even think about it because they grew up in a home that taught them those values, like mine.

Previous to my life-changing experience filming It’s a Girl, I believed that loving and honoring the women in my own life was enough. But I no longer believe that. More men need to take action and add their voices to the movement. I challenge men every chance I get to not remain silent.

Its A Girl3 1024x680You’ve probably had a variety of responses from the film so far. Are there any that stand out to you? 

We have been honored and humbled by the amazing response to It’s a Girl! In the few short months since It’s a Girl hit the world stage, over 400,000 people have joined the cause, with thousands more adding to that number every week! Nearly 1 million actions have been taken, ranging from signing petitions to donating to our partners working to combat gendercide in India and China on the front lines.

But above all, we are most proud of the many of you who have responded to the call to action and become culture changers and activists in your own spheres of influence as a result of seeing It’s a Girl. Besides the ongoing dedication of organizations like Women’s Rights Without Frontiers and Invisible Girl Project, there have been some who have stepped up and taken action representing the kind of response we could only dream of.

People like Deesh Sekhon, a wife and mother from Abbotsford, BC who, after seeing the trailer, launched GirlKind Foundation, which is advocating and educating for change in cultural beliefs and taking a stand against Gendercide in India. People like former UN diplomat Michael Platzer and his team, who, after seeing It’s a Girl, organized a one-day symposium at the UN in Vienna on fighting femicide (gendercide), where ambassadors, social scientists, NGO representatives, statisticians, lawyers and feminist activists had the opportunity to speak about gendercide, explain its meaning and causes, and present examples of best practice in fighting gendercide.

I wish I could mention all of the champions who have stepped up after seeing the film and made it all worth while! We look forward to 2013 being a year that history will look back upon as a turning point in the battle to restore value and equality to the women of India and China.

its a girl posterAre there any hopeful trends or stories that signify hope for change? 

There is significant work occurring on many fronts in the battle to end gendercide. As the issue gains more exposure through the stories coming out of India and China, and as more people become aware, we are seeing champions and heroes of the cause emerging practically every day! But the son preference culture that underlies gendercide is the result of centuries-old traditions and beliefs and will not change overnight.

But there are many who are innovating new ways to bring change. For instance, Will Muir is an Indian businessman who has started an organization called Equal Community Foundation, and is working to change the fundamental attitudes men have towards women and engage men and boys as a positive force in the fight for the rights of women and girls. He has recruited innovators and creative thinkers throughout Asia to help determine new ideas for mobilizing men to understand and defend the value and dignity of women in India.

Will is just one example of a movement growing throughout the world today. My hope is that It’s a Girl will educate and mobilize many more to join this movement and, one day, we will see gendercide become a distant memory of the past.

To watch the film, look for an It’s a Girl screening near you (or host a screening!) and take action through the It’s a Girl website.  Let’s each take a step toward ending gender inequality, starting today.







A Walk Across the Sun: Interview with Corban Addison

by Michelle Brock on January 16th, 2013

Walk Across the SunJay and I have an interesting travel tradition: every time we take a long haul flight, we buy a John Grisham novel at the airport.  So imagine my excitement when I read these words last year:

“Since my first novel was released over 20 years ago, I have been presented with many opportunities to endorse the works of other authors hoping to find a publisher. I have always declined, until now. Corban Addison has written a novel that is beautiful in its story and also important in its message…”

-John Grisham

A book about human trafficking?  Endorsed by John Grisham?  I simply had to read it.  A Walk Across the Sun starts off with the 2006 tsunami in India.  It follows the story of two sisters who find themselves abducted by traffickers, and an American attorney whose pro bono sabbatical leads him to undertake a life changing personal mission.  Corban Addison was kind enough to agree to an interview with Hope for the Sold.

To research context for the book, you spent some time with an NGO in Asia. Can you share a story of something you experienced or witnessed there that had an impact on you?

I knew that to write a compelling novel on the global trade in human beings it needed to be as accurate as possible. So after reading everything I could get my hands on, I went to India and Europe and spent time with NGOs in the field. I was privileged to interview investigators from the International Justice Mission in Mumbai, to go to court with their lawyers, and to meet girls they had rescued with the help of the police. Also, I went undercover into the brothels of Kamathipura, posing as a customer. That was, by far, the most affecting experience of my research. I didn’t need a degree in psychology to see that the girls I met were not there willingly. I’ll never forget shaking the brothel owner’s hand after declining to make a purchase. I wished I could do something to save those girls, but anything I might have tried would have endangered them further. The best I could do was to come home and tell their story.

Judging from the feedback you’ve received, how are readers being influenced by this novel?

My hope in writing A Walk Across the Sun was to tell the kind of story that would enlighten people about modern-day slavery and compel them to take action to combat it. It’s been a joy, therefore, to see readers around the world responding this way to the book. People’s eyes have been opened and their hearts ignited to join the abolitionist cause. I’ve gotten the same sort of response whenever I’ve spoken on the topic. Human trafficking is that rare subject that transcends all of the barriers that often divide us–politics, religion, nationality, etc. Everyone is horrified by it, and everyone wants to know what they can do to stop it.

Corban Addison 694x1024How has your life changed since writing A Walk Across the Sun?

My wife gave me the idea for the book. If she had known what it would take to research it, to write it, and then to get it published, I’m not sure she would have opened her mouth. How glad we are now that she did. Not only have I changed my career path (leaving the practice of law to write and advocate full-time), but I’ve met the most amazing people, traveled to some extraordinary places, and gotten the chance to promote a cause I care about deeply. It’s a beautiful synergy and something I hope to pursue with many future novels on different human rights issues.

What is the one question you wish people would ask you?

The most important question people can ask about trafficking is what can we do about it? Not everyone can be an FBI agent, a human rights lawyer, or a social worker caring for survivors. But everyone can make a real difference. Parents need to educate their kids about trafficking. The average age of entry into prostitution in the U.S. is 13-15. Young teenage girls are targets. It doesn’t matter if they’re poor or rich, if they are from the inner city or a gated community, girls need to know that there are recruiters watching for them–at shopping malls, at parties, in chat rooms and social media sites, wherever kids hang out. They need to be wise about the friends they make, especially with young men.

Also, boys need to be educated about sex trafficking so that they don’t become purchasers of sex and fuel the trade with their cash. Educators need to bring the subject into the schools, like we’ve done with the drug issue. Charities like the International Justice Mission need our financial support to do their heroic work. The possibilities are endless, but it is up to us to engage.

Tell us something about yourself that most people wouldn’t know.

One of the unexpected consequences of writing issue-oriented fiction is that I don’t get the chance to read many novels anymore. I don’t read fiction when I’m writing (to avoid unconsciously borrowing from the story or style of another writer), and my research and travel schedule are so intensive that they don’t leave me a lot of time to read for pleasure. I hope that will change as my career matures.

What’s next?

My next novel, The Garden of Burning Sand, is in the hands of my publishers and will be released sometime this year. It’s coming out in Canada at the end of March, but it won’t be out in the rest of the English speaking world until the fall. It takes on a variety of interrelated human rights issues in Southern Africa and the United States and is part mystery, part legal thriller, and part family drama.

You can purchase A Walk Across the Sun in bookstores or online.  A Kindle edition is also available.  I know that Corban would also love if we all supported the work of International Justice Mission (or IJM Canada for those of us north of the border!), so if you are feeling generous, please don’t hesitate to check out their important work and make a donation!







Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community

by Michelle Brock on January 10th, 2013

Unexpected Gifts1Despite its imperfections and challenges, Jay and I have always valued authentic community.  In the last three months we have been to 9 countries to examine effective ways to prevent sex trafficking, and we keep hearing words like this:

Lonely.  Abused.  Disconnected. Vulnerable.  Enticed.  Desperate.  

Ironically, these words can often describe both trafficking victims as well as their abusers. Everyone is longing for a sense of belonging, a “tribe,” a home.  And for this reason, being part of healthy community in itself can prevent trafficking.

Enter Chris Heuertz.  He was mentored in India for three years by Mother Teresa and has been to over 70 countries to serve and love the poor and exploited.  He has recently written a book called Unexpected Gifts: Discovering a Way of Community.  I had a chance to interview Chris this week, and here’s what he had to say.

In a nutshell, what is Unexpected Gifts about? 

“Unexpected Gifts” is my 3rd book, and easily my most vulnerable and confessional. In the 11 chapters of the book I introduce the messy bits of community that make it hard to stay, but why it’s important to stay. If you stay in a friendship, relationship or community long enough you will face inevitable challenges–things like failure, restlessness, betrayal, entitlement–things that are legitimate reasons to leave a community. But sometimes the very reasons we leave are in fact invitations to stay. And, if stay, especially after things get tough, these inevitable challenges can become unexpected gifts.

Chris H 682x1024Why is it so hard to find (and stay) in community?

I think it’s hard to stay in community because so many of us are enamored with a sense of the enthralling, however, most of “real life” is mundane and undramatic. And I think staying in community is also marked by very ordinary and routine rhythms. Until we can find our centered self, and until we can learn to gratitude in the mundane, I think it’s going to be hard for most folks to stay rooted in community.

In addition, I think a lot of us idealize what we mean by community. We show up in communities with “scripts” for the roles we need everyone else to play, while maintaining ourselves as the central figure in the communities we participate in. When we realize that we’re not the center of community it’s an important assault on our egos and for many of us we can’t bear to have our egos exposed.

Finally, though we shouldn’t be, most of us are surprised when our humanity collides with the humanity of those we’re in community with.  Somehow we imagine this cosmetic version of community that only highlights and celebrates the best of us, while in true communities the worst of ourselves inevitably emerges–offering our community and ourselves a chance to learn to love and accept.  Sadly, most of us can’t accept the worst of ourselves and so we can’t accept the worst of those in our communities and so there’s usually a bad transition.

What’s the importance of being in community?

Fundamentally I believe the divine imprint in all humanity carries with it an existential yearning towards one another, we need each other and we were created for one another. Being in relationships and friendships and community is essentially human–beautifully human.

You can purchase Unexpected Gifts here, and read more about the fantastic work Chris and his wife Phileena are doing around the world.






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.


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.