Posts tagged Free2work

We Want to DO something… (Part II)

Ladies in our group want to DO SOMETHING about eradicating slavery and human trafficking!  That is why we arrived at having a sale of our castoffs.  We hope to get more donations to turn into money so victims of trafficking in Kazakhstan  and Central Asia can turn it back into clothes, beds, kitchenware, all the kinds of things we are purging.  Too bad we couldn’t just ship everything that is excess for us to the shelters that need them to help rehabilitate those victims who have come out of being slaves.  Cost prohibitive.

Another thing mentioned the other night was that most all the clothes we buy and the places we buy things at inadvertently use child labor.  We, as Americans, are used to receiving minimum wage in our U.S. jobs but that would be laughable and unheard of in other third world countries.  One article mentioned by someone in the group listed all the stores that are on the black list which is similar to the website (Free2work) we talked about earlier where companies are given grades from A to F.

Well, we are satisfied that we don’t do any shopping at the elite stores who are on the black list.  Many of us go to thrift stores or some sew their own clothes.  Those of us who go to second hand stores talked about how we could make our rummage sale different.  Maybe like one American Red Cross store that had everything laid out and when they go to pay, the shopper is asked, “What is it worth to you?”  Well, then in your own mind you have to tally it up and in a sense give a donation.  We could do it that way or price everything at 50 cents so that people fix those prices in their heads while bigger items would be priced if they are worth more (furniture, exercise equipment, etc.)

We could also ask for donations from different stores or companies around town.  Having a silent auction was mentioned or maybe selling tickets for some things that are donated from the stores around town.  Someone volunteered to write up a paragraph that would go into church bulletins to announce this event that is a citywide garage sale.  However, again, we want to make sure this is different from all the rest of the rummage sales.  Explaining that all the profit made would go to this mission of helping trafficked victims here in the U.S. and also in Central Asia.

A way to advertise would be to put it on television or the radio website.  We could have a flyer printed up that would advertise at different places around town about what we would be selling.  Just in time for college students returning in the fall who want to establish their dorm rooms or rental homes.  We could have this as a Facebook event so these same incoming college students would show up. Maybe put an advert on Craigslist.

We would certainly be on the list for the community wide yard sales.  However, OURS would be different! Someone else mentioned that we could also have a Bake sale where everyone brings something they baked and sell it.  The thought would be to put a pamphlet about human trafficking in every bag that leaves the sale.  The shoppers would go home to read it if they didn’t see the displays that were set up or the powerpoint or DVD that plays continually through about human trafficking.

Someone mentioned that Demi Moore is into working against this problem of trafficking.  We could invite her but in case she doesn’t show up (tongue in cheek), we would maybe see what she reports on her website. We would see what other websites like “Not for Sale” and other organizations have in promoting their programs in the U.S. and abroad.  All in an effort to inform people in the community what is going on.  We must all be aware!!!

We discussed many other things such as where the donations of clothes and things would go and the wording of the pamphlets and flyers.  Many details to work out so we will have to have another meeting soon to discuss who will be in charge of what.  The other night was a floating of ideas.  Next time we will nail down the nuts and bolts of who will be responsible for what options they feel most comfortable with and are talented in getting done. We can make this a tri-focussed event.  Donate, buy or be aware!!!

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Shelters for Victims of Human Trafficking in Kazakhstan (Part II)

Here is the continuation of a westerner’s experience at a shelter for victims of human trafficking in Kazakhstan.  Quite revealing about a vicious cycle that needs to be broken.  Awareness and education in the rural areas is the key to make the traffickers and exploiters go away from this great land.

“A concrete example might be of interest at this juncture: Natasha, who I have met, was ‘sold’ by her mother, an alcoholic, to buy drink after years of neglect and abuse, both physical and psychological.  Her school attendance was extremely poor and, when she was there, could not understand what was being taught with the consequences you can imagine.  Both neighbours and teachers must have been aware of the situation, but did nothing to help; an attitude that is not exactly unknown in our own countries!  Natasha was ‘sold’ and brought to Astana to be a sex worker before finally escaping She hopes to start some kind of vocational training in September (paid for by the Ministry of Justice)  Her one talent seems to be in art – she was the young woman I mentioned previously as having a talent for drawing and entirely self-taught; so at least one happy ending in sight one hopes!

Not all are so fortunate; the Ukranian woman I had also previously mentioned had, apparently, been in bonded labour/servitude since Soviet times – she did not even know what a tenge was!  As you may imagine, readjustment for her has been very difficult as her ‘certainties’ in life have been removed and she is much older so it is hard to see what she might do – even back in her own country  I was told that the age profile for bonded labour/trafficking is generally older as younger people cannot physically withstand the nature of the work hence women tend to be late 20s or early 30s though men may be slightly younger

I should tell a little about the centre I mentioned earlier.  The money collected earlier in the term went to buy art material & also sports equipment for the young people who have to go there  It is also funded by the Ministry of Justice and is quite separate from the shelter.  Its purpose is for the re-education of young people who have got into trouble
or ‘bad company’ (to use a translated phrase) so includes some from orphanages, juvenile delinquents, behavioural problems as well as the local equivalent of ASBOs.  Attendance is obligatory though for its duration varies; Aigerim teaches an English class there, but we are talking about young people who do not have particularly good study habits or motivation.  There are full-time staff but also volunteers who are university students.

I went again on a Saturday with Connie and her daughter, Sandy, at Aigerim’s invitation to show the class some pictures of Brighton, Edinburgh and other parts of the UK. It should be said the kids were rather intimidated in class, but we went outside to play with the sports equipment we had bought: volleyball with the boys at first, but the girls rather liked the hula hoops and skipping ropes (great suggestions from Sandy).   In the end, we all played a sort of ‘piggy in the middle’ volleyball together which was fun.

So  a worthwhile couple of visits where I learned a lot and gained an insight into the difficulties of rehabilitation for those unfortunate enough to have been victims of trafficking  I hope that this has been worthwhile for you too and I also attach a report from the US Government on the scale of trafficking in Kazakhstan, which you might find of interest.  Should you wish to learn more or help more directly, you might like to look at the website which rates companies on their attitudes to labour trafficking or child labour (eg Gap) which might inform your next shopping spree!

Many thanks are due to Aigerim for the terrific work she did as a translator/interpreter (if you have ever done any you know how tiring it can be). Any questions please do not hesitate to contact me & I hope to enlist your support again in the new academic year.”

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Human Trafficking (Part IV)

I’m glad I was an active member of the International Women’s Club in Astana as well as in Almaty because this is where it all started for me…my interest in human trafficking.  It IS an international problem.  What is completely vexing and baffling to us as expats in Kazakhstan is that so few Kazakh people see it as a problem in their own country. Maybe if they DO know, they don’t want to admit that human trafficking is a problem. Or maybe those who are victims are powerless to say anything that is why we as expats need to keep this as a front burner issue by blogging about it or writing e-mails home to people in our respective countries.

The following is an e-mail that was sent by a British person after a visit to one of the 20 shelters which are situated throughout Kazakhstan. Thankfully, some things ARE being done to take care of this problem.  However, MORE is needed to be done to make Kazakhs in the countryside aware of human trafficking.  If you don’t read on, please at least go to this website Not for Sale – Also, check out  But keep informed about what people are doing “on the ground” of Kazakhstan to help ease the burden, please read on…

“We visited a shelter for the victims of trafficking recently to see their work ‘in situ.’  It is a rented house in the countryside. Frankly, we probably could not find it again if we tried to return!  They are working on plans to buy and equip their own place, but, for the moment, will continue to pay rent.  The most notable thing about the outside is the number of ducklings they are currently feeding.

The house itself seems quite big and there are two main bedrooms that we saw with five beds in each. There was also a male resident, who we did not meet but who has a separate entrance.  There are currently eight residents though this changes regularly and, on our visit, they came from various places (Ukraine, Uzbekhistan, Tajikstan, but also Kazakhs)  The oldest was 46 (Ukrainian rescued from farm servitude) and the youngest 20 (a Kazakh who had been sexual trafficked).

On this occasion, in contrast to all I had read or been told, the majority were victims of sexual rather than labour trafficking, but this varies all the time, we were told the majority of the funding comes through the Ministry of Justice, who finance the house, utilities and salaries of those involved (currently five people)  They also fund the reception centre in the centre of the city where all those newly rescued are first taken, usually by the police though perhaps in response to tip-offs.

Because of the possibility of legal proceedings, as threats are regularly made, the location of the centre is not divulged  Currently, there is an on-going legal process involving one of the young women in which she will be a witness as well the ‘client’ who reported her being sexually trafficked!  Yes, I was surprised too, but soliciting is not a crime in Kazakhstan though prostitution is!   However, because of the difficulty of actually ‘proving’ trafficking the usual charge is kidnapping thus the need for the victim to be protected.

So, what happens when someone is rescued?  They will stay at the shelter for therapy by trying to come to terms with and work through their trauma by use of both one-to-one and group therapy  They are also encouraged to work out and/or externalize their anger through art (one of the girls seemed a very good draughtsperson) or use of models with the faces of their exploiter(s)  As a rough guide, people stay for about half the time of their period of servitude though this, of  course, varies according to the individual or their circumstances.

What happens when they have to leave the shelter at the end of their therapy?  This also varies according to circumstances, as you might expect!  Those who are non-Kazakh are eventually repatriated (imagine the bureaucracy!) with local contacts for the IOM (e.g. in Bishkek) which they are encouraged to use.  However, this is rather more problematic in Kazakhstan as the family may have been involved with the original trafficking or the victim may not (for reasons I leave you to imagine!)   In this case, (there is currently one young woman in the shelter in this situation), then alternative arrangements are made to assist re-settlement and re-integration into society.

So what can we do to help?  Well, continue to donate clothes as their budget does not cover this type of expenditure, and I will be sending another email at the end of the month as you all pack & de-clutter ready for the new season!  Btw what is the ‘in’ colour the autumn season? However, for some of you, that is a problem (you dress in a timeless fashion?). Also, they have requested any art materials: flipchart type paper as well as paints both oil- & water-based  I will get some costing done and contact you again shortly if you would like to donate.”

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