Archive for the ‘Meet an Abolitionist’ Category

Miss Canada 2011 Tara Teng Speaks About Human Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on February 7th, 2012

Miss Canada 2011 Tara Teng

Last year when my husband Jay and I were living on Vancouver Island, we had the honour of screening our documentary about sex trafficking at an event hosted by Miss Canada 2011, Tara Teng.  Back then she was just days away from winning the Miss Canada title, a platform that has provided her with opportunities to fight for the exploited all over the world this past year.  One of those opportunities included a 4 month internship on Parliament Hill with MP Joy Smith, who champions the fight against human trafficking in our government.

Since that event in BC, we have become friends with Tara, and she is truly one of the greatest abolitionists of our time.  Don’t believe she is more than a beauty queen?  Read our interview with Tara!

In addition to catching up via Skype dates over fair trade tea, I love following Tara’s blog.  Recently she wrote a beautiful post about conviction.  Here is an excerpt from that post, followed by a recent Relate Church video interview that is so powerful.

I’ve learned many things over the past two years but one thing that I learned is that the spotlight reveals truth. When all the glitz and glamour fades away, all that will remain is your character. It doesn’t matter how much you shine from a distance, it is only by the strength of your character that you will ever be able to influence others.

Strong character inspires respect. It is by your character that you leave a legacy worth remembering. Good leaders are not born through the spotlight; their character was cultivated deep within them far before they stepped into the spotlight.

Character is only strengthened through intentional discipline to apply integrity to our daily lives in every situation that we encounter.  Character is refusing to back down from your convictions and choosing to do what is right, regardless of personal cost.

True leaders have taken the time to invest in the growth of their character. They know that their convictions and integrity must be intact before accepting any position of leadership or platform. I walked through years of character development and learning hard life lessons before I ever stepped up to the platform of Miss Canada or Miss British Columbia. I went into the pageant with a clear focus, end human trafficking and the sexual slavery of my sisters around the world. I was intentional in my decisions leading up to the pageant and throughout the pageant. No revealing evening gowns, no fake hair extensions, fake nails or bra inserts and no swimwear competitions…No matter how fierce the competition may be, I refused to alter who I was or water down my message. Winning a title is never worth compromising in your convictions.

God is daily challenging me to deepen in my convictions and strengthen my character. I named my blog “With Conviction” and I sign all my emails with the signature “With Conviction” because I want everything in my life to be drenched with conviction. I’m not perfect but I’m willing to learn the hard lessons in life because I know that it is through these that my character is strengthened.

Thank you Tara for reminding us that we have such a responsibility and opportunity to promote justice and freedom in our world!

**In case you missed it last week, check out Eye See Media’s interview about human trafficking with me here.

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Meet an Abolitionist: Petra Bosma of IJM Canada

by Michelle Brock on November 25th, 2011

PetraThis past summer, I had the privilege of meeting an enthusiastic and lovable International Justice Mission representative at an anti-trafficking meeting hosted by World Vision.  Petra Bosma is the Communications Coordinator at IJM Canada.  And I would like you to meet her!  For those of you who want a job in the social justice field, here is a great example of what that could look like.

Petra, where did you grow up? Are there any childhood memories you be willing to share?

I was born in the Netherlands and moved to Canada when I was five. I grew up on a dairy farm near Cornwall, Ontario.  One of my best childhood memories is playing Cops and Robbers with our neighbours. Almost every night during the summer, we’d cross the field that separated our farms and we’d play at least one game of Cops and Robbers.

How does your childhood differ from what many children in the world experience, and how do you feel about this?

I think it’s hard to realize just how different our childhoods are in comparison to the childhoods that most children in the world experience: limited education and economic opportunities, exploitation, etc. None of it is fair, is it? Because the reality wasn’t [and isn't] fair, I wanted to fix it all. One thing I had to come to terms with was that I wouldn’t be able to get involved with every single cause and every single initiative. I decided to choose one or two key initiatives to get involved with and try to make as much of an impact there as I could.

Do you remember when you first became aware of social justice/human trafficking?

I think I have a personality that naturally bends toward caring about justice issues. As a kid, I would get really upset when someone seemed to get away with something unfair or unjust. You know, like when you see the kid next to you cheating on a test and they don’t get caught.

I can’t pinpoint an exact moment that I became acutely aware of social justice issues. I think I may always have cared about social justice issues, but I became focused on functioning public justice systems in university. I took a fourth-year course called Transitional Justice. The course touched on some really heavy topics and examined approaches to justice for countries that had experienced mass atrocity. The lasting impact the course had one me was that it spurred a deep desire in me to see public justice systems function effectively.

The more I learned, the more aware I became of the very real atrocities that happen when a public justice system fails, and when systems are corrupt or fail to protect people, especially the poor. Around that time, I became aware of International Justice Mission and the work it was doing. It was addressing the very social justice issues I felt so strongly about.

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What is you role at IJM Canada? What is your favourite task/responsibility?

I’m the Communications Coordinator. I love a lot of things about my job. I get to do a lot of different tasks throughout the day, and I love that. My favourite task is probably writing. I got to do a lot of writing today, and I’m completely energized by it. I also get to manage a lot of our social media (we’re on Facebook and Twitter) and I love connecting with people who care about our work through those tools. Their passion and zeal to help fight violent oppression encourages and energizes me.

studyingWhat post-secondary education did you pursue and how does it prepare you for working with IJM?

I did an undergraduate degree in English and Political Science and a graduate degree in Political Science. It did two things for me: it developed my writing skills and taught me about government systems. Both things that help a lot with the work I do at IJM. My boss summed it up really well one day when he said that I deal with words and pictures. English majors deal with a lot of words. And the political science background helps me understand just how critical functioning public justice systems are.

Is there a specific story/rescue/event that has taken place since you’ve worked at IJM that has really impacted you?

The most impacting story I’ve heard while at IJM is about Suhanna. Suhanna had been trafficked and rescued in an IJM operation. While in aftercare, she made some unhealthy friendships, including one with a boy who claimed to love her. He convinced her to run away from the aftercare home. She did and was re-trafficked by him. This time she was trafficked to Mumbai, a city of 18 million people. IJM investigators and social workers decided to go looking for Suhanna, to see if they could rescue her again. They were told it would be impossible to find Suhanna. But they did. After four months of intense searching, IJM found Suhanna and rescued her again. She’s in aftercare, and is studying to be a social worker. You can watch her story here:

Can you give a quick summary of what IJM Canada does?

The best summary I can give you is probably the one found on our homepage:

International Justice Mission Canada is a human rights organization that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression, in partnership with U.S.-based International Justice Mission (IJM). IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to ensure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to ensure that public justice systems, police, courts and laws effectively protect the poor.

ijmIs there a project or initiative that people can get behind and support right now?

You can become a Freedom Partner. We need monthly supporters who are willing to give $24 a month to help IJM secure rescue 24 hours a day. It’s that monthly support, over the long haul, that allows us to continue to do our work. You can learn more here.

What advice would you tell people who are wanting to pursue a career in NGO/social justice work?

Learn all you can about the issue, and then figure out a way to meld your passion with your skills. Social justice work needs people who are accountants, writers, graphic designers, IT specialists, managers, etc. Really, the possibilities are limitless. And, when you love what you do, work doesn’t feel like work.

movie life is beautifulWhat is your favourite…

Movie? Life is Beautiful, The Sound of Music and the Band of Brothers mini-series.

Ice cream flavour? TART Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

Quote? “Never, never, never give up” – Winston Churchill

So there you have it, someone who has devoted their time, resources, and talents to fight on behalf of the oppressed.  Thanks Petra for sharing your journey with us. Don’t forget to check out the IJM Canada website to see how you can get involved!

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Travel, Diapers & Art: Meet Abolitionist Tasha Hakeem

by Michelle Brock on November 1st, 2011

I received an email a couple of months ago from a small business owner who wanted to support our film project.  Her name is Tasha, and after emailing back and forth for a little while I realized I just had to share some of her story with you!  She a great example of what it looks like to fight for justice in life’s different stages.

tasha1You and your husband share a love for photography and travel. Can you share with us the countries you have been to and where you currently live?

Combined, we have been to every continent except the Antartica! Besides our own countries (Nate was born in the US and I in Canada), we’ve been to Mexico, England, Finland, Ukraine, Ghana, Austia, Fiji, Australia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, India, Thailand, Italy, Holland, Jordan, UAE, Costa Rica, Brazil, Dominican Republic.  We currently live in the Niagara Region, in Southern Ontario, Canada.

Was there an event or person that triggered your passion for justice?

I think my whole life it has been hard for me to just look away or walk by something that wasn’t just. I have often gotten in trouble for speaking up for someone or something (or gotten my husband in trouble, but that’s another story for another time!). So, it’s partly just in me. Though, personally, I have experienced situations – physically, emotionally and spiritually – where I have had parts of me taken without permission or was manipulated and controlled. I know what it feels like to not be treated in a just way. So with those two combined, it has lead me to help others in whatever way I can.

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You asked if there was a specific person and I would have to mention a girl I mentored for some time. We met when I worked at a young offenders prison in my early twenties – she was an inmate. We got to know each other really well and she came to trust me; she became like a little sister to me. Her mum called me up when she had yet another court appearance and asked if I would go because she just couldn’t do it anymore. I heard a mum’s heart that wanted to see her daughter change, and though she felt she couldn’t handle any more of this with her, she didn’t want her daughter to walk alone. It didn’t take her long after that to get her life back on track and we’re still friends to this day. I would say it was the relationship of walking with her that has drawn me into the commitment of the long-haul when it comes to seeing victims of human trafficking freed.

My husband has also dealt with issues in his life which have led him to the same place of being able to show compassion to those who suffer, because he also knows what it’s like to walk in those shoes.

just momentsHow have you brought your love for art together with your heart for justice?

I remember coming to the end of my Fine Arts Degree at university and thinking how I wanted more out of being an artist than just having my work up on a wall with people wondering what it might be all about. I wanted to move people, to pull people in and push people into something more.

I wanted my art to cause people to react and respond with purpose. So, I put my paints and brushes on the shelf and a few years later, picked my camera back up. Though I’d love to integrate my paints in some way, I have been using photography to bring awareness to injustice issues from honour killing in the Middle East, to the street kids in Brazil and with my husband, human trafficking in Japan.

make it snappyTell us about Make It Snappy. What inspired you to start a business and what is your favourite thing about running it?

As my maternity leave was drawing to an end with my firstborn, I didn’t want to leave her to have to go back to work. As a natural entrepeneur, I am always thinking of things we could do or inventions I’d like to create – mostly while nursing my babies to sleep!

 

snappy before after2At about the same time, I was finding some of my cloth diapers were also starting to come to an end. They had velcro closures and because we wanted to have more children, I wanted them to last longer than just one baby. So, I converted some of the ones I had to snaps, making my own patterns depending on the cloth diaper being converted  and found that the snaps gave the diapers an instant new life! They looked better, stayed closed and didn’t create the diaper chains in the wash that had been happening. And I’m currently using them again on our second baby!

I gave myself a couple of months to see how things would take off before my maternity leave came to an end through vendor shows and promoting where and when I could. Make it Snappy became a legal business, and was up and running by the start of 2010!

What are your top 3 favourite things about being a mom?

tasha family11. I feel deeply honoured to be able to experience each phase of being a mum – pregnancy; birth & delivery; newborns; toddlers – it’s amazingly wonderful!

2. Seeing my children smile and hearing them laugh. And their cuddles – their cuddles are my absolute favourite.

3. Being at home with my kids. I don’t take it for granted and I am so grateful that my husband values a stay-at-home mum as much as I do for our children.

What do you hope to teach your children about the world and our role in it?

That their voice is important. They are not too small – even as children – to make a difference. Our role in this world is to be compassionate, loving, just and act. Not just to talk, but to be active – to speak for those who cannot speak; to stand up even if no one else does. we want to raise our children to be aware of their world. To stand up for those who have no voice. To be world changers.

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What do you think needs to happen for sex trafficking to end?

I think the Nordic Model would be a great step for countries to implement instead of thinking that decriminalizing and legalizing everything will make things safe. I mean, who are they kidding?! That’s why I believe in this new film Hope for the Sold is doing so much!  Some people just need things spelled out for them in overly clear ways… and some people just need to become more aware of the consequences and the issue itself.

snappy1I also believe we need more men to be voices in this fight. Men were created to protect us, not to abuse us in the most evil of ways. I think when we start seeing a turn in the mindset of men – and in what they allow in our society [as fathers, etc] – we will start seeing a real decline in how women are treated everywhere – from the media, advertising, the porn industry and human trafficking.

Women need men to stand up and be real men. Real men who fight for justice instead of choosing to just walk on by because it’s someone else’s problem. We as a society need to make this our issue in a very personal way. Then we will see a decline. I’m not sure if we’ll ever see it end… but I hope to and I want to!

Tasha has kindly decided to donate $1.00 from every diaper conversion to Hope for the Sold’s upcoming film on prostitution and trafficking. You can check out the Make It Snappy website here and see some more of her photography here!

Thank you Tasha for your family’s commitment to justice, and for being such a great example of what it looks like to live for more than yourself.

If you are a business owner and would like to support Hope for the Sold, please let me know and we can start that conversation!

Michelle Brock

Leaving on a Jet Plane: Meet 4 Abolitionists

by Michelle Brock on May 13th, 2011

I’d like to introduce you to some friends who are preparing to head to Southeast Asia on abolitionist expeditions.

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SETH AND MARLO JOHNSON

My husband and I met Seth Johnson first through twitter, and later met up with him in person in Jacksonville, Florida. Last year I wrote a post on Seth and the work he is involved with at Transitions Global, a fantastic organization that fights sex trafficking in Cambodia.

Seth and his wife Marlo are heading to Cambodia with a team of abolitionists, where they will be learning about the country and its recent history with genocide, taking an in-depth look at human trafficking, meeting with Transitions Global’s partner organizations, and doing community service along side the brave girls that they’ve worked so hard for and love very much.

There is no doubt in my mind that this couple will come back with even more vision, energy, and vigour for their work to restore the lives of those who have been exploited.  This is more than just a trip – this is leadership development, dream building, and vision-loaded investment into people who are already good stewards of the influence they have been given.

Seth and Marlo are raising $8500 USD for this trip, $2000 of which will  go towards the yearly care of one of the girls in the safe home with Transitions Global.  The first deadline is coming up fast – $4000 by the end of this month.

Please check out their story and give a donation toward their trip here. My hope is to interview them when they return so you can see what impact your support can have.  Let’s get this couple to Cambodia!

 

220789 10150549691315468 815895467 17964723 6845292 o 680x1024TARA AND TERRY TENG

Tara Teng, who currently holds the title of Miss Canada, is also heading to Southeast with her father, Terry.  I had the opportunity to interview Tara in Langley BC in March, and got to hear about her passion to end modern day slavery.

This June, father and daughter will be participating in an amazing journey with the Traffic Jam Campaign to raise awareness in the fight against child trafficking in Southeast Asia and around the world.

Their experience will begin in Bangkok, Thailand, where they will encounter the country’s flourishing child sex industry that enslaves children as young as four years old. They will also be visiting ministries who are working the front lines to rescue these precious children from further abuse and exploitation.

From there, the team will head North to participate in MTV EXIT‘s Freedom concert in Chiang Mai. Traffic Jam is supplying MTV with an incredible band, Sargent Avenue, who will bring a message of hope to the 30,000 to 40,000 people in attendance. Tara has been asked to be a speaker at this concert.

The Thailand portion of the trip will finish in Pattaya, where so many young women, girls and boys are trapped within a wicked sex tourism industry frequented by predators from the world over.

They will then spend a few days in Cambodia, principally visiting the Vietnamese communities that live on the waterways. These families are so poor that 30% of them have sold a child into the Cambodian sex trade in order to survive. Traffic Jam partners with churches to provide skills-development programs to give these vulnerable children an alternative future.

Traffic Jam has partnered with World Orphans to facilitate this trip. World Orphans has prevention, rescue and care programs for orphaned, abandoned, sold and trafficked children in over 50 countries.

The portion that they need to raise for the team is $6,600 USD and they need to raise it rather quickly (by May 15th). Contributions can be made online here.

Instructions: (1) Upon clicking on link above, scroll down to the bottom and click the “DONATE NOW” button (2) Designate the amount (3) Under fund designation select Re: Generation. (4)  Under message instruction, write the following: Thailand/Cambodia Mission 2011.  For those of you who would like to get prayer updates, include your requests to get prayer updates.

Via Mail:

WestCoast Baptist Association
131 East Kings Road,
North Vancouver, BC
V7N 1H4

Make cheque payable to: WBA Re: Generation
Write in Memo: Thailand/Cambodian Mission 2011

The effects of the Thailand and Cambodia trip will be seen right away, as in August Tara will also be leading a team composed of a band, dancers, actors, and human trafficking specialists on a tour called Ignite the Road to Justice.  They will be visiting 10 cities across Canada raising awareness about human trafficking, waking up the country to the importance of pursing righteousness and justice.

All excess funds that are raised for the Southeast Asia trip in June will go directly in to the general funds of Re: Generation and will be able to be directed to the cross Canada trip in August. Many have been asking how they can be involved in supporting both of Tara’s trips. This opportunity allows you to support both.

airplaneI would challenge you to support Seth & Marlo and Tara & Terry as they head out to Southeast Asia to learn more about human trafficking and fight for what is important.   Keep in mind the deadlines that are fast approaching.  Know that your support will go a long way as these four amazing individuals step onto that jet plane!

Michelle Brock



Meet an Abolitionist: William Wilberforce

by Michelle Brock on April 1st, 2011

William Wilberforce 238x300Often my inspiration comes from historical figures who have resisted the status quo and made change happen. William Wilberforce, who played a key role in abolishing the trans-Atlantic slave trade, is one of those heroes.

Born in 1759, Wilberforce was raised in an era where European slave traders were making regular trips to the West coast of Africa and shipping thousands of slaves to the Caribbean islands, America, and Europe.  The flow of people, raw goods, and manufactured product was also known as the triangular trade, and even today you can see the descendants of African slaves inhabiting many Caribbean islands.

triangular slave 300x266Wilberforce headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for 26 years, which resulted in the Slave Trade Act of 1807.  He worked tirelessly toward this goal despite his failing health, giving us no excuse to stand by without fighting for justice.

“If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.” -William Wilberforce

Here is a trailer for Amazing Grace, a movie about the abolition of the British slave trade.  It is a good reminder to us that though slavery has some unique characteristics in the modern-day, many lessons can be learned from Wilberforce and his group of dedicated abolitionists.

Michelle Brock

A Thread of Hope: Amy Seiffert Reaches Halfway Mark of Wearing One Dress for 6 Months

by Michelle Brock on February 15th, 2011

Amy Seiffert Day 371Amy Seiffert, a blogger, painter, and mom from Ohio, is wearing a T-shirt dress…for 6 months.  (Yes, she washes it!)  On November 15 she put on the grey dress and has worn it every day since, dressing it up with various accessories and borrowed pieces of clothing.

The money she would have spent buying new clothes is being donated to The Daughter Project, which helps victims of human trafficking in Ohio.  In addition to the money, her wardrobe choice has sparked plenty of conversations and raised awareness about sex trafficking and exploitation.

Today is February 15, marking the halfway point of this experiment.  I am delighted to announce that Amy kindly agreed to write a guest post for Hope for the Sold on this very special day!

vday flowersLove.  Candy.  Gifts.  Flowers.
Lust.  Condoms. Grieving.  Floundering.

What is Valentine’s Day like for the exploited? For the abused? For those held in sexual captivity? As my husband came home with a sweet gift for me, with a warm hug, with something for our son – I was overcome. With thankfulness. With joy. With love and peace and hope. And an hour later I was overcome. Overcome by the idea that young girls, on Valentine’s Day, are not being celebrated. They are being used.

dress3 12 223x300This is not right.
This is not right.
THIS IS NOT RIGHT.

What darkness they live in. What fear. What absence of love. Isn’t the opposite of love, fear?

And yet I will still hang onto a thread of hope. Literally. These gray threads I wear help me hope. Help me pray. Help me remember that 3 months ago today, I put on this dress. To make a statement. To say that women and children are precious jewels. They are rubies and diamonds and sapphires. They are so distinct and set apart that though some may try to wear them down, their beauty cannot be touched. These are the stunning ones. The lovely ones. The ones who we will squint at during the time of redemption because they will shine so bright.

Amy Seiffert dress 21 223x3003 Months have passed. 3 more to go. One Dress. One Hope. One God. To quote The Daughter Project…we don’t know why these horrors happen. But we know we are called to do something about them.

Wanna join me? Anything can be used to raise money, awareness, redemption and hope. Even a simple, gray dress.

-Amy

Check out The Daughter Project, and be sure to follow the rest of Amy’s journey on her blog!  You can also watch a CNN interview with Amy and read this news article by The Toledo Blade.

Thanks Amy for sharing your story and being a voice for those who are suffering.  I’m sure your project will be an inspiration for many abolitionists to get creative in the fight for justice.  We wish you all the best as you tackle the second half of your goal!

Michelle Brock

A Must-See TED TALK: Sunitha Krishnan Speaks On Rescuing Victims of Sex Trafficking in India

by Michelle Brock on February 9th, 2011

“The sense that thousands and millions of children and young people are being sexually violated and that there’s this huge silence about it around me angers me.”  -S.Krishnan

sunita krishnanMy brother-in-law recently sent us the link to this fantastic TED talk by Sunitha Krishnan, a woman who passionately fights on behalf of sex trafficking victims in India.  When this talk was filmed (2009), Krishnan had rescued more than 3,200 victims.  Hear about how her own experiences led her to do this work, what her biggest frustrations are, and what consequences she personally has to live with as a result of coming face-to-face with traffickers. Warning: contains some graphic images

I’m pretty sure this woman has just made my hero list!  What stood out to you during her talk?

You can check out Sunitha Krishnan’s website here.

Michelle Brock

More Than a Beauty Queen: Meet Miss BC Tara Teng

by Michelle Brock on January 28th, 2011

TaraTengThis week I had the opportunity to go to a showing of our film at Trinity Western University, where my husband Jay and I did Q & A with the students afterwards.  The event was hosted by Tara Teng, a beautiful and vibrant student who is passionate to end modern day slavery and exploitation.  In addition to being a student, she is the president of the social justice club and has two jobs.  Did I mention she also happens to be Miss BC?

My interview with Tara was delightful – her passion to fight human trafficking is contagious!  This girl is determined, motivated, and full of energy, but she is also humble, compassionate, and others-focused.  I hope this interview is able to capture some of that!

How did you get involved in the fight against human trafficking?

When I was younger, around 10 years old, I was fascinated with the underground railroad and the transatlantic slave trade.  In my early teens I kept running into the topic of human trafficking…documentaries, articles etc.  I got to the point where I started to actually look for it instead of just coming across it.  Tho whole thing terrified me. It’s dangerous, and let’s be honest, I’m not the toughest person out there!  It got to the point where I thought: I am tired of being too afraid to to be the person I was born to be.  I can’t keep this to myself.  Now you can’t have a conversation with me without talking about this.

tara teng abolitionist1What are you currently studying and how do you see that playing out in the future?

I’m studying Education, with an English and Spanish language focus. I want to use education as a rehabilitation and prevention tool for human trafficking.   Knowledge is power. Education provides resources for people to traffic-proof their lives, especially those living in poverty. Whether I actually end up being a teacher or not – who knows where life’s curve balls will take me! But I know that my career will in some way be connected to abolition.  It is to be determined how that plays out!

Miss BC 300x199How have you been involved in the fight against trafficking so far?

Telling everybody I can. Social media is amazing. Facebook, Twitter, my blog. As Miss BC the opportunity to spread the word has been amazing! Now I am doing public speaking on a regular basis, and they always start off with ‘why did you do the pageant’ and ‘what do you hope to do now as reigning Miss BC?’ Human trafficking is what I’m talking about. That’s when the magazine interview really starts to go somewhere!  I’m doing about 4 interviews/speaking engagements a month.  I had never even done any public speaking before the summer and everything is crash course learning!

MissBC 300x201What is the response when you do these interviews?

At first they come in with their preconceived idea that I am just going to be a ‘pageant girl.’  They ask me all the time if I want world peace, and I say: “No, I’m here to declare war! War on injustice, war on greed…!”  And they say…’okay that’s pretty cool!’ I had never done a pageant before.   Pageants are not my focus. I always say that I’m not a beauty queen, I’m an abolitionist.  That is the heart of it for me: social justice, human rights, ending exploitation, speaking out for the oppressed and the marginalized, and raising awareness of ending modern day slavery.  The title is just a platform and avenue which to do it.

guatemala 300x225Our world gives us a very one-dimensional version of beauty.  It is all about sex appeal. What is your definition of beauty?

I always say that the world needs to know that they were wrong about beauty. And that’s something that is really important to me. Beauty is not a contest. Its not a skin colour or a size or a style. Beauty is the legacy we leave behind, beauty is grace, beauty is compassion, beauty is justice. Beauty is in the moment doing what you know is right, beauty is impact.  ’Beautiful’ girls are a dime a dozen, and you’ll find them all over the place. ‘Beauty’ tarnishes and wrinkles and it’s skin deep, but the thing that is really beautiful is the way that we love one another and the way that we stand up for one another…that is the thing that will really make an impact. People miss that because they want to comform to the popular idea of beauty.  But I don’t want to waste my time and my life on that. I want to be brave enough to be myself, because that is something that is beautiful.

How does our society’s contorted view of beauty play into sex trafficking?

Everyone has insecurities, and thats how you prey on the weak and vulnerable. If I had grown up in a different home with different parents, I could have been so different because I had my days, as a 13 year old girl, where I just wanted people to love me. And if that somebody is the wrong person, you are vulnerable. You want to be desirable and cherished and that is used against you.

antitrafficking 300x225What is the one question you wish people asked you?

Any question that leads to justice. I hate it when people compare me to Miss Teen South Carolina and that girl who got that maps and Iraq question wrong. I just think, “I’m so not like her!” This is my heart. I wish people asked me where they can sign up, what they can do.  Because that is when we will really start to see a change.

What are your hopes for Miss Canada?

Of course everybody wants to win, but for me it’s about national awareness and the opportunity to make this message international. This is what I was born to do. Those are my hopes for Miss Canada. I will know by Saturday what the outcome is, but going into it, I know what I stand for, and if that’s not what they are looking for that’s okay.  Because another door is going to open, and the message will get out.  I’m not going to compromise or water it down, play the game so I win the title, because this is what I am called to do. Those are my hopes around it.

MissBC with Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Shortly after this interview Tara won the title of Miss Canada 2011! You can follow her blog here.Thanks Tara for being so committed to fighting human trafficking and using your platform to do some serious good.

Update: Tara just won the title of Miss World Canada 2012, and she will be heading to Mongolia to represent Canada for the Miss World 2012 Pageant.

(photo credits Danny Hiaso Photography & Jessica Teng Photography)

Michelle

Abolitionist Longings for 2011

by Michelle Brock on January 12th, 2011

microphone11“There is a space between man’s imagination and man’s attainment that may only be traversed by his longing.”

-Kahlil Gibran

I asked some fellow abolitionists what the following question: What do you long for in 2011? Here are their responses.

Perrin2“My hope for 2011 is that more Canadians will respond to the growing awareness about human trafficking, marshalling their unique talents, skills and resources. Abolitionists have to be more organized, more motivated, and more innovative than the traffickers for us to turn the tide against modern-day slavery in our country.”

Professor Benjamin Perrin, author of Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking

Abolitionist Brian McConaghy1“In general terms I long to see in 2011 ordinary Canadians recognize the reality of modern day slavery. Not as an intellectual exercise but as a precursor to action and involvement that we, as a nation, would be regarded as those who value the voiceless and take on challenges too great for us as Wilberforce did. I have always believed that Canada is a country that should be punching way above it’s weight class.

In specific terms (very specific) I long that in 2011 I will see the rescue of a Cambodian girl named Sung. She was sold when she was 10 years of age. I have been searching for seven years. She is still out there.”

Brian McConaghy, Founder of Ratanak International

Mp Joy Smith“I long to see increased awareness of human trafficking and more public education about human trafficking. I also would like to see Canada adopt a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking to support victims and provide a comprehensive response. Finally I would like to see Canada adopt the Nordic model of prostitution so we can target the market and ultimately eradicate sex trafficking.”

Joy Smith, Member of Parliament Kildonan-St. Paul

JOosterman“I hope to see a national response to human trafficking where the federal government and provincial governments commit funding and resources to stopping human trafficking. I would like to see a stronger focus on the market for sex trafficking, holding the johns accountable. Also, we need to make sure those who want to escape the sex trade have the support systems necessary to do this. Finally, I hope to see an awakening in Canada that would grip our nation with the brutal reality of modern day slavery. That Canadians would ‘get it’ that sex trafficking and forced labour is a significant problem here, not just abroad.”

Joel Oosterman, Chief of Staff, Office of Joy Smith, MP

Seth11. More awareness of the issue. It still amazes me how many people I talk to that have no idea that slavery still exists. We need people to be made aware! Once that has happened they quickly need to be moved to action. Often times, in our North American culture, we think that being aware of an issue is the end all… I often hear people speak of their activists friends. They brag on what others are doing and say it as if they are living vicariously through their friends actions. I wish people had a better understanding of the fact that they can be world changers as well! You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to do it all yourself… But you do have to do something… in order to make a difference. Simply being aware will not change lives.

2. I long for more money. Often I tell groups that I feel crass saying that and boiling such a horrific crime against humanity down to dollars and cents. However, the traffickers are in a 44 billion industry. That is 44 with nine zeros at the end. They are in this for business, while I see a lot of people that are on the other side, in the anti-trafficking fight, as a hobby or a feel good “calling” that ebbs and flows with the daily struggles of life. I would be hard pressed to believe that in the last ten years we have even raised 1% of what traffickers make in a year, to fight it. Groups that are effective in this fight, must have funding to fight harder!

3. Community. Personally for me I long for community in NE Florida that will rally together to join this fight with me! This fight is a dark one and can be lonely at times. It is so much better to do this with a group of incredibly committed individuals. I am extremely appreciative of people that come out to an event, or make a one time donation…. but there is something about being in the trenches with people who want to eradicate slavery!

Seth Johnson, Transitions Global

Thanks for sharing your hopes and dreams for the year with our readers!  In these first weeks of 2011 I have longed for organized crime to experience disorganization, division, and confusion, and for traffickers to have a radical change of heart.

And now a question to all our readers: What do YOU long for in 2011?

Michelle Brock

Meet an Abolitionist: Maddie Charnuski

by Michelle Brock on December 13th, 2010

Maddie6 300x200Meet Maddie Charnuski, an energetic and personable university student who is passionate about ending modern day slavery.  I recently had the opportunity to ask her some questions about her journey to date.  I hope that her answers inspire you to get creative and use whatever talents and resources you have been given to end injustice in our world!  She has certainly been an inspiration to me.

global citizenHow did you first find out about human trafficking?

I first learned about human trafficking through my own research of becoming a global citizen. I had always heard the term but never knew what it meant. I was taught in school that the slave trade was over, but just by researching about it I quickly learned that it’s not the case. In grade ten I was fed up with only living for myself and decided I needed to become more educated about human trafficking and tell others about it.

Why are you so passionate about this cause?

I’m currently 18 years old and I believe that I’m no different than an 18-year-old girl living in Cambodia or anywhere else in this world. Just because I live in a ‘first world’ country doesn’t give me a right to forget about others in third world countries. The only difference is our place of origin; where we were born. I’m really not that different from these girls who are trafficked and raped every day. Human trafficking happens in every country, and I’m extremely passionate about educating others because though awareness people can better protect themselves. I believe human trafficking can end through education and people standing up against it. If there was no demand to buy, sell and rape these girls than the supply of these girls would significantly decrease.

Maddie5 300x225What event did you put together at your high school?

At the end of grade 10 I started a Youth In Action chapter by Free the Children at my high school. My dream was to plan a community event to educate citizens and raise money for children in a developing country. This occurred in running an event called for Change in April 2010.

There were about 15 people involved in planning and helping make this successful. Tickets were sold for 5 dollars and included coffee/tea and pie. We sold around 200 tickets. We had students from our high school playing different musical instruments throughout the night. We raised over $2500 that night and sent it to a school in Namibia to buy school supplies. Most of the school’s students were orphans living on the streets or children living with their grandparents. Many of them are left vulnerable to become victims of human trafficking because they are living under the poverty line by themselves, desperate to find a better life. The school did receive the money and wrote back mentioning how thankful they were. It was a big success!

Maddie3 224x300How did you get involved in making Christmas cards for trafficking victims this year?

For the past year, educating myself about the sex trade has been my main goal. However, this Christmas I really wanted to show these girls that they are so precious and not forgotten: that they are loved by the Lord and loved by me even though I don’t know them personally. An organization called A21 (abolishing slavery in the 21st century) gave an amazing idea for me to make a Christmas card and send it to a safe house for girls who have been victims of the sex trade. This was such a cool idea that I couldn’t just make one Christmas card! So I planned an event at my residence in University and also at my old high school’s Youth In Action group.

Maddie4 300x224How did you plan the event?

I planned this event with my friend Laurie. We approached student council asking if we could take over a snack night (where members of my residence meet at night to hang out and eat snacks) to give students the opportunity to make Christmas cards! We had a table set up with facts about human trafficking and a place where residents could make these cards. After this event I travelled to my old high school to talk and educate approximately 20 students about human trafficking. After my presentation they had the opportunity to make Christmas cards as well.

Maddie1 300x224How do the cards get sent there?

A21 gave us the address of the safe house in Greece, where these girls who have been traumatized by the effects of the sex trade will receive our cards. We came together this Christmas to tell these girls that people in Canada are thinking of them, praying for them, and saying that that we don’t think what has happened to them is okay.  We sent 68 cards to Greece!

Thanks Maddie for sharing your creative ideas with us!  For those of you who want to meet another abolitionist, check out September’s post on Seth Johnson.  If you want to help 19 victims of human trafficking in Canada this Christmas season, check out last week’s post and respond by December 18th!

Michelle Brock

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