Posts Tagged ‘human trafficking’

The Brave Collection: Give for a Cause

Been traveling so haven’t posted in a bit.

Today is, of course, the anniversary of the Newtown tragedy–a Cause for Pause is ever there was one. Without wading into the politics of gun control and the mental health system, please be sure to take a personal moment today to think about your relationship to families and community.

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BravebraceletOn an entirely separate note—whether you’re still shopping for gifts this season, have already passed your big December gifting holiday, or just looking for something for yourself to kick off the new year, I just saw (Thanks to the always-amazing website of Somaly Mam, one of my favorite charities) The Brave Collection. It’s a line of jewelry made in Cambodia by artisans suffering from disabilities or from backgrounds of poverty. The design of the metal portion is the Khmer word for “BRAVE” and each piece is made and woven by hand. Proceeds from the sale of the pieces go to higher-than-average wages for the artists (most of them struggling mothers) and donations also go toward local organizations fighting against human trafficking. While giving to small community organizations and self-sustaining industries for artisans, it is a symbol of bravery–yours, theirs, ours.

18 for 18: Jump for Somaly Mam

18for18 banner 2_0I love simple ideas that catch the imagination on fire. 18 for 18 started three years ago when Serinda Swan decided to raise $18,000 to end human trafficking, by jumping from an airplane at 18,000 feet. A buck a foot. It’s smart, catchy, easy to remember so others will discuss at school or the water cooler or dinner table. The funds went to Somaly Mam Foundation—one of my faves—to continue the fight to end modern day slavery. Now, three years down the road, and there are multiple events and celebrity supporters. August 10 is the event in New York, and August 17 in Santa Barbara, and there are also jumps in Australia and Canada. The jumpers will collectively raise $100,000 this year (probably much more), which will cover two years of rescue costs and support partners in Cambodia to free women and girls sold into the sex trade.

Girls in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos are sold for about $50 to brothels, where they can be forced to service up to 25-30  clients per day. The youngest sex slave freed by the Somaly Mam organization was only two years old. You can jump and support (100% of the proceeds go directly to SMF) and absolutely find out much more about the work of the Somaly Mam Foundation and the amazing woman for which it is named.

 

 

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Tomorrow, January 11, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. If you’ve been a long-time reader of my blog I’ve certainly rattled this cage many times–there are more slaves right now than at any other time in history–here in the United States as well as internationally. Children and adults, in the sex trade, garment workers, agriculture workers, housework, construction laborers…indentured servants, sexual slaves, entire families in debt bondage. Tomorrow is a day to talk about it (as is every day), to shine light on this shameful fact of our life. Presidential hopefuls are campaigning but will never mention this (at least one portion of the issue is too fraught with unpopular opinions about illegal immigration and cheap, next-to-free labor picking our food for our dinner tables). Sexual slavery clientele–the end user of that “product” if you will, is practically a codified part of Washington wink-wink-and-a-knowing-glance life in some good ol’ boy networks. (But please never think it is a regional problem–it is worldwide where kids are sold into prostitution on the streets, in brothels, and over the Internet).

ATEST (the Alliance To End Slavery and Trafficking) wants us to talk about it and keep talking about it. Give our business to those who defy the system of slavery (travel and tourism are some of the areas where this comes into play most)…look to The Code (by ECPAT–End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) to make travel decisions–these tourism businesses have signed a pledge to actively fight against modern-day slavery and trafficking of children.

You truly can make a difference with the way you spend and travel. So in addition to going on a volunteer vacation to change the world for the better with your involvement on a project, make sure that the sources and suppliers in your personal consumption chain make a difference as well.

That’s Two per Minute…

Every 26 seconds, another child somewhere is being lured in to the sex trade or slavery. Two million underage kids are forced into having sex with adults, perhaps multiple times each day.

Forty bucks can mean freedom for more kids. The 26 Seconds challenge asks us to donate $40 to Destiny Rescue to continue their international work freeing children from sexual slavery and trafficking. You get a necklace out of the deal, and if you can get just two of your family members and friends to take action as well, and we keep it going for fifteen levels–that’s a million bucks toward ending child slavery in our lifetime.

The project is, in addition to in-the-field rescue work and advocacy, in the process of building a work studio that can employ hundreds of rescued children in Thailand (children are sometimes sold into slavery situations by parents who cannot afford to feed them, and the price they fetch as a commodity helps the remaining family members eat for a few more days). While child labor elicits all sorts of reactions from us, there are instances where the alternative is far worse, and children working is a necessary evil for survival.

Get involved.

Save a life. And another. And another. Two kids lost every minute of every day–that cannot be…

Volunteer in Honor of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Photo: PEPY Tours

Today, March 25, is the 100th anniversary of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City. In 1911, when the fire broke out in a garment industry sweatshop that was locked to keep laborers inside and union organizers outside–many of the women workers–most of them immigrants working in inhumane conditions, perished.

What was a travesty of oppression a century ago still happens today. Modern day slavery and human trafficking keep some of the world’s industries going (agriculture, garment, mining, the sex trade) with forced labor and indentured servitude. When it comes to the clothing industry, sweat shops, and people working without the benefit of choice (or a living wage or humane working conditions), one of the hot spots on the globe–though by no means the only place this happens–is Cambodia. Somaly Mam is an inspiring advocate from Cambodia, fighting against slavery and bringing the fight to the worldwide stage with her foundation. Learn about her and her work–you will be glad you took the time.

A volunteer vacation opportunity in Cambodia that works with several community organizations for the betterment of situations faced by urban and rural populations, is a bicycle trip with PEPY Tours. The vacation money you spend with PEPY helps fund education programs throughout Cambodia, and your close-to-the-source immersion in the culture will make a difference in both your life and the lives of the children and adults of the programs where you’ll pitch in. Your participation supports education and literacy there, and educates you about responsible development and community progress among individuals with whom you will share time and stories and hard work.

Polaris Project—Fighting Slavery Today

It is the second largest, and fastest growing, criminal industry in our world, and yes, slavery is happening “over there” even now…but it is happening “over here” too…right now…today.

The Polaris Project is named for the North Star, Polaris, that guided slaves toward freedom along the Underground Railroad, and is an organization that is committed to combating human trafficking and modern day slavery. There are several great organizations committed to ending slavery and trafficking, this one with operations based in Washington DC, Newark, NJ, and Tokyo, Japan. Polaris Project is one of the few organizations working on all forms of trafficking and serving both citizen and foreign national victims of human trafficking. Their comprehensive approach includes direct outreach and victim identification, providing social services and transitional housing to victims, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC—the central national hotline on human trafficking), advocating for stronger state and Federal anti-trafficking legislation, training law enforcement and service providers, and engaging community members in local and national grassroots efforts.

The U.S. State Department estimates that 14,500-17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked illegally into this country each year for the sex trade or as involuntary servants. That is just the number of foreign slaves brought to the United States every year. The numbers are, of course, much higher on the international scale, and US statistics also rise when you include US citizens who are forced into modern day slavery—worldwide the numbers are at about twenty-seven million. 50% of the victims are children, under the age of 18, and 80% of the victims are female. Children pushed into the sex trade are forced into prostitution by the age of 12-14 years old…and this is a late start for some who begin being professionally assaulted before their age hits double digits.

The Polaris Project Action Center has ways for you to get involved. Don’t be a passive bystander while this continues, and grows. There are volunteer opportunities as well as action alerts and advocacy suggestions to help spread the word, lobby for change, and turn this unconscionable situation around. Take a stand.

We’ve Run Out of Visas for Crime Victims

Immigration is an issue that grabs people’s spirit close to the root—I find people getting passionate about the issue more than I’d expect, and from that passion and oftentimes, anger, rash decisions get made and harsh laws get enacted. I don’t know how to defuse the level of heels-dug-in irrationality (on both sides, I fear), but I do, personally, find this situation untenable.

Since 2007 (and how absurd is it that it took us until 2007?), the United States has created a particular visa, called a U Visa, for undocumented victims of violent crime, sexual assault, and human trafficking, who cooperate with legal authorities to capture the perpetrators of the crimes against them. You can imagine how often victims of sexual assault and human slavery/trafficking (an epidemic here in the US as well as around the world) are told by kidnappers/pimps/etc that if they go to the authorities they’ll be deported and/or imprisoned. Most are so fearful of the US Immigration repercussions that they put up with violent assault or ongoing slavery/trafficking (and we are often talking about kids here–10, 11, 12 years old, too many of them…and of course, in many of these cases, it is the trafficker that has brought the victim into this country against their will and undocumented).

So this victims visa, the U Visa, can really help cut down on violent crime and trafficking…BUT… the government has a cap and only allows a certain number of the U Visas to be issued per year…and they are all used up! When the new fiscal year begins in October, the next year’s U Visas can be granted, but between now and then? Tough luck victims. I’m sure somebody somewhere thought that putting an arbitrary cap on the number of these visas made sense, but I sure don’t see the logic. For the individual victim of violent crime, it really doesn’t matter how many before you were also victimized. It is so clearly, to me at least, a case of bizarre randomness being made into law based on statistics instead of humanity.

From Change.org: “Think about it this way: 10,000 victims visas means 10,000 violent criminals who law enforcement is able to investigate and prosecute. We should offer as many visas as there are victims, to protect both those individuals and the public from as many dangerous criminals as possible. Sign this petition to tell Congress to eliminate the arbitrary cap on crime victims visas.