Anti-Trafficking

#Enditmovement: Meeting Survivors' Needs In The U.S.

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Why are we a part of #enditmovement? At World Relief we seek to empower the local Church to serve the most vulnerable, which inherently includes the oppressed and exploited. We work to prevent trafficking in high-risk cities in our Asia offices, but we also provide comprehensive services to survivors in our U.S. offices. We are excited to come alongside coalition partners The A21 Campaign, ECPAT USA, Free The Slaves, IJM, Love 146, Made In A Free World, Not For Sale, The Polaris Project, World Vision as well as millions of advocates worldwide as we shine a light on slavery.

The 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report defines human trafficking as “the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.” It is an under-reported, often invisible, global tragedy enslaving over 21 million people and grossing $32 billion each year. Despite the presence of state and federal laws addressing this crime, as many as 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States every year for sexual and labor exploitation. Of the one million children exploited in the global sex trade every year, a staggering 244 thousand American children and youth are at risk.

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Jennifer Marks (right) is the Church Mobilizer and Volunteer Coordinator at World Relief Tampa, which has provided restorative services to survivors of human trafficking since 2004. She has agreed to provide a snapshot human trafficking in one region of the United States and what it looks like to mobilize the local Church and community in response.

Describe the state of human trafficking in the areas you serve.

J.M:The Tampa Bay region, Florida’s second largest metropolitan area, is renowned for its beautiful beaches, diverse cuisine, and thriving nightlife. Yet, beneath the surface of this vibrant community, the burgeoning criminal industry of modern day slavery thrives. In fact, Florida ranks third in the nation for calls placed to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and is one of the highest destination states for women, men, and children trafficked into the United States.

Who does World Relief Tampa serve?

J.M:World Relief Tampa assists men and women, both foreign-born and U.S. citizens. World Relief Tampa provides direct case management for adult survivors and works with local partners to meet the specific needs of trafficked children. In previous years, World Relief Tampa served exclusively foreign-born survivors, the majority of whom were male labor trafficking survivors.  However, due to expanded funding, World Relief Tampa is now able to serve adult female domestic sex trafficking survivors; a population which has comprised the majority of our case load since 2012.

Can you provide an overview of your office’s work and the services offered to victims?

J.M:World Relief Tampa has three staff members, including myself. In partnership with local churches, law enforcement and community groups, our team provide direct services and referrals to meet the physical, psychological and spiritual needs of human trafficking survivors. 

To address these comprehensive needs, World Relief Tampa relies upon pro bono partnerships and leverages community resources to provide transportation, food, health care, counseling, ESOL, housing, clothing, legal advocacy and employment services. Expanding our pro-bono networks is a high priority given the intense medical and psychological needs of clients and the expansive geographic circumference of the region.

In addition to client services, World Relief Tampa conducts community outreach. As the Church Mobilizer/Volunteer Coordinator, it is my responsibility to engage and equip the local Church, build partnerships, advance prevention strategies, acquire critical resources and increase awareness.

In what ways is the local church involved?

J.M:Church partnerships are critical to successfully addressing survivors’ comprehensive needs. One of the most important roles of the local church is praying for the rescue and restoration of survivors and for an end to the great evil of modern day slavery.  Churches also facilitate anti-trafficking awareness presentations to increase understanding and involvement within congregations and collect donations of money and needed items. Finally, churches assist World Relief Tampa in forming new relationships with pro bono medical professionals and life mentors.

In what ways are volunteers from the local community involved?

J.M:Volunteers assist with fundraising, collection of donations, awareness, mall outreach campaigns, birthday and Christmas collection drives for survivors and mentoring on a case-by-case basis (preceded by specialized training and background checks).

From where does most of your financial support come? How is that changing?

J.M:Prior to 1994, World Relief Tampa focused on refugee resettlement and equipping the church to “welcome the stranger” into our congregations and our hearts. Funds provided by the US State Department Refugee Resettlement Program and church donations allowed World Relief Tampa to reach hundreds of vulnerable refugees.

In 2004, World Relief received a grant from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to serve victims of human trafficking in the Southeastern United States through the “Network of Emergency Trafficking Services” (NETS) program. World Relief Tampa became the pilot site for this program and has continued to receive federal funding to expand anti-trafficking activities in Tampa for the past 9 years.

This federal funding will end in April 2014. As a result, World Relief in Tampa must increasingly rely on the local Church to fund the expenses associated with meeting the vast needs of human trafficking survivors in the Tampa Bay region.  However, as awareness grows, local churches are increasingly sharing a vision for their indispensable role in demonstrating God’s love for victims of exploitation and abuse.

What victories have you witnessed at your office over the past years?

J.M:The last couple of years have been marked by change, creating a host of challenges and blessings. In 2012, World Relief Tampa began ministering to domestic victims of human trafficking. Over the next year and a half, 90 percent of World Relief Tampa’s clients would be female American sex trafficking victims, a majority of whom lack basic life skills and struggle with crippling drug addictions, PTSD and trauma bonding. Additional training bolstered staff competence (and confidence), but nothing brought peace like the power of prayer. As the World Relief team experienced a deeper understanding of the intense spiritual warfare surrounding service to these women, churches launched prayer groups to stand with staff in this battle for the restoration of bodies, minds and souls.World Relief Tampa is confident that God will move mountains to defend the vulnerable as the Christian community moves out in His strength and provision.

In addition, World Relief Tampa has initiated a Mall Outreach Campaign to equip churches to launch awareness and prevention ministries in local malls, a documented venue for trafficking recruitment.  Malls are being prayed over and employees at over two hundred stores have already been educated on what to do if they witness suspicious behavior. To further target those on the front lines, World Relief Tampa is traveling throughout the region to provide domestic minor sex trafficking training to mall security teams.

What are some of your goals for the future?

To better meet the comprehensive needs of human trafficking survivors, we will continue to build our community of church partnerships and expand pro bono serve providers. In particular, we hope to add pro bono trauma counselors to guide clients in their restoration journey. Similarly, we will develop strategies to better connect clients with church congregations and healthy mentors who are trained and equipped to provide long-term guidance and friendship.

To meet the needs of survivors and ensure the long-term financial security of the World Relief Tampa human trafficking ministry, we are also developing a plan to broaden the support base through monthly financial donors.

When asked to share a piece of scripture integral to the mission of World Relief’s Tampa office, Marks shared Matthew 25:34-40. The passage is a reminder of the necessary changes we must make in our lives to advocate for the oppressed. It ends with Jesus’ words: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Learn more about World Relief.

Learn more about #Enditmovement and how you can get involved!

Give the gift of hope to survivors of human trafficking around the world.

Ending Poverty Means Ending Violence

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“Without an end to the violence that plagues so many in slums, labor camps, brothels, villages, and neighborhoods, our work to end extreme poverty, stop senseless disease among children, and create sustainable economic solutions could erode and even altogether unravel.” –Stephan Bauman, President & CEO of World Relief

As World Relief empowers the local Church to serve the most vulnerable, we come face to face every day with the reality that poor people are extremely vulnerable to violence. Many of the countries in which we operate are war-torn and lack a just rule of law. Around the world, nearly 30 million children, women and men are held as forced labor slaves. One in 5 women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape – and sexual violence makes everyday activities like going to school, gathering water, using a communal restroom or taking public transport dangerous.

At World Relief, we see firsthand that those without protection often lack access to the opportunities, services and materials required to meet their most basic needs. In fact, four billion people – most of the world’s poorest people – live in places where their justice systems do not or cannot protect them from these crippling forms of violence. To advocate for the impoverished, we must also be advocates of peace and protection.

We are joining hands with our friends at International Justice Mission to address the violence directly contributing to poverty around the world. Today, IJM President Gary Haugan and co-author Victor Boutros are releasing their new book, The Locust Effect, to explain why the end of poverty requires the end of violence.

Learn more about The Locust Effect and ways to get involved with the fight for peace. Don’t miss IJM’s unforgettable new video showing what the world is up against as we work together to help the most vulnerable.

IJM Locust Effect Graphic

So Much Happening in Twenty-Thirteen...

by Larissa Peters, World Relief Communications Liaison I don’t know about you, but I have an especially good feeling about 2013. I admit, I keep a journal, and on the first of every year, I wonder what will fill its pages. The same is true in managing this blog – what will be the stories, reflections, and prayers that fill this year?

So many things are happening at World Relief, and so many great things we get to be a part of this year as more and more stand for the vulnerable! So I thought I would share 13 of the ones that I’m personally excited about and that others could even join:

In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Immigration Reform: From publishing the book Welcoming the Stranger in 2009 to speaking at Willow Creek Church and the G92 Summit, Jenny Yang – Vice President of Advocacy & Policy  and Matt Soerens – US Church Training Specialist are truly affecting change for the immigration system. We believe this is the year for reform. Want to keep up to date on the issue? Follow Jenny and Matt on twitter at:  @JennyYangWR and @MatthewSoerens.
  2. Peace building in the Congo: Village Peace Committees are changing their communities in the DR Congo. Conflict still abounds, but the grassroots movement of the Church is transforming lives. This is something to be a part of!  Follow updates and watch our video.
  3. Our partnership with Pure Charity: if you haven’t checked this organization out and you shop online or use a credit card (which should cover most of you), click here now. Here is a creative way to raise funds: shop and the stores you shop at will give to your charity of choice. World Relief has a few projects of their own there, and you’ll find Pure Charity at the Justice Conference. I already wish I knew about them earlier – I have to admit I’ve become slightly addicted to online shopping.
  4.  Fighting the battle of slavery: more and more people are taking on the cause of anti-trafficking. Currently, there are 14,500 people trafficked into the US each year (this is a low estimate). But our offices in Spokane, Tampa, High Point (and even internationally in Cambodia) are fighting to prevent that number from going up. Follow World Relief’s efforts on twitter and find out how you can promote awareness through races, workshops, or advocacy.
  5.  Church Partnership: Churches around the US have partnered with World Relief with a commitment of investing in a country or program for 3 to 5 years. Building relationships with the field and giving opportunity for long-term sustainable development, partnership is about wholistic mission. More and more churches are signing on, and we are excited about the changes it is bringing! Want your church to be part of this?
  6. Catalog of Hope: This year, our Catalog of Hope has a new section: fair trade items that benefit refugees in the US, empower women in Burundi, Rwanda, and Indonesia, and provide a monster for children in the US. A monster? Yes! See what this is all about.
  7. Stand Together Project: The premise is simple: Empowering women who are heroes in their own communities around the world. Check it out here: www.standtogetherproject.org.
  8. Savings for Life: A woman in Rwanda had never held a 5000 Franc note (worth $8 USD).  For the first time in her life this year, she saved up SIX of them because of her Savings group! How much more exciting can that get? Savings for Life is making credit available to those even the microfinance institutions can’t consider.  Watch a video on what Savings group is here: www.savings-revolution.org .
  9. Reviving and strengthening marriages in India: There is a quiet and unique program in India. One that is saving marriages, helping couples to be faithful to each other, and actually preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.  Check out the story on India.
  10. Volunteering with refugees in the US: more and more people are asking, “What can I do?” Our US program with refugees provides tangible volunteering. I can promise you that your 2013 will be incredibly enriched by befriending a refugee and welcoming them into your home and life.
  11. Volunteering with refugees in Indonesia: you have to check this unique opportunity out:  living in Indonesia and ministering to refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Sri Lanka. You can read about some of the volunteers’ experiences here: www.worldreliefindonesia.com .

12   AND 13

Tis the season for conferences! So I’ll have to just wrap them all up into the last two: Churches and organizations are stepping out and bringing awareness to issues of injustice, educating their communities on how to respond. World Relief is privileged to be a part of these conferences with other Justice advocate hall-of-famers:

My hope is that these 13 (and then some) inspire and encourage you.  And may this year be full of all that is more than we can ask or imagine!*

*Ephesians 3:20

International Women's Day

By Larissa Peters, Asia Church Engagement Specialist at World Relief We don’t celebrate International Women’s Day in the United States, but my World Relief co-workers in Cambodia have a day off as the government has declared it a national holiday – a well-deserved one in my opinion.

A little over a week ago, I attended the Justice Conference in Portland – two days of intense conversation with over four thousand people passionate about responding to poverty, slavery, and oppression.  When Walter Brueggemann spoke, he talked about the “walkers” and the “talkers” – both necessary for a response to injustice.  And just a little over a year ago, I had the privilege to meet some of the “walkers” – amazing Cambodian women who, against all odds (and reason), are making a significant difference in their communities.

In honor of Women’s Day, I want to honor two of the many “walking women” I met in Cambodia:

As Nari shared her story, she stood with her arm protectively around a young woman, who seven years earlier had been rescued from a brothel.  This young woman’s own family had sold her in order to pay for their own survival.  The woman’s story broke my heart – she was very close to my age, and I just couldn’t imagine spending my formative years in sexual slavery.

No girl should be dispensable like that, and Nari’s words could only give me hope for those still in bondage: “I do what I do because God has given me compassion and love.  It’s hard to explain.  I know that this work is encouraging other women, so I want to be instrumental in reaching other women.  Often there’s a lack of education and knowledge … and I love them very much.”

These communities need preventative education and awareness when it comes to human trafficking.  Sara is one who ministers to the youth in the villages.  I got to be part of the crowd of children who attended one of the puppet shows in Kandal province.  Through these Sesame-street type shows and skits each week, hundreds of children and teenagers not only become educated on prevention messages but learn that they are loved and have a hope for the future.

Sara’s love for the youth she works with is evident, and she is affecting change exponentially – “It’s very important for them to have a good future, but also so that they reach out to the community.  Teenagers, especially the poor ones, are at risk – and also in the area of trafficking, so I want to tell them and protect them from that.”

Between Nari, Sara, and the puppets, I saw first hand the full circle response to these issues. These women are not only addressing the immediate needs of their neighbors, but they are responding to systemic issues of injustice, transforming the community both in the present and for the future.

And as a “talker”, I’m humbled.