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Sunday, December 6, 2009

New Blog & Website!!!

We are proud to announce our very new blog, that is conveniently attached to our very new website! We are very excited to have this new platform to keep having the conversations that will help us end child sex slavery and exploitation. We will be ending our blogging through this blog and move fully over to our other system! We hope to see you all over there!

Friday, December 4, 2009

An Incredible Hope

In the past week I have visited two projects that are directly tackling demand. The first is in Bangkok where a team are out on the streets in the red light districts developing relationships with male sex tourists in the red light districts and the second is working with pimps in a gym in an area in Phnom Penh that is notorious for the foreign pedophiles who come to have sex with young children. Both are faith based organizations who believe that change is possible even for the worst pimp or perputator. This is an incredible thought. At the moment tactics to address demand are often to scare the perpetrators and pimps through law reform and implementation that jails offenders and campaigns such as the ‘Abuse a child in this country, go to jail in yours’ billboards but whilst important this may have limited effect. But this alternative approach challenges the fatalistic notion that rights people off and says that through relationships people can make choices that are better for their families, better for the girls and better for themselves.

Glenn Miles, Director of Asia Prevention

Monday, November 30, 2009

Reaching

A couple of weeks ago, something different happened. I spoke at a youth event called Generation Conference, where over 1000 young people gathered. The organizers gave each of the young people attending, a Love146 tag to wear as a reminder of a young girl who we know only by number, and the thousands she represents. To see her number worn by so many people was quite moving.


In the midst of a lot of commotion at the Love146 table after I spoke, a girl wearing the number 146 pinned to her shirt walked up to me with tears running down her face. She just simply stared at me, unable to speak. She reverently reached for the number which was pinned over her heart, and placed her hand over it. She wrapped her fingers around the number, clutching it with desperation as if she was trying to reach through time to that young girl in the brothel who wore the same number years ago. She closed her eyes and wept. Was she picturing herself reaching out to hold that young girl who still had a fight left in her eyes? Was she picturing herself pulling “146” out of that glass prison called a brothel?

I was speechless. After what seemed like an eternity, the only words I eventually came up with were; “Thank you.” We both knew. We both understood that this is not the way it was supposed to be for children. And I think we both walked away more determined than ever to change that.

To those of you who care deeply…Thank you.

-Rob

Rob Morris
President
Love146

Follow me on Twitter HERE

Friday, November 20, 2009

Offended Over Breakfast

We are on vacation in Colorado, visiting friends and family. This morning we went to the very well known “breakfast playground” in the Cherry Creek Mall. If you are from Denver you know what I’m talking about! My son was running around like crazy jumping over the giant bananas and sliding down strips of bacon. I was with him helping him make it up the massive bowl of shredded wheat. My hubby, being the amazing dad + photographer combo, was taking pics of the big climb.

Slowly two mall security guards walked up behind my husband and just stood there. They hovered near my husband for quite a long time. I started to get this frustrated and offended feeling inside me. I could tell they had their eyes on him thinking he was some creep taking pictures of kids. They finally broke the silence and asked him if he was with any of the kids there. My son and I walked over to assure them that my husband was indeed with us.

My gut response to all this was to be offended. As you can imagine, working for Love146 I read stories everyday about sexual abuse, exploitation and horror that children in our world face everyday. And here I am in the mall and MY HUSBAND is being approached like he is a perpetrator of such abuse and perversion!

Then, a slow second thought followed, “Wait Kellen! Isn’t this a good thing? Aren’t you willing to be personally offended or held suspect so that children can be protected?” After that thought my defenses dropped and I was thankful that someone was looking out for the children playing this morning.

So here’s my question: are you willing to be offended so that children can be protected? As a businessman traveling all around the world would you be willing to be suspected and questioned upon your arrival into a place like Cambodia about your intentions during your stay? Would you be willing to report suspicious activity or something you thought might be trafficking with the chance that you might offend an innocent person? Food for thought!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Regarding Thanks – and Giving

I recently celebrated my 5-year anniversary as an employee of Love146, working in the capacity of finances & bookkeeping. I have had the joy, privilege and responsibility of processing each donation that crosses our path. It is so amazing for me each week to read the letters that accompany these gifts towards abolition. To read of the events that took place to raise both awareness/funds. The companies that have chosen to offer matching gifts programs to their employees. Grandparents whose grandkids asked that they donate to us in lieu of birthday gifts. The man in upstate NY who sends a $7.00 check every few months when he can afford to. Those who give monthly. Churches who take up special offerings during their services and give them to Love146. The couple who has sent monthly gifts since the organization started up. Campus groups and task forces who have raised both funds and awareness through creative events. All of these gifts inspire us, and it is because of them that we are able to impact the lives of children – those most vulnerable to exploitation and those who’s childhood’s have been robbed by the dark injustices of sex slavery.

This year, there has been one donation in particular that has stayed with me in my heart and thoughts. A family sent in a check for $3.00 – they heard of our work through watching “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” and hearing Stephen Baldwin share about the work of Love146 on the show. This particular family was in severe economic distress, with both parents being out of work. They wrote to us that once a week, they would search the house for change so they could go get a special treat. That week, the kids asked if instead of spending the money on treats, they could send the money to Love146 to help children.

These recent months have been the first in which Love146 as an organization has started to feel the impact of the economic downturn. So we are in a weird place of unbelievable thanks for all who partner with us – yet also compelled to ask for continued giving. As we head into Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I am thankful for all our donors. For kids that will search through couch cushions for change & then choose to donate it rather than use it for candy. All so that other kids – whether they are in North Carolina, Cambodia or the Philippines – can experience love that empowers, restores, protects and defends.

Jennifer Franz
Love146 Accounting Administrator

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Considering Implications


I have been back in Cambodia for 3 months and one of the most disturbing things have heard about was about the situation with youth leaving orphanages in Cambodia. There are more than 200 orphanages in Cambodia that have often been set up by well meaning people (including many expatriates) who just wanted to ‘do something’. Without considering the long term implications of taking in a group of children they opened the doors and children came. The selection criteria was often not clear and they didn’t have the man-power (or sometimes the language) to ensure that those who came did not have a family/community who could take them in. As a result children who shouldn’t really be in orphanages are there.

And now, the children are older, in fact some cannot be called children anymore and they are no longer considered "cute" or "fundable." Those children who are compliant and institutionalized are the perfect children for an orphanage but what about when they need to leave the orphanage? They don’t know how to live in the real world. In contrast, those children who start to push against the system and the hormones kick in are not perfect children for an orphanage and they may well be thrown out on their ear, even before they are adults.

Both sets of children are primary targets for sexual exploitation! Orphanages must be a last resort and those that exist must have better selection criteria. There must be better re-integration strategies for all children in residential care.


Glenn Miles, Director of Asia Prevention

Friday, November 13, 2009

Brand Loyalty or Solidarity?



The video featured above will stand out to me as a sacred moment over the past year with Love146. It took place during the Generation Conference in upstate NY last weekend. You can read about the conference here. After Rob spoke, the hundreds of students attending the conference gathered in a room to have a large group picture taken. Each held their patch in the air. Spontaneously they began shouting "146, 146, 146". Then a single voice began shouting "LOVE" in between. And soon the room echoed with the words "Love...146". It was almost a groaning, a declaration or a prayer wanting #146 and the thousands she represents to be loved: protected, defended, restored and empowered.

It sounds silly saying it because it seems as I am writing that it was a room full of kids shouting for the brand of Love146...but it was so much more than that. I experienced the reality that you could shout "Not for Sale" and be wanting the organization to further or the same words could be shouted as a call, groan, or proclamation that people shouldn't be for sale. You could shout "Water for People" for the organization the same words could be shouted as a call, groan, or proclamation that all people should have access to clean water.

It was a moment my heart, mouth and hope shouted not for the brand of Love146 but my shout was a call, groan or proclamation that she would know Love...a moment of solidarity.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is the anti-trafficking movement the new black?

I was recently asked if I was concerned that the current anti-trafficking or “Modern day abolition” movement might be only a trend, and the current growth and passion that are fueling it will quickly diminish as the “next trendy cause comes along.” Another person asked if I thought that “people might be just jumping on a band wagon?”

The words, “abolition” and “movement” are words that I have come to hold sacred. When I hear these words used merely for a campaign, fundraising scheme, or marketing tactic, I honestly cringe. They are diminished.

To think of the price that abolitionists have paid throughout history to end slavery, or the sacrifices people have made for movements that have challenged and changed unjust structures and systems that oppressed multitudes, I recoil at anything that might cheapen those words.
Sometimes I think we have the belief that if we use the word “movement” often enough, maybe we can actually start one. Or we mistake growing awareness as “the movement.” While awareness is vital and certainly part of “movement”, if awareness doesn’t lead to further action, it is only a shouting into the wind. Mark Twain said; “Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid.” Or as my Mom, used to warn… “Don’t be all bark and no bite.”
This “sacredness” has been helpful for us here at Love146, as it informs how we address modern day slavery. We use it as a bar or litmus test for all of our efforts and programs, forcing us to ask the questions; Does this effort have teeth to it? Is it helpful? How will it contribute to ending modern day slavery and exploitation? And, how will it help to restore and empower survivors? If we can’t answer these questions…we don’t do it.

A trend is defined as; “The general direction in which something tends to move.” So, at the end of the day if the movement to end human trafficking is a “trend” but is moving us all in the right direction, then that is a good thing. If, when the “band wagon” rides by, and the dust eventually settles, there are more people still standing & fighting then there were before… then count me in!

-Rob

Rob Morris
President
Love146

Follow me on Twitter HERE

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Picture of the Movement: Hundreds Wear Her Number


This weekend Love146 is at the Generation Conference, a conference in up-state NY with several youth groups from churches throughout New England. Rob is speaking at the conference tomorrow. I came up early to set up our table and hang out with students. WOW! It has been a long time since I was in high school. High Schoolers are amazing. They are full of life and energy. They are idealists... I almost forgot! It is kind of fun (and a little strange!) to be brought back down memory lane.

The conference is focusing this year on how students can “live to make a difference.” The hosting church is putting a lot of energy and effort into growing support throughout the region for us. They ordered over 1600 Love146-patches for the conference. They are using them as the “badge” each attending student has to show to get into the conference center.

Last night every student that walked by me wore a patch. It was both beautiful and eerie to see hundreds of youth all wearing her number at once. Some of them knew what they were wearing. They would come up to the table and say things like, “I love you guys!” or “I think what you are doing is amazing.” Most of them however just wore the patch as their badge of entry, not really knowing what it stood for.

As the evening continued and they showed a little video about the reality of slavery on our planet, awareness began to rise in the room. Someone told a brief story of 146… consciousness awoke just a little bit. After the main session finished, many students just stopped by the table now curios about Love146 and the issue. They were beginning to see the meaning of the patch.

I am sure as the weekend continues awareness will continue to rise. After Rob speaks on Saturday there will be a flood of passionate abolitionists in the making, each having a deeper understanding of the patch that they wear. Many will continue down this journey of the modern day abolitionist movement. The meaning of the patch and understanding of the issue will deepen further along the way, as it takes over the crevasses of their hearts.

I couldn’t help but think of the thousands of children and teens who literally wear a number…the 1.2 million who will have a price tag placed on them annually, literally bought and sold. I wondered what it is like as their own consciousness rises to the fact that they wear a number and have a price tag that binds them. What emotions, thoughts, fears they might have today… and I prayed for freedom.

My hope rose yesterday at the thought of what could happen when the number of children, teens and people who choose to wear the patch in solidarity and fight for freedom with their lives overpowers not only the pimps, traffickers and exploiters in the world but those who wear any number and are bought and sold for any price. That is the reality of a movement. That is the reality of the world shifting, changing and choosing to amplify the voices screaming “freedom.” ABOLITION AND RESTORATION!

NOTE: Above is a glimpse of people being added to the movement. In some of the pictures you have to look close to find the patch, but it is there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

First times...

We received this beautiful update today from Dr. Velazco, Love146 Director of Aftercare. One of our girls who had been reintegrated back into a community from our safehome (Round Home) came back for a visit. Here is Dr. Velazco’s account:

“Yesterday *Nira came back home to the Round Home for a visit. This morning I asked her what makes her want to come back to the Round Home from time to time.

She became nostalgic and cried.

She said she remembers when they were still complete here, having fun, chatting, singing, playing the guitar. She just misses everybody. She said she was very happy here because of the people and the beautiful place. This was her family, her home.



I asked her what the most important thing she learned in the Round Home was while she was here. She said it was becoming strong. She said she developed strength because of the support of the staff and the other children.

I asked her about the things that she experienced for the first time when she came to the Round Home. She said it was having a loving family. The Round Home staff and children were her family that she never had before. She also experienced being truly loved and being happy for the first time. She experienced being respected for the first time. Such respect, she said, she never experienced before.

She said that for this kind of family, joy, love, and respect, she will always come back to the Round Home.



I also asked another one of our girls, *Maria, about the things that she experienced for the first time when she came to the Round Home. Her answers were quick and sure.

She said she first came to know love, to give to others, to know God, and to be treated like a real daughter. It was her first time to actually be “heard.” It was her first time not to be told hurtful things by adults.

She said, “It was my first time not to be bothered about the past anymore. You were the ones who helped me forget about the past.”

She said it was her first time to really look at herself and accept herself and her experiences and introduce herself to others with courage.

She said it was her first time to go to school. It was her first time to have a happy Christmas. It was her first time to have quarrels and have those quarrels quickly sorted out, so that now, for the first time, she has no enemies anymore.”


When I read this report, I was deeply moved, humbled and challenged. The “firsts” that so many of us take for granted are life-changing for children who have waited far too long to experience them. Education, respect, family, love, joy, etc.

We will change this. We will continue to provide “home”, family, care and love for children like Nira and Maria. We will restore and empower children, and see them “becoming strong”, moving from “victims” & “survivors” to “thrivers.”

But we will also work to protect and defend the innocent and vulnerable, preventing the exploitation from happening to begin with. We will continue to ensure that “firsts” happen for children…when they’re supposed to happen…while they are children.

-Rob


Rob Morris
President
Love146
Follow me on Twitter HERE

* Pseudonyms have been used to protect the children who Love146 serves

Friday, October 30, 2009

Counting My Blessings

It has been a long week. I found myself overwhelmed this week a few times by the weight of the issue. Some shocking articles crossed my computer like this one talking about the domestic magnitude of the issue and this one about a gang rape that occurred at a high school homecoming dance where over 20 people stood by, watched and did nothing.

I have felt heavy and don’t have much to offer or say.

Sometimes the only way we here at Love146 can come out from under the weight is to actively remember the people who are working towards justice and love, and be grateful! As WJ Cameron says, “Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action”.

Today I am actively counting my blessings...

I’m thankful for…

  • My family- Thanks for keeping me laughing and reminding me what I fight for. You continue to love me much and well!
  • The Love146 team- Thanks for dreaming big and always digging deep…thanks for being an inspiration.
  • Zach & Casey- Thanks for being such good friends…thanks for being “in this together”
  • GEMS- Thanks for opening my eyes to the face of the issue here that has ignited compassion and fire deep inside me.
  • Survivors- Your stories inspire and remind me that the impossible is in deed possible…Thanks for never giving up and bravely telling your stories to help others.

So fight for justice, hope, peace and love today and count with me…what are you thankful for?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Evicted Children Get New Wheels


On Saturday we went to help distribute bikes for children who had been evicted from their slum in Phnom Penh to an area with few resources. The story of the eviction is very disturbing because it involved a company and the Government working together. Those who had papers were given some land but those who did not were left on the side of the road with nothing. My friend Sina (who worked with me in Site 2 refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodian border twenty years ago) asked me if we could help these particularly vulnerable evicted children to get to school by providing them with bikes. Getting to school reduces risk of exploitation for children now (it keeps them off the street) and in the future (it provides them with an education). The sub-community leaders got together and organized a ceremony where, in spite of living in blue plastic tents we would be able to formally present the bikes to the 80 children and their families.

On the original day of the ceremony it had to be cancelled because they had received threats that there could be a re-eviction. We were left with a choice. Do we or do we not present bikes knowing they might be destroyed in a re-eviction which could happen tomorrow, next month or next year? We decided that we must keep our promise to this community who had been lied to before and take the risk of still giving the bikes. We did this on Saturday. However, this situation illustrates the chaotic nature of particularly at risk children and the difficulties of helping them.

Glenn Miles, Director of Asia Prevention

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What if 2 Adult-White Males Were Trafficked Every Minute?


Well, there would be a “war on trafficking” of course. It would be front-page news every day. The talking heads would not shut up about it. There would be “freedom concerts” and “tea parties” demanding action. There would be white-collar riots in the streets. The government would be forced to make the issue its number one priority.

Criminal gangs making billions of dollars from the enslavement and exploitation of adult-white males would be hunted down and confronted without excuse or delay. Corporations linked in anyway to the modern-day slave trade would be shut down, their assets confiscated and their owners prosecuted. The military would actually enforce its “zero tolerance” policy and stop minimizing the misdeeds of some of its servicemen and military contractors. Conservative talk show hosts would be as hard on the Department of Defense as they are on ACORN.

Law enforcement officers would no longer label trafficking victims as criminals but rather as exploited adult-white males. Lawmakers would increase penalties for perpetrators and judges would sentence criminals to the full extent of the law. Companies without ‘fair trade” or “slave free” certification would not survive government mandates or the scrutiny of the public. Those in the music or film industry who would dare to glamorize exploited adult-white males would be shunned rather than celebrated. Pimp culture would become as fashionable as Nazi culture. Teens would never be heard saying, “Dude, check out my Nazi’d-out clothes.”

As Bono says, “every generation has a chance to change the world.” The problem is, every generation has a hard time seeing, or admitting, what it needs to change. As an adult-white male myself, I’m suggesting that we don’t really believe that “all are created equal.” How else can we explain this?

2 human beings are trafficked every minute.

- 80% are women and children trafficked into sexual slavery and exploitation

- 20% are women, children and non-white adult males trafficked into forced labor

- 0% are adult-white males

Average estimates from UN, US State Dept.

Now I am NOT saying all, or even the majority, of exploitation is a result of adult-white males. But I am saying we have a responsibility to respond to the modern-day slave trade as if we were the ones being trafficked.

Abolition!

Restoration!

Lamont Hiebert


Love146 Co-Founder, Prevention Strategist 


Singer / Songwriter for Ten Shekel Shirt

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is there a place for expatriate workers in the developing world?

Love146 have spent a big chunk of change to get us as a family out to Cambodia and then continue to pay bills to fly me around the region. Is it worth the investment? Sometimes I am concerned that the money could have been spent on something better. I am well aware that the locals understand the context far better than me. Believe me, it sometimes feels very uncomfortable. So what is the added on value me being based in the region?


Primarily I think it has to do with relationships. Being based in the region enables us to get alongside people we are working with and listen to their passion and their concerns. This is something that is part of the Love146 DNA right from the early visits of the team going undercover into brothels. It wasn’t about voyeurism or development tourism, it was about finding out about what was going on with those on the ‘coal face’ who are dealing with these issues on a day to day basis and asking them ‘how can we help?’


This is an incredible privilege. One day we can be sitting with diplomats, the next with a group of child sex workers. One day we are working alongside other donors, the next we are teaching and learning from practitioners. As we are in the context, we have the credibility. We cannot be accused of flying in from ‘out there’ with no understanding of the local issues.

The money we bring to projects is then only part of the package. We hope that even if there was no money people would still think it was worth us being alongside them.


Glen Miles, Director of Asia Prevention

Friday, October 16, 2009

Schooled By Compassion

The last 8 months have been a beautiful steep learning curve for me. My family and I just moved up to work with Love146 about 8 months ago now. I don’t think there has been a moment here where I haven’t learned something. From how to work the Love146 fax & coffee machine to just how deep and dark this issue goes, I have learned so much! Between news articles and films, to lectures and office conversations, I have been so privileged to be here. I am often asked what I have learned during this 8 months. What is the one thing I have learned? I have thought about it a ton and while it might be hard to pull out one thing I think I can…

I have learned the face of this issue here…in my own streets, in my own city, in my nation. In the middle of my learning I have come to realize not only how blind I have been to the issue here, but I have also seen a lack of compassion in myself that is disturbing.

This all started back in May when I saw the film, Very Young Girls by GEMS . I sat and watched this documentary and was SHOCKED!

Here are the cliff notes of what I learned:

§ A PIMP IS A TRAFFICKER:I saw the reality of the “pimp & ho” culture in the US. I’ll never use the word “pimp” again to glorify anything such as “pimp my ride” because a PIMP IS A TRAFFICKER that our culture glorifies.

§ The average age that someone enters prostitution is 12-14: I saw children, 12-14 years old that were coerced and sometimes forced into prostitution. I don’t know about you but that will change the way I see any women or teen being prostituted on the street!

§ Did you know that in the first 48 hours of a runaway being on the street in the US 1 in 3 will be approached by a pimp or a trafficker: I saw vulnerable teens runaway from home to try to escape a bad home situation and end up being recruited by pimps who would promise them the world (and their love) in exchange for “just a few tricks.”

§ The problem is WIDE SPREAD: According to a 2001 University of Pennsylvania study, an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 adolescents are sexually exploited annually in the U.S. That is CRAZY!!! That is A LOT of children in our own back yard!

§ I don’t have to go ANYWHERE to be a part of ending this…Denver, New Haven, New York, Atlanta, LA, it exists! If we have eyes to see it!

While I watched this film the veil of my own culture was lifted for a moment for me to see what is really going on right now. As I watched I realized that there is no difference between the 14 year old in a brothel in Thailand and a 14 year old out on our streets…yet for me there had always been a difference. Why is it that before now I couldn’t see them in the same way? Was it my own culture that told me these children were “throw-a-ways” or criminals rather than beautiful women, children and victims? Was it the glamorization of pimp & ho culture? Was it race? Wealth? Whatever the reasons…I am more than sorry. I am ashamed. AND NOW I AM COMPASSIONATE!

If you haven’t yet, you should watch this documentary and allow your vision to change! This SATURDAY, OCTOBER 17th GEMS is doing a One2One Challenge, calling each individual who has seen the documentary to challenge one of their friends to sit down and watch the film. So friends, family… I’m calling you. Go to GEMS, watch the film...

LOVE, COMPASSION and ABOLITION!


NOTE: Out of compassion, Love146 is launching some US Prevention Initiatives this year. Go to Love146.org to see what we're up to!

Friday, October 9, 2009

QUESTION: What does High School Football and Slavery have in common?



There are many things that I love about fall. Pumpkin Spice Lattes…the leaves changing…wearing boots and mittens. However, I’ll let you in on a little secret about me. The thing I love most about fall is football. I am an avid football fan. My dad played ball for the University of Colorado Buffaloes. I’ve been going to football games since I can remember. CU Buff games, Denver Bronco games, high school games. I’ll watch any game that is on TV on a Saturday after noon…I love it all!

This fall I have seen football in a different light. A friend heard this stat a few weeks ago: Did you know that this season 1.2 million high schoolers will play football??? If you have been around the issue of child sex trafficking that number will be familiar. It is the exact same number of children that UNICEF estimates will be sold in to slavery this year, 1.2 million. What a stark contrast!

Hearing this stat, being an avid football fan AND a passionate person who wants to see slavery end, I automatically started thinking. I thought about this freedom that so many youth have in the US to play football. I also thought about the lack of freedom all over the world children have to dream, play, or thrive. I thought about how many days, months, and football seasons go by while so many children are still in captivity.

A few fabulous staff and I started talking about what could happen if these two realities came colliding together. What could happen if the freedom high school students in this nation have to play football was met head on with the reality of children in slavery today? What could happen if all the passion used to cheer for our teams, protect our quarterbacks and score touchdowns simultaneously raised funds & awareness for the issue of modern day slavery, and advocated for freedom for ALL children? What if football season was known to be a time for tailgate parties, first downs, yearly rivalries AND a time to TACKLE SLAVERY! Something amazing could happen… this world could change! That’s why Love146 is encouraging students, players, cheerleaders, teachers, parents and fans to TACKLE SLAVERY. I know I’m going to this season…Here are a few of our ideas. Of course you should go to love146.org for a full list and some great downloads!

A SWEET HIGHLIGHT: I was really excited when I heard one of my good friend’s little brother decided to TACKLE SLAVERY with us and wanted to share. This season every touchdown Gabe Hoins, a freshman high school student from Papillion, NE, scores friends and family are each giving a certain dollar amount to end child sex slavery and exploitation. Being a rock-star running back he already has 10 on the season. Maybe you should consider joining them and sponsor Gabe! Go here to see how! Keep up the good running this season, Gabe! Think you can get a few more! :) Thanks for not only playing for the Monarch’s this season but for Love146! Peace & Abolition!!!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thoughts from the Ride...



Last weekend I had this thought. It was during the Ride-4-Love, an annual fundraiser put on by our fabulous 518 Network of churches, taskforces and student groups to raise funds and awareness for us. First, let me just say that upstate NY is a beautiful spot in this country. And last weekend it was spectacular. The air was crisp and cold. There were patches of leaves turning to bright fall colors but for the most part the land was still green from all the rain.

Over 100 riders gathered together, all raising funds and riding a few miles (either 10, 25, 50 or for the brave 75) to be active in fighting towards the end of child sex slavery and exploitation.


My fam and I drove up to put our efforts in the ride (hubby and I pictured above). We signed up to ride 25 miles which was a feat for us with our 22 month old hooked onto the back of my husband’s single speed bike. Around mile five I looked up to see a beautiful scene. It was still early in the course so the riders were pretty thick in number, working their way along together. I was riding along and a little kid passed me, and next his mother, and father…then a group of college students, a few riding a tandem bike…men, women, kids…young, old…all riding together. Each as they passed had their bikes and helmets and a bib with numbers. This was different from the tour de France in many obvious ways but the most striking was in the number…

We all wore one number… her number.

1.4.6.

Each of us, not working for ourselves but for someone else… It was this beautiful picture as each rode by. I sat back on my bike and just took the moment in. We weren’t racing the clock. We weren’t keeping track of individual numbers but for a moment putting all that down to wear 146. Thoughts like, “I wonder if that boy riding knows that what he is doing now might actually enable another child in this world to ride free someday?” Or “does that mother know that right now she is looking after more than just her own children by giving of her time, resources and prayers?” As I peddled along I thought about those racing and advocating for freedom, and the children we serve. I wished for a moment we could all ride together…and prayed for a world where such could happen. A world where justice, grace and love ruled. A world that was free, truly free…

If you’ve ever heard Rob speak about what he thinks it will take to end this you might remember he says one of the key components we need is personal engagement. We need to allow the issue to personally affect us so that we will respond. We are often creatures that don’t engage until we see it, until it personally affects or offends us. He often says, “we usually don’t care too much about cancer, for example, until our son gets leukemia or our wife gets breast cancer and then we are off running marathons, raising money for the cancer society.” Last weekend I saw the opposite of that taking place. There were 100 people allowing an issue to affect them as they rode that morning. And there were hundreds more who sponsored the ride and allowed the issue to affect their pocketbooks. People coming together to raise their voices as if to say, “I want to let this affect me. I’m not ok if it doesn’t affect me. I am actively creating a world, fighting for a world, where we all are free.” We all rode that morning remembering and honoring a girl we’ll never meet, or even know her name… and yet somehow we all were choosing to personally engage.


I wanted to say thank you. Thank you to the 518 Network that have worked so hard over the years. Thank you to all our campus chapters, to our taskforces, to our supporting churches and friends. Thank you to Bethany, Matt, Karen, Marie, Shellie, Casey, Zach, Bert, Joel, Ed, Kristi…to all those who are leading the way, choosing to engage, the list could go on and on. Day in and day out, you work with us, think of us. Work for children, think and pray for children. That moment on my bike Saturday I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving and asked that this kind of Love will lead the way to a world where all are free!

So thank you, and lets keep trekking!

PS For those that were interested, Andrew, our events coordinator, is pictured above during his ride-4-love. You’ll be glad to know HE FINISHED the 75 mile ride!!! He was amazing and proudly wore her number the entire way…reaching a different level of being personally affected and engaged.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles.

The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard. ~Sloan Wilson

I am Andrew, the Events Coordinator at Love146. I was somewhat hesitant to post this blog. I was, however, guided and encouraged by my wonderful friend Desirea Rodgers here at the Love146 office, from whom you regularly hear via these blogs. She convinced me that my personal take on the Ride4Love event was something I should share. So I bit the bullet and, despite lingering doubts, here I go.

Love146 is about to embark on the second annual "Ride4Love" on September 19th in Ballston Spa, NY. For me personally, as Events Coordinator for Love146 and in my capacity as a human being, this marks a few "firsts". This is my first blog for Love146 after almost 5 years of working here - where have I been?? This will also be my first ever aerobic activity with a duration of more than 15 minutes. It is my first bike ride event and most certainly the first time I have ever attempted to travel 75 miles under my own steam on the same day.

And here is another "first". I have the huge privilege to work at Love146. I am surrounded by dark stores and images of the most terrible situations that I can imagine, as the father of two young girls. But I am surrounded by hope, stories of restoration and the energy of Abolition. And I work to help fuel this, our programs, our funding and the momentum of the Movement, here at my desk and my computer. I work with phone calls, emails and meetings. I feel no physical discomfort or hardship. I want to engage at that level with the children we serve in some way, but it is difficult to feel any visceral pain in my cozy corner of the office. So, in my own small way, taking on that hilly 75 miles at 51 years old for the first time ever, with little time to train, promises me considerable discomfort and challenge.

My earlier hesitancy to post these thoughts is re-confirmed to me on reading back the last paragraph. It may sound like the effort is about me. About my needs. It may also read a little like my discomfort will somehow compare to that of the children we serve, but both these thoughts could not be further from the truth. I suppose what I want to feel is that I have an opportunity to work way outside of my comfort zone and spend the 6 hours in the seat contemplating the children, their restoration, their faces and their futures. And to feel something physical while doing it. Something I will remember well after the event that will leave some small mark on me. I hope so. It's not a perfect solution but for now it's all I have. So I'll take it.

So - that said, the ride takes us through the scenic countryside of Ballston Spa, NY. It will be a beautiful journey. There will be all levels of riders participating, from competition bikers to children. So please consider joining us. You could ride in the event yourself, or sponsor us while we grind our way up and down the hills of upstate NY. There will be a route for you (either 10, 25, 50 or 75 miles) and we would be honored to see you on your bike with us on September 19th! If you don't have your own set of wheels, there will be rental bikes available on the day of the ride.

You can join the ride by visiting www.ride4love.com and registering.

Or, if you would like to sponsor us and help us achieve our goal, please use this link - http://www.active.com/donate/ride4love-2009/AZsigmondpage

If you have any other questions regarding the Ride 4 Love, please contact Matthew Miller at matthew7@nycap.rr.com

We look forward to seeing you and joining efforts to bring support and freedom to the children we serve!

Andrew Zsigmond
Events Coordinator/Fundraising/Artist Coalition Manage
r
Love146

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Going home

“Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.” –Charles Dickens
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After 16 months in our safehome, another one of our girls went home to be reunited with her family last week.

Getting ready to fly home

Knowing what she has been through and how far she has come is mind-boggling. She came to our home like an angel with broken wings, and is leaving whole and empowered. She is ready to fly again.

Dr. Velazco, our Director of Aftercare asked her; “How will you remember the Love146 Safehome?” Her answer? “It’s where my life changed. It’s where a new angel was born and grew. This Home welcomes and heals the broken.”

At her homecoming, her Mother just held on to her and kept repeating; “My Baby, my baby. I’ve missed you so, my baby.”

In the words of Dr. Velazco to our girl upon leaving; “We’ll be monitoring your flight. Count on it.”

Wow, this reintegration process is so hard and beautiful all at the same time.

-Rob
President
Love146
Follow me on Twitter HERE

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Power of Piggy Banks & Road Trips


All over the nation ordinary people are rallying together to do extraordinary things that are leading the way towards ending child sex slavery & exploitation. People are throwing benefit shows, creating art, writing letters and meeting together to move with us in this journey to abolition. Many people are starting taskforces in their area to be a voice for Love146 and the youth in their own communities.

I have had the privilege of meeting with taskforces across the nation. These small groups of people that are working creatively to raise the banner of freedom for children have inspired me. They think outside the box and are willing to work hard. One of my favorite groups is this funky little teen taskforce in NY. We lovingly refer to them as the Long Island Teen Taskforce. They have baked cookies, hosted bowl-a-thons, and even dyed students’ hair bright blue in their high school to raise money and awareness about Love146. I love getting updates about what they will do next. Their fearless leaders are two teachers that have a heart for kids and abolition, Ed & Kristi.

With banners, buttons, the story of 146 to share and a good GPS system

Ed and Kristi hit the road and spent their last week of summer traveling around the North East spreading the word about Love146. From New Hampshire to Ohio, they helped to set up more teen taskforces and encouraged everyone they met to get involved with ending slavery! TV stations, newspapers, youth groups, high schools and churches welcomed them and joined this movement of abolition.

Among those that were encouraged was a little 7-year-old girl who walked up to Kristi, bought a Love146 patch and literally emptied out her piggy bank into the donations jar. She looked up at Kristi as she poured out her savings with a smile and said “Saving little kids like me.”

What a beautiful picture!

Today I’m wondering what our world would look like if we all emptied our piggy banks to bring hope, life and freedom to others. What would it look like if we, like Ed & Kristi, poured out our vacation time to work towards sharing the story of the broken?

Ed & Kristi, thanks for inspiring us. Keep up the good work!

To love, road-trips, piggy banks and abolition!


Kellen

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Labor of Love

"Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing." - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Today marks the end of an ambitious labor of love and a work of staggering beauty by an amazing, but little known photographer. After hearing the story of a young girl known only by the number 146, photographer Jennifer Hamilton set out to remember and honor her. She took a photo every day for 146 days, to represent not only the one girl sitting behind a glass window in a brothel, but the thousands like her who are being sold and exploited daily.

I have been deeply moved not only by Jennifer's photography, but even more so by her commitment to add her creative voice to the collective shout on behalf of the innocent and vulnerable. And even more stunning...Jennifer is 14 years old and in the 8th grade.

Jennifer writes that the story of Love146, "inspired a procrastinating, laid-back teenaged girl to get up and do something about it. Just think of what could be done, if just a few more people... decided to do something about this. This is a war going on, a fight for freedom. We must be their voice, because for the moment they are silenced. But they don't have to be."

She continues; "This is my last day, but I'll always be an advocate of love146 through my photography. I just can't believe it's been 146 days. I've been saving this idea for the very last day."

Thank you Jennifer for amplifying the voices of your sisters and brothers still in "chains"!

All photos by Jennifer Hamilton


To view Jennifer's entire "146 Days of Love" project click HERE.


To see the story of 146 click HERE.


-Rob
President
Love146
Follow me on Twitter
HERE.