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INDIA, March 29, 2015: 15 minors, 14 girls and a teenage boy, were rescued out of sex slavery from a locked brothel recently. New operatives with The Exodus Road (BRAVO team), comprised of five national investigators and one social worker, gathered evidence and took the evidence to the local police. The officials were then able to apprehend 7 traffickers. One other escaped during the raid. This successful rescue took place after three previous failed attempts which were tipped off by corrupt officials.

The victims are currently in a temporary shelter as police are looking for the best after care placement available.  Many of the girls want to go home where parents were not complicit in the trafficking.  These children need to be repatriated to other states within India, hundreds of miles away.  The BRAVO team social worker will be validating their home environments in conjunction with other NGOs in the regions from where these children come. While these 15 have been rescued from sex slavery, each one will now begin a long and important road to healing and restoration.

We could rightly celebrate just the fact that these young ones have been given freedom. That was not the end of the story, though. As more information was revealed we found cause for greater rejoicing. Two girls, an 8 year old and a teenager, new to the brothel, were both about to have their virginity sold. Their rescue occurred within days of this sale taking place.

While our organization is not focused on delivering after care services to rescued victims, we are committed to investing in providing victim services during and immediately following raids, as well as investing in partnership with other quality organizations whose main area of expertise lies in fostering the restoration process. (Learn more here: “Empower Rescue”)

In addition to the rescues and arrests, the local law enforcement has asked The Exodus Road for help training their police force on trafficking and rescue operations. The available resources will be evaluated to determine if this could take place in the next 60 to 90 days.

The identities of the victims and the officials have been protected in the following pictures taken during the rescue (view our media policy here). We would like to thank a private donor, as well as our BRAVO team supporters, whose financial giving continues to make raids and rescue operations like this possible. In addition, we remain honored to empower nationals, like the six individuals who currently comprise BRAVO team, in their deeply good work of bringing literal rescue.

 

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In one of our most strategic collaborative efforts to date nearly 150 people came together in Thailand from the surrounding regions to receive tools and information to help fight human trafficking more effectively. It was an honor to host the event this year.

“The Great Wall of China took 2,000 years to build. It was nearly 4,000 miles long, but it was built brick by brick. We are laying bricks in a much greater vision of freedom today. And it will take all of us doing our part. It will be a long fight; but it will happen brick by brick.”

– Matt Parker, CEO, The Exodus Road, in the opening keynote address

Liberty Alliance Registration and Speakers

The workshops and sessions gave the participants opportunities to connect with like-minded people from all three tiers of the fight: prevention, rescue, and after care. Over 50 organizations were represented including from both the government and nongovernment sectors. The Exodus Road was able to fund the expenses of the conference, apart from travel, which took place in a local beach community.

“Strong women fight for the freedom of others. Honored to rub shoulders with these world-changers this week at the Liberty Alliance conference!” – a participant

Liberty Alliance Strong Women

Pictured here: Office of Social Development, SOLD Project, GROW Thailand, Exodus Road

Liberty Alliance Conference Attendee

Liberty Alliance Conference collage

The conference centered around two goals:

1. Encourage collaboration among practitioners.

2. Provide tools and information to equip practitioners to fight trafficking more effectively.

To that end, we had a variety of keynote speakers and break out sessions from both Thai and Westerners, all leaders in their fields of expertise. Some of the sessions included:

  • Innovative Technology Tools to Fight Trafficking
  • After Care: Best Practices and Holistic Care
  • How to Build Successful Cases
  • Rule of Law, Corruption and Slavery: Strengthening Domestic and Regional Cooperation
  • The Repatriation Process for Victims of Trafficking
  • A Panel Discussion “MDT (Multi-Disciplinary Task force) and Victim-Centered Approach” with: Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Abuse Center, Labour Rights Promotion Network, Social Welfare and Protection of Rights Division, Office of Social Development and Human Security, and Fountain of Life Center

Liberty Alliance workshops and panel forums

The attendees had the following to say about their time at the conference:

“Collaboration is essential. If the traffickers can connect together for exploitation, how much more so must we work together for freedom?”

“I think collaboration between GOs and NGOs is essential for producing genuine impact. The strength of this conference was including participants from both sectors.”

“I really appreciate that you arranged this conference….I’ve learned a lot about human-trafficking which is completely new to me at this stage. Thank you!”

“We were treated so well and “rewarded” (through excellent accommodation and food) for being freedom fighters”

“This is amazing. I never thought I’d see this many people from both the government and the NGO community, coming together in such a positive way to fight trafficking.”

Liberty Alliance Conference Attendees

Liberty Alliance Conference gifts

We are excited about the connections that took place at this year’s leadership conference and are hopeful that in connecting in a spirit of unity, great strides for freedom will continue to be made here in SE Asia. We’d like to especially thank our partners at Equitas and Messenger International who helped financially make this event possible.

*****

What is The Liberty Alliance? The Liberty Alliance is a program we lead with two partners, Freeland and Liberty Asia, which exists to promote positive collaboration among practitioners in Asia while building capacity for those on the front line. You can learn more here: Liberty Alliance.

Liberty Alliance Exodus Road team

Enjoy these two video clips from the conference:

You know The Exodus Road helps find and free slaves. You know the covert rescue efforts carried out by brave operatives happen in the scariest places on earth. You know the work is necessary, even if it is hard to know.

But, how do you know all this? How did come to discover these needs?

Marketing happened. You received information and you became connected. Most likely you came upon this information one of two ways:

1. Someone you know told you about The Exodus Road.

2. You heard about the issues “somewhere” so you searched for more information and landed on The Exodus Road. “Somewhere” might be an ad, a feed online, a movie, etc.

However it was you became connected; we are grateful. Scientists with big brains determined that people more readily trust someone they know before they trust an unknown source.

Thus, we launched The Exodus Road Bloggers site! We wanted to gather a group of people to magnify the voices of those trapped in human trafficking and bound in sex slavery.

How it works: Fresh, new content is made available every month to bloggers on the site and in newsletters to their email inbox. They use that content to write posts on their personal blogs once a month.

NOT A BLOGGER BUT STILL WANT TO USE YOUR ONLINE INFLUENCE? That works, too! Sign up to get the monthly newsletter, and use the resources as inspiration on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, YouTube, or any outlet you frequently use!

What you’ll get: You get quick content to post on social media or to jump start blogs, connection with other like-minded bloggers, participation in contests and give-aways, blog posts promoted over social media channels through a weekly online newspaper.

What you do: Write a blog post – - copy and paste is fine! – - monthly (if possible!), put our badge on your site, and promote on social media as you can.

How to sign up: You can sign up right now. Follow this link: www.exodusroadbloggers.com

magnify the voices

Hundreds of bloggers and online speakers gather at the site and then write at least once a month about the issues of trafficking and sex slavery. The combined thousands influenced by this group will know more and they will also do more.

We help find and free slaves with strategic action using ordinary people. You are a part of that effort. We mustn’t ever disqualify ourselves because of our perceived range of influence.

Online voices influence specific pockets of people (aka: tribes) more effectively than communication from impersonal organizations. We feed individuals solid facts about the issues of human trafficking and sex slavery then they can act decidedly. The readers trust the person they have a personal connection with, therefore the impact goes deeper, lasts longer, and invokes action. That’s what it’s all about, right? We want people to know more so that they can take action as abolitionists.

Bloggers and social media speakers do that. Our voices, raised in unison against injustice, can change this horrific reality. 

The young girl suffering in a brothel cannot get free on her own. She needs rescue. We can speed freedom as we mobilize our tribes.

Are you a blogger? Are you active online? Do you want to educate your public about human trafficking and sex slavery? If you answered yes to any of those then consider joining this unique group.

You can become a part of the growing group of Exodus Road Bloggers today. Follow THIS LINK to join.

ER_BloggersBannerI am so honored to be leading this powerful group of people as we influence people to act against injustice.

- Angie Washington

Communications Manager with The Exodus Road

bloggers @ theexodusroad.com

 

 

Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA: A two day orientation event yielded 69 volunteers willing to move on to the next step in the application process. These men and women want to help fight trafficking with The Exodus Road through TraffickWatch, the CHARLIE team program.

Overall, I think last week was a success.  We had 40 people show for Tuesday’s event and 34 on Saturday.  Of the 74 who showed up, 69 chose to take an application packet and move forward to the next step.

- Kevin Campbell, VP of Operations for The Exodus Road

A paper in the area, the Gazette, covered the orientation with a very positive story: Volunteer Effort Launched to Halt Human Trafficking in El Paso County. The reporter came to the Saturday event, and even put the 27 Million Stones video at the end of the article.

Some astonishing facts:

Colorado Springs police reported the agency rescued 70 juvenile and adult trafficking victims and arrested 34 johns and pimps in 2014 and has recovered more than $200,000 in narcotics and cash since the department’s trafficking unit was formed in January 2014.

“This is Colorado Springs,” said Reid, while showing similar statistics to the attendees. “That is not nationwide or in Denver.”

- The Gazette

The need in this area is great. As these volunteers continue on with the preparation process they will be a vital asset to stopping this growing criminal activity.

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Svay Rieng, Cambodia: A swat team raid followed the investigation of a brothel which resulted in the rescue of 8 victims and arrests of 4 suspects.

Reports like these from field operatives are what it’s all about:

AIM swat: 3 girls and 5 women rescued in another raid! All of the victims are at AIM for restorative care and 4 suspected traffickers were arrested and now await trail.

Thanks to donations made by Pearl Alliance, the anti-trafficking arm of Messenger International, a grant from The Exodus Road was given to Agape International Missions (AIM) Swat team to purchase investigative gear. This allowed them to work in conjunction with the Anti-Human-Trafficking Judicial Police in Svay Rieng, Cambodia to bring rescue to eight victims bound in a brothel.

The following images were captured during this operation.

Cambodia 8 Victims Rescued from a Brothel 01

Cambodia 8 Victims Rescued from a Brothel 02 Cambodia 8 Victims Rescued from a Brothel 05

Specific details of the tactics used to conduct this raid are shared with other covert operatives, yet will not be revealed here for public access. The identities of the minors and women will not be shared either, for obvious reasons. We have been given one sad detail that we are permitted to share publicly. These 3 girls and 5 women were forced to see about 5 – 6 customers every night.

Now that they have been freed they are in restorative care. This will be a long process of recovery. We are so honored to be a part of bringing freedom to these eight lives.

You can connect with AIM Swat on facebook and leave them an encouraging message. (Click this LINK.) Raids like these require months of preparation, investigators with top level skills, and delicate timing. The efforts made to execute this mission successfully are astounding.

You can also visit the Pearl Alliance facebook page to say thanks for all they do in the anti-human-trafficking fight. They combine financial savvy with enormous generosity and enable the rescuers to have the equipment they need.

The Exodus Road continues to be committed to collaboration in order to help find and free slaves. We want to see a world free from slavery. We believe that this can come about when ordinary people come together using strategic methods; as we see portrayed in this mission. We celebrate this victory!

The Scarlet X

Angie Washington —  February 23, 2015

We wear our scars as testaments to our trials, and the overcoming of them. Scars brazened on the body connect us to those who have suffered. Scars in our souls ache and create a pathway to empathy, if we permit. Hurts bind us as humans.

END_IT_logoIn the book “The Scarlet Letter” a woman is ostracized by the people in her community because of the large, red letter A she is forced to wear. The punishment came due to her crime as an adulteress. My literature teacher required our class to read this book during high school. The discussions among the students revealed some deep truths about society. One of them being we have a tendency to punish victims. Our ability to shame others knows no bounds.

In the case of human trafficking many governments have strict punishments for the women being prostituted. Oftentimes the lawmakers are still working to even out the unbalanced treatment of pimps and johns and those who render sexual service. These are just a couple of examples of the far reaching problems surrounding the sex industry.

In order to fight these injustices we come together with quality organizations to collaborate. We can’t do it all alone. It’s too big for one. But we can come together, and our efforts are multiplied.

The Exodus Road is honored to partner in the coalition called END IT Movement. This is an excerpt from the grant proposal we presented which outlines how the funds we receive from this campaign will be used:

The Exodus Road will work with field teams to fuel three investigative and rescue missions for victims of human trafficking in Asia. While cases have greatly varied results, circumstances, and budgets (and thus results can never be guaranteed), … [the funds] to cover the investigative and raid expenses … will result in a total of (estimated) 15-30 rescued victims and 6-12 arrests of traffickers or pimps.

We join together to come alongside those who are suffering to bring an end to modern day slavery. We curl in the pointed finger of shame and create a fist to fight injustice by identifying with the victims. On our fists we willfully place a Scarlet X to proclaim we want to see a world free of slavery. We wear the pain of the women and children in the red light districts. We place an X as a symbol that we are pro-abolition. 

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On Friday, February 27 place a red X on your hand and tell everyone you meet about the 27 million people bound as slaves right now around the world.

Educating society is vital, but we can’t stop there. You still have time to form your own team of Freedom Fighters. Invite 27 of your friends and family help end slavery by donating $7 each. All the funds raised will be given to the coalition partners to help us stamp out slavery.

ENDIT screen shot 3

Watch the YouTube video to hear the rally cry.

Visit the END IT Movement site for more information, important statistics, and to see how many people have already joined. (Even our very own Madison Decker, the 8 year old abolitionist, is a part of the END IT Movement.)

ENDIT screen shot

From END IT Movement:

Since 2013, we’ve come together to raise awareness for the 27 million men, women and children trapped in slavery around the world today. In brothels. In factories. On boats. In homes. Across the globe. And here in America. We’ve raised our voices and our voice has been heard. But our job’s not done… Now it’s time to TAKE ACTION. Will you join us? Will you help us END IT?

Will you? 

Empower Those in Power

Angie Washington —  February 16, 2015

Imagine that parents lost a child in a store. They begin calling out the child’s name. The scared child comes running to the familiar sound of their name spoken by someone who cares deeply for them. How absurd would this scenario be if the searching parents went to a store employee and asked them to call for the child while they sat by watching silently. It makes more sense that the child would be found by their own parent.

At a recent event in SE Asia, The Exodus Road gave the proverbial local “parents” a voice to search for their lost children. Local officials equipped local police officers with tools for identifying and combatting human trafficking. The passion of a concerned loved one was transmitted very clearly.

Scarcity of resources often makes it difficult to provide training on key issues facing law enforcement officers, but earlier this month we coordinated with the Social Welfare Department to host an event to help train new police officers to the area.

About 75 officers came together to learn practical tactics about human trafficking. At the start of the event a speaker asked who had ever received this kind of specialized training before; only one person raised their hand.

Police Training Event quote

“I was thrilled to be a part of such an inaugural event! Attendees were eager to learn, and the presenters were passionate about teaching and their experience. How wonderful to have the local people pioneer change for their own communities.” – Juli, The Exodus Road Strategic Alliance Manager

Sessions included:

-          information on human trafficking law

-          how to build a strong case of human trafficking

-          how to collect evidence

-          case studies

-          a panel discussion by experts from social welfare and local anti-trafficking efforts

Police Training Event 11

Our new Operations Manager, Kuhn Koh, moderated the panel discussion and a close police partner shared openly about how Exodus Road has assisted him on cases in the past with investigative help and equipment grants.

Police Training Event

“The people in power have the responsibility to protect the people without power, the vulnerable. As police, you are the people with power.” from one of the speakers at the event

Our goal as a foreign NGO overseas is to work arm in arm with local authorities- supporting their efforts, filling in the gaps. We recognize that rescue without legal action doesn’t do much to affect the systems that enslave people, and we count it an honor to champion the leadership and commitment of those truly bringing rescue to their own local communities.

We’d especially like to thank the Social Welfare Department of Region Two for their hard work and leadership of this event.

 

 

*We are also grateful to our supporters at Messenger International who fully funded this training event. 

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Have you ever wondered about how the volunteer investigators are selected? Did you ever think about the unique skill set one must possess to be effective as a covert agent?

At The Exodus Road we believe that the world can be freed of slavery by ordinary people. We come together not as a mash-up of egotistical superheroes, but as a band of people who link arms and stand against injustice. Each part matters. Each part in its place makes us more effective.

We also firmly believe that volunteer investigators must be vetted if they are going to be efficient. The second ever Vetting Event ran by The Exodus Road saw 19 in attendance. Of that group 6 have been invited to join those being deployed as investigators this year. A similar event is scheduled for June.

vetting investigatorsThe event was led by VP of Operations Kevin Campbell. His words capture the heart of what was accomplished that weekend:

“I’m encouraged, and humbled, by the great turnout of so many passionate individuals willing to sacrifice their time, efforts and resources, to search for child victims of slavery around the world.  It was an amazing group of people, and we found some exceptional candidates to join our team.  And for those who weren’t selected, they still have a big part to play in this mission, and we’re excited to get them involved in other opportunities to engage the fight.”

The goal of the vetting weekend was to begin building a large team of Volunteer Covert Intelligence Officers that are available to deploy to SE Asia this year. Their terms of service range will from least 2 weeks and up to 1 year at a time.  We feel very good about the outcome of this vetting weekend.

It is not easy to find qualified volunteers that can pass our stringent vetting process. Each individual follows this track:

- application process

- background check

- psychological evaluation

- a series of 3 interviews

The atmosphere of the group changed throughout the day. As Kevin delivered his presentation on the global issues of human trafficking and sex slavery the candidates became somber and reflective. As they broke for lunch the conversations buzzed with excitement and hopefulness.  Then as the participants awaited the interview process things grew serious and focused.

We could not have had such a successful event without the support of Discovery Church (Colorado), who not only provided the venue and many of the candidates, but also provided support throughout the long day.

Volunteer positions with The Exodus Road abound. Write us at Volunteer{@}TheExodusRoad.com if you want to join the team of quality individuals who help find and free slaves caught in human trafficking.

Madison Decker is a normal eight-year-old child who does all the things a child her age does. Oh, and she is also a modern day abolitionist. She is fighting human trafficking as a volunteer for The Exodus Road.

Madison Decker working to fight human trafficking

With the support of her parents and family Madison has raised more than $1,000 selling the jewelry she makes. Her FaceBook page reads:

“Just One Life is about one girl’s mission to change the world of human trafficking one life at a time.”

Inspired by the story of the starfish she works to create beautiful pieces. She then donates the funds raised to make the world a more beautiful place. What a lovely example of just one young person determined to change things for the better.

I had the privilege of interviewing Madison and her parents about their work.

Exodus Road: Could you tell us about the work you do to fight human trafficking?

My mom and I make and sell jewelry. Our jewelry is either blue which is the color of human trafficking awareness or it has a starfish on it. The star fish comes from a poem about a man trying to make a difference for one starfish at a time, which is what I am trying to do. Save just one life at time. (Madison)

Madison started by selling her jewelry to family and friends in the beginning of July 2014. This past fall Madison was able to sell her items at a flea market which was successful not in just sales but more so in making people aware of human trafficking. Madison’s desire has been to make a difference in the world of human trafficking but also to encourage others to do the same.   (Ross and Erin)

ER:  How does it make you feel when you think about the children who are trapped in slavery?

It makes me sad and very angry. (Madison)

I remember the night Madison asked me about slavery and if it still happened. I remember feeling this need to protect my child and her innocence from the hurt of this fallen world. But as I sat there with her I realized children just like my precious daughter are having their innocence ripped from their lives with no defender or person to protect them. I decided to tell Madison very vaguely about human trafficking. Madison crawled into my arm and we both cried. With tears still in her eyes Madison asked, “What can I do?” As a grown adult I become overwhelmed by my daughters desire to do something, anything to help. My first reaction was doubt and retreat. How could our family do anything to change the world of human trafficking? But then Madison said, “Mom, if I could help save just one person it would be enough.” My daughter changed me that night. Her child like faith amazed me. As parents we decided to move forward in helping our daughter. We want her to understand that God is all about His glory and that if we place our lives willingly into His hands He can do more than we ever imaged. (Ross and Erin)

ER: What would you say to someone who wants to help the victims of human trafficking but don’t know where to start?

Don’t get overwhelmed. You have one life. It does not matter who you are or how old you are. Find your talent and use it to change the world. (Madison)

*     *     *     *     *

She had a stand at a local flee market in October of last year. You can see her handiwork set up alongside the information about The Exodus Road.

8 year old Madison Decker's flea market stand

8 year old Madison Decker’s flea market stand

Maybe Madison’s creativity has sparked an idea that you would like to make a reality. What is stopping you? Let this young one be an inspiration and example to us all to eliminate the excuses and make a real difference.

Get in touch with us HERE if you need some swag from The Exodus Road to inform people at your event. As always, you can email Volunteer {@} TheExodusRoad.com for any further information.

Bows copyStudents at Downey High School in Los Angeles, Calif., are fighting human trafficking from their classrooms. Although they live normal, American lives, they know millions of teens around the world don’t enjoy the same the freedoms and live in slavery, instead.

And these students care deeply.

About 40 of them, led by faculty member Charissa James, have formed a club this year, called Stop the Traffick, and have raised awareness about the issue along with funds for The Exodus Road.

“The more people know, the more people will care, and the sooner it will end,” club secretary and senior Nicolas says.

Before the club even started, James’ heart was breaking for those around the world who suffered sex slavery, and she wanted to enlighten her students to the reality of this injustice. She felt a partnership among The Exodus Road, her school and her students would do the trick.

“I felt certain that your [ER’s] philosophy of work would be palatable to my public school and recruited student leaders who read books with me over the [2014 summer break] about modern slavery and anti-trafficking efforts, including your book, ‘The Exodus Road,’” she writes in an email.

In the fall, James, a modern American history teacher, asked fellow Downey U.S. history teachers to combine a lesson on Civil War slavery with information about modern sex trafficking among minors. After the lesson, James and her student leaders invited teens to watch “Sex and Money: a National Search for Human Worth,” a documentary on sex trafficking. The history teachers also encouraged their classes to attend the showing, which—along with their studies in modern trafficking—stirred compassion in many students.

“These students associate slavery with the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which ended long ago, so most were surprised that forms of slavery still exist, especially in America,” James says. “However, their shock was quickly followed by both empathy and activism. They immediately wanted to know what they could do to help.

Stop the Traffick had officially begun.

So far, these teens have raised more than $1000 for The Exodus Road through donations and through concessions at the documentary screening, through a Chick-Fil-A fundraiser and through key chain and bow sales. They’ve also had plenty of help from school faculty. Many teachers offered extra credit for students who attended the screening, and the art department has created moving promotional material. Art teachers have helped designed Stop the Traffick’s t-shirts, and one advanced art class has created haunting charcoal pieces that the club can use to raise awareness.

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“Our administration has been incredibly supportive, and I regularly get e-mails from teachers supporting the club’s efforts,” James says.

But, she is especially proud of her club members and their commitment to Stop the Traffick’s cause. In addition to helping others, she believes the club will also benefit its members, encouraging their empathy and compassion and teaching them to use whatever resources they possessed to confront problems.

And these lessons seem to have sunk in. Students know they have the ability to change the status quo.

“Human trafficking is an issue that most people don’t know about, or they think it’s a past issue,” junior Ana says. “We have all of these laws in our government trying to keep everyone safe, and this issue seems neglected. Sometimes neglected ideas need just a few people to start a change.”

And they feel for others who children and teens who are forced to sell their bodies for someone else’s profit.

“It’s important to let kids who are in danger know that there’s someone out there helping them,” junior Joselyn says. “We know that they feel lonely, and that they don’t have anyone with them, so raising money and awareness is a way to let them know that we are here for them, and we want to help protect them.”

James says she hopes the club can eventually partner with a rural international school that prevents trafficking by educating young girls. However, that’s a long-term goal. For the time being, the club will continue to raise awareness and funds.

And in doing so, it will cultivate a generation of young men and women who know they have the power to fight injustice.

Artwork

 

You can watch a brief personal Thank You Message The Exodus Road in SE Asia sent to Stop the Traffick via youtube, as well.