Archive for September, 2011

Slavery Footprint Survey and Bold New Idea

If you haven’t taken the slavery footprint survey yet, I highly recommend it.  This survey was just launched several days ago. Each of the ten questions has facts and statistics next to it to drive home the point about slavery. Did you know about children in Pakistan working on brick kilns? Or 200,000 Indian children working on carpets in Uttar Piradesh?  Then there is the shrimping industry or children working in mica mines (so we can have sparkles in our makeup). Rubies in Burma and teakwood industry.  What about coltan mining in Congo or the 1.4 million children who slave away in the cotton fields in Uzbekistan?  All this you find out when you answer the following questions.

1. Where do you live? (name your country and type in your zipcode)

2. Gender and age?

3. Children? (you can bypass this question if you have an empty nest)

4. What’s under your roof? (describe how many bedrooms, bathrooms and cars in the garage)

5. What’s on your plate?

6. What’s in your medicine chest?

7. Jewelry?

8. What’s your relationship with electronic devices? (about five choices from “novice or regular Joe all the way to hard-wired gamer)

9. Sporting goods?

10. What’s in your closet? (they start out assuming you have 50 jeans, 50 tops, 50 dresses, etc.)

11. How many times have you paid for sex? (you don’t have to answer that one but it gives the statistics of how many children and women are used for this industry)

You can finetune each score to your question but I came out at having 22, which means I answered the question: “How many slaves work for you?” I would like to get my score down to zero of course but then I suppose I wouldn’t be able to use my computer anymore.  Little hands have worked on the intricacies of this unit that I’m typing on right now.  How much were they paid to assemble this Mac?

On an entirely different note, I’d like to write about a bold new idea the abolitionist ladies in MN have come up with.  We are starting a campaign to collect old greeting cards and Christmas cards and we will call it “Card-Again.”  Think of the play on words like a “cardigan” sweater warming those in shelters. We plan to gather on one day to use stamps, ribbons, buttons, doo-dads to refurbish old cards to sell.  We would donate the money we make to those victims of human trafficking who are in Minnesota.  The monies would go to Not For Sale, an organization that started four and a half years ago.  They have quite a website that you should take a look at.  They do not have information about Kazakhstan on their map showing where shelters are.  We know they exist there because we are working on getting money we raised through the proper channels to benefit victims who have escaped and need rehabilitation.

I’m getting good reports that some victims at the shelter are getting English lessons and watching English movies. I am waiting to hear from my contacts “on the ground” about what is happening in the shelters in Kazakhstan.  I’ll keep you updated on what is happening half a world away! At that same time, I am learning what is happening with slavery in my own backyard of Minnesota! Take the survey that I mentioned above, you will find out just how globalized this problem is about things we take sooooo for granted.

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Unexamined Lives and Pursuit of Truth about Slavery

“The unexamined life is not worth living” is something Socrates was known to have said. I believe we all need to examine our assumptions about slavery and sex trafficking. I just did a Slavery Footprint survey that figures out how many slaves work for you in the products you use or eat and the clothes and shoes you wear. According to this survey, I got 22. I think the norm for North Americans is 44. Eventually I would hope that I would have NO slaves working for me in this globalized economy.  I need to re-examine what products I use.  Would that mean I have to give up using my computer all together? Maybe…

Plato also is known to talk a lot about education in “The Republic,” especially about those who are worthy to rule a nation (Book VII). His main point was that those students who learn to rule should know how to “think critically, understand definitions, compare concepts, seek reasons and critique and defend different views in conversation.”  I would hope that Central Asian students studying under western practices would catch this and run with it.

In this blog I’ve “started the conversation” about human trafficking and human rights issue ever since I read the book “Two Kyrgyz Women.”  The author Marinka Franolovic wrote me the other day and gave me several links about a woman journalist in Mexico.  She said she had met Lydia Cacho about five years ago who has been leading her crusade against sex trafficking of children in Cancun.  Brave woman.

Yes, people don’t want to be challenged in their thinking.  John Churchill in an article he wrote in “Phi Beta Kappa, The Key Reporter” (Vol.76, No. 3, Fall 2011) wrote the following:

“Plato thought overcoming this problem was a matter of age and training.  But some old dogs never overgrow young stunts.  The real question is this: “What differentiates mere pulling and tearing from the dialogical pursuit of truth?

The answer is: the aim of the interlocutors….[in the case of the global sex trade]…this isn’t the pursuit of truth.  It’s a contest of will and power.  Plato thought that you could overcome the competitive emphasis on winning the argument by bringing people to love the truth.”

I’m troubled that there are many uninformed people who don’t want to enter the conversation and know the truth about slavery in the 21st century. They would prefer to think that slavery was abolished after the Civil War in the 1800s.  They would like to think that Wilberforce was forceful enough in his dogged determination to end slavery in U.K. and the rest of the British empire.  Not so. Read the following:

Dr. Jack Mezirow, professor emeritus at Columbia Teachers College, believes that an essential element in adult learning is to challenge our own ingrained perceptions and examine our insights critically. Dr. Mezirow says that adults learn best when faced with what he calls a “disorienting dilemma”—something that “helps you critically reflect on the assumptions you’ve acquired” (Barbara Strauch, The New York Times). This is the opposite of saying, “My mind is made up—don’t confuse me with the facts.”

I would hope that the young university students in Kazakhstan would be open to learn what they can about the tragedy of slavery which is happening in their own country and the rest of Central Asia.  They are the future leaders of Kazakhstan, I know they keep hearing that over and over again at the new university in Astana.  However, I believe there are old dogs in high places that are using the same stunts that they learned under the Soviet system to keep the truth down.  They would prefer that the populace NOT know about slavery that is taking place right in Central Asia.  May the pursuit of truth be captivating and held captive instead of people!

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Two Sad Stories about Human Trafficking

Two stories I heard recently about human trafficking both sicken me and they make me want to do MORE to help those who are trapped in Kazakhstan.  The first is about a woman I know named Candy (fictitious name) and her sister who are from Guatemala.  Apparently, Candy’s sister was the oldest of about ten children and she had wanted to be a Catholic nun.  So were her future, hopeful plans until her mother asked her to go to the nearby store to buy some bread.  Candy’s sister never returned home.

When too much time had passed, the mother asked the shopkeeper if her daughter had made it to the store and apparently she did.  However, on the way home, a neighbor approached the young girl and asked if she was thirsty.  She said yes and drank what he offered that had some kind of drug in it to make her go unconscious.  For the first week she was hidden under some banana leaves while police looked throughout the neighborhood for her.  The trapped girl was fearful that if she yelled out and the police found her, they would harm her family.

The mother was pregnant at the time and when the stress of trying to find her oldest daughter failed, she had a miscarriage.  She wanted to burn down the house of the neighbor who took her daughter somewhere.  She went missing for ten years.  When Candy’s sister came back, she did not talk about what she had been through.  She had a messed up life after that.

When Candy was about 16 years old her mother more or less expected her to leave the house because there were so many other children to feed.  The long and short of it is that Candy became a house slave to someone in Guatemala and then she ended up in California. I need to find out from Candy more about her story, she felt it easier talking about her sister than telling her own story.


Another person I met recently was Juanita (again not her real name and she is not Hispanic). She was from San Diego area and somehow she avoided the actual gory details but I could piece it together.  Her mother had re-married and her stepfather was involved in some kind of ring of trafficking of children in the early 1960s.  At age 7 the nightmare for Juanita started, she had a broken pelvis. (how do you suppose THAT happened?) Juanita said that a doctor, friend of her stepfather was a part of this ring. He took care of her and gave an excuse to the mother about what had happened making it sound very clinical.  Juanita did not trust lawyers, policemen, doctors, any of the professionals because they were the clients in this sordid and surreal situation.

Juanita and her mother had househelp, a Hispanic woman who knew what was going on.  Her stepfather would ask her to bring her children over to play but she never did.  In fact, she encouraged Juanita to sleep with her in her bed because she knew what Juanita was going through at night.  Why her own mother never knew or intervened to help Juanita, perhaps the stepfather used the same fear and intimidation tactics with his wife.  Juanita said that they would go out to the desert to bury children that didn’t obey and this was yet another form of keeping children in line.  They used torture as well.  I won’t go into that but it left no marks that could be used as evidence but was extremely painful.  It made them not able to run away.

In Juanita’s case, she told her mother she was leaving home at age 16. She did not tell her why but this was after nine years of torture that she had gone through.  Juanita had had enough. Apparently during this period of sexual abuse, the stepfather up and moved and left everything behind.  They had eight hours to leave San Diego and they ended up in Colorado.  They left EVERYTHING behind, the house, their clothes, it was urgent to obey him. Juanita’s step-father did not operate the same way he had with all the wheelers and dealers in California but he was still into pornography.  Juanita told me that her mother divorced this maniacal man a year after Juanita left home.  So maybe her mother did suspect something was going on.

Sixteen years ago Juanita had perhaps emotionally healed enough and finally went to the FBI to tell her story about what had happened to her in the 1960s.  Of course they were interested but the statute of limitations had run out in this case.  However, it goes to show that what was going on in the 1960s is probably 100 times worse now with trafficked victims in the U.S. and all over the world.  I was reminded of the movie “The Changling” which happened also in California back in the 1930s.  So, sex trafficking is not something that is new but a very old evil.

Juanita married and had several sons.  She and her husband also took in foster children through Catholic services in their home. Juanita’s antennas would go up and red flags would wave when she saw certain signs in young children she came in contact with.  She knows all the alerts because she went through much of it herself.  The basic thing is that they don’t trust anyone, they have been lied to and manipulated to believe they are not worthy.  Their child innocence has been stripped from them.

This same crime is happening in Kazakhstan…what can be done to warn the innocent victims who are living in poverty that the person who is trying to convince and persuade them to follow them is lying?

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“Not for Sale” book and other intentional thoughts

Yesterday I received a book in the mail titled “Not for Sale: The return of the global slave trade – and how we can fight it.”  David Batstone is the author and co-founder to the organization “Not for Sale” which started 4 1/2 years ago in San Francisco.  Hopefully once I read this book I will regain hope in my fellow world sojourners that we can DO something to eradicate this crime of slavery and human trafficking. It reads on the back of the book “Advisory: This book deals with mature subject matter.”  Of course if a teenager comes across that kind of warning they may be curious and actually want to READ the book.  In any case, I may skip the gory details and get the salient message of HOPE of how we can fight this evil.

I need hope after what about ten of us women did this past weekend in raising over one thousand dollars to send back to Kazakhstan to help aid the shelters there for trafficked victims, men and women.  Don’t get me wrong, I am very optimistic that informed people want to do something for trafficked victims all the way across the world.  But I’m discouraged for two reasons. First, we have the same problem of human trafficking here in this state of Minnesota and throughout the U.S.  Maybe I heard too many stories from people who came to our sale. I would judge about 200 people came through our doors.  We had several generous money donations from about five individuals. The rest of the stuff at our rummage sale went for 50 cents each.  Thankfully we had people donate their clothes and other cast-off items because they knew this was for a good cause. Second, I’m feeling very sad because so few westerners really do know what is going on in the rest of the world.  We eat (chocolate), drink (coffee) and wear clothes that is the result of others who were perhaps exploited in their manual labor.

This past weekend I heard about a book titled “Where Am I Wearing: a global tour to the countries, factories and people that make our clothes.”  What is with books and their long subtitles?  Anyway, when I put on my clothes today after a deep freeze from last night, I saw that my turtleneck was made in Vietnam, my fleece top made in Taiwan, my favorite jeans in Mexico…and my rawhide slippers have the Cabela trademark but not sure where they were put together. Maybe the U.S.?

We have to ask ourselves, as the author Kelsey Timmerman did, where were my clothes made that I’m wearing.  More importantly, how much was the laborer NOT paid to make them?  Timmerman ended up going to Honduras, Bangladesh, Cambodia and China to find out the factories and what conditions the laborers worked in.  Think about it, we have nice clothes to wear that we eventually discard to rummage sales that are sold for cheap!  In our case we were selling clothes, all you can fit in a bag, for $2.

Another book I want to read is “Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy” by Kevin Bales. But maybe I need to take a break from this sadness and do something else like can the tomatoes that didn’t succumb to the deep frost last night or do some more pickling of the cucumbers I have saved up.  We live such a privileged life in the U.S. Therefore, I think I would feel more hopeful if Americans would wake up to the reality that we have a very good life at the expense of others living on $1 a day, if that.

Of course I am very hopeful for the ladies who came alongside me to DO something to help eradicate human trafficking and slavery. We have so much to learn if we are going to be globalized citizens. We wear clothes and use technology that have been touched by other hands that go away empty handed from all their labors.  May this NOT be so…

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Modern Abolitionists at Work today

I feel very happy we accomplished our mission of raising one thousand dollars to help with shelters for victims of human trafficking in Kazakhstan and also in Minnesota.  Since I have learned so much over the past several weeks in preparation of our rummage sale, I’m too overwhelmed to write much tonight. I will show photos of the women who helped make this project possible.  A happy event for all who came through our doors to get good deals, I’d guess about 200 people . This was with about 60 other rummage sales going on throughout the city.

This King of Trails event was up and down Hiway 75 from the Canadian border to Texas. Maybe next time (if we do this again) we will have our sale on a separate occasion so we can bring about more awareness about human trafficking on a local and global level. Maybe on Sept. 30th a carload of us women may go down to the Twin Cities for a human trafficking event at Northwestern college in St. Paul, MN to find out what grassroots activists are doing to help abolish modern-day slavery.  The hall will seat 1,500 people, I hope that the organizers can fill it with activists who want to make a difference.

I’ll write tomorrow of all I have learned from others about this ongoing tragedy. To cap off our day, Ken and I watched the Liam Neeson movie “Taken.” This movie is very appropriate about how traffickers get girls to become prostituted women. NO ONE SHOULD BE FOR SALE!!!

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Decorative Gourds and Kazakhstan’s Faceless Ones

The other day I created two baskets of decorative gourds from my garden. I put the plain and simple white ones on the bottom to augment the more beautiful and unique gourds on top.  After I had harvested about 30 of the egg shaped white gourds to purge them, I thought of an analogy to Kazakhstan’s faceless victims. At least ten ladies from my home church and I hope to raise awareness and money with our upcoming rummage sale to help victims living in shelters who have been slaves in Kazakhstan. It takes time to rehabilitate people who are unskilled and uneducated to get back into the real world to be productive.

My analogy is that we, as Midwestern women, are like the decorative gourds. We have loving families, education, jobs and a hopeful, bright future.  Those victims trapped in manual labor exploitation or sex trafficking in Kazakhstan and other desperate parts of the world are like the plain, egg-shaped gourds which are put to the bottom of cornucopia baskets.

I told the women in my group the other night that we need to keep these non-decorative gourds on our minds because we will probably never meet or know who these faceless victims are.  BUT God knows who they are and He hears their cries for help.  Always good to meditate on Isaiah 61 because those living amongst us in this globalized world are brokenhearted. They are mourning their loss and have the spirit of heaviness about them. They are full of shame, confused and have been robbed of their joy.

I believe as decorative gourds, we can make a difference…

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