THE WAR against Human Trafficking will not be won until we all band together to create awareness and attack the organized infrastructure that makes up this network of slavery, prostitution and exploitation. No longer can we stick our heads in the sand and believe in our hearts that this is not taking place in “my town” or “my neighborhood”. The longer that we turn a blind eye and take a stance that “someone else will deal with the problem”, or continue to naively believe that we as individuals can’t make a difference, the longer that these innocent victims will have their dignity, purity, respect, peace and life stripped away. Hats off to the following individuals and organizations who have made it their life’s work to bring awareness to the issue, who help to prevent at-risk children from being trafficked, are exposing the reality of human trafficking in America (not to mention some neighborhoods where you would least expect it) and who are breaking down all barriers to bring this network of organized crime to its knees.
Born To Fly International, Inc. –
Diana Scimone, Founder and Director of Born to Fly International, Inc., became passionate about the issue of Human Trafficking while on assignment in Mumbai’s red light district. Deeply disturbed by what she witnessed in India, Scimone was determined to take action. “Through a contact there, I had the opportunity to go through areas where trafficking runs rampant. One housing project had cages in the second story windows where I was told children trafficked from Nepal were kept,” she explained. “My contact described how these children, as young as five, are caged for thirty days after being brought over the border. They are starved, beaten, raped repeatedly and defecated on until they have no fight left in them…and are fit to become slaves.”
Born to Fly International, based out of Lake Mary, Florida, focuses primarily on the prevention aspect of Human Trafficking, educating at-risk children and their parents about the dangers of child trafficking. “Most children get lured into trafficking because they do not know the lies and schemes that traffickers use. Trafficking is extremely organized crime. From the “groomers’ to the “recruiters”, many people are truly unaware of how organized each trafficking network is. Prevention about being abducted and trafficked is key,” she adds. The organization creates awareness through The B2F (Born2Fly) Project, a 6-week community campaign which includes curriculum and a wordless book that can be used to teach children across the globe how to be aware of the issue. “We decided to go with a wordless book so that it didn’t have to be translated and could be understood by everyone. We are currently beta-testing the program in the Dominican Republic, Bulgaria, Thailand and the Philippines,” shares Scimone. “We hope to beta-test soon here in the U.S.”
Additional information about Diana Scimone and The B2F Project can be found at www.born2fly.org
Soulgems was birthed through a combination of jewelry designer Janelle Gibson’s artistic talents and her heavy heart for children who are sold into prostitution and slavery. Gibson became aware of the reality of human trafficking through an article she read back in 2004. The story described the horrific life of a young Nepalese girl who was used as a sex slave, contracted AIDS and suffered injuries to her spine before being rescued by the organization, Maiti Nepal; the young woman had suffered through years of abuse and was just eleven years old at the time of rescue. “This story haunted me for months,” shares Gibson. “I began to research and I learned that more than a million women and girls, some as young as five, are being sold each year into the illegal sex market. More than 70 percent of these women will become infected with HIV/AIDS.”
With the desire to deepen her level of understanding of the sex trafficking industry, Gibson journeyed to Southeast Asia. “I realized that while rescuing girls and prosecuting traffickers is a crucial part of stopping the atrocities, only education and training can truly break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and trafficking in developing countries. Women trained in a skill or trade that lets them earn an income are far more likely to send their children to school. And, girls who are educated and have a wider range of choices are less apt to fall victim to traffickers,” she explains.Gibson founded Soulgems in 2005 – a sterling silver jewelry line that raises money to combat sex trafficking. In addition to not paying herself any salary for all jewelry sold, Gibson donates 100% of all profits to her partner organizations: the Prevent Human Trafficking Institute, Friends International, the Girl Child Network Worldwide and Friends of Maiti Nepal. Every piece in Gibson’s “Soulgems” collection is dedicated to a specific survivor of sex trafficking or an individual who has helped to rescue, shelter and educate victims. “Much has changed since I started Soulgems in regards to people talking about this issue. There is a lot more information available now; many people in the world are raising funds and lobbying to combat these horrific problems. This makes me very happy. I believe that all humans have the right to thrive and live a healthy life,” she adds.
To learn more about Soulgems and to shop their sterling silver jewelry line, please visit www.soulgems.org
Mercy Movement/ Not In My Town –
Charles Powell and Dillon Burroughs founded Mercy Movement in order to fight human trafficking through research, education and non-violent direct action (when necessary). The organization is described on the website as one that works alongside similar groups and helps to rescue slaves and get them through recovery, “going into a dark world, far beyond the suburbs and polite conversation”. Powell is a social justice activist, public speaker and film producer whose training in police investigation and counterterrorism helps him in his fight to stop modern slavery in the United States and around the world. Burroughs has authored many books on faith and social justice issue and is also an Outreach award-nominated writer. In addition to their roles in the Mercy Movement organization, the two have come together in their desire to bring awareness to this issue through their new book, Not In My Town. The book takes a deeper look into the fact that slavery, though taught in America as something that was eradicated in 1865, still is alive and flourishing in this day and age. Not In My Town shines a bright and much needed light on the slavery system that crisscrosses Atlanta, Orlando, Las Vega, New York, California, Texas, North Carolina, Haiti, India, Amsterdam, Cambodia, etc. and how organized the trafficking trade is. “One of the least publicized, yet most important aspects surrounding human trafficking today is that the trade would be exponentially smaller without the direct involvement of international organized crime. Until we undertake a grassroots effort, akin to that of the 1960’s civil rights movement, in which people all across the United States in large cities and small towns alike band together with the same goals and like efforts, we will never see an end to the scourge of Human trafficking,” shares Powell. “We must attack the economic model supporting human trafficking. Only when it is not profitable to participate in slavery because the cost outweighs the benefit, will nations and criminals cease to be involved in it.” For individuals and communities who want be truly educated on how to join together to create awareness and change, Not In My Town is a must-read. “Ending modern slavery will not take place until the public outcry is so great it can no longer be ignored. You can speak out and call others to join you to help build momentum against the tragedy of human trafficking. You don’t need be a billionaire or have celebrity status; you simply need to use your voice to make slavery history,” adds Burroughs.
To learn more about Mercy Movement or Not In My Town, please visit www.mercymovement.com and www.notinmytown.net
Children of the Night –
When speaking of people who have been a true pioneer in the combat against Human Trafficking, the name Dr. Lois Lee specifically stands out. This incredible woman has saved countless child prostitutes and blazed a trail in terms of academia, research, and within areas of law enforcement and legislation since 1975. As a PhD student, Dr. Lee wrote her doctoral dissertation on The Pimp and His Game – an extensive document heavily relied upon by Vice Officers, U.S. and District Attorneys, FBI agents, Social Service professionals, jury education and for the prosecution of violent and dangerous pimps. Dr. Lee founded Children of The Night (COTN) in 1979 and spent the next three years caring for the 250 child prostitutes that passed through her apartment. “I founded Children of the Night because in 1979 the Department of Children and Family Services refused to accept children prostituting in their system of care because prostitution was a crime and they felt that these children would contaminate the other children under their jurisdiction/or care. At the same time, probation and juvenile court judges refused to accept the child prostitute in their system of care because prostitution was not a crime “against property” and did not warrant the expenditure of taxpayers’ funds. I believe these children were not entitled to services because “sex was at issue” in their victimization,” she shares. Dr. Lee describes how most of the children who wind up in prostitution are “most often ‘throwaway’ children; they have no one to care for them and they have no place to go”. COTN is solely funded through private donations and has rescued over 10,000 child prostitutes, offering them guidance, a nurturing and loving environment and a proper education to help turn their lives around. Through COTN’s 24-hour hotline, over 10,000 phone callers a year receive assistance from trained workers educated on how to communicate with law enforcement, rescue children from their pimps and properly prepare them to testify in court. Dr. Lee opened the COTN home back in 1992, which can accommodate up to 24 residents and provides and on-site school, individual case management, wholesome outings and a chance for the children to experience the “childhood” they never experienced. COTN also sends many of its residents to college; those graduates have gone on to become educators, lawyers and executives. Dr. Lee was recognized as a woman who “was ahead of her time” when she began her fight to combat child prostitution many years ago and her distinguished efforts continue to be held in high esteem. She received the prestigious President’s Volunteer Action Award from President Reagan, the National Caring Award, has been profiled on 60 Minutes and has had a television movie made on her life and work.
To learn more about COTN and Dr. Lois Lee or to donate, please visit www.childrenofthenight.org
Representative Jason Kander –
In addition to being an attorney and Captain/Platoon Trainer with the Missouri Army National Guard’s 140th Regional Training Officer Candidate School, Kander also represents part of Jackson County (District 44) in the Missouri House of Representatives. One main issue he fights for – to end trafficking and increase penalties for the offender. Kander is known for tacking some tough issues – fighting to prevent parental kidnapping, toughen laws against domestic violence and currently working to raise the state penalties levels for human trafficking. Rep. Kander recently introduced a bill that will enhance state penalties for trafficking to match federal penalties, empowering state law enforcement. In addition, this bill will also require the offender to pay restitution to the victims who aren’t able to afford rehabilitation, physical or mental. “I feel strongly about this issue because I simply can’t stand the injustice of slavery being a reality in my community. I met with several members of state law enforcement responsible for investigating these crimes and learned that the disparity between state and federal punishments for the crime served as an inadvertent disincentive for state law enforcement,” explains Kander. “I dedicated myself to closing that disparity in order to incentivize more levels of law enforcement to join the fight. I also found that existing state law called for some incarceration but no additional fines. Once a trafficker completes a prison sentence, I don’t believe they should have access to money generated by their prior trafficking activities. My legislation both increases the mandatory prison time and creates a fine to be levied on the way to prison. I’m working to make sure state law enforcement has all the necessary tools to fight human trafficking and I’m confident that our legislation will be successful.”
To learn more about Rep. Jason Kander, visit www.jasonkander.com
Compassion International &
Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale
One of the United States biggest churches has teamed up with one of the World’s largest child development organizations. Their mission? To help get impoverished children sponsored, decreasing the likelihood of those children being trafficked for profit or sex. Sponsoring a child through Compassion International is the perfect option for those who want to get involved in the fight to stop human trafficking but perhaps don’t know where to start or how to make the greatest impact. When a child is sponsored through Compassion, they then have to ability to go to school, fed nutritious meals, get any medical attention that they may need and also are spiritually fed by a local church where they are taught the gospel. Compassion goes directly into some of the most impoverished areas across the globe and has helped over 1 million children and their families. Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale has been a long-standing partner of Compassion and has chosen the fight against human trafficking as a main issue for the church to tackle. “For years, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale has responded to the many injustices that exist both locally and globally and has a deep burden for vulnerable children in crisis. When we came face to face with the reality, darkness and sheer magnitude of human trafficking, we knew Jesus would have us respond. We knew He was calling us to be the extension of Himself… to fight for the protection, rescue, salvation and healing of those oppressed and captive… those He died to set free. We, as Christ’s disciples, cannot possibly turn a blind eye to slavery in our world. Jesus didn’t, so why would we? ” shares Lysa McMillan, of Calvary’s Outreach Mission.
To learn more about Compassion or to sponsor a child, please visit www.Compassion.com .More information on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale can be found at www.Calvaryftl.org
Las Vegas based organization Hookers for Jesus ministers healing and restoration for individuals and families that are affected by sexual exploitation. Services are specifically designed and delivered through four steps – Hook (Outreach), Heal (restoring people emotionally and spiritually), Help (Transitional Assistance) and through their Destiny House Program. Hookers for Jesus was founded in 2005 by Annie Lobert, an intelligent and beautiful woman who had first-hand knowledge about sex industry as well as a sincere heart to help other women pull themselves out of that lifestyle. For over 16 years, Lobert worked as a high-class escort, catering to famous actors, musicians, athletes and politicians. After leaving the industry, she came up with the name and organization Hookers For Jesus, basing it on Matthew 4:19, which states, “I will show you how to fish for people.” Lobert had a plan – to help people who are trapped in sex trafficking in any way that she could. “This issue is so dear to my heart; I am a former sex trafficked victim myself whom almost had my very life taken because of the sex industry. I have lived through traumatic experiences and have witnessed the worst atrocities to young ladies. I have had my friends either disappear or whom have been murdered by their tricks or clients,” shares Lobert. “I cannot sit idly by and watch more young girls/ladies become tricked and trapped as I and my friends both have. Someone needs to do something to help these ladies that more often than not are considered trash, or a”throwaway” prostitute. So, I felt what better way to reach the ladies then from a perspective of someone that ‘gets it’ and has been there?”
Women who are ready to get out of the industry are welcomed by Lobert into the Destiny House, a SAFE transitional home that provides support and assistance to those who want to begin a new life. Through Destiny House and Hookers for Jesus, Lobert, who takes the women to church, has seen many give their life over to Jesus and transform their lives. “One story that I love to share is of a young women who was working as a prostitute. She called me up one night from the very casino floor she was working and said she was finished. She left that very night; we went and picked up her beautiful toddler daughter and she left her pimp. She came into our Destiny House and completely surrendered her life to God. To this very day she is still going strong with her faith, she has a job, a new family and has never went back to the sex industry.” When asked her opinion about why some people still don’t seem to understand the level of trafficking that occurs every day, even here in America, she explains: “I think that they have a blind eye because they are part of the problem – participating in some form whether it be porn, strip clubs or escort services. Many also don’t want to see it because they have grown up in a ‘bubble’ of american suburbia church lifestyle. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, some cannot believe it is happening to such a prominent, influential wealthy country. I also think that society & the general churches opinion of “prostitutes” for many years has been negative. Some believe that “those girls chose this lifestyle” but in reality, this is far from the truth in many cases.”
In terms of how God would want us to respond to this issue, Lobert shares: “Let us look at the woman caught in adultery. Jesus didn’t judge her by throwing the rule book (the Bible) at her head. He simply let her know that He was mercy – in turn that showed LOVE. I am positive that He wants us to respond in the same way. God is love with action! Love these girls to healing and wholeness by helping them out of the lifestyle without judgment of why they have become prostitutes/victims. I also believe that the men that traffic/buy these girls need to be brought to accountability for their actions of forcing these girls/ladies into sexual slavery.”
To learn more about Annie Lobert, Hookers for Jesus and Destiny House, visit www.HookersforJesus.org
Originially named the Cooperative Housing Foundation, CHF International was founded in 1952 and helps over 20 million people every year improve their lives. With programs in more than 25 countries, CHF brings about change in low-moderate income communities across the globe. One specific area they have been focusing on is the issue of Human Trafficking, especially in Honduras, where it runs rampant.
Through the combination of a strong educational campaign and numerous events, CHF was able to reach almost 2 million people who live within the main trafficking routes in Honduras. “Honduras is a source and transit country for women, girls, and boys trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and forced labor. From providing these victims with vocational training and psychosocial support to offering financial assistance upon their return, CHF works with local partners to reinsert them into society. Our program, which was funded by the US Department of State, assisted more than 300 people in 20 months,” shares Milton Funes, the Country Director for CHF Honduras. Most recently, through CHF’s programs and services the organization was able to have 162 trafficking victims participate in vocational training and life skills workshops, have 40 victims reinserted in the workforce and 1098 victims received assistance to return to their original communities in Honduras, and with the help of local partners, provide integrated services to 1,414 victims.
To learn more about CHF and read their Annual Reports, visit www.chfinternational.org