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Teens vs. Traffickers: School Club in Los Angeles Fights Slavery

Bows copyStudents at Downey High School in Los Angeles, Calif., are fighting human trafficking from their classrooms. Although they live normal, American lives, they know millions of teens around the world don’t enjoy the same the freedoms and live in slavery, instead.

And these students care deeply.

About 40 of them, led by faculty member Charissa James, have formed a club this year, called Stop the Traffick, and have raised awareness about the issue along with funds for The Exodus Road.

“The more people know, the more people will care, and the sooner it will end,” club secretary and senior Nicolas says.

Before the club even started, James’ heart was breaking for those around the world who suffered sex slavery, and she wanted to enlighten her students to the reality of this injustice. She felt a partnership among The Exodus Road, her school and her students would do the trick.

“I felt certain that your [ER’s] philosophy of work would be palatable to my public school and recruited student leaders who read books with me over the [2014 summer break] about modern slavery and anti-trafficking efforts, including your book, ‘The Exodus Road,’” she writes in an email.

In the fall, James, a modern American history teacher, asked fellow Downey U.S. history teachers to combine a lesson on Civil War slavery with information about modern sex trafficking among minors. After the lesson, James and her student leaders invited teens to watch “Sex and Money: a National Search for Human Worth,” a documentary on sex trafficking. The history teachers also encouraged their classes to attend the showing, which—along with their studies in modern trafficking—stirred compassion in many students.

“These students associate slavery with the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which ended long ago, so most were surprised that forms of slavery still exist, especially in America,” James says. “However, their shock was quickly followed by both empathy and activism. They immediately wanted to know what they could do to help.

Stop the Traffick had officially begun.

So far, these teens have raised more than $1000 for The Exodus Road through donations and through concessions at the documentary screening, through a Chick-Fil-A fundraiser and through key chain and bow sales. They’ve also had plenty of help from school faculty. Many teachers offered extra credit for students who attended the screening, and the art department has created moving promotional material. Art teachers have helped designed Stop the Traffick’s t-shirts, and one advanced art class has created haunting charcoal pieces that the club can use to raise awareness.

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“Our administration has been incredibly supportive, and I regularly get e-mails from teachers supporting the club’s efforts,” James says.

But, she is especially proud of her club members and their commitment to Stop the Traffick’s cause. In addition to helping others, she believes the club will also benefit its members, encouraging their empathy and compassion and teaching them to use whatever resources they possessed to confront problems.

And these lessons seem to have sunk in. Students know they have the ability to change the status quo.

“Human trafficking is an issue that most people don’t know about, or they think it’s a past issue,” junior Ana says. “We have all of these laws in our government trying to keep everyone safe, and this issue seems neglected. Sometimes neglected ideas need just a few people to start a change.”

And they feel for others who children and teens who are forced to sell their bodies for someone else’s profit.

“It’s important to let kids who are in danger know that there’s someone out there helping them,” junior Joselyn says. “We know that they feel lonely, and that they don’t have anyone with them, so raising money and awareness is a way to let them know that we are here for them, and we want to help protect them.”

James says she hopes the club can eventually partner with a rural international school that prevents trafficking by educating young girls. However, that’s a long-term goal. For the time being, the club will continue to raise awareness and funds.

And in doing so, it will cultivate a generation of young men and women who know they have the power to fight injustice.

Artwork

 

You can watch a brief personal Thank You Message The Exodus Road in SE Asia sent to Stop the Traffick via youtube, as well.

Two Brothels Shut Down. Begging Ring Busted.

Laura Parker, VP of Communications, shares briefly about her favorite aspect of storytelling for The Exodus Road.

 

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For more current updates about cases and missions, try texting ER to: 51555. We deliver more immediate field reports here. As always, thank you for being on this journey with our teams.

Interview with David Zach

We recently spent several weeks working with David Zach, lead singer of the Christian rock band, Remedy Drive, who latest album is dedicated to fighting trafficking. Their hit-single, Commodity, continues to top the charts.

Here, David gives an interview about his experiences engaging in undercover work with our field teams. We continue to be grateful for partners like David who are using their talents, voices and careers for freedom’s sake.

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Covert Cameras Instrumental in Freeing Trafficked Teenager

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On Feb. 26, 2014, coalition-member Indian Rescue Mission agents raided a private brothel in Southern India, freeing a trafficked girl. During the operation, they used undercover cameras and equipment provided by The Exodus Road.

When The Exodus Road first began its partnership with IRM, the latter team operated with one half-broken camera. Using Exodus Road funds, they purchased at least two cameras for each team member along with a computer and several other pieces of surveillance gear, which helped to gather evidence against the brothel during the February raid. The first images of this video come from that covert equipment and depict that operation. They show a narrow alley, and a tiny, sparsely furnished room. In the video, a woman peeks behind a curtain, presumably calling a young girl. A moment later, the girl enters.

Agents showed these images to police, who then partnered with IRM to free the victim.

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She was roughly 15 years old, and she told IRM agents that her parents had died when she was 8.  Her aunt took care of her until she reached puberty—and then, that aunt began to sell her, forcing her into prostitution. The film shows the aunt covering her face with her hands after confrontation with police. The abused niece hugs the social worker present during the raid, and buries her face in the older woman’s shoulder.

“She was in a trauma stage during the time of raid and she thought all of us are police,” an IRM agent said. “But our social worker went and took her to her side and then counseled her and gave her support.”

After the rescue, IRM sent the girl to a protective home.

The IRM agent who spearheaded the raid felt a deep connection to this case because he knew the particular community well. He said he felt a responsibility to make sure the girl attained her freedom. With courage, wisdom and cameras, he did.

“All those got involved were happy about the case and many people from the city appreciated the raid,” he said.

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In 2013, The Exodus Road gifted 125 pieces of covert equipment, including undercover cameras, to field teams. Without these supplies, those teams couldn’t gather the evidence needed to motivate police to act.

You can help The Exodus Road fight sex slavery by clicking here to donate. Your gifts will be used to purchase vital cameras and covert equipment for the investigation and pursuit of human traffickers.

How a Group of Students Sent Hope to the Front Lines

letters to frontline investigators

Bekah emailed us at the office several months ago. She worked with students in a faith community and wanted to connect her church with the cause of bringing freedom to the modern day slave, and she wrote us to see how she could help. We gave her some ideas, she quickly joined the Exodus Army as a powerful advocate.

In addition to raising funds through a Christmas campaign at her church, she also invited the students she works with to write letters of encouragement to undercover investigators. And while it may seem a small thing, pen and paper and a message, it was anything but that. Here is an example:

letters to investigators

 

It’s because of students like those in Bekah’s community, and as a result of Bekah’s own advocacy and leadership, we’ll be handing over a stack of mail to our undercover teams in May. We will have the privilege of delivering messages from teenagers in the West directly to men who are actively working to rescue other teenagers halfway around the globe, trapped as sex slaves. Men that seldom get thanked and rarely recognized.

Will you join Bekah’s group? Consider taking time yourself or rallying your own community to write letters of thanks to the frontlines. Check out the details and video here:

—> Letters to the Frontlines.

 

And a huge thank you to the community at First Trinity Lutheran Church in NY for leading the way in delivering hope to the those in the trenches. You guys are continued proof that we all have a role to play in this fight for justice. 

 

* A note about these letters. The Exodus Road is a secular nonprofit, and many of the supported investigators are from a variety of religious backgrounds. And though this was a Christian church group that wrote these cards, religious language was greatly limited out of respect for the investigators themselves. We love that Bekah and her group of teens understood and followed this request.

It's Here! Our 2013 Financial Impact Report

We are excited to share with you our 2013 Financial Impact Report. As many of you know, we as an organization value financial transparency and efficiency, and we hope the following numbers will prove just that. While we officially formed in 2012, this past year of 2013 was our first full year established at the home office in Colorado. And what a year it has been– nearly one million in revenue (including donated investigative services), 250 victim rescues, over 25 partners, three offices (two overseas), our 501c3 status, 48 investigators supported and 125 pieces of covert gear granted to field teams.

And all of this? It is very much your story, too. We are beyond grateful for the ways you have stepped in and championed this rescue work through utilizing social media, sharing contacts, volunteering hours, and especially giving financially. We hope that the following report will serve to encourage you that you helped make e a significant difference in the world this past year.

 

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Blogger Advocate Jamie Wright Visits The Exodus Road's Home Office

Jamie Wright, The Very Worst Missionary, traveled to SE Asia last year and witnessed firsthand the realities of the sex trade. She and her husband, Steve, met an undercover investigator, saw minors sold for sex, and walked some of the darkest red-light districts in the world.

And she came back changed. And wanting to make a change.

Two weeks later, Jamie rallied her tribe to financially support a team of undercover investigators in monthly operations, and in one week, over 200 people joined her and DELTA team. And together they are literally fueling rescue for the modern day sex slave.

Jamie and Steve Wright were able to visit the stateside office of The Exodus Road in January. They attended a vision-casting meeting, meet the administrative staff, and most importantly, got to connect again with one of “their” investigators from DELTA Team. Here she shares her experience:

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Jamie and her DELTA TEAMMATES are beautiful examples of how much we can accomplish when we join forces with each other, for good.

 

SR-TeamBadge-Delta-BrownYou can read more from Jamie by visiting her blog, The Very Worst Missionary.

And you can consider joining her in support of DELTA Team by joining DELTA’s Search and Rescue Team. With every $35/month, you send these undercover investigators out into the field for a night of surveillance, and you become the sending force of front-line work.

 

 

What It Takes to Rescue a Sex Slave

What it takes to rescue a sex slave

“Rescue from the sex trade sounds glamorous. On the outside looking in, rescue looks a lot like Jason Bourne in a fist fight or Liam Neeson breaking down doors to find his daughter in Taken. It sounds like the stuff of Hollywood.

But real rescue can’t be depicted in a two-hour movie on the big screen. My experience as a former undercover investigator and now the leader of The Exodus Road, a coalition of more than 20 investigative organizations responsible for nearly 200 victim rescues in the past year, has given me a more realistic point of view.

The rescue of a sex slave actually requires a huge investment of time, resources, strategy and grit. When we look at Sarah’s case, and when we think in terms of what it really takes to rescue a sex slave, we see that effective rescue is much broader and more complex than the simple kicking in of a door or grabbing a young girl from a brothel. There are essentially four main steps to rescuing a sex slave . . .

Read the Interview with Matt Parker, Founder of The Exodus Road, here at RELEVANT Magazine

Long Line of Freedom {A Thank You Video to Our Community}

Together, we are ushering in freedom, one stone, one life, at a time. Thank you for making 2013 a year of deliverance. We are so grateful to be a part of this movement on behalf of those trapped in darkness.

fighting sex slavery year video

 

 

Local Retailer Fights Trafficking with The Exodus Road

corporate sponsor the exodus road seven status

Our first corporate sponsor has been a retail store in Colorado Springs. Not only do the two stores, Seven Status and Xcess Threadz, sell quality gently used clothing, they also sport Exodus Road banners in their front windows. By asking customers if they’d like to “round up” their purchase total and by donating a portion of all profits, this business owner, Jeremy Bitner, is literally leveraging his work to pay for rescue. Recently, a local news channel did a spot on our partnership. You can check out the news video and article here, via Channel 13, KRDO:

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We are so thankful for Jeremy and his team. They are advocating for the voiceless, and are using what they have to help change the world.

 

 

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