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.

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Priceless Cube Training Event in Pattaya, Thailand. October, 2014.

The fight to end human trafficking isn’t waged only during brothel raids. Sometimes, it’s waged in places where people have yet to be enslaved.

And though our core competency lies in empowering interventions, we also partner with government agencies and several other organizations to address both prevention and recovery projects. We know we can’t eradicate slavery alone, and we want to encourage and empower as many people and partner organizations as possible.

This past October, we helped sponsor a Priceless Cube Training session in Pattaya, Thailand. Over the course of a few hours, Priceless Cube founders KJ and Jenni Jessen explained how to use this storytelling resource to educate others about the mechanisms and dangers of human trafficking.

The Priceless Cube itself is a tool that uses seven illustrated panels to start conversations about trafficking prevention. It covers topics such as the value of human life, truth and deception, responsible oversight for children and strong stances against trafficking. This training equipped roughly 15 participants and NGO leaders to use the cube in discussions with Thais whose friends and family could be at risk. (Take a moment to watch the Priceless Cube video here.)

For ER staff, this training was important. “We really saw this event bring the anti-trafficking community in the region together,” ER Strategic Alliance Manager Juli  said. “We networked, collaborated, listened, learned and simply shared time together. It was a space for us to come together for one day and learn about an integral part of anti-trafficking work: prevention.”

The event itself was an act of partnership between nonprofits that worked with different aspects of anti-trafficking. While the Jessens conducted the training, Thrive Rescue, an organization that helps rehabilitate trafficked boys and girls, provided meeting space in its community center. ER sponsored the event financially and covered logistics.

In addition to the October event, we were also able to participate in a second Priceless Cube Training event with 25 indigenous leaders from the Mekong Region, including Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar, which was hosted by AIPP (Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact). Founders, KJ and Jenni Jessen were able to lead the training event which empowered local women to return to their local communities with Priceless Cubes and information of how to avoid trafficking in their villages. We were able to provide gift bags for each attendee which included small personal gifts, information about trafficking hotlines, and a Priceless Cube of their own.

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Asst. Country Director, Amm, packs gift bags for the 25 indigenous leaders.

In general, ER couldn’t work without such inter-organizational teamwork. “Whether through a grant, covert gear loan or hosting events in which expertise is shared, the Exodus Road greatly values its partnerships with regional NGOs and law enforcement,” Juli said. “These examples of resource sharing demonstrate the importance of collaboration in fighting human trafficking.”

And please, check out Priceless Cube Thrive Rescue, Liberty Alliance, and AIPP — all vital organizations and resources on the ground here in SE Asia. In addition, watch a video clip on our instagram feed (@theExodusRoad) of the training itself by going HERE.

priceless cube event

Fueling Rescue With a Ring

Laura Parker —  November 2, 2014

Bliss stamped jewelry

The bottom line was never the most important thing for sisters Michelle and Jaqui when they created Bliss Stamped Jewelry, a business that grew out of their desire for a creative outlet while raising their young children.  

“We always wanted to be a blessing wherever we could, no matter what,” recalled Michelle.  “Opportunities always seem to come to us to bless others.  We love giving back and always want to maintain a giving spirit.”

So when the opportunity to partner with The Exodus Road for the “Let Freedom Ring” campaign emerged, Bliss Stamped Jewelry was thrilled.  The issue of human trafficking and sex slavery had been something Michelle deeply cared about when she first learned about the horrific realities faced by the victims, but according to her,  

“When I became a mom, [the issue] was something that hit much closer to home, and I started to become passionate about the [anti-trafficking] cause.”  

Each year, Michelle, her husband, and children travel to Los Angeles to visit and volunteer with an organization that serves marginalized individuals, including those who have been victims of human trafficking.

We at The Exodus Road have deeply enjoyed building a relationship with Bliss Stamped Jewelry and are excited to feature two of their rings especially designed for our community here. Both the unisex and feminine rings read “free” — a reminder to the wearers of both the freedom we enjoy and what we as a community fight to give others.

This month only, Michelle and Jaqui are generously donating $13 from each ring purchased to directly fund rescue by The Exodus Road and our partners. We’re hoping to sell at least 500 in November, so we’d love for you to consider purchasing one (or more!) for yourself or your holiday list. You can click on the photo below to head on over to Bliss to make your purchase (and check out their shop, while you are at it!).

You can also check out our giveaway, in the first week of November, HERE

And as a community, we are deeply grateful for advocates like Michelle and Jaqui, who are entering into this battle for freedom so generously.

let freedom
one days wages after care

photo cred: THRIVE Rescue

We believe that true rescue for a victim of slavery must not end with the singular event of a raid. True freedom must include holistic restoration for those who find themselves emancipated following months or years of abuse.

From someone on the ground working in this anti-trafficking field, let me be very clear: quality after care programs and resources for rescued victims are woefully lacking in SE Asia. Woefully.

And while The Exodus Road’s primary core competency is in empowering targeted interventions (fact-finding, surveillance, supporting police, promoting strategic change elements), we understand that post-raid care is a crucial factor that we must invest in. To that end, we’ve recently hired a full-time staff member who is developing and overseeing after care services for victims in Thailand, we’ve invested in partnerships with the few after care facilities in the places where undercover operatives work, and we direct a portion of our general budget towards providing resources for rescued girls, boys, and women.

And, now, we are excited to announce a new partnership with One Day’s Wages– a matching grant to fuel a Victim Care Services Project for 2015 in Thailand. This grant will fuel after care services for at least 15 victims of sex trafficking next year. Working with our partners on the ground, we will have the resources to: repatriate up to five victims, provide legal, medical and counseling services immediately following rescue, cover educational or job skills expenses, and ensure on-site services for victims during raids. You can learn a little more about the grant here, from Matt and I:

We know that many of you have deep hearts for restorative care for victims of slavery. Rest assured, we do, too. Will you consider joining us this month in donating towards this project? Every dollar you spend will be generously doubled by One Day’s Wages.

To donate to after care services, click the ODW icon to be taken to our project to give financially.

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Click here to donate

And, as always, thank you for being on this journey with us.

Empowering Rescue,

Laura Parker,

VP Communications

 

UPDATE! In less than 14 days, our community here along with One Day’s Wages fully funded this project! We are grateful and excited about having the resources to better care for victims in the upcoming year. Watch for project updates and stories in 2015!

sleep with me
The Exodus Road is partnering with investigative teams throughout the world to fuel literal rescue with local police. We are sending trained investigators out to find and free sex slaves (nearly 300 so far), and you can help.
With your monthly donation, you’ll be joining an actual Search and Rescue team on the frontlines. Your gift of $35 will cover the expenses of one night of local investigations. You may not be able to go look for sex slaves, but you can send someone out on your behalf who can.
By joining, you’ll also receive a welcome packet in the mail, real-time updates via email or texts, and even covert footage of your team’s progress as they bring freedom to the modern day slave. JOIN A TEAM TODAY:  
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Sponsorship is $35/monthly. Funds typically operational expenses for field teams. All donations are tax-deductible through The Exodus Road, a registered 501c3.
Need more info? Check out our different Search and Rescue Teams HERE or read our FAQ page HERE. You can also watch covert footage from a recent raid HERE

phone to investigator

We’ve been recently asked by a field partner for smartphones to be used in their investigations. And we thought you, as our community here, could help us. Here are the details:

Looking For: Gently used but quality i-Phone 4′s or later models. The phone must have the ability to accept a SIM card. We need all the charging cables, if possible, as well. We’d like the phones to be wiped clean of personal information, loaded apps, etc.  as well.

What We’re Not Looking For: Phones without the ability to be take a SIM card. Damaged, cracked, or unworking phones. We are not looking for smartphones that are not i-Phones (Androids, etc.) because of the desire to provide a consistent tool and the specific capabilities of i-Phones.

Why: I-Phones are quickly becoming key field tools for investigators. The team can use them for gps tracking, quick research, translation help, communications amongst each other and others, and gathering video and photo evidence. We are looking to supply a team of ten investigators (all nationals, all working directly with/for the local police) with reliable phones.

How to Donate: Mail the gently used phone to our home office, and we will deliver them to the field. Mail to:

The Exodus Road

PO Box 1681

Colorado Springs, CO 80901  

 

This initiative is a practical way for our community to meet a tangible need for the front lines. As you upgrade your i-Phone, please keep our supported investigators in mind. We’re hoping to supply the team of ten with phones by the end of August 2014, but we have other partners who could utilize these phones, as well. Should we get more phones donated or receive items later than August, we will still be gifting them to investigative partners.

 

 

Need a receipt? If you’d like a donation receipt for your phone, email our Finance Director at Tammy@theExodusRoad.com to request one.

Human trafficking is everywhere. The mechanisms for slavery exist in nearly every country around the globe. Labor trafficking, sex slavery, indentured servitude– these are realities for an estimated 27 million brothers and sisters of ours around the world. Today. On our watch. 

And The Exodus Road cares deeply about all. of. them. 

However, 27 million is a large number for one NGO to tackle, and since our roots began in SouthEast Asia through our own undercover work and police partnerships there, today our main focus remains in this part of the world. About a year ago, we launched into India, as well, funding cases and delivering covert gear to quality field teams. And it’s a necessary location to work in counter-trafficking, as estimates show that up to 24 million of the 27 million modern day slaves exist in Asia alone (check out this report HERE). As an organization attempting to systemically create change, we strategically apply pressure to adjust the landscape of modern slavery. And what better place to start than in some of the countries where slavery runs most rampant?

We’ve also learned through working with police and NGO communities here on the ground that significant resources are lacking particularly in this developing region where the numbers of victims are most staggering– and that’s why we’re here.

It’s why I send my husband out into brothels to look for children. It’s why we work long hours to raise funding for equipment that trusted police partners have asked for. It’s why we advocate and travel and write and have meetings, and quite frankly, bleed-out. Because a girl or boy in a brothel, and even millions of them, are begging for freedom, are desperate for it. And it’s not a half-hearted effort that will provide it for them. 

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But having said all of that, we know, too, that the girl enslaved in a brothel could be in America, as well. 

And while the reported statistics of human trafficking and sex slavery are significantly less in the United States, we believe that freedom in the Land of the Free is something worth fighting for, too.

An estimated 40,000 victims were identified last year, according to the TIP (Trafficking in Persons) Report. Though they assume many more are present, the research remains inconclusive as to the current number of victims within the U.S. It’s also estimated that 100,000 children are victims of domestic trafficking right now and that 17,500 victims of trafficking were brought into the country last year alone.

- Modern-Day Slavery, NBC News

For the past eight months, my husband has been building trusted partnerships with several local government agencies in Colorado. This work takes time, and we’ve learned from experience that strategically fighting slavery must be done in partnership with local authorities. We’ve also been developing a program for local communities to actively become equipped to fight trafficking in their own neighborhoods, in partnership with police. We have sixty volunteers already signed up to run a pilot program in Colorado, and we’ll be hosting our first training for that program in late August. Our lawyers and our development team are still in process of setting up the program, both legally and effectively, but our hope is that by January of 2015, we’ll be able to provide average U.S. citizens with the tools necessary to really watch and combat trafficking, right in their own backyards. We’ll be revealing more over the course of the next few months.

We know that fighting trafficking on American soil will be slower and “less dramatic” work with much fewer tangible “rescues.” (Though even our beginning efforts have resulted in an arrest and rescue with local police in Colorado.) Trafficking in the U.S. is much more difficult to identify for many reasons and the laws about what an NGO can legally do are much stricter than in foreign countries. We know that; but we still believe in mobilizing civil society to rise up on behalf of the slaves in their own communities. Justice is in the hands of the ordinary, after all. 

Because, again, these things take time. 

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Some people have asked us why we host blogger or donor trips to SE Asia to observe human trafficking, since slavery happens right on American soil. Wouldn’t it save money? Wouldn’t it help “our” people more to just stay home?

My answer to that is simple: while the mechanisms of trafficking are the same in every country, it’s much easier to realistically observe and learn about it in places where it is most rampant– places like here in Asia, where such a large percentage of the world’s modern slaves walk the streets (or aren’t allowed to walk the streets). Since we as an organization are still developing our U.S. initiative particularly, we simply don’t have the infrastructure to effectively teach and demonstrate real cases of trafficking in America. Here, in Asia, we do.

Perhaps by next year at this time, we’ll be able to host blogging trips that highlight effective partnerships at “home” (for us) in America. But, for now, we feel confident that seeing slavery firsthand– and meeting those in the trenches sacrificing to fight it — is powerful in and of itself.

When we think of the scale of modern-day slavery, literally tens of millions who live in exploitation, this whole effort can seem daunting, but it’s the right effort,” Kerry said. “There are countless voiceless people, countless nameless people except to their families or perhaps a phony name by which they are being exploited, who look to us for their freedom.”

- John Kerry, in releasing the 2013 TIP Report 

Thanks, as always, for following along with us here at The Exodus Road. Please continue to read and share the stories that have been written this week about our time in the field by four seasoned writers. And please keep watch for reports about our upcoming program to bring freedom efforts to communities in the U.S., as well.

 
- Laura Parker, VP Communications, The Exodus Road 
*A note about statistics. The estimates around modern day slavery are extremely difficult to determine. Many organizations and government agencies report varying statistics, or even, as the Polaris Project says, claim that the results are too inconclusive to even estimate. If you want to learn more, check out any of the U.S. TIP Reports, especially the country summaries of places of interest to you. 

volunteer exodus road

Our friend, Amy Garcia, recently helped us wage war against sex trafficking—and she did it with a party.

A resident of Phoenix, Ariz., and mother of two, Amy recently held a fundraiser to collect money for a motorbike, which undercover teams in Southeast Asia could use for raids and operations. She called the event “Fundraiser for Freedom,” and it featured a silent auction full of items such as Rodan + Fields skin care products and burlap tote bags. The night also included a raffle and catered food from P.F. Chang’s. Matt Parker spoke briefly, as well, about The Exodus Road organization and the importance of its work. In addition, Amy set out Exodus Road merchandise for sale, and attending children wrote letters to undercover investigators, thanking them for their work.

The event raised $5,000 to purchase a $2,200 motorbike, making Fundraiser for Freedom a resounding success. The excess money would go toward the purchase of other necessary equipment for undercover operations.

The event developed out of Amy’s desire help enslaved women overseas.

“When I first learned about the prevalence of sex trafficking, it weighed heavy on my heart and I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” she said. “I wanted to help but I didn’t know how.”

volunteer party exodus road

She heard Matt speak at The Grove Church in Chandler, Ariz., a year ago and began helping with social media and journalism needs for The Exodus Road. But, she wanted to do more to equip investigators with the supplies they needed to initiate raids. She wanted to give more than just her time and talents. She wanted to give money.

“I knew that my donation would be nothing compared to a group of people coming together and donating so I decided a fundraiser would be the best means to achieve this goal,” she said. “I also thought a fundraiser would bring about awareness of sex trafficking as well.”

Matt provided the means for that awareness. During his talk, he gave partygoers statistics on women and children who are forced to perform sexual acts daily.

“Some people were shocked about how big of an issue it really is—especially in Southeast Asia,” Amy said. “I think when most people think of prostitution, they think the women are there because they just want to earn money.”

volunteer party

party exodus road volunteer

But after hearing from Matt, people were horrified. Amy said they wanted to know more about how they could help abolish sex trafficking and free the millions of slaves around the world. Yet, by attending the fundraiser and purchasing skin care items or tote bags, they had already contributed to the cause. With money from the event, Jim*, a former Special Forces member and current undercover investigator, purchased a new, silver motorbike.

“These are nice bikes, large and powerful enough for bigger guys and should last us a long time. As always, thanks very much for your hard work and giving us the tools we need to do the job.” – Jim*, Undercover Investigator

Amy’s simple fundraiser can be replicated at any time and at any place so that undercover investigators can have the equipment they need. We at The Exodus Road need people to help with this fight and to host their own events. Whether it’s an Undercover Run, a Search and Rescue Home Party, Cocktails for a Cause, or another creative avenue to connect more people with the mission of child rescue.

“By volunteering, hosting a fundraiser or donating, you will be giving that woman or child a voice, giving them hope and an opportunity to be free,” Amy said. And then beautifully lived out her own conviction.

Amy Garcia and Matt Parker

Amy Garcia and Matt Parker

 

To find out more about how to host your own fundraising event, check out some of our volunteer fundraising opportunities here.

*Name changed

table

A core value of The Exodus Road is the belief that we all have a role to play in the fight for the girl or boy trapped in the brothel. We believe that modern day slavery will not be solved by one faith community, political group, racial descent or ideological bent working in isolation. Instead, human trafficking is an injustice that demands advocates from all walks of life, backgrounds, experiences, beliefs.

Because a core component of our work is in collaboration, we want to invite everyone to the table– the table where the focus is bringing justice and deliverance for victims trapped in some of the worst forms of abuse imaginable. To this end, we are an organization that crosses party, national and religious lines, for the sake of the Sarah’s of the world. While we do operate with standards that fit with best practices and local law, we do not discriminate partnerships based on race, religion, or creed.

It is with this spirit of inclusion on behalf of a common cause that we support undercover investigators that are from a variety of faith, political, and employment backgrounds, and why we work with governments and individuals, police and NGOs, military and civilians, men and women, students and adults.

We do believe that it is possible to bring freedom and rescue as a faith or politically-minded organization (and we know of many who do this brilliantly), but this path is not the journey of The Exodus Road. While the Christian faith is the driving personal force of Matt and Laura Parker (founders), the organization itself is a registered 501c3 nonprofit, without religious affiliation.

 

As always, we are deeply grateful for your support of The Exodus Road and its partners, and we are hopeful that in rallying many for the modern day slave, we might play a role in fostering greater collaborative unity for the sake of justice.

 

For other questions about our organization, check out our FAQ page.

image credit here

volunteer investigators

Do you remember back in January when we hosted our first training for volunteer investigators? We developed a rigorous interview process, and then eight individuals came for a weekend to our home office in Colorado. These eight underwent a two day training with founder Matt Parker and chief investigative trainer Bill*, a retired military member with years of undercover work in India.*

Bill’s team had told us that they needed help. They were constantly given more cases of trafficking and pedophilia to work with local police, and they needed fresh investigators, more “boots on the ground.”

And eight individuals in this community were able to step up. Paying for their own airfare, both to the training and to the field, these volunteers came ready to give 4 weeks or more annually to the work of finding sex slaves and supporting the on-ground team.

And two of them, a married couple, just finished their first deployment last week. This couple spent two weeks working alongside Bill and his team. They were able to gather surveillance on a suspected criminal, participate in identifying underage sex workers, and even worked a sting operation with local police partners.

“I want to go back. We’re not finished there yet,” the husband said when we asked him if he wanted to return to India to continue to help in the future.

One of the longtime investigators said of this couple after the two week on-the-ground training:

“They’ve both shown us that our selection process works well and gets us the right kind of character that we look for in our investigators. I know it’s been quite an eye opening experience for them both and they’ve both had to step way outside their personal comfort zones during the live training . . .  we’ve been impressed by them and their efforts.”

- Grant*, Investigator in India

Justice in the hands of the ordinaryAnd these two investigators? They are not what you might typically expect. One manages a warehouse, while the other works as an accountant. They have children and live in a “normal” American city. They are “ordinary” like the rest of us, but, when faced with the realities of trafficking, they refused to walk away.

And, so, they filled out paperwork and got FBI background checks. They endured uncomfortable interviews and covered their own travel expenses. They gave up vacation time, and they invested both money and emotion in a practical, supportive venue to those on the front lines.

And it worked. They were helpful. The field teams were encouraged. More evidence was gathered.

 

And the army of the ordinary people standing for justice, continues to grow.

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From that first training session in January of 2014, our hope is to deploy five of those individuals to the field in the upcoming year. Two are actually planning on serving field teams for an entire year, beginning in May.

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If you are interested in joining our team of volunteer investigators, check out our Careers Page. We are planning to host another training event in the Fall of 2014 or next January 2015 here in Colorado. Please be aware that we are selective in the interview process (for obvious reasons), and that volunteer operatives are expected to cover (or raise) all travel expenses.

*As always, names and locations are often changed throughout our communications to protect the security of operations and teams. You can check out our media policy here