Human Trafficking

Stopping Slavery before it Starts – A Story from Cambodia

Human trafficking continues to flourish today in 167 countries – that’s 85 percent of the world. Every day, women, men and children of all ages and nationalities are captured and forced to work on farms, in factories, in hotels or in the commercial sex trade – generating billions of dollars of revenue each year. But the worldwide church has stepped into the fight against this gross injustice. World Relief stands with local churches in Cambodia and the United States and empowers them to protect their communities from human traffickers. Cambodia’s bustling capital city, Phnom Penh, is a hot spot for slavery and trafficking – but across Cambodia, there’s a growing movement of churches standing with their communities to end slavery. In 2014, over 400 Cambodian churches worked together to spread awareness about human trafficking. This crime flourishes in darkness, but when it’s brought into the light, perpetrators begin to lose their power.

Yim Srey Oun in Cambodia
Yim Srey Oun in Cambodia

Yim Srey Oun, a farmer and mother of three, lives just outside Phnom Penh. As a busy mom, she counted on her family to work together to finish the ever-growing list of chores. “My husband and I always encouraged our children to study and we worked hard to support them. However, many times we would need their help to do other work in the farm but I never had thought of letting my children have enough time to study at home,” said Oun.

Then, last year, she attended a human trafficking training session through World Relief. She learned she could love her children by allowing them more time to devote to their studies. Their education is an investment in the security of their future – and it could protect the children from situations in which they’d be vulnerable to traffickers.

“I hope the anti-trafficking project of World Relief will continue to help and train the rest of the parents in my community...Moreover, I am looking forward to seeing fruitful cooperation and more efficient and effective implementation to prevent human trafficking in our country and stand for vulnerable people who live in our community as well,” said Oun. Pastors, youth volunteers and village leaders are spreading awareness about human trafficking far and wide across Cambodia.

Until all are free, the church will stand strong in the pursuit of justice.

Shining a Light on Slavery - #ENDITMOVEMENT

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27 million people are currently trapped in slavery.

That is enough people to circle the entire globe.

In the U.S., there are an estimated 14,500 – 17,500 people trafficked each year.

As agencies, churches and volunteers partner in combating the largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world, World Relief continues to educate the public and offer services to survivors of this injustice.

World Relief in High Point, North Carolina is one of our offices that combats trafficking through prayer, education and action. Staff and volunteers help human trafficking survivors heal, educate the public on human trafficking awareness and host events that highlight opportunities available for community members to be a part of this movement for justice. Local advocates share their personal stories, artists perform inspiring pieces and community members are empowered to act.

Continuing this powerful movement of change, we partner with like-minded coalitions and millions of advocates worldwide to shine a light on slavery and raise awareness for the 27 million people trapped throughout the world today. The #enditmovement brings awareness, prevention, rescue and restoration in the fight against human trafficking.

We can’t do this alone. We need you.

Gather your team.

Make your mark.

Get your hashtags ready.

#enditmovement is here.

Pray, Educate and Empower: 3 Ways You Can Abolish Modern-Day Slavery

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There are more than 20 million slaves today. That’s more than 20 million human lives that are being exploited, abused and neglected. These victims of human trafficking are forced into prostitution or coerced to do hard labor with little to no pay. It’s prevalent in many countries around the world, including the US where it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of people are trafficked into forced labor or the sex trade each year. But in spite of the enormity of this abuse and neglect of God’s creation, there is significant hope. Churches, organizations and volunteers throughout the US are on the front lines combatting this injustice with the power and love of Jesus Christ. And as we observe National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the US, we want you to join us at World Relief as we empower the vulnerable to overcome one of the worst tragedies of our time.

Here are three simple ways you can be a part of this movement to end modern-day slavery:

  1. Pray – one of the most powerful tools we have as Christians is prayer. God’s powerful response to the prayer of a righteous person knows no bounds (James 5). Join our partners at Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking on January 10 at 6 PM EST to pray for freedom.
  2. Educate – Know the realities of the problems and the solutions. To learn more about the facts, figures and stories of human trafficking, visit here. And don’t keep this to yourself, but share the knowledge with friends, small groups and others in your community – our impact is stronger when we’re united.
  3. Empower - To empower victims and survivors of modern-day slavery, you can either invest financially at https://worldrelief.org/donate or you can give your time and skills by helping survivors recover. For more information about volunteer opportunities, check out http://worldrelief.org/volunteer/us-opportunities.

The problem is enormous, but as followers of Jesus Christ who gives freedom from bondage, we have the solution to bring an end to modern-day slavery.

#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.

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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