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.



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...


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!!!