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News Anchor Rides for Freedom

If you were't able to make it out to Freedom 4/24's inaugural Ride 4 Freedom on October 10, check out his blog review below from cyclist and WSLS 10 news anchor John Carlin as he describes his first hand experience as a participant. A HUGE thank you to John for taking the time to share his view point on the event and to advocate for the work for Freedom 4/24!

John Carlin, center, rides into an aid station with fellow cyclists during Ride 4 Freedom
John Carlin, center, rides into an aid station with fellow cyclists during Ride 4 Freedom

A GREAT RIDE FOR AN EMERGING AND IMPORTANT CAUSE.

by John Carlin

Ride start
Ride start

Riders learn about the horrors of human trafficking.

 424 stands for the low price to buy a young girl being trafficked in Thailand and  surrounding countries. Translated, it means you can buy a young female sex slave For 24  hours for 24 dollars. A Lynchburg based non-profit called Freedom 4/24 is doing what it  can to stop it. Toward that end, the group has done a number of runs as fundraisers – and this past  weekend (October 10, 2015) – their first organized bike ride.

I joined other members of my usual riding group from both Roanoke and Lynchburg in support of the cause on the rolling 42.4 mile loop that started at the Blue Ridge Community Church.

“We didn’t know how far or how hard to make the ride,” said National Race Director Joy Marinelli at the ride’s rest stop. She said they talked about century rides and metric centuries and 50 milers but ultimately thought the group’s signature number worked well. Members of our group would agree.

Freedom 424 National Race Director Joy Marinelli offered a reminder of the cause at the halfway point in the ride.
Freedom 424 National Race Director Joy Marinelli offered a reminder of the cause at the halfway point in the ride.

Freedom 424 National Race Director Joy Marinelli offered a reminder of the cause at the halfway point in the ride.

The course was almost never flat. We were either descending or climbing. While there were no major mountain climbs – since there are no mountains in Virginia’s Piedmont region – there were several steep pitches that went on for about half a mile or so. Bottom line this is a ride that can be described as both moderate and challenging.

Rain threatened our ride almost from the beginning – but somehow it held off.

Though we were riding under gray – almost misty skies, it was a beautiful ride. This is a part of Virginia where the older homes are really old. And the small farms and beautiful houses made for great scenery.

Though it was their first attempt at a bike ride, the 4/24 folks have their act together.

A good percentage of the riders may have been unfamiliar with the cause. I suspect most of us were looking for a nice, organized ride in support of just about anything. (We are cyclists after all!) But the pre-ride talk was memorable, as we learned more about Freedom 4/24.

The leaders have traveled to Thailand and the surrounding areas and they have seen the human trafficking with their own eyes. They were motivated to begin the organization to fight the issue. They told us the story of two women who have been saved from the system after years of battling to get out – after being kidnapped as children and forced into prostitution when they were 12 or 13 years old.

Organizers asked us to recognize the struggles of young girls being trafficked in 3rd world counties.
Organizers asked us to recognize the struggles of young girls being trafficked in 3rd world counties.

Organizers asked us to recognize the struggles of young girls being trafficked in 3rd world counties.

The 4/24 group asked us to write their names on our arms as a show of support for their struggles. It seemed the least we could do.

A volunteer wrote the name Vaishnavi on my arm. Vaishnavi is an 18 year old from India who believes she was taken from her parents at an early age and forced into prostitution at 13. She was rescued several times by a group called Freedom Firm, only to be dragged back to the red light district. Finally, in 2013 she was rescued for good and today lives in government shelter, where she receives counseling, and is learning to live a more normal life.

As we stood with our bikes, ready to ride, Marinelli, and marketing director Johanna Calfee reminded us that while it might rain, and that the hills might pose some difficulty, that it paled in comparison to the struggles faced by Vaishnavi and others. Fair enough. Struggling up a hill in the rain on a bicycle that costs as much as a used car is truly a first world problem. There’s a good dose of perspective there.

Back to the ride

The rest stop at about 21 miles.
The rest stop at about 21 miles.

The rest stop at about 21 miles.

Organizers offered a lone rest stop at the halfway point. For a ride as short as this – a single stop is certainly adequate. The table was full of goodies, Gatorade, bananas and anything else you might want.

At one point Marinelli asked us if the course was hard enough. Though I’ve ridden a couple thousand miles this summer – I felt like there was ample challenge there. I could easily see how they could (and should) keep the signature distance and add a metric century or 50 mile option, and eventually a full century.

I can say for certain that I was pretty happy to see the finish. The 4/24 group offered a free lunch with what might be the best barbeque I have ever eaten. And that’s saying something – because I eat a LOT of barbeque. There were plenty of other treats, and a warm place to eat inside the church.

This event was essentially a test run for the organizers. There were only about 35 riders, but the hope is that this becomes a major fundraiser for the group.

I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t.

Two Babies & Their Teenage Mothers Saved

web_for24
web_for24

“For 24,” is a year-long campaign telling the story of Freedom 4/24—from the survivors, world-changers, and volunteers to fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and enrich your understanding of Freedom 4/24 and the work we do together.

#9 & #10.MEET GRIFFY & PATIENCE

Griffy came to Christine’s House in July, 16 and pregnant. As a Freedom 4/24 rescue home for exploited girls in Gulu, Uganda, the staff at Christine’s House is used to taking in victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking who are pregnant as a result of their abuse. But Griffy is one of their youngest pregnant girls ever to arrive. She wasn't alone either. At the same time Griffy moved in, another pregnant teen from her village named Filder also arrived. When Griffy and Filder were first identified in their village by Aloysius Kyazze, founding director of Christine's House, both babies were in danger of being aborted.

He knew he had to get them to Christine’s House.

Christine's House in Gulu, Uganda.
Christine's House in Gulu, Uganda.

Now, Griffy and Filder are safe in a loving community environment. At Christine's House, they are learning a trade and receiving trauma counseling and medical services. Both girls have also been introduced to Jesus Christ and His healing love and hope.

Sewing
Sewing

Griffy and Filder are flourishing at Christine’s House. Griffy is learning the trade of baking and hopes to become a teacher one day. And she now has her first pupil! Her daughter Patience was born on September 20, a healthy 6.3-pound bundle of beauty. As baby Patience grows, the house now patiently awaits the arrival of Filder’s little one, who is due any day now.

Baby
Baby

Without Christine’s House, both Griffy and Filder would still be in exploitative situations and their babies may not be alive today. Christine’s House is fully funded each year through YOUR support of Freedom 4/24. A donation of any amount helps to provide a bright future to these girls who have survived so much.

Gift, at the far left, celebrates with the girls at Christine's House shortly after her arrival in July.
Gift, at the far left, celebrates with the girls at Christine's House shortly after her arrival in July.

For $116 a month, Christine’s House provides the following to the 42 girls who currently receive its services:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Medical care
  • Trauma counseling
  • Vocational training,
  • Social interaction
  • Faith and life skills training

Will you help to invest in the future of girls like Filder, Griffy, and babies like Patience? Begin today by giving a one-time gift or sign up to become a recurring donor.

How Giving of Time Gives Freedom

web_for24
web_for24

“For 24,” is a year-long campaign telling the story of Freedom 4/24—from the survivors, world-changers, and volunteers to fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and enrich your understanding of Freedom 4/24 and the work we do together.

How can the simple act of volunteering bring freedom and do justice to victims and survivors of sex trafficking? Read on as our Administrative Assistant, Emily Worsham, explains the crucial connection based on her first-hand experience of transitioning from a volunteer college student to full-time freedom fighter.

Freedom424_2015_19 (1)
Freedom424_2015_19 (1)

#9.MEET EMILY WORSHAM

Administrative Assistant and Volunteer Coordinator, Freedom 4/24 

Emily, as our volunteer coordinator (among many other things), you are on the front lines of connecting people to the work we do to fight human trafficking. What would you like those who consider volunteering with Freedom 4/24 to know?

Volunteering with Freedom 4/24 is such a great opportunity not only to get a behind-the-scenes look at a nonprofit organization, but also to fight for the freedom and justice of victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking. Freedom 4/24 volunteers need to be flexible with their hours as well as the tasks they help with. You may be a graphic design volunteer, but we would love to have you at some of our events or helping with administrative tasks in the office.

You actually started as a "volunteer" of sorts when you interned in college before being offered a role on staff. How did the internship open your eyes to the work of Freedom 4/24?

I remember meeting with the former volunteer coordinator and being told that Freedom 4/24 does not work directly with victims of human trafficking. I love to “get my hands dirty” and have always desired to work on the front lines, so this initially discouraged me. However, I really needed an internship, so I figured I would give Freedom 4/24 a try. It wasn’t long before I truly fell in love with the work that this organization is doing.

I was able to see the way that ordinary people—stay at home moms, businessmen and women, even school children—could have a deep and lasting effect in the lives of trafficking survivors. These individuals gave up their time, money, and resources to fight alongside us for the cause of bringing freedom and doing justice for women and girls around the world. It was an experience I will never forget, and I am so thankful that the Lord chose me to have this experience.

Megan MacDougall (left) and Libby Bundrick volunteer at Frocks 4 Freedom.
Megan MacDougall (left) and Libby Bundrick volunteer at Frocks 4 Freedom.

What are our current greatest volunteer needs?

Freedom 4/24 really needs volunteers who are able to come into our office during normal business hours to help with administrative tasks. A few hours every week or every other week would be awesome. We also have needs that require specific technical knowledge such as web design and development, and graphic design. For those looking to give more than just a few hours here and there, we have needs in areas such as event administration and marketing/communications.

What characteristics do you look for in volunteers?

One of the most important characteristics I look for is a desire to work. You don’t have to be skilled (although that is a plus), but you should be willing to learn and try things that maybe aren’t as exciting as helping with a big event. I also look for individuals who are passionate about the cause and who stand behind us as an organization.

How do you believe our volunteers help to bring freedom and do justice to girls around the world who are victims or survivors of sexual exploitation?

I can say this with all certainty: Freedom 4/24 would not survive without our volunteers. When I correspond with potential volunteers, I work to be up-front and honest with them regarding the work that they will be expected to do. Things like data entry, sending emails, making phone calls, keeping the office clean and organized don’t seem like they are really making a difference in the fight for freedom. However, had it not have been for our hard-working and passionate volunteers, we would not have been able to help provide freedom for more than 347 women and children last year. Some of the smallest and most tedious tasks are the most important ones. Just because you are not on the front lines conducting raids and counseling victims does not mean that your work is unimportant.

Committed volunteer Tobey Thurston (right) slices up bananas to offer to Run 4 Their Lives Lynchburg participants.
Committed volunteer Tobey Thurston (right) slices up bananas to offer to Run 4 Their Lives Lynchburg participants.

Describe a positive volunteer experience.

Last year was a stressful year for me as I was finishing up my bachelor’s and starting a brand new job. There were many times when I wasn’t really sure what I had gotten myself into. Just when I needed her most, the Lord provided me with a passionate volunteer that I could always count on. There were many times when I would text or email her at the last minute and she almost always came through. She always has a positive attitude no matter what she is doing, and she has really encouraged me on some of my hardest days. She is one of my hardest working volunteers, even while she was working part-time and taking a full college class load. We are really going to miss her when she graduates!

How can someone become a volunteer?

To become a Freedom 4/24 volunteer, simply fill out the volunteer application to answer some basic questions about your interest and skills. After reviewing your application, I will be in touch regarding available positions.

Making a Difference at Any Age

web_for24 “For 24,” is a year-long campaign telling the story of Freedom 4/24—from the survivors, world-changers, and volunteers to fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and enrich your understanding of Freedom 4/24 and the work we do together.


 “Teaming up with Freedom 4/24 allowed us to support a local organization, learn more about this local and global epidemic, and become inspired by one young woman’s dream to make a difference.”

Anderson2

#8. MEET JENNY ANDERSON

Director of Global Studies; Chair of the World Language Department at Virginia Episcopal School (VES), Lynchburg, VA

This spring, Jenny and the student body at VES held a Global Symposium focused on human trafficking and supporting the work of Freedom 4/24. Watch the video below for a quick look at how Freedom 4/24 played a leading role, then read on as Jenny explains in her own words how it inspired students and faculty alike to make a difference at any age.

[embed]http://youtu.be/es3eKkli8J8[/embed]

Jenny, the student body at VES recently raised $1,000 for Freedom 4/24. How did you become connected to us?

This entire endeavor was only possible through student interest. VES Junior, Emma Smiley is passionate about the issue of human trafficking. She came to me asking if there was something we could do to bring about awareness to the VES community. I wanted to choose a local grassroots organization that has high impact and is sustainable. Freedom 4/24 was the logical choice as I had heard about its far-reaching influence, the Run 4 Their Lives events, and the fact that it was borne from a student and her compassion and drive to make a difference.

Class1

How did you lead and inspire your students to give back?

On April 11, the VES community held its first Global Symposium with the focus on Modern Day Slavery [see video above]. Our goal was to shed light on the estimated 27 million slaves in the world today and to help students become aware of the horrors of human trafficking while understanding that there are ways that they can help to alleviate it.

Students spent time throughout the week learning about the injustice that millions endure as they face forced labor, sexual exploitation, violence, and oppression. The curriculum that we put into place effectively engaged students in these difficult topics and asked them to systematically learn, then act, then reflect in very intentional ways. The content of these units explored many sensitive topics, such as prostitution, gender-based violence, child soldiers, and slavery. Although the topics weighed heavy on our hearts, we believe that it is important to expand the four walls of our classrooms, empathize, and begin to understand the difficult reality of many people all around the world, including many right here in Virginia.

How did the student body go about raising money for Freedom 4/24?

We had a t-shirt drive and a day where students could buy eggs and water balloons to aim at the administration. Needless to say, the students had a lot of fun while knowing that their money was going to a great cause.

Student 1

What about Freedom 4/24 and the work to fight human trafficking resonates with you? 

The work to fight human trafficking resonates with me because it is an astonishing fact that there exists in the world today more slaves than at any other point in our history. If we are even a bit appalled by our country’s association with slavery of the past, then it is impossible to ignore the immense injustice that continues today.

The work of Freedom 4/24 most resonates with me because it is 1) a local organization; 2) very little overhead; and 3) Freedom 4/24 was started by a young woman who wanted to make a difference.  She is an inspiration to all of our students to know that, at any age, they can do something to help alleviate injustice.

What was the outcome of the Symposium on your students? 

Our final exercise of the afternoon was to sit together and reflect upon what we learned and why we should care. It was emotional to see the number of hands go in the air, the voices that spoke up, and the students that were changed as a result. We were able to visibly see how VES students were able to learn, become aware, envision solutions, and put their voices to action in a very thoughtful and intentional manner.

It was even more powerful because this awareness campaign originated from one of our own students, again demonstrating how the power and passion of one can have a ripple effect on others. One voice can make a difference, but to encourage an entire group of youth to become aware and learn how to make a difference was even more powerful. Most importantly, in the end, my students inspired me.

 

The Arbor: A Healing Refuge for U.S. Trafficking Victims

web_for24
web_for24

“For 24,” is a year-long campaign telling the story of Freedom 4/24—from the survivors, world-changers, and volunteers to fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and enrich your understanding of Freedom 4/24 and the work we do together.

Joanna Jennings
Joanna Jennings

#7.MEET JOANNA JENNINGS

Executive Director at The Arbor, Charlottesville, VA

Did you know that Freedom 4/24 has a dozen domestic partnerships in the U.S.? In May of this year, our Run 4 Their Lives event teamed with one of those partners, The Arbor in Charlottesville, VA, to raise funds and awareness to fight trafficking right here in our backyard.

We recently met with Joanna Jennings, the executive director of The Arbor to talk about the life-changing, restorative work being done there. The Arbor is a newly-opened safe house for adult women who are victims of human trafficking.  Joanna is passionate about providing a place for victims of human trafficking in Central Virginia. Not only is she driven to end human trafficking, she’s also driven to provide a holistic recovery process for victims. Here, in her own words, she explains the vital work being done at The Arbor. 

Thearbor17
Thearbor17

Joanna, tell us about how you became connected to the issue of human trafficking and how it led to the opening of The Arbor? 

While I was in NYC working on a master’s degree in social work and working directly with victims of sex trafficking, I became involved with a group of Christians in Charlottesville who wanted to start a similar safe house. After moving to Charlottesville in 2012 I joined the group, which eventually became the board of The Arbor. I was hired on as the Executive Director in June 2014.

What is the mission of The Arbor?

The Arbor provides safe housing and holistic aftercare to victims of human trafficking in Virginia, so they may experience wholeness, freedom, and life. Since opening in January 2015, The Arbor has housed five residents. Capacity is seven. Women typically stay between 1.5 and 2 years.

The Arbor heads women into a direction of recovery with help from case managers, attorneys, trauma-focused counselors, and medical professionals. The women in the Arbor are required to meet with people regularly to heal from trauma and start a life for themselves. Partnerships with local businesses in the area are developing to provide internships and jobs for the women as they prepare to leave the safe house and live on their own.

How do women coming out of trafficking scenarios get connected to The Arbor?

Referrals happen a number of ways—through law enforcement, social services agencies (domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, community service boards), and through victim self identification. Legally, these women have to come to The Arbor on their own terms. They are required to go through an application and screening process for the program.

Thearbor1
Thearbor1

What does aftercare looks like?

In addition to free room and board, each resident receives comprehensive case management so that she may be connected to existing resources in the community for various components of our aftercare program. This includes medical and dental needs, counseling, legal assistance, and education and job skills training.

How does The Arbor work to transition them back into the outside world?

Each resident is provided with opportunities to receive education and job skills training so that she will leave The Arbor’s program with employment. Each woman is different and forges her own different path toward healing, and we work to honor that each person’s path may look different.

What was the impact of Run 4 Their Lives for The Arbor?

This year’s race was the first race since our safe house officially opened, and the addition of more runners from the previous years also helped maximize impact in terms of awareness. The Point Church also did an amazing job hosting the race, and we’re hopeful that partnership will continue.

Give an example of life-change and healing from a woman who lives at The Arbor.

"I know I have inside me the strength to succeed. But every time I tried to make a new start, I had to live with people who were bad influences and I ended up going back to the life. But this place is so peaceful and homey and when I'm here I really feel like I could make a new life." –An Arbor safe house resident

A Baby at 14, but Gloria has Hope

web_for24 “For 24,” is a year-long campaign telling the story of Freedom 4/24—from the survivors, world-changers, and volunteers to fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and enrich your understanding of Freedom 4/24 and the work we do together.

#6. MEET GLORIA

Gloria_Freedom424_1

Last month on social media, we introduced you to 14-year-old Gloria. At the time, she was awaiting the birth of her child and finding hope and restoration at Christine's House. Recently, three advocates for Freedom 4/24 and Sports Outreach Institute traveled to Uganda to develop small business opportunities for the girls of Christine's House. There, they spent time with Gloria and her new baby. Read below as one of the advocates on the trip, Adrian Parker, gives fresh insight into Gloria's heartbreaking and remarkable journey.

"Gloria's soft strength and stillness is no indication of her story. She had her son a week ago by Cesarean section because she is only 14. The baby's father is a child rapist who abducted Gloria and assaulted her while she was walking home. He has yet to be found. He stole her childhood but she is God's child and He holds her future. Gloria and her family welcome the baby boy, nicknamed Aloysius after the respected, Godly leader there.

Gloria_Freedom424

Gloria is determined to finish school and make a future for herself. She lives at Christine's House, a Freedom 4/24 built and supported program that rescues and restores the abused girls of Uganda. There are almost 30 of them there now, with three more added in just the last week alone. They are strong beyond belief, with bright smiles a faith that surpasses their age. I love these girls. Gloria wants to share her story and thank everyone for their support."

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Gloria's fresh start at Christine's House is a result of your monthly support. Would you consider supporting Gloria and the other girls at the house with tragically similar stories by becoming a recurring giver? As little as $24/month helps feed, educate, provide restorative counseling and teach a trade to these remarkable young women. To give today, visit Freedom424.org/give.

Heading Home

Today, Tim and Mitchell's time in India comes to a close. The footage they gathered there will be presented in a video at our 2nd annual Freedom Gala on November 5. What incredible stories they have to share from many rescued women who are free today because of the work of our partner, Freedom Firm. As they prepare to head home, here are Tim's thoughts on the future of human trafficking in India: Mumbai Gate

It’s hard to believe we’re heading home today but soon, we will hop in a rickshaw and head to the airport to catch our flight home. As we leave India behind, I am encouraged. While there is certainly a lot of work to be done before child sex trafficking here is ended, progress is being made.

There are those who say things will never change but this is simply not true. I cannot say when sex trafficking of minors will no longer be a problem in India but I am certain that day will come. Why? Because of the selfless men and women at Freedom Firm who care deeply about rescuing and restoring young girls from a life of slavery in a brothel.

These dedicated men and women pour their lives into this work. They crisscross the country on long overnight train rides to remote villages to follow up with rescued girls. They work long hours for days on end to see that freedom comes to those who need it most. They sacrifice time with their families—sometimes for days and weeks at a time—to ensure that girls whose families have abandoned them are safe.

I wish I could show you each and every one of their pictures, tell you their names, and throw a parade in honor of the work they do. But in order for them to do this difficult work, their identity must remain hidden. Showing their faces and telling their stories could compromise their ability to continue bringing rescue, restoration, and justice. 

If you met them though, you would quickly understand that no recognition is required. Their greatest passion and lasting reward is in the outcome—when one more day of investigation, one more night of footage, one more raid and one more prosecution means one more girl is free and on the path to restoration.

For those at Freedom Firm, and for us at Freedom 4/24, there is truly no greater reward.  

 

 

 

Mira's Story: Sold at 2, Rescued at 14, Hopeful at 18

   

web_for24

“For 24,” is a year-long campaign telling the story of Freedom 4/24—from the survivors, world-changers, and volunteers to fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and enrich your understanding of Freedom 4/24 and the work we do together.

 

#5. MEET MIRA 

Mira

Mira is a trafficking survivor rescued by Freedom Firm out of Ganga Jamuna, Nagpur’s red light area.

Mira’s story is horrifically tragic. As best as she can recollect, Mira was sold by her family at 2 years old. Within a few years, she was being sold for sex and up until she was rescued in 2011 at the age of 14, it was the only life she’d ever known.

Meeting Mira, you’d never have a clue about her past. She is a vibrant young woman who is thriving. Right now she’s in high school and has high hopes for her future. When she fears that her traffickers might find her and take her back to the brothels, she said she prays and finds comfort in knowing that Jesus is with her and will protect her no matter what her circumstances.

Lock

For every “Mira” there are many girls who are not rescued and who do not have hope. This is why we continue to fight and ask you to join with us. Freedom isn't free. The work of Freedom 4/24 and the partners we support is made possible through your generosity. If you would like to give today or on a recurring basis, please visit www.Freedom424.org/give.

 

Fixing Our Eyes on the Bigger Vision

 When it comes to rescuing girls from brothels, Freedom Firm relies not just on research, good investigative work, and cooperation from local authorities but also on patience and a big dose of divine opportunity. Despite best laid plans, things often don't go as planned. Tim and Mitchell witnessed this firsthard. Here, Tim shares why the Freedom Firm team is not shaken, even when plans go out the window. Investigator Kumar

Today we had high hopes of rescuing a girl from a brothel.

Unfortunately, this was not to be.

Neither the girl in blue nor the girl in white could be found anywhere in the red light area despite the best efforts of three undercover investigators to locate them. Over lunch, a few of us talked about vision and how it guides a team through thick and thin. We’ve all seen our fair share of motivational posters with a picture of some mountain vista with the word “vision” written below it along with a quote from someone famous who lived about a century ago. That’s not the kind of vision we were discussing. Rather, our conversation focused on the kind of vision that binds people together and provides a roadmap to the future.

If I’m honest, I was deflated by the news that there would be no raid, no girl rescued today. But Freedom Firm’s staff was undaunted by this setback. Why? Because their eyes are fixed on the future the organization envisions: a country where minors are no longer sold for sex. Freedom Firm is in it for the long haul, and each staff member knows disappointment is as much a part of their work as triumph. Because they operate with this understanding of the end goal, they know setbacks cannot knock them down or cause them to take their eyes off the vision.

So, what is our vision at Freedom 4/24? Our mission is simple in statement and complex in action: To bring freedom and justice to victims and survivors of sex trafficking around the world. Today in India, I had hoped we’d do just that—bring freedom and begin the process for seeking justice for a young girl trapped in the sex trade. Instead, here I sit in a hotel typing this post. But instead of feeling defeated, I’m choosing to fix my eyes on the future.

If the news that we were not able to rescue a girl today saddens you, I urge you—do not lose hope. Instead, fix your eyes on the goal and commit to being a part of the solution.

Here are three ways you can engage in the fight to end sex trafficking:

  1. Speak out for freedom and raising awareness of the issues or invite a Freedom 4/24 representative to speak to your church, small group, school, or civic group.
  2. Give of yourself by volunteering your time, talents, or resources.
  3. Donate. By making a one-time gift or becoming a recurring giver, you resource organizations in the trenches fighting to bring freedom and justice to women and children around the world.

Though today was not a “win” like we had hoped, we press forward. Though these girls may not be rescued tomorrow, Freedom Firm will continue to search for them until they are found and rescued. This is why we support them through the work of Freedom 4/24. This is why we do not lose hope. This is why we keep our eyes fixed, knowing that the bigger vision is a country, and eventually a world, where people are not for sale.

 

How much does it cost to buy a girl in India?

“How much does it cost to buy a girl in India?”

The answer: 300 rupees. That’s $5 in U.S. currency. 

300 rupeesWEB

If you're like us, it's likely that you've already spent $5 today. Coffee runs, drive through lunches, and 2 gallons of gas quickly add up. What if we could, at least for one day, spend that $5 better? What if that $5 could help free a girl instead of enslave her?

Freedom begins with a day. Today, we are asking for just $5 from 100 of you.

Five dollars is not much for most of us, but it has the power to make a profound difference to girls in India who are often bought at that price.

What can $5 do? 

  • If 8 of you gave $5: It would cover a week’s worth of aftercare supplies for rescued girls through our partner, Freedom Firm.
  • If 10 gave $5: It would provide group therapy to rescued girls in the Nagpur shelter home.
  • If 15 gave $5: The weekly salary of a social worker who works for Freedom Firm would be paid.
  • If 19 gave $5: It would pay for a home investigation trip to determine whether it is safe for rescued girls to return home.

Give $5 and help us reach our goal by visiting Freedom424.org/Give. What will you do with $5 today?

 

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The work of setting captives free is complex and unpredictable, especially when it involves raiding brothels, working with local authorities, and identifying minors trapped in sex slavery. Tim and Mitchell are witnessing this firsthand right at Freedom Firm in India. Here's a real life look from Tim into the work of investigators there, and the difficult decisions that often follow their due diligence. Investigators1

July 14, 2015

Sometimes you’re presented with two choices and the answer is clear. For instance, if you’re offered cake or ice cream, that one’s easy in my mind. (Ice cream. Always ice cream.) But sometimes, life presents you with choices where a decision is much more difficult to reach or the thought of choosing one over the other leaves you sick to your stomach.

First thing this morning, we reviewed undercover footage that Freedom Firm investigators captured the night before of three possible targets in a red light area. One girl was dressed in blue, one in yellow, and another in white. The girl in blue was in one brothel while the girls in yellow and white were in another brothel two blocks away. Over the next 30 minutes, we poured over three separate videos of these girls trying to determine whether they were clearly minors. (In India, to attempt a raid on a target that is obviously a major—18 years or older—results in losing credibility with the police as majors are allow to prostitute in the red light area, even if though it is technically illegal).

After about 5 minutes, the consensus was that the girl in yellow was difficult to confidently identify as a minor, so our focus shifted to the girl in blue and the one in white. For the next 25 minutes, we debated back and forth trying to answer this one question: Which girl would we attempt to rescue—the girl in blue or the girl in white?

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To answer that question, our query turned to determining which girl was youngest. One investigator was certain the girl in blue was a minor and younger than the girl in white, while a handful of us were convinced that the girl in white was a minor and clearly younger than the girl in blue. Back and forth we went, reviewing the footage over and over, looking for any clue to help us make the correct determination. After about 15 minutes I asked, “Why not rescue both girls?”

While it’s certainly possible to attempt two rescues simultaneously, conducting one successful rescue can be difficult enough and attempting two only increases the chances that neither will be successful. We would seek permission from the police to attempt one raid, then after the area had quieted down in a few weeks, Freedom Firm would work to rescue the other girl.

Finally, a show of hands was called to determine which girl was youngest. Four raised their hands for the girl in blue. Four raised their hands for the girl in white.

Deadlock. More evidence was needed.

The investigators left soon afterward to gather more footage of these two girls to better determine which was youngest, while another group went to the police station to seek permission to conduct a raid. By nightfall, the investigators had not found the girl in white and the police were wholly opposed to conducting a raid today.

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In the end, our difficult choice was irrelevant, at least for now. We didn’t have to make a call on which girl to rescue, but in this line of work there are seldom quick answers or easy solutions as lives hang in the balance.  Right now, all three girls are still in the red light districts. Tomorrow may bring a different scenario, a new set of choices, and a new outcome. The legwork has been done. This is where prayer and planning intersect. Please join us in praying for a successful raid in the near future and freedom for one or more of these girls as a result.

When Ideas Become Reality

No doubt, God is paving the path of Tim and Mitchell in India. Even with the delayed start for Mitchell, He has been so good to us in making up that time by providing amazing opportunities for them in the last two days. Today in particular was the realization of months of planning—planning that needed divine provision from the start. Celebrate with us as you read this update from Tim: Mitchell Getting Footage

July 13, 2015

Pune, Maharastra, India

You know that feeling when something you have imagined becomes reality? It’s truly amazing and one of the greatest feelings a person can experience.

Today was one of those days.

For months, I’ve been envisioning and planning this trip with Mitchell, our videographer, and Freedom 4/24 staff. In particular, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the video project we are currently shooting here in India. Developing the overall concept, pre-production storyboarding, drafting shot lists, scheduling interviews, putting your gear kit together, and hopping on a flight are all great but there’s always an amount of uncertainty knowing you can’t control all the variables—especially in a place like India. Case in point: Mitchell being deported from India upon arrival on July 9 and then making it back into the country on a new visa late on July 11.

While we still have a few more days of shooting ahead, today was incredible. All totaled, we conducted six interviews (five with Freedom Firm staff and one with Anita, an amazingly strong survivor of trafficking with an especially heartbreaking story). Additionally, we received permission to conduct two more interviews with trafficking survivors in Mumbai later this week, and to top it off, we captured undercover footage while walking through a red light district just a few hours ago.

All totaled, we shot 91 gigabytes of video today.

Tomorrow, we have a handful of interviews scheduled and we will decide where we have our best chance of a conducting a successful brothel raid/rescue operation, either here or in one of two other locations within a few hours’ drive.

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Regardless of whether we stay here tomorrow or move to another location for a raid/rescue, one thing is certain: our ideas have begun taking shape. I can’t wait to launch the finished video on November 5 at this year’s Freedom Gala. We are sure you won’t want to miss it either. Tickets and sponsorships are now available at www.Freedom424.org/freedom-gala.

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Love and Acceptance: Saidan's Story

UPDATE: Mitchell has reunited with Tim in India! We are praising God for His goodness in quickly bringing them back together. We are so grateful for the many prayers lifted up on their behalf. Today, Tim traveled to a remote village to meet Saidan, a survivor of sex trafficking who was rescued by our partner, Freedom Firm. Here, Tim shares her story of restoration.   Saidan_solo

When you get down to it, each of us has a yearning for love and acceptance. These are desires hard-wired into humanity by God designed to draw us together and point us to Him.

For survivors of sex trafficking, this tandem need is often heightened. After experiencing so many horrible and traumatic things, many girls begin to secretly ask themselves: “Will anyone ever love me after what’s been done to me?”

Today, following a four-hour journey to a remote village, I had the privilege of interviewing Saidan, a young woman who was rescued from sex trafficking by our partner, Freedom Firm. Once we arrived in Saidan’s village, the first person to meet us was her husband, a friendly man with a warm smile.

Quickly he ushered us down winding pathways past ponds swollen with monsoon rains to the house where he, Saidan, and their two children live. Along the way, we picked up a following of friends, family, and more than a few curious children.

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When we arrived at her home, Saidan met us outside with her two small children clinging to her side. She struck me as both shy and strong, at times exuding both confidence and uncertainty about the attention we brought to her home.

On the trip to Saidan’s village, Rinku, Freedom Firm’s social worker, shared some details about Saidan story—including the fact that her husband knew the full details of her rescue from sex trafficking. In a culture where stigmas run thick, honor is highly prized, and women are often viewed, especially in rural communities, as “damaged goods” because of horrors inflicted on them, Saidan has found a man who looks beyond the labels and accepts her for who she is.

For Saidan, this acceptance has helped to restore what was taken from her. And it has given her the ultimate answer to her question, “Will anyone ever love me?” In spite of cultural norms and her painful past, her husband’s response and hers are now resoundingly one in the same: “Yes.”

Saidan

 Saidan is free today because of our partner, Freedom Firm. Their commitment to rescuing minor girls from sex trafficking and exploitation and prosecuting their perpetrators is made possible through your support. A day of work for a Freedom Firm investigator costs roughly $24. Please consider giving today at www.Freedom424.org/Give to help provide rescue and restoration to more women like Saidan. 

Kolkata: The City of Joy

UPDATE: Mitchell has landed safely back in Dubai where he will stay until he receives a visa to go back to India. We are so grateful for your prayers surrounding this, and we continue to ask for them--specifically that he will receive the new visa quickly. Tim spent the day at Ruhamah Designs with seven amazing survivors. Here's his insight into the work and restoration taking place there: IMG_4290

India is a place of amazing contradictions. 

At once it is both caring and calloused; friendly and hostile; wealthy and impoverished. These opposites played themselves out in front of me numerous times today. I witnessed a naked children begging on the street in front of a billboard hawking upscale, luxury condos. I met a sex trafficking survivor who was sold to a brothel by her own family while she was still a child, now cuddling and nurturing her own child—showing him the love and affection I doubt she ever received.

Today I visited Ruhamah’s West Bengal workshop. Ruhamah Designs is a jewelry business started by our partner Freedom Firm to provide sex trafficking survivors a chance to heal, learn a trade, and develop self-worth and self-esteem in a Christ-centered environment. Here, I met seven young trafficking survivors and heard their stories—each of them tragic in their own ways. And while not all were willing or able to share about how they were trafficked, each girl readily shared about how her life has changed since coming to work for Ruhamah.

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When describing what they’ve learned and gained through their employment with Ruhamah, I heard words like: Dignity. Respect. Confidence. Independence. Trust. Change. And perhaps, the most powerful—Freedom.

While these young women are still processing through intense pain, anger, and loss, they are also being renewed and restored. Today in the place known as the “City of Joy,” I saw a small piece of this joy in one of the most unlikely places—in the smiles and laughter of seven trafficking survivors.

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 The work being done at Ruhamah Designs and our partner Freedom Firm is made possible through your generous support. Give today to provide continued freedom to these survivors and others like them, at www.Freedom424.org/Give

 

 

 

 

Please Pray

   

 

Right now, we at Freedom 4/24 are earnestly asking for your prayers. Our President Tim Spaulding, has made it safely into India. Our videographer Mitchell Bryant, however, has been denied access. Please read this update below from Tim. Tim_Mitchell_India

July 9, 2015

BMS Guest House

Kolkata, India

As I sit and type, bleary eyed and bone tired from more than 24 hours of travel I am overcome by the need for prayer.

Both of us on the F424 team made it to Kolkata but only I made it through customs. Apparently Mitchell had some visa issues that no one caught until his passport was about to be stamped here in Kolkata. Visas are routinely checked multiple times during a trip. The fact is he should not have been allowed on the plane in Dulles in the first place, and should not have been allowed on the plane in Dubai; but he was.

Just 2 ½ hours ago we parted ways at the airport. Me, bound for the guesthouse where I now type and Mitchell back to the departure gates where he now sits waiting for the first flight to Dubai in the morning. Once back in the United Arab Emirates, Mitchell will file the paperwork to correct his visa and then come back to join me. But here’s the kicker—immigration and customs officers said this will take 48 hours. We have but a few days here as it is.

I’m completely dumbfounded. It’s really a mess. But I know one thing: time and again when faced with unworkable situations, God can intervene.

So as you read this I ask you to do two things:

1) Pray that Mitchell’s visa situation would be worked out without having to go back to Dubai.

2) Pray that despite my lack of videographer experience, I will be able to capture the stories of rescue and redemption we came here for.

There is good work happening in India. We came here with a purpose and no matter what gets thrown at us, our eyes are on the prize and we will not be deterred.

With eyes fixed,

Tim Spaulding

Land of the Not-So-Free: 1.5 Million Human Trafficking Victims Currently in U.S.

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“For 24,” is a year-long campaign telling the story of Freedom 4/24—from the survivors, world-changers, and volunteers to fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and enrich your understanding of Freedom 4/24 and the work we do together.


The answer is yes.

Human trafficking happens in the United States.

It may seem like an obvious statement but it’s one we often say when explaining the work of Freedom 4/24. And yes, we exist to fight human trafficking here in the States too. In light of the upcoming 4th of July celebration of our country's independence, we asked blogger and Freedom 4/24 supporter Holly Hrywnak of thecommonqueen.com to give a snapshot of trafficking in the U.S.

So, who is Holly? Here’s a quick For 24 intro.  

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#4: Meet Holly Hrywnak

Age: 31

Hometown: Corning, NY

Family snap shot: I've have three siblings and have the honor of being an aunt to seven of the cutest (and craziest) kiddos. My parents have been in pastoral ministry for about 35 years now. They have a deep love for God and a heart for people. I've seen the way they've extended kindness, grace and love to the hurting, broken and afflicted and it is their example of godliness that I aspire to.

How did you become aware of human trafficking for the first time?

I first learned of human trafficking when I was in Bible school about 10 years ago. I was involved in a prayer group that focused on the needs of people in North America and one of the topics that came up was human trafficking. It struck my heart deeply to learn of the atrocities being committed ... especially to children.

How did you get connected to the work of Freedom 4/24?

I got connected to Freedom 4/24 through a friend of mine, Tim Spaulding. I started reading different articles he would post on social media and a passion started to rekindle in my heart. I wasn't sure what I could do to help, but I knew I could speak and that was better than remaining silent.

Now that you have a glimpse of Holly and her heart, read her eye-opening piece on the issue of human trafficking in the United States.


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Land of the Not-So-Free: 1.5 Million Human Trafficking Victims Currently in U.S.

“It could never happen here,” we try and convince ourselves.

The issue of human trafficking isn’t just another episode on Law and Order: SVU or a sad news story out of Nigeria sandwiched between tonight’s lottery numbers and the announcement of the name of a celebrity’s newborn. It’s happening now and it’s happening here, in my state and yours.

Let me assure you, there is human trafficking taking place in all—yes all—50 states, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC). The top three states that are recorded for potential human trafficking instances are California, Texas and Florida. This isn’t exactly the kind of Top 3 group that people are proud to be a part of, but it’s something we all need to understand.

Before I get ahead of myself, I think it’s important to define human trafficking. Human trafficking is any instance in which a victim is held against his or her will to perform sex acts or labor services either through force, fraud or coercion. Simply put, it is modern day slavery and it affects men, women and children alike. In 2014, the NHTRC received reports of 5,042 unique cases of human trafficking in the United States. Each instance could involve multiple victims.

That’s a lot of cases, if you ask me. More importantly it is a lot of people.

It is estimated that in the U.S. alone, there are 1.5 million victims currently in the human trafficking trade.

It’s easy to get lost in the statistics and the numbers, but each of those numbers represents a victim. Each number has a name, a story and a life before being trafficked.

What do human trafficking victims look like? They look a lot like you and me. They are young, old, male, female, U.S. citizens and foreign nationals and they come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. It can happen to anyone at any time.

It’s hard for me to describe to you what a day in the life of a victim may look like because it is devastating, to say the least. Oftentimes, human trafficking victims are visibly malnourished. They have been denied the most basic of rights and their bodies bear the scars—both physically and mentally. Sex trafficking victims are forced to participate in sex acts with numerous partners a day, one after the other. Labor trafficking victims work under poor conditions for long hours. There are no breaks, no days off and certainly no vacations.

Now that we know that human trafficking is a huge problem in the United States and that there are cases of it happening in every state, you may be wondering where, specifically, it takes places. Is it based solely in underground markets? No, in fact many times it occurs in businesses, including restaurants, farms, factories and strip clubs. Personally, I find that difficult to wrap my head around because in the case of farming and manufacturing, I could be purchasing items that were harvested or made through labor trafficking and not even know it.

How could this happen in the U.S.? Why does it happen? It’s a pretty simple answer: money.

It’s all about the money. Human trafficking is making traffickers billions of dollars each year. That’s a lot of Benjamins. With the benefit of high profits and such a low risk of getting caught, the reality of trafficking is a growing industry that only looks to consume and shatter more lives for the sake of profit.

If we ever hope to see human trafficking end in the United States, we must all take part in the fight, at every level of government and citizenship. According to the NHTRC, there needs to be an increase of training for federal and local law enforcement agencies. There will need to be more services offered for victims who have been recovered. Awareness must also gain greater ground in our communities. While there seems to be no excuse for someone to claim ignorance with the amount of connectivity the internet and social media lends us, it is still my job and yours to open the eyes of those around us.

After 9/11, New York City started circulating the slogan, “If you see something, say something.” The slogan was meant to draw people’s attention to suspicious activity that could be happening around them and this same slogan can be applied human trafficking. When we are made aware of an injustice, even if it doesn’t directly relate to us, it is important to share that information with others. People need to know what is happening around us, in our own country. They need to be informed and we can’t expect someone else to do the talking for us. We’ve got to be willing to speak up when we learn of injustices. You may never know the impact it makes for someone.

We’ve also got to be willing to put our money where our mouth is by supporting organizations like Freedom 4/24 that are leading the way in this fight. Did you know that Freedom 4/24 financially supports and promotes the work of not just their international partners that are fighting the fight, but also 11 domestic organizations that all tackle human trafficking in America? Your financial support makes this directly possible.

By giving just $24/month (that’s $0.80 a day) to Freedom 4/24, you make a tremendous impact in feeding, sheltering, clothing, rehabilitating and restoring hope to hundreds of REAL girls and women each year. Not just abroad, but right here in the United States.

You too can make an impact. It needn’t be overwhelming or complicated. Give $24 a month. Get involved in a Run 4 Their Lives race. Share this story on Facebook. Donate your birthday to Freedom.  If we all do what we can, we will chip away at the fabric of human trafficking in the United States, and across the world. Together, we can end it, one voice raised and one life saved at a time.

To become a recurring giver, click here. To learn more about the American partners Freedom 4/24 supports, visit www.freedom424.org/about/our-partners/domestic-partners/. For more insight into human trafficking in the United States, including myths and misconceptions, visit the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at www.traffickingresourcecenter.org.  

FOR 24: JOY MARINELLI

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“For 24,” is a year-long campaign telling the story of Freedom 4/24—from the survivors, world-changers, and volunteers to fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and enrich your understanding of Freedom 4/24 and the work we do together.  

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#3: Meet Joy Marinelli

Family: Oldest of 8 children! Two sisters currently live with me in Lynchburg.

Occupation: National Run 4 Their Lives Race Director for Freedom 4/24

Hometown: Staunton, VA

We could not be more excited to introduce you to our newest team member—one who will have a direct impact on many of you through our nationwide Run 4 Their Lives race series. Meet Joy Marinelli, our National Race Director. She has a wealth of nonprofit knowledge and a heart for Jesus, and once you read our Q&A with her below, we believe you will understand why she is perfectly equipped to lead our Run 4 Their Lives races.

Welcome to the team, Joy! Tell us about who you are and what makes you tick.

I am the oldest of 8 children. I was born in Memphis but at three years old, my family moved to Vermont because my dad, a pastor, was hired by a church there. I was homeschooled until 9th grade and at that time, started attending a private, Christian school in Staunton, VA, where we moved when I was 12. After high school, I attended Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, NC, on a full academic scholarship, which was the most amazing blessing of my life!

I majored in photojournalism and had plans to go on the mission field as a photojournalist for some amazing magazine like National Geographic and I wanted to have a legitimate skill that would allow me into unreached countries. After spending a year post college as a newspaper photographer, I decided I might not work for National Geographic and went to Australia to do a Disciple Training School with Youth With a Mission (YWAM). Once I completed my six-month YWAM stint, I moved back to Staunton for a few years to work at a psychiatric hospital for children. Through all of these transitions, I was seeking an overall direction for my life, asking God where he wanted me.

In 2006, he led me to Boone, NC, where I got a job at Samaritan’s Purse. I stayed there for five years, during which time I pursued my master’s degree in Public Health. I then moved to Lynchburg, where I have since worked for two different nonprofits, both related to health and wellness. I can confidently say that though there were times when I had absolutely no idea why I was doing what I was doing, God was building (and still is) a puzzle with my life. Each piece, even the extremely painful and confusing parts, provided something that has been necessary for growth toward knowing Him and being able to trust Him with my life and its direction. I’m so excited about this next piece at Freedom 4/24 and cannot wait to see how He uses me here!

Joy with nieces

Describe your faith.

I accepted Jesus into my life when I was five years old. My parents are believers and raised us in the knowledge of Christ so it was natural to accept Him into my life. What was not natural was the actual surrendering part. As I grew older, I started to understand that being a Christian isn’t just about not going to hell but more about getting to know who Jesus is and what his sacrifice actually means for me, and then feeling that complete unworthiness and overwhelming love all at the same time.

I also began to understand that my life wasn’t my own and that my plans for an acting career in Hollywood weren’t the same plans that God had for me. When I was 12, I went on my first international mission trip to Mexico and during my time there heard a speaker talk about how natives in Papua New Guinea were begging for people to come teach them about Jesus. I can’t really describe it in detail but I knew it was God. During that talk, He spoke into my spirit and said to go, to tell people about Him. So since I was planning to be an actress, I fought against this for a few years before surrendering to the idea.

After that, everything I did was in the light of how I could be most useful in sharing Jesus. I sometimes still struggle with those surrender issues but I feel that the times when I am most fulfilled have been those when I am secure in knowing I am where He wants me, when I am being obedient to him. All this to say, coming to know Jesus has been and still is a process. Throughout my life, I have learned more about who He is in light of who I am and after seeing His goodness and mercy to me when I did nothing to gain that, the fire burns in me to share that with others. 

How did you first come into contact with the work of Freedom 4/24?

I first became aware of Freedom 4/24 shortly after I moved [to Lynchburg, VA] in 2012. I had friends who had connections with the organization and I learned about it through them. Also, you see the stickers everywhere on vehicles here in Lynchburg!

Share some your background in nonprofit work.

I’ve been working in the nonprofit world since 2006. From my five years at Samaritan’s Purse in the Operation Christmas Child project as well as work at a homeless shelter, a small grassroots organization, and a community service board, I have had the opportunity to work both domestically and internationally, addressing issues ranging from evangelism and discipleship to mental and physical health and wellness. Though it can be difficult work, I completely love being part of a company or organization where the main purpose is to affect change, increase quality of life, share resources, and provide healing.

Me and coffee

How do you believe your previous work with nonprofits has prepared you for your new role as National Race Director for Freedom 4/24?

My previous nonprofit work, along with my educational background in public health, has provided me with an understanding of working with remote teams, project and partnership development, community interaction, resource acquisition, and team building. Working with varying types of nonprofits has also given me experience with processes that work well, areas that require caution, and a very real look at the struggles and challenges of developing and maintaining sustainable funding and overall project goals.

What are you most excited about coming into this role?

I am ecstatic about being involved with an organization that is focused on affecting real change, both physically and spiritually! I feel that there are a lot of really great organizations in the world that may address one or the other but as followers of Christ, I fully believe these two things—the  physical and spiritual—go hand-in-hand. If we want to share who He is and what He did for us, it is imperative that we show Him in real, practical ways by meeting physical needs.

At the same time, if we initiate relationships through the process of addressing physical and mental needs, we can also use those opportunities to point to Christ. Without Christ, physical relief is a band-aid fix but without meeting people where they are and addressing their real physical needs, we cannot claim that we are living the life of justice we have been called to as those who have experienced His mercy and grace through salvation.

What do you see as your greatest challenge, initially or long-term?

I foresee my greatest challenge initially being that of indoctrinating myself into the present work. It will definitely be a hit-the-ground-running scenario, so I am excited to reach the point where I feel competent and knowledgeable about the inner workings of the project. I cannot wait to begin creating and expanding the Freedom 4/24 influence around the country and eventually, the world!

Joy with sisters

You obviously have a heart for human trafficking victims. How did that come about?

This topic is definitely something I have spent hours reading about and researching and feel passionate about fighting. I think it may have begun as I started to see areas around the world where women were forgotten and I felt that, as a woman, who else but me should use my giftings and resources to reach out to other women in need?

I went to a conference once where the speaker was talking about how in Muslim cultures, Christian men would share Christ with Muslim men who would then accept Christ and then these Muslim converts would declare to their wives that they were now Christians. Muslim women, the protectors of the home and the family, were now forced into a life of what they perceived as treason and a violation of all they held dear. No one took the time to talk to them about Christ, to reach out to them.

After hearing about situations like this, I wanted to be that woman to them. I wanted to reach out to the forgotten women around the world. Thus began my journey in looking for the unseen. This led me to read up on human trafficking. I definitely recommend the book “A Crime So Monstrous” by E. Benjamin Skinner; it was one of the first and most eye-opening books I read around the issues of human trafficking.

You have traveled quite a bit. Tell of some experiences you've had that have prepared your heart and mind for the work ahead of you at Freedom 4/24.

I have had the opportunity through internships, work, and even some personal travel to visit more than 20 countries around the world. When you are able to expand your horizon beyond your own country and culture, it gives you both an appreciation for your home as well as an awareness that your way isn’t the only way.

Traveling has allowed me to learn from others around the world and understand different perspectives, different value systems, and different ways of thinking. These experiences will be so helpful both at the domestic and international level of Freedom 4/24 in working and communicating with people from all walks of life, denominations, and cultures.

Joy with bro and sis, in Haiti

As our new National Race Director, this is an important question: Are you a runner? 

Yes. My very first official run, The Bear, was in 2008 and was a five-mile jaunt with an elevation gain of more than 1,500 feet to the summit of Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. I never want to do that again!

Since then, I have run many 5Ks, a mud run, a sprint triathlon, and a half marathon. The most I have run at one time has been around 18 miles when I was training so I haven’t yet conquered a full marathon. I’m still thinking about that.

Joy running

Lightning round! Favorite place: I love anything outdoors. I feel closest to God when I’m at the beach.

My family is … Huge and loud and Italian and crazy. I have 10 nieces and nephews with one more on the way.

Quirks or Vices: I’m obsessed with Mountain Dew (though for health purposes I don’t really drink it much anymore) and my favorite food is fried chicken. Seriously, on a bad day, forget the chocolate and bring on the chicken!

Joy with niece and nephew

 

For 24: Melanie Carroll

web_for24

"For 24," is a year-long campaign telling the story of Freedom 4/24—from the survivors, world-changers, and volunteers to fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners. Our goal is to inform, inspire, and enrich your understanding of Freedom 4/24 and the work we do together.  

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#2: Meet Melanie Carroll

Much like completing a marathon, the fight to end human trafficking happens one step at a time. Melanie Carroll understands this well.

When she first became aware of the atrocities of sexual slavery and human trafficking, she determined to do something about it. So, she laced up her running sneakers began pounding the pavement to run a marathon while raising support for Freedom 4/24. It worked—Melanie raised more than $2,500!

If you’ve ever wondered what you can do to raise awareness and support for the fight for freedom, read Melanie’s story in her own words, and be INSPIRED to set your own creative goal!

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Name: Melanie Carroll

Age: 31

Family: Married to Mark, and blessed with three gorgeous children, Trinitee (9), Braeden (4), and Colton (2)

Occupation: Stay-at-home mom, wife and (occasional) volleyball coach

Hometown: La Verne, California

What I did to raise money for Freedom 4/24: Ran my first marathon!

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Turning Awareness Into Action

My daughter, husband and I registered to run R4TL last spring, 2014, at my alumni, Azusa Pacific University. My daughter ran in the 1k and my husband and myself in the 5k.

Human sex trafficking stirs my soul. Since first hearing about it from a guest speaker at my church, Christ Church of the Valley, I was immediately deeply troubled. It has kept me up numerous nights, and my heart aches at the staggering numbers of women and children who are targeted and sold. ... I wanted to take action and do something, anything that I could to get awareness out there and join in the fight. We need to protect our children.

The Fundraising Begins

I came into contact with Ryan Barr (Freedom 4/24 former Executive Race Director) after emailing Freedom 4/24 for ways I could get involved and help. Ryan set up a Go Fund Me page and I was able to write a little about what I was partaking in and also include the horrifying statistics of human sex trafficking.

Then I made up and handed out flyers to local businesses, family members, friends, acquaintances, neighbors and strangers. I also took to my social media pages to get the message and my fundraiser out there. I accepted any and all donations. From $2 on, no donation was ever too small; I knew every dollar would make a difference! I had family members raising awareness with those they knew and sharing on their own social media pages. It was incredibly amazing to feel the support from others, I have the utmost gratitude. My total funds raised was $2,523!

I love that Freedom 4/24 is so supportive and encouraging. Ryan helped me every step of the way. During the entire run, especially in the moments I didn't think I was going to make it, I kept my focus on the victims. This was for them and all the people who had rallied together to support and join in the fight against this horrendous crime.

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Signs on the Course

I have a special place in my heart for the number 22. It was the favorite number of my favorite cousin, Tiffany May Rivas, whom passed away in 2003. All throughout my training I would randomly see the number 22 somewhere, especially during some of the most difficult times! It wasn't necessarily anything new for me (to see the number amidst hard times), but it continued to present itself to me time and time again amidst my training runs.

While running the marathon, at three different points that happened to be the most difficult of the entire run—times I wanted to just give up—I would look up and see that number 22! First on a lifeguard tower, then a second life guard tower and then the 22-mile marker flag. The timing and the happenstance of me looking up at those moments are indescribable. I knew, this was not only to join the fight in saving the victims from human sex trafficking, but I was connected with my cousin as well. She gave me the strength to continue. To finish. To solidify that I was right where I was supposed to be, fulfilling a piece of God's will for my life.

Overcoming Obstacles

As well as being a mother of three and Law Enforcement officer's wife, amidst my training process, I was diagnosed as hypothyroid. I already suffer from arthritis, tendinitis, bursitis, hypoglycemia and digestion problems. A lot of old injuries began to flare up, and I had severe difficulty with fueling myself properly in diet (due to all my food intolerances). I even got sick with the flu and was taken to the hospital at one point. That is how I knew to keep going! I knew I was doing what God wanted. I know I physically shouldn't have been able to do it. My body wasn't naturally made for running. And that is exactly why God gave me the strength to finish this good work in me that He started. It is not me, but He.

After the Finish Line

I will not stop supporting this fight against this horrid epidemic. All I can pray and hope is that I've made a tiny dent in the battle and fight in raising awareness. It is constantly on my mind. Pray for the victims.

For 24: Meet Faith

Welcome to the start of our "For 24" storytelling series, designed to tell the stories of REAL survivors of human trafficking, volunteers, fundraisers, and behind-the-sceners as they relate to our mission here at Freedom 4/24. Over the next year, we will introduce you to 24 faces and tell their stories; stories that exemplify the work being done to fight for freedom, share the gospel, and raise funds and awareness. We hope these stories inspire you and move you to action. EVERYONE can make a difference, whether it's giving $24/month, raising $2,400 or volunteering 24 hours of your time. How will you stand FOR 24?  

#1.Meet Faith Lamaro. 

Faith with Amanda
Faith with Amanda

Faith is a woman appropriately named. She has been through more than most of us can imagine. And yet, she now has joy, hope and an unwavering faith in Jesus. Faith is one of the recent graduates from Christine's House in Gulu, Uganda, a rescue home for exploited girls and children, funded by Freedom 4/24. These women come from backgrounds of sexual assault, trafficking, abuse and neglect. Faith is one of them.

After receiving spiritual and psychological counseling for more than 8 months, Faith returned to her family in a mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually positive state. During her time at Christine's House, Faith's family also went through sensitivity training related to her trauma.

FaithOnCamera
FaithOnCamera

Healing has taken hold in Faith's life. Now, she faces a different challenge: school fees. Faith is one of four girls from Christine's House with both the aptitude and desire to go back to school.  Funding is the only thing preventing this. Her family cannot afford to send her to school.

The cost is approximately $500 for the year, which includes tuition, feeding at school, uniforms, books and materials and test fees. Faith is just one example of how YOU can make a difference. If just TWO people give $24/month for a year, it would more than cover the cost of education for a woman like Faith.

Will you be one of them? 

Become a recurring giver today and make a difference in the life of one. One like Faith.

Learn more about Christine's House here:

Three Simple Ways to Make a Big Difference

We often are asked, "What can I do to make a difference in the fight for freedom?" While there are plenty of meaningful answers, one always comes to mind: do a simple fundraiser! Here are 3 basic ideas that result in big impact:

1. GIVE YOUR BIRTHDAY.

We've made it easy by setting up a page for you. Just click "Fundraise for This Campaign," then plug in your personal story here: www.crowdrise.com/freedom424birthdays

GiveBirthdayCRscreen
GiveBirthdayCRscreen

2. GIVE YOUR GRADUATION.

Freedom 4/24's own administrative assistant, Emily Worsham, is doing this right now! She just earned her Bachelor's degree and decided to "gift her graduation." Follow her lead by starting your own fundraiser

GiveGraduationCRscreen
GiveGraduationCRscreen

3. RUN 4 THEIR LIVES (FOR FREE).

When you sign up for any Run 4 Their Lives race around the country, click "Become a Fundraiser" during registration and pledge to raise $50 or more by race day, you run for FREE! Sign up now and start raising support for an upcoming race in your area. 

R4TL Banner
R4TL Banner

 Want to know how your fundraising makes a difference?

Here are real weekly expenses per girl cared for from Freedom 4/24’s partner in Bangkok, Thailand, the Home of New Beginnings, which provides permanent freedom, a safe shelter, friendships, healing and an education all the way through university for girls formerly working in the sex industry.

SHELTER: $100 

EDUCATION: $65

MEDICAL: $25

VOCATIONAL SUPPLIES: $15

FOOD: $5

These numbers prove that YOUR simple act of fundraising can make a huge difference in the life of one!

Questions about fundraising? Email our administrative assistant, Emily Worsham at emily@freedom424.org!