Archive for June, 2012

Sending Wrong Messages on Human Trafficking

I wonder where the whole Invisible Children and KONY 2012 thing has gone to?  If you watched the video that went viral about 3-4 months ago…now THAT was a conflicted message!!! The three young guys who started this organization probably initially meant well for the sake of those children in Sudan and Uganda who were caught in the brutal web of Joseph Kony. Also, I wonder if Kony really will be captured and brought to world justice by the end of this year???

The reason I have gotten involved with the whole issue of human trafficking and trying to help eradicate it was the three plus years I spent in Kazakhstan (teaching in Almaty and Astana). To me, there seems to be a spirit of slavery and non-freedom that exists in that country, at least in those two Russified cities.  Contrast that with the Kazakhs living in the outback areas and hard-to-get to places who probably have a strong sense of independence and warrior spirit. Sadly, those Kazakhs who were “domesticated” during the Soviet period have maybe lost the will to fight to declare who they really are as Kazakhs. What a proud heritage from the long ago past.  Yet there are those vulnerable individuals from Central Asia who live in today’s contemporary society. They WANT to get out of their miserable economic situation. They have been duped by the lies of traffickers. Somehow I could relate to the book I read titled “Two Kyrgyz Women.”

I have probably gotten about 40 other people to read this book as well, ten were my Kazakh students in Astana.  I have handed out so many copies of this short book written by Marinka Franulovich that I am pleased to report that it is now on line FREE!  What good news to see this gem out there on the Internet for more people to read and become aware of the trafficking problem in Central Asia. My hope is that someone will pick up on these two stories of brave women who came forward and make it into a movie for a wider audience to know the truths in this book dealing with Central Asian culture and how women get trapped into slavery.

Unfortunately, there is a wrong message being sent out just below the description of this book that is free on-line.  Because it deals with the sensitive nature of prostitution and women being trafficked, there is a sensually provocative book also being advertised that is the exact opposite of what lessons should be learned from “TKW.” (sigh).  I told Marinka about this conflict and she wrote to the e-book distributors but I think there is not much that can be done about this.  Check out this link in order to get the free download of “Two Kyrgyz Women.”

Another wrong message I witnessed yesterday was Will Smith’s wife who posed nude in a short video clip to promote something concerning human trafficking.  Talk about a conflict of interest, what was Smith’s point in doing that?  I saw the interview where Jada Pickett Smith explained what she did, but it escaped my understanding. Okay, so her daughter Willow Smith got her started on this topic of human trafficking after she had witnessed the KONY 2012 video.  I wonder what good will come of this video that Jada Smith did? Building awareness about trafficking by going nude?! Apparently Mr. and Mrs. Will Smith were in the audience of some gathering on June 19th where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a talk on human trafficking.

I hate to admit that I have never been a fan of Hillary’s but I DO respect her firm stance against human trafficking. She is consistent as a fighter against this tragedy and it is outlined in the speech she gave below.  Check out the link and see the report that just came out this month from the State Department about what is going on in the world with trying to eradicate human trafficking.

SECRETARY CLINTON: “Thank you. Thank you all very much. And I am delighted to see a standing room only crowd here in the Benjamin Franklin Room for this very important annual event. I welcome all of you here to the State Department. And I want to begin by thanking Ambassador CdeBaca and his team for all the hard work that goes into this report, and the passion that they bring to the fight against modern slavery. I would like, Lou, for you and your team to either stand or wave your hand if you’re already standing. Could we have everyone from – (applause) – thank you. I so appreciate what you do every day, not just when we roll out the report, and I’m very proud to be your colleague.

I also want to welcome our 10 TIP heroes, whose work is making a real difference. You will hear more about each one individually when we recognize them, but I want, personally, to thank them because they do remind us that one person’s commitment and passion, one person’s experience and the courage to share that experience with the world, can have a huge impact. And I am delighted to welcome all of our TIP heroes here today. Thank you. (Applause.)

And I will join Lou in thanking Jada Pinkett Smith and Will for being here, and through you, your daughter. Because, as Lou said, it was their daughter who brought this issue to Jada’s attention, and I am so pleased that she has taken on this cause. And we look forward to working with you.

In the United States today, we are celebrating what’s called Juneteenth. That’s freedom day, the date in 1865 when a Union officer stood on a balcony in Galveston, Texas and read General Order Number 3, which declared, “All slaves are free.” It was one of many moments in history when a courageous leader tipped the balance and made the world more free and more just. But the end of legal slavery in the United States and in other countries around the world has not, unfortunately, meant the end of slavery.

Today, it is estimated as many as 27 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery, what we sometimes call trafficking in persons. As Lou said, I’ve worked on this issue now for more than a dozen years. And when we started, we called it trafficking. And we were particularly concerned about what we saw as an explosion of the exploitation of people, most especially women, who were being quote, “trafficked” into the sex trade and other forms of servitude. But I think labeling this for what it is, slavery, has brought it to another dimension.

I mean, trafficking, when I first used to talk about it all those years ago, I think for a while people wondered whether I was talking about road safety – (laughter) – what we needed to do to improve transportation systems. But slavery, there is no mistaking what it is, what it means, what it does. And these victims of modern slavery are women and men, girls and boys. And their stories remind us of what kind of inhumane treatment we are still capable of as human beings. Some, yes, are lured to another country with false promises of a good job or opportunities for their families. Others can be exploited right where they grew up, where they now live. Whatever their background, they are living, breathing reminders that the work to eradicate slavery remains unfinished. The fact of slavery may have changed, but our commitment to ending it has not and the deeply unjust treatment that it provides has not either.

Now the United States is not alone in this fight. Many governments have rallied around what we call the three P’s of fighting modern slavery: prevention, prosecution, and protection. And this report, which is being issued today, gives a clear and honest assessment of where all of us are making progress on our commitments and where we are either standing still or even sliding backwards. It takes a hard look at every government in the world, including our own. Because when I became Secretary of State, I said, “When we are going to be issuing reports on human trafficking, on human rights that talk about other countries, we’re also going to be examining what we’re doing,” because I think it’s important that we hold ourselves to the same standard as everyone else.

Now, this year’s report tells us that we are making a lot of progress. Twenty-nine countries were upgraded from a lower tier to a higher one, which means that their governments are taking the right steps. This could mean enacting strong laws, stepping up their investigations and prosecutions, or simply laying out a roadmap of steps they will take to respond.

But this issue and the progress we’ve made are about much more than statistics on prosecutions and vulnerable populations. It’s about what is happening in the lives of the girls and women I recently met in Kolkata. I visited a few months ago and was able to meet with some extraordinary women and girls who were getting their lives back after suffering unspeakable abuses. One young girl, full of life, came up and asked me if I wanted to see her perform some karate moves. And I said, “Of course.” And the way she stood up so straight and confident, the pride and accomplishment in her eyes, was so inspiring. This was a child who’d been born in a brothel to a young mother who had been forced and sold into prostitution. But when her mother finally escaped and took her daughter with her, they were out of harm’s way and finally able to make choices for themselves.

Now I don’t know what’s going to happen to that young girl, whose image I see in my mind’s eye, in the years and decades ahead. But I do know that with a little help, her life can be so much better than her mother’s. And that’s what we need to be focused on, and it’s what we need to try to do for all victims and survivors.

That’s why in this year’s report, we are especially focused on that third P, victim protection. And in these pages, you’ll find a lot of proven practices and innovative approaches to protecting victims. This is a useful and specific guide for governments looking to scale up their own efforts. What kind of psychological support might a victim need? How should immigration laws work to protect migrant victims? How can labor inspectors learn to recognize the warning signs of traffickers? And what can you and all of us do to try to help?

When I met with the people who were working with victims in Kolkata, I met several young women from the United States who had been inspired by reading about and watching and going online and learning about what was happening in the efforts to rescue and protect victims. And they were there in Kolkata, working with organizations, NGOs, and the faith community, to do their part. So this is a moment for people to ask themselves not just what government can do to end modern slavery, but what can I do, what can we do together.

Ultimately, this report reminds us of the human cost of this crime. Traffickers prey on the hopes and dreams of those seeking a better life. And our goal should be to put those hopes and dreams back within reach, whether it’s getting a good job to send money home to support a family, trying to get an education for oneself or one’s children, or simply pursuing new opportunities that might lead to a better life. We need to ensure that all survivors have that opportunity to move past what they endured and to make the most of their potential.

I’m very pleased that every year we have the chance to honor people who have made such a contribution in this modern struggle against modern slavery. And I’m also pleased that this is a high priority for President Obama and the Obama Administration. It’s something that is not just political and not just a policy, but very personal and very deep. You might have seen over the weekend a long story about Mrs. Obama’s roots going back to the time of our own period of slavery and the family that nurtured her, which has roots in the fields and the houses of a time when Americans owned slaves.

So as we recommit ourselves to end modern slavery, we should take a moment to reflect on how far we have come, here in our country and around the world, but how much farther we still have to go to find a way to free those 27 million victims and to ensure that there are no longer any victims in the future.”

Leave a comment »

“If I wanted to start a card-making thing…”

A college friend of mine wrote the above phrase to me today. I’ve been asked this question by a few other people as well.  So, with that question, I launched into an answer to my friend that seemed worthy enough for a blog post.  I have been busy with gardening and other social activities so not much time to post anything this month of June.  But here is the response to what may have been an innocent enough question.  She got the full tilt answer whether she was expecting it or not. She already is sending me a collection of cards in the mail, that might be easier for her in the long run.

“If I wanted to start a card making thing here how would I go about that? Or should I collect cards and send them to you?”

My answer: “I have learned much about card-making and there is so much more to learn, believe me.  For now, I know this that if you put energy into Christmas cards, people won’t necessarily buy them.  If they send out every December, they are used to buying a packet of 20 cards in a box for $5 or sending out photos or their own Christmas letters. However, the cards I will send over to Kazakhstan will be those very cards that are so pretty here and that the international women will hopefully want to buy at the annual international bazaar.  I hope there will be a booth at each bazaar in Almaty and Astana where the cards will be displayed with the idea of selling them to westerners.  If the Kazakhs like them, that is a bonus.

Sooooo….you may receive a plethora of cards from people because they are pretty and should be recycled. I know people want to donate or give in some way to help victims in the human trafficking shelters.  However, you must be careful to not accept 1960s or older cards because people might save and store their cards in damp places.  Result, you get a mildewy smell which permeates throughout all the other cardstock. I’ve also received some cards that have the smell of smoke from cigarettes, household smells do cling. I learned the hard way when one of my customers reported back this feedback.
Consequently, I have had to toss some of what people have mailed or given me.  The old cards are interesting to look at because the artwork is different from what Hallmark produces.  Sadly, because of the smell, some cards cannot be used.  Maybe I have to figure out a way to give off a light fragrance in our card packets. I’ve considered having a cedar smell included in the Christmas cards, but I’ve only “thought” about it.
In any case, you have to accept everything that is donated to you, they don’t have to know you purged some of them…the givers do mean well.  They are parting with memories of what the original card givers meant when they initially sent the cards even if that was 50 years ago.

I’ve learned something about volunteers, as well.  It is very difficult to find people who are qualified to do the kind of work needed or you have to be super organized and have projects ready for those who are NOT gifted in the arts.  Let me put it bluntly, there are those adults who are normal people who hold down normal jobs who are all thumbs when it comes to craftsy work.  Some don’t know how to cut a straight edge, others are messy with glue.  Oh, what I have learned about volunteers…some don’t show up when they said they would.  But some are shy and want to help yet will only do what they are told.  Others, however, are naturally gifted and take off and do extraordinary things with cards.

However, now I know there is a huge difference between card makers and scrapbookers.  I have a friend who does both artfully well and I save ALL her homemade cards because they are a work of art!! Scrapbookers pile on lots of do-dads and embellish which takes lots of time for just ONE card.  With our “Card-Again” enterprise, we are trying to make money and so efforts that are put into one card that will only sell for about $1 or $2 is not a good use of time and energy.

There are those who have all the Stampin’ Up stamps and they do a great job with putting cards together but I haven’t nailed those talented people down on a regular basis because my schedule has been so erratic.  There is one neighbor lady who really got me started on this and she has been a consistent help to me.  She knows what I am looking for and she has organized 1,000s of cards that I have received into different categories.  You want to organize in the main five or six categories: 1) birthday 2) get well 3) congrats 4) sympathy and 5) thank you.  The last two are the most important for this area where there are lots of funerals and those of the older generation are used to sending thank yous as well.

What I have learned about younger people is they love the gift bags we made. It is so easy to put a present in them and then give rather than wrapping presents which takes time with cutting paper, tape and bows.  Also, the younger generation is not used to getting snail mail so they are not as apt to buy cards unless special.  Specialized cards like “Happy birthday Sister-in-law” or “Happy Divorce” is too specific. Those greetings should be cut out while the graphics can still be used.  You would not believe some of the cards I have seen, like “sympathy for loss of pet.”  Oh my.

So, if you are to market these cards, what we found instead of having one of each size in different zip lock type plastic coverings is to put them in a plastic packet of 6 cards of various shapes and messages to sell for $10.  If only 3 cards in a packet priced at $5.  What was not a good use of space was to lay out all the cards for people to think about which several cards they liked best.  The important thing to recognize is that you are selling a product where your buyers are giving to a cause. They get the cards as a kind of side benefit.  The people who buy our “Card-Again” cards are giving towards shelters for victims of human trafficking.  We have donated several thousand dollars to the Not For Sale organization in Minnesota.

The reason I like doing cards is because every time I give a talk on human trafficking to a group of people, then I hear more sad stories from them.  I feel balanced when I am being creative with making “Card-Again” cards. After sorting fronts and backs, I like putting the back of cards together with different cards. BTW, I use the back of cards and cover up writing only if the backs have an interesting color or design.  So the main thing you need to buy and use is an Exacto paper cutter and put the envelopes together with the size you have.  The easiest size is from an 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece that is halved.  So you have the fold or scoring of 4 1/4 by 5 1/2.  You might want to find the envelopes first to figure out what different color envelope goes with your card stock.  That’s what I do because you would NOT BELIEVE HOW MANY SIZES OF ENVELOPES are out in the world.  Nothing is sacred with envelopes, they are NOT standardized size-wise.

I have learned about embossing and glitter, I’ve learned other volunteers like to use bows or lace.  Others are creative with buttons and hole punches. How you glue cards together has a certain technique as well.  You don’t want to use the expensive kind of sticky tape on both sides unless pressed to do so.  I use a big bottle of glue that looks like a ketchup bottle and press each card under heavy, heavy Stampin’ Up catalogs.

I actually think my husband will give over to me a small shop used for other purposes so I don’t have to spread out on our dining room table and then take down again in a couple of days.  It is nice to get back to the “creative mess” when I have huge junks of time.  Finally, I would hope that you would pursue this project of making cards because it is a fun way to have people over and to experiment with different things.”

Leave a comment »

Create Greeting Cards for Profit in Kazakhstan

Someone from my hometown lives and works in Rwanda and his blog showed people doing something of what I envision happening in Kazakhstan. The profits made by creating beautiful Card-Again cards would help the families of those victims who are rescued. The victims are also helped because they need something to do with their hands as they sit idly in the human trafficking shelters.  The reason many of these men and women got ensnared in the first place is because they were reaching out in hope for a job prospect in another area of the country.  They were often lied to by those they trusted.  Consequently, they were not given any monetary compensation for the work they did whether in construction or in the sex industry.  Now their situation is still bad after being “freed” from slavery, many of them still have no skills and have terrible memories of their enslavement.  Tragically, these are the “lucky” ones who are living in the shelters and getting rehabilitated.

I’m glad to say that the box that I shipped with old greeting cards, envelopes and cardstock has arrived in Astana. It means the meeting of my two contacts has to happen first. Meanwhile, those who are administering at the different shelters in northern Kazakhstan will have to figure out how to put the “Card-Again” cards together. Without my being there, I’m sure some creative persons will come up with much better ideas than what I have learned over the course of a year.  We have made our share of mistakes but we have also learned what works. The profit we have made from the sales of our “Card-Again” cards have gone directly to Not For Sale, Minnesota.

I would LOVE to find out more about “Fresh Words Market” and how they have arrived at selling eight cards with coordinating envelopes.  I know the frustration of buying a greeting card in Kazakhstan and not having an envelope to go with it.  You are forced to create your own.  I guess as westerners we always assume that you get an envelope with the purchase of a card so you can promptly mail it.  In Kazakhstan, they don’t have much of a postal system and being more of an oral tradition, they just pass along their well wishes orally and not in writing.

Hopefully that will change where the cards that the victims make in the human trafficking shelters will be sold at the Radisson hotel in Astana during the Christmas Bazaar sponsored by the International Women’s Club.  In five short months, that all has to be coordinated to that end.  The International women write letters and will want to feel like they are helping the victims who are trying to make a profit from the work they did on making cards.  A win-win situation.

I took great encouragement in finding out what others are doing to build up a cottage industry in Haiti, Rwanda and elsewhere. Check these photos out about how they make their cards.

Leave a comment »

Human Trafficking – Euphemism for Slavery!!!

Euro2012 will be going on in Poland and Ukraine and you can be sure that the “traffickers” are busy getting their sex slaves to certain locations for some of those “loyal” soccer spectators. As I write this the countdown is one hour away…the excitement builds on the Euro2012 website.  The same would be true of any World Series or Super Bowl events in the U.S.  The “handlers” of sex slaves move their products to where the customers are congregated.  Why aren’t more people aware of this slavery problem? Perhaps because law enforcement turns a blind eye to what the slaves are going through since any huge sporting event is good for the cities’ economies.

I’m glad people like State Department Ambassador Luis CdeBaca is bringing attention to Minnesota businesses about how they can be “trafficking cops.”  If you read the entire text of this StarTribune article, you will see that the title of this blog comes from the quote I got from the article:

“Human trafficking is a bit of a misnomer. At the end of the day, what we’re really talking about is modern slavery.  ‘Trafficking’ is a euphemism that makes people a little bit more comfortable, so we tend to hear it called that more.”

Fortunately, more and more people are becoming aware of the problem and want to DO something about it.  I still have people giving me greeting cards that we turn into “Card-Again” cards. Profits from the sale of these cards go to Not For Sale, Minnesota.  We have been selling gift bags and books as well to spread awareness about modern day slavery.

I am happy to report our first small shipment was sent off to Kazakhstan and will arrive to Astana this weekend.  Those working at the trafficking shelters in Astana will receive samples of envelopes, cardstock, recycled fronts of greeting cards, and ideas about how to make these “Card-Again” cards. In anticipation of the Christmas Bazaar at the Radisson in December, I hope this is the first of many such shipments and the profits can go back to their shelters.  A win-win because it gives those skilled in making cards something to do and perhaps a future cottage industry will come of it.

Contacts I have in Astana will help those victims who are rehabilitating in shelters and those who are craftsy will assemble the cards together for the international women to buy by December’s bazaar.  At least that is my vision for this new enterprise. Awareness here in Minnesota and North Dakota will spread back to women from all over the world who are spouses of businessmen living in Kazakhstan.

I’d like to see “Awareness Trafficking” happen where more people look at analyzing lower-down tiers.  We all must take seriously the monitoring of the supply-chain of products we buy, use and take for granted.  Read the StarTribune article and find out what more people in the Minnesota business community are doing.

Leave a comment »