Posts tagged “Not for Sale

Giving a Talk on H.T. Issues…Again

Recently I was asked by someone I know from my hometown, through Facebook, if I still give talks on human trafficking issues.  What evolved from my affirmative answer was a whirlwind of phone conversations on her end to get me to be the speaker to 20-30 people in one month. (my guess is their other featured speaker must have cancelled on them at the last minute)  On my end I wrote the following to convince the promoters of this event and eventually the audience participants that I mean business.  I will be paid by some federal grant for my gas mileage, hotel and meals and speaker’s fee.  I hope that I can do this two day conference justice. Surely they have many speakers in the Twin Cities who can talk on this subject rather than getting me from five hours away.

In any case, I will go and do the best I can in 90 minutes to convince those in attendance that this is a plague amongst all of us throughout the whole world. Not only domestic abuse and violence against women, but men and children are also enslaved. That is my main message. Slavery and using humans is an age old and troubling problem that has been with us for thousands of years. Wherever you have the powerful and dominating culture, you will also have the vulnerable and weak. Those in the middle need to rise up and do something about helping those who can’t help themselves. The abolitionists did it before with changing laws and trends, people like Wilberforce, worked within his sphere of influence.  Surely we can do the same.  Here is what I quick wrote based on what I had written earlier on this blog.  My eyes had been opened up to this tragedy of human trafficking after living three plus years in Kazakhstan. For some inexplicable reason, this dreadful topic will not go away for me. I need to stay on the front lines to help in the fight.

“Modern-day traders in human property know their business inside out and respond to changes in the market with a speed unmatched by even the most competitive corporations.  Their expertise and ability to exploit the market are surpassed only by their disregard for human life. Women are bought, sold and hired out like any other product. The bottom line is profit.”

We, as westerners, should NOT be complacent about human trafficking. I have seen with my own eyes the slavery mentality in countries I have lived in or visited from the Philippines, China, Hong Kong, to the countries of the former Soviet Union of Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. I have lived 15 years outside of my own country to know that human trafficking exists and is getting worse than ever. Maybe out of willful ignorance we do not care to know about those trapped in sex trafficking who need an outside advocate. Maybe it is because we think slavery was abolished since our “Civil” War in America, that it doesn’t exist elsewhere in the world? It does exist and the numbers of trafficked victims far exceed the total number of slaves during the hundreds of years of the trans-Atlantic trade from Africa to the U.S. My main question is: “Shouldn’t there be an all-out war and campaign against human trafficking?”

My answer as an educator is that I am convinced when people are presented the facts about human trafficking, they respond in wanting to help or donate in some way to alleviate the suffering.  We must admit that we live in a privileged, first world environment that is comfortable while many languish in poverty and grab at any opportunity that will possibly help them out.  In my presentations that I give about human trafficking, I set forth some of the things I have learned along the way about child soldiers, child labor, building construction, tobacco/cotton fields, begging in streets, forced marriages, surrogate maternity, harvesting organs, pornography and prostitution. Whoever listens to what I have learned, will come away knowing that this is not just a war against women but men and children as well.  They will also find out there is hope because there are international organizations (i.e. Polaris Project, Freeset, Remember Nu, Not for Sale, etc.) which are mobilized to do something about trafficking.  We are NOT alone in this fight against human trafficking.

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Extra Credit for my Comp I students

We are into Week 7 of our Composition I classes which to me feels like mid-point for the semester. The students are now putting the finishing touches on their second paper and we are looking into materials that relate to human trafficking.  Paper #3 will involve this horrible topic and cover different subtopics of the following where victims of trafficking can be found throughout the whole world:

1) tobacco and cotton fields

2) building construction

3) begging in the streets

4) child laborers

5) child soldiers

6) pornography

7) prostitution

8) forced marriages

9) surrogate maternity

10) harvesting of organs

In order to improve their percentage grade, my students have been given the following options in order to get more emotionally involved in this assignment.  I know human trafficking is a tough one but not one to be avoided because it is unpleasant.  I will encourage them to do something in their sphere of influence.

1)     Read the book on-line – Two Kyrgyz Women” by Marinka Franulovic and write 500 word reaction to one or the other story.  The first is about a mother with her baby working as a slave laborer in the tobacco fields of Kazakhstan.  The second is about a woman who was prostituted, taken from her four children. Both women were restored to their families but are not telling anyone in their village of the dangers they were in.  Very much a taboo topic in Kyrgyzstan.

http://www.free-ebooks.net/ebook/Two-Kyrgyz-Women#ixzz1z5pbxEsN

(25 points for each story, 50 points for whole book)

2)     Read the book on reserve at the UMC library “Not For Sale” by David Batstone and write 100 words summarizing each chapter for 10 points each (read what chapters are of interest to you)

3)     Check out and watch movie “Changeling and write 300 words about your impressions about it and how it might relate to your Paper #3 (25 points)

4)     Check out and watch movie Taken” and do the same as above (25 points)

5)     Read my blog entries about human trafficking from this Kazakhnomad blog site for 10 points each and write 150-200 words OR read this other blog which is very current and posted from India written by Katy Westrom:

http://katywestrom.theworldrace.org/?filename=bleeding-red

6)     Take the Slavery Footprint survey to find out how many slaves work for you.  Do the finetuning to get a more accurate score.  Write 150 words telling about the results and what surprised you the most about this inventory?  (5 points)

http://slaveryfootprint.org/survey/?gclid=CM69yfrr1LUCFe4-MgodkUQAzQ#where_do_you_live

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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Working Upstream from the “Sexual Gulag”

I just had my heart broken all over again as I listened to a young Cambodian girl named Nhu give her horrific story about what she went through as a 12 year old sex slave.  Thankfully she has broken free from her “sexual gulag” that so many young girls who are born in grinding poverty are caught in.  When talking to Dick Wexler, co-founder of “Not for Sale – MN” last December, he talked about organizations that are going “upstream” from where the traffickers perpetuate the sexual gulag hellholes. First, I need to explain two things: 1) what it means to be upstream and 2) why is it called “sexual gulag?”

Let me explain Gulag first. As many of my readers know, gulag is a Russian acronym for “Glavnoe Upravlnie Lagerei” which essentially means “Main Camp Administration.”  In Kazakhstan, they had a similar term “Karlag” which has the same meaning but in the Karaganda region where the headquarters were in Kazakhstan.  What was notable about the gulag and karlag was that it was far, far away from any civilization.  The people who were sent to these places were either political or criminal prisoners during the Soviet Union with little chance of escaping. The term “sexual gulag” has many of the same connotations for those women caught in the sex trade but the major difference is that it is done in the major cities, sometimes in open view to everyone.

I remember one time when my husband and I were walking around in Amsterdam about ten years ago, we were trying to avoid the red light districts.  But somehow we got off track and walked right into an area close to the main train station where women were showing their “wares” in store front windows. They were like moving mannequins but scantily clad, we quickly moved away.  The “sexual gulag” is right at our doorsteps and not somewhere far removed, except in our minds if we continue to let it.

Many of my faithful readers of this blog know I have long been at this problem of trying to make people more aware of the USSR’s gulags and especially about Kazakhstan’s karlags. So it would seem a natural thing for me to move into the outrage that should be created with the 21st century sexual gulags we have in our midst. I guess I’m upset about what happened in the Soviet past and now incensed about what is going on in the present. In a book written by Anne Applebaum, she wrote the following about gulags:

“In the course of the Soviet Union’s existence, at least 476 distinct camp complexes came into being consisting of thousands of individual camps…The total number of prisoners in the camps generally hovered around 2,000,000, but the total number of Soviet citizens who had some experience of the camps, as political or criminal prisoners, is far higher.  From 1929, when the Gulag began its major expansion, until 1953, when Stalin died, the best estimates indicate that some 18,000,000 people passed through its massive system.”

I’m getting this information from a report done by Lisa L. Thompson when she gave a talk representing Salvation Army to a special committee about sexual exploitation of children to the U.S. Congress in 2005.  What Thompson reported were some staggering statistics while comparing the numbers of the Soviet gulag to our present day “sexual gulag.”

“UNICEF reports that one million children enter sex trafficking per year. Approximately 30 million children have lost their childhood through sexual exploitation over the past 30 years.”

Lisa Thompson has many other interesting analogies to make between the Soviet Gulag and the current sexual gulag we are experiencing.

Now I want to explain what it means to be “working upstream” from all these problems of children getting sucked into sex slavery.  The way it was best explained to me was by Dick Wexler. Caring people can go to countries like Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, Viet Nam and find out where the girls are who are being preyed upon. Usually it happens if there is only one parent left or there is a new stepparent who comes in due to divorce or a number of other problems that drives desperate people to extreme measures to get them out of poverty.

The “Remember Nhu” organization is working upstream when they try to find girls who are vulnerable and help feed and educate them.  Check out the following website www.remembernhu.org and you will see many of the same things I looked into.  I believe this is a very worthy cause to find girls who the traffickers might prey upon. This helps them to become employable by making money for themselves before they are snatched away to be sex slaves.  Too often the trafficking shelters that are trying to help rehabilitate those girls who have escaped sex slavery see a high recidivism rate because these girls are so broken, damaged, hooked on drugs or alcohol to help cure the pain in their hearts.  Sadly, the girls who are no longer in the sexual gulag after years of damage are found downstream with lots of emotional baggage.

Yes, working upstream to help eliminate poverty for those families who have girls that might be sold into slavery is the best way.  Check out “Remember Nhu.”

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“Tell a Story” says Jason Russell

Ironic that I wrote about co-founder Jason Russell of “Invisible Children” in my last post. Then as soon as I hit “publish” on my blog, I found out Russell was arrested yesterday in California for erratic behavior and indecent exposure.  I’m certain Jason didn’t want to give this kind of exposure to his operation of Kony2012. This will most certainly backfire on all their plans leading up to April 20th. I suppose the story that Jason Russell really wants to tell is about Jacob when Russell went to Africa eight years ago.  Young Jacob was able to escape the clutches of Joseph Kony who has destroyed many, many lives. That’s a very sad story.

Here’s a new story just hot off the press.  I feel sorry for Jason Russell who presumably is married with two children. He has a wife he has known for 23 years, he is 33 years old, so married to a childhood sweetheart.  That’s what I have gathered about him from different news sources. Supposedly he is a Christian, family man who cares deeply about families who have been destroyed in Africa, mainly Sudan and Uganda and anywhere else the Lord’s Resistance Army has infiltrated.

I just finished watching a clip with Mark Wexler (co-founder of Not For Sale) and Jason Russell telling an audience about how to use social media to give any abolitionist activist more impact. Anyone who has a passion to tell their story concerning human trafficking, there are astute ways to get the message across.  Apparently with the video clip of Kony2012 gone viral as of a week ago, it just so happened to take Jason out of commission.  Hopefully this is a temporary setback, I do wish him well for the sake of his cause and his family.

I’ll philosophize a bit here. Maybe we as finite creatures are incapable of using all the social media at our fingertips such as Twitter, blogging, Facebook, etc.  Seems that Jason was on technology overload at the expense of his spiritual, biological and emotional health. Getting his Kony2012 film clip out for the world to see may have been his on doing while there are so many other atrocities going on in the world.  He admitted on the Not For Sale website that telling a simple story can be difficult.  He claimed you have to create forward momentum to keep it going.  Maybe Jason and his team of Invisible Children are doing too much, too soon, too fast.

Around an election year is also a critical time to be campaigning for a good cause, but aren’t Americans all tired of the hype built around candidates’ bumper stickers, campaign posters and conventions? Enough already of the hype! I still don’t understand the “Invisible Children’s” logic of “making Joseph Kony famous.” No, let’s make Kony as well known as Hitler as a wild-eyed despotic tyrant who killed many people. I have to add, as I wrote yesterday, let’s make Kony as infamous as Jospeh Stalin should be known as. Too many tragic stories in the former Soviet Union have remained untold.

Telling a story is what Kazakh people are adept at.  If only I understood the Kazakh language to hear what stories they tell their younger generations about the exploits and glories of the good old days when the Kazakh nomads roamed their steppes in freedom.  The independent Kazakh of hundreds of years ago knew how to live off the land. They also knew how to fight bravely while being hospitable to the hapless stranger who wandered on to their far off, desolate lands. I’m told the Kazakhs have an oral tradition where they really know how to tell a story. No one needs to tell them to “tell a story.”

Funny that we are advised by Jason Russell that we must know how to tell a story orally. In our western land of written literature, we need to learn how to be good story tellers. I have said many times, that each life lived out on earth has a compelling story.  Each individual soul matters. I wonder what is Jason Russell’s story that brought him to this point of exhaustion and dehydration where he is being hospitalized right now for the overwork he has committed himself to with Kony2012.  No doubt he cares for the children who have remained invisible in Africa, he has his own children he loves and cares for.

What will become of all the donation money that has come in to Kony2012 thus far to help tell the story? Will this latest drama with Jason Russell propel the momentum forward?  I wonder…stay tuned!

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