These Are a Few of My Favorite Things…(That Fight Trafficking)

medium_2067393199It’s that time of year! (YAY!) The stores have started decorating, the commercials are trying to sell their version of a “magical” Christmas, and my neighbors have [already] put their decorations up.

Although a lot of people aren’t ready to admit to it because Thanksgiving hasn’t come yet, it is about time to start planning: the best cards to send, a list of who to buy presents for, and of course the menu for that perfect Holiday meal.

Christmas cards, gifts and food are inevitable to make the Holidays special, so why not also make them meaningful?

With a little research, everything you purchase for the perfect Holiday this year can also make a difference in someone else’s life or support a cause that you’re passionate about.

You all know my passion, so below is a list of some of my favorite stores that provide beautiful products that fight human trafficking.

Christmas Cards:

love146         mhkenya        sanctuary

Love146 -These ReImagine cards were all handmade on recycled paper by young women in the Love146 survivor care program in the Philippines. Proceeds go toward ending child trafficking and exploitation.

Sanctuary Spring -By purchasing these cards you are helping employ women who are escaping prostitution in the Philippines.

FACTAlliance – These cards were designed by American Survivors of Child Sex Trafficking. Proceeds go toward building and sustaining aftercare homes  for survivors in the USA. (Much needed!)

Mercy House Kenya -Made by the girls from Mercy House Kenya. Every card is completely unique and each have a beautiful African flare.

House of Magnets -This is a neat website where you can choose your Holiday card, customize it and then choose what type of Charity you would like to donate proceeds towards. Anything from a water well to ending trafficking.

Gifts:

lily          Mary Clutch          livefashionable

Raven and Lily -(Probably my favorite!) Created as a platform to utilize the passion of fashion and ethical design to alleviate poverty among women. Raven and Lily provide GORGEOUS, modern jewelry, accessories, clothing and gifts made by women from all over the world who were at risk and are now employed at fair wages.

Starfish Project – Established to provide alternative employment to empower exploited women in Asia. This store also has amazingly beautiful jewelry! (Check out the Lily necklace. FAB.)

Live Fashionable -Provides employment to women in Africa so that they will have a life-changing impact on their family and community. They make some of the most beautiful scarves I’ve ever seen!

Sak Saum -A ministry dedicated to the rescue, restoration, transformation and rehabilitation of vulnerable and exploited women and men in Cambodia. If you are looking for a handbag for someone, look no further. I’m loving the Mary Clutch!

Made by Survivors -Offering pretty much everything, Made by Survivors gives 100% of their proceeds to fight trafficking and end slavery. All products are made by people around the world who have been exploited or lived in extreme poverty. The best part is that they have a kid’s department, but nothing is made by kids!!

Amazon Smile -Now you can shop your favorite online store for anything (and I mean anything) and Amazon will donate 0.5% of your purchase to a charity of your choice! Just click the link, sign in and choose what organization you would like to choose! (RescueHer.org, anyone?)

Food:

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ZOE Coffee -If you drink coffee every morning anyway, why not make it count? Try ZOE, a European style, dark roasted, fair trade coffee. Each sip is a step closer to ending slavery!

Free2Work -Before you plan that perfect Holiday meal, learn how your favorite brands relate to trafficking and other labor abuses. Free2Work provides consumers with information on forced and child labor for the brands and products they love. (Check out chocolate*.)                                                                                                                         *Warning: Once you look you can never again say that you did not know.

Fair Trade USA -This site is kind of fun! Choose what type of food (or product) you are needing and it will give you a list of brands that are fair trade!

Whole Foods -Claiming to be the “America’s healthiest grocery store,” Whole Foods seeks out the finest natural and organic foods available, maintain the strictest quality standards in the industry, and have an unshakable commitment to sustainable agriculture.

Market Street -Committed to be more environmentally friendly, Market Street is a unique, one-stop shopping experience that combines shoppers’ everyday grocery needs with the gourmet and specialty items, whole-health products, and freshly prepared foods they create.

These are just some of my favorites. There are so many stores that support causes. You can find one that supports your passion, all it takes is a little research.

What causes are you going to support this year?

 

Never Again

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Three years ago I was sitting on a friend’s couch watching Liam Neeson do “what he does best” in a movie that I found profoundly interesting and entertaining: Taken. It was the first time I had watched this movie, finally, after all my friends kept telling me I needed to see it. At the time, I did not realize that this movie would change my life. It was my gateway into what is now my passion: anti-trafficking.

Today as I sat at my desk in my office at work, I thought back to all the times I did not know.  One day in particular still bothers me:

Here_comes_rain_again

It was pouring rain outside, so I opened the front door to the porch, but left the glass screen door closed. I grabbed my favorite book and lay on the couch. The sound of the rain hitting the windows mixed with the fresh air blowing through the house was so relaxing. I started to doze off when I heard, Tap! Tap! Tap!

At the door, there was a boy, no older than 17 or 18. He was sopping wet, wearing a backpack and had been riding a bicycle. I was ready to send him away because I knew he was going to try to sell something. I had already sent away three door-to-door sales people in two days! But, for some reason I felt like this kid deserved to be heard, so I decided to let him do his whole spiel before turning him away. With a thick British accent, he told me all about how I could learn about the human body with an anatomy book that looked like it had been through a medical exam or two.

“I’m sorry, I’m really not in the market for anatomy books,” I responded. I felt badly for him; he was getting soaked, but was not giving up on selling his product.

After trying to talk me into the book for a minute or two, he finally said, “Can I be honest with you? I really would just love a cup of tea.”

“I’m sorry, we don’t have tea.” The disappointment on his face made me feel even worse him.

“Coffee?” Poor kid. We didn’t even own a coffee maker.

Water?”

I laughed. “Would you like to come in for a minute and dry off?” With a look of relief, he smiled politely and came inside. (Don’t worry, my roommate was home, too!)

He sat down with his glass of water. He was really quiet. We could tell that the rain wasn’t going to let up soon, so we asked him about his job. Through a series of questions we learned a lot:

He was from London. A friend told him about a job during the Summer that would take him to America to sell products. America. Land of the free.  Here he would get to make new friends, lots of money and if he sold enough products, he would win a trip to some Caribbean Island or something like that. He would also get a free bicycle to use for his job.                                                                        All he had to do was buy his plane ticket.                                                                                            When he got to America, he learned that in order to make that money he was promised, he had to go to at least 100 doors a day and sell 80 books a day. There was no chance of actually winning a trip or making much money. He was already out the cost of his plane ticket. Every morning he and the others in his group loaded into a van to be dropped off in different neighborhoods at 9 AM and picked up at 7 PM every evening. They each sold something different, so it was possible the other guys I had turned away were in his group. It turned out the job wasn’t as exciting as he thought. He didn’t get a lot of free time (if any) and he really missed London.

We all sat awkwardly silent, listening to the final sprinkles of rain.

Finally, he decided he should go. He stood up, hesitated, looked at the ground like he wanted to tell us something, but instead grabbed his backpack. Everything inside me felt off. I wanted to stop him and insist he stay for dinner. I wanted to drive him back to where he was staying. I wanted to ask more questions.

Instead, I said goodbye.

At the time I didn’t know why I felt like that, but looking back now there were so many signs. I believe this was my first experience with a trafficking victim.

Unfortunately, his situation is common. You may have encountered it yourself, but not known. It is so easy to be oblivious to what’s going on around us.  We get wrapped up in our own worlds, but we come in contact with so many people in our everyday lives. This could be happening to anyone; from the door-to-door salesman to your favorite manicurist at the nail salon.

You might see something that doesn’t seem quite right, or have a bad feeling about it, but what can you do? We’ve all been there. We don’t ask questions. We don’t want to be bothered.  Or maybe we just don’t know that these things happen.

I didn’t know about trafficking at that time, but I did know that something seemed odd about his story. I didn’t do anything. I let him leave. I can’t change that now. All I can do is keep the memory as a constant reminder of how often trafficking happens and as motivation to take action.

Trafficking happens. Around me. Around you.  All the time.

I want you to know about it.

And now that you’ve read this, you can never again say that you did not know.

For more information on human trafficking and how you can help, visit http://www.rescueher.org.