Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

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.

Female The World War on Women 350

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.

her future small

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.





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.


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

Survivors Connect Training2 1024x768

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  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.






Child Abuse, Mental Health & Human Trafficking: Interview with Jacqui Linder from the Chrysalis Network

by Michelle Brock on July 16th, 2012

The Chrysalis Network is a non-governmental organization designed to provide free counselling and emergency support services for survivors of human trafficking and exploitation across Canada.  If you or someone you know need to talk, the anti-trafficking hotline number is 1 866 528 7109.  I asked Jacqui Linder, the founder and executive director of the Chrysalis Network, to answer some questions about her work.

child abuseHow does addiction and abuse connect to sexual exploitation and trafficking?

Early childhood abuse and interpersonal trauma set the stage for exploitation and trafficking by making people vulnerable to predation by traffickers. This is because people with histories of abuse and addiction often have low self-esteem, core shame and a number of other mental health issues that make them particularly easy to control and manipulate.

Why is it important for people to hear the stories in this video?

Typically, the conversation around human trafficking in Canada takes place within the context of statistics and dollar figures. While such numbers are important, they fail to communicate the depths of pain and suffering experienced by victims of trauma in general and human trafficking in particular. Lexi, Diane and Phil’s stories put powerful human faces unto what I believe are Canada’s very own version of the “Disappeared” within our society.

If someone calls The Chrysalis Network, what can they expect?

Chrysalis offers LGBTQA-friendly supportive trauma counselling to trafficked and exploited women and men along with referrals to partner organizations across Canada who can assist them on the ground.

hanging by a threadWhat is it like to talk to someone on the phone who is a victim of sexual exploitation? Is it difficult?

It is both a painful and humbling experience. You’ve never met a braver human being than someone who has been utterly degraded and violated in body and soul yet is determined to hold on to life and hope, even if only by a thread. The callers on the Chrysalis line are some of the most courageous people I have ever met in all my work as a trauma psychologist.

Do you have a story you’d like to share of someone finding help through your work?

I had a beautiful conversation a few weeks ago with a young man in Ontario who is currently in the commercial sex industry.  He was trafficked into the industry by his step-mother who sexually abused him.  We talked about his loneliness, isolation and shame as well as the fact that he’s not sure he even knows how to live outside this dark Underworld.

He told me about the degradation he has experienced in the business as well as the exhilaration he sometimes feels with certain activities such as stripping.  Then we spoke of love and the fact that he has never been in love.  He’s been touched by many women but never cherished by them.  He knows about physical pleasure but knows nothing of human tenderness.  He knows about physical intimacy but knows nothing about emotional trust.  As we spoke, he came to the realization that, in many ways, he is still reenacting his early sexual abuse history with women much like his step-mother.  He was orphaned after the death of his biological parents and the one adult who was left to protect him preyed on his young body and mind instead.  Fifteen years later, the game is still in play . . .

If you could tell people one thing about the Crysalis Network that they might not know, what would it be?

Chrysalis is 100% volunteer run and operated. That means that 95% of all funds raised by or for our organization go directly to victims either by keeping the crisis line going or by going into our tiny victim rescue fund, which can be accessed by partner agencies across Canada. The other 5% of funds goes to pay for our insurance and occasional printing costs.

happy kids

What do you think is the best way to reduce vulnerability?

Protect kids. Teach them that they are loved and worthwhile. Teach them to believe in themselves. Encourage them to follow their dreams. People with high self-esteem, strong social supports and a deep feeling of empowerment do not tend to become victims of human trafficking. For those adult children that we have already failed as a society, all we can do now is step-up, take responsibility and rescue as many as we can.

You can check out the Chrysalis Network website and support their work by participating in the Freedom Rally in September.  Jacqui, thank you for the work that you do, and for your deep compassion for those who are falling through the cracks.





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.


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!

Melanie in a CEPICAFE sugar cane field 768x1024

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.


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, 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!





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