A Welcoming Environment

What happens to a girl after she is rescued by KI Nepal staff at the Nepal/India border and decides (with the help of her family and staff) to go to a safe home? Depending on the girl’s situation, she stays at a temporary shelter close to the border office, then travels with a staff member to one of the safe homes. There she is welcomed by the safe home staff and girls. When I say welcomed, I don’t mean a polite but distant welcome from strangers. I mean a welcome similar to a family welcoming a new member. The girl may feel uncomfortable at first, and depending on the level of trauma she experienced before rescue, barely able to interact with the others. However, the girls and staff invite her in with great care and kindness. Within a few days (or less for some) she feels comfortable with the other girls, participates in daily activities and is one of the group.

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Rescued girls doing a “trust fall” during a leadership training

Experiencing this nurturing environment first-hand brought a whole new meaning to the description I read on our website about the rescued girls’ safe home experience. Not only did they treat each new girl this way, it was the same for me, a foreigner! From the moment I set foot in the safe home, the girls treated me as one of the sisters!

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Several girls and me making an afternoon snack!

In reflection, I feel that some of this is because of their culture. Nepali people, in my experience, are welcoming and hospitable in general. I also feel that some of it has to do with the fact that they have fewer material things. Being a privileged American who has many things is often seen as a blessing, and is in many ways. However, the more “things” we have, the more we can miss out on what is truly important. When people have less, their relationships are deeper. I saw this a lot. The Nepali people aren’t distracted by the latest technology. Their dominant communication is not through text, or even phone calls. They spend time with each other! They put people before their schedule. For an American who is distracted by technology and tends to focus more on the schedule than the person, I had a lot to learn. However, I say conviction, it was entirely worth it! My perspective was changed, and my worldview has been different ever since.

How can you enhance your perspective on cultures and the world?


Start A Revolution!

As we walk into the New Year, I encourage you to make a change where you are! There are many ways to get involved, not only with anti-trafficking organizations (Red Thread Movement), but also other causes that fight for the underprivileged and those in need. Make this the year you step out and MAKE A CHANGE!

On a personal note, I have always had a heart for women who are victims of sex trafficking. In 2006 I attended a mission conference called Urbana. At this conference, I went to a seminar titled “Sex Trafficking” sponsored by International Justice Mission. I had no idea this one decision would change the rest of my life. At the seminar, I learned many things: sex trafficking is happening in most countries around the world. What a shock for me to find babies as young as one being sexually abused! Americans make up a large percentage of customers world-wide for trafficking. How unspeakable!

As appalling as this news was, it also stirred me. I didn’t know how, but I decided that day my goal was to work against trafficking. Though I have left many conferences with new passions that slowly fade over time, my desire to fight trafficking only grew stronger. It started with doing research and spreading the word. My passion has evolved over the years, and has shaped my choice in a degree and jobs. With each step, I become more determined to fight this evil. In 2011 I spent six weeks in Bolivia with Word-Made Flesh, learning from staff who serve women in prostitution in El Alto. In 2013 I embarked on a journey to Nepal working with KI Nepal, an anti-trafficking organization. I lived and worked in a safe home with rescued girls. I am honored to have spent seven months there and to partner with them in the U.S.

One rescued girl told me something I will never forget. After being in Nepal a few months, we sat together with another girl who helped translate. Sunita said, “Thank you for coming and spending time with us in the safe home. I will never forget you taking the time to come here from far away and spend time and care for us girls. Thank you.” I cannot tell you how encouraging this was! To get feedback from one of the very girls I mentored in the safe home meant the world to me. Things like that spur me on to do more!

*Name changed for protection

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Sunita and me last January. Identity protected.

What is your passion? What is your story? Whatever it is, it matters! You can make a difference in the world around you, and I challenge you in 2015 to start or continue on that journey!

What will you do? START A REVOLUTION!


Sharing and Caring: Happy Holidays!

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As I reflect on my time in Nepal, many fond memories come to mind. One thing that sticks out is the way in which the girls share and care for each other. Americans so often have a sense of entitlement to our possessions. In Nepal, however, I realized quickly that not everyone is that way. The girls share everything before being asked, and without expecting anything in return. They also share food. For example, if you have an orange and are in the presence of others, you share part of the orange with them, no matter how small it is. I found out quickly how entitled I feel, even of small snacks like oranges! One girl made the comment, “Americans don’t share food with each other”. My gut reaction was, “Yes we do!!” We make meals for each other, and on occasion may pay for another person’s meal at a restaurant. In a family, we share meals, of course. However, as I thought about it more, I realized that we don’t share with just anyone. It opened my eyes to one of the differences between our cultures.

Below is a story of one of our rescued girls who exhibited these characteristics:

My name is Shristi. I am from western Nepal and lost my parents at a young age. Though my aunt took care of me, she was neglectful. Throughout childhood I always believed that if my parents were alive, they would have taken care of me and given me a good education. After a while, I made plans with some friends to go to India and find a job. We believed there would be many opportunities to earn good money. At the border of India, KI Nepal staff stopped me and learned of my plans. They told me of the dangers of travelling to India as a young woman without protection, and the risk of being trafficked. The staff gave me the option to go to a safe home to receive skills training. I gladly went to the safe home. Living in a great community with other girls like me helped me grow and heal. I appreciated how well they loved me and treated me like a sister. After finishing sewing and beautician skills training, I became one of the sewers who make products that are sold in America. I am grateful for the healing and opportunities I received from KI Nepal.

*Name changed for protection

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I was so encouraged to know Shristi and spend time with her during my season in Nepal. She loved her “sisters” and staff, worked hard at everything she did, and had a positive attitude.  I saw these characteristics in all the rescued girls: they were positive and joyful after experiencing terrible trials, as well as loving and caring to those around them. To be honest, I am usually negative even in small trials. Also, during difficult trials, I tend to focus only on myself and struggle to be intentional with those around me. The rescued girls continue to convict and inspire me today.

Coming up on Christmas, I can’t help but share about the holidays I celebrated while in Nepal! Did you know that Nepal is a predominately Hindu country and therefore celebrates Hindu holidays more than Christian holidays? One of these holidays is called Diwali, which means “festival of lights”. It is celebrated in November, yet reminds me of Christmas! Here’s why: many families decorate the outside of their homes with strings of lights! When I was out past dark, I enjoyed the “Christmas” lights that covered numerous homes. What a treat! Even our next door neighbor had lights up. Different cultures are full of surprises, and what is more surprising is that some of the differences aren’t so different.

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I hope these words give you a little glimpse into the culture of Nepal and the valuable things I learned while living there. Be encouraged that your partnership with RTM makes all the difference in the world!

Have a restful and enjoyable holiday season!

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Trafficking Summit- Reflections and Connections

Trafficking not only is an issue in developing countries like Nepal; it is also an incredible problem in the United States. According to statistics shared at the Children at Risk Trafficking Summit in Dallas, the grand majority of trafficking victims in the U.S. are American-born citizens. To be honest, this was a surprise to me. I have heard that trafficking happens here, and that many foreigners are trafficked into the U.S.. However, I didn’t realize just how many Americans are victims. One resource from Children at Risk states that the common characteristics for victims are runaways, those with a history of sexual abuse and those with low self-esteem. They go on to share the typical characteristics of traffickers: those who often know the victims, “view the victim as a commodity” and are “masters of manipulation” (“Sex Trafficking 101”, Children at Risk). Wow! For many years I have focused on international trafficking, especially in developing countries. This summit not only opened my eyes to the issue in our own country, but also the need for Americans to learn more and fight the problem here.

Trafficking Summit

OK, so I’ve been talking about statistics of human trafficking in the United States. How does that relate to our rescued girls in Nepal? For one, trafficking is a human rights issue, as it is a global issue. Though there are many differences between cultures and languages, trafficking, unfortunately, is one thing we all have in common. In talking with a professional in Dallas who works with at-risk youth, I realized how similar trafficking in Nepal is to the U.S.. There are two common tactics traffickers often use: 1) offer a great job opportunity that will make lots of money and provide for the individual’s and/or family’s needs; and 2) pursue in a romantic way, making promises of love and marriage, providing for them, and after stealing their heart, selling them into a brothel or to a pimp. I cannot tell you how many of our rescued girls in Nepal have suffered from one of these two types of traffickers. It’s shocking! I think about Cita, who after being romantically pursued by a young man over several months, decided to travel with him to India to “meet his family”. When stopped by KI Nepal staff at the border, her boyfriend immediately ran away. The staff waited with Cita at the border several days in a row for the young man to return. He was never seen or heard from again. (Thankfully she found healing and strong community in a KI Nepal safe home). Another girl who comes to mind is Alina, who was pursued by a woman who promised a well-paying job in India. Shortly after they arrived, the woman sold Alina into a brothel (She later escaped! Read her story https://redthreadmovement.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/safe-house-update/) They’re doing the same things here in the U.S.. The stories may be a little different, and the needs of the girls may vary, but the tactics remain the same.

*Names changed for protection

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Girl being interviewed by KI Nepal staff at border

What does this mean for us? Several years ago, the U.S. saw trafficking as a foreign issue. Thanks to social media and readily-available research, we’ve learned that not only is trafficking taking place on our soil, our citizens are the most common victims. Trafficking is abhorrent in any culture, but considering the fact that we are a developed and privileged country, the occurrence of trafficking here is unacceptable. The more I learn about trafficking, the more determined I become to whatever I can to fight it. Who’s with me?

YOU CAN MAKE AN IMPACT. Start a club on your campus. Get a group together and go to a seminar on trafficking. Whether it is through Red Thread Movement to help girls rescued in Nepal http://www.redthreadmovement.org/, or getting connected to others passionate about ending it in the U.S. http://www.polarisproject.org/ or http://childrenatrisk.org/content/, (and so many others) you can fight human trafficking!

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Rescued girls with RTM Founders


Food!

Living in a safe homes for rescued girls was a profound and rich experience.  I loved learning about their culture, language and daily habits.  Structure for these girls is very important when they live in a safe home.  Daily routine and house-keeping tasks provide security and stability.

I found it interesting how the meals are prepared.  In Nepal food is always fresh, and cooked just for that day.  There is hardly any waste or leftovers.  In our safe home, the girls take turns (two at a time) making the meals each day.  As in any group home, there are different cooking skill levels.  Most of the girls have learned to cook in their homes.  One of the girls I was very close with (we’ll call her Sita) was a good cook.  However, she didn’t think she was.  “I am not a good cook!” Sita would say.  Of course, the rest of us enthusiastically told her how much we love her food!

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In photo: one of the girls preparing roti

Cooking was often a fun group activity.  Sometimes girls would help out even if it wasn’t their turn.  A “favorite” item for the girls (and myself) is roti.  Roti is similar to a tortilla, made from scratch with whole wheat flour.

The girls were always willing to show me how they cook.  One day I wanted to learn how to make the dough for roti.  There were many giggles and laughs from the girls as they watched me roll out the dough.  To no surprise, my roti did not look as good as theirs.  Lumpy and bumpy best describes my work!  The girls, however, praised me for my efforts.  And we ate it anyway!

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In photo: Prepared roti

These girls are such a treasure to everyone around them!  I cannot express in words how grateful I am to have lived with them and learn so much from them.


Helping Girls in Nepali Villages

Our partner, Kingdom Investments Nepal (K.I. Nepal) works against trafficking on numerous levels, including prevention and finding the source of the problem. In one particular village, they began visiting a few years ago and building relationships because it was considered a high-risk community. As they learned more about the people and their circumstances, they realized that the lack of running water put girls and young women at risk of being assaulted and trafficked. Here is a story of one of these individuals:

My name is ­­­Maya. I grew up in a small village in Nepal. My family has always been very poor. Our village did not have running water, I had to travel by cycle for one hour just to get clean water for the house. One time when I was going to retrieve water , three men stopped me along the path and abused me.

Thankfully, K.I. Nepal was already working in my community because it is considered a high-risk trafficking area. Since their staff knew me well, they noticed a change in my behavior. I told them what happened, and they invited me to live in the safe home for six months. There I would learn sewing and beautician skills, and have a safe place to heal from the trauma. The safe home was wonderful. Not only were the staff kind and nurturing, but I became very close with the other girls. While there, I healed and learned the skills quickly, and became a role model in the home. I was also a spokesperson for my community and led a small group there to empower other young women. Recently I moved to the Kathmandu safe home to study for my SLC exam and get further education. My confidence has grown significantly, and the opportunities I will have with further education will not only help me provide for my family, but also give me a promising future, free of the fear of being abused or trafficked.

*Name changed for protection

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In photo: Maya meeting with her women’s group to record their progress in sewing training

I (Abby) had the privilege of living with and getting to know Maya. She taught me many things. I am blessed to know her, and deeply encouraged by her bright future! K.I. Nepal not only helped raise money to put two wells in this village, they continue to help with other needs to keep girls like Maya safe from trafficking. Their work has helped countless girls and young women.

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 In photo: Maya and me during a trip to the village (face covered for protection)


“Change is Inevitable. Progress is Optional”

-Tony Robbins

This quote if true both in our own lives and the world around us.

 

My fellow Freedom Fighters and friends of Red Thread Movement,

I would like to personally thank everyone who has been a part of Red Thread Movement thus far! YOU have taken an idea, a hope, a dream, and made it a reality. YOU have given time, money, and your talents to free girls halfway around the world! I am in awe of the things you have accomplished and am encouraged daily by your passion and commitment.

Over the past two years, I have had the absolute privilege of working with all of you while serving as Red Thread Movement Director. It has been a great joy to grow alongside Red Thread Movement, but the time has come for me to make a transition to be closer to my family, and I will be stepping down as RTM Director. I will continue to be a strong advocate for Red Thread Movement, Eternal Threads, and the fight against slavery and I hope to see it continue to flourish!

That is why I am pleased to announce that Abby Youngblood will be my successor. Abby graduated from ACU with a Masters in Social Work and wrote her thesis on the contributing factors of sex trafficking.  After graduation, Abby came to work for Eternal Threads. Earlier this year, she returned from an extended stay with our partner in Nepal and has been avidly learning the ins and outs of the director’s position for several months now. I expect great things from her!

It has been an honor working with all of you; the Eternal Threads board, staff, and volunteers, our RTM partners, and every advocate that raises their voice to bring freedom and justice to all! You are all heroes in my book.

Thank you again for your courageous commitment to freedom and Red Thread Movement. We will not forsake them!

For Their Freedom,

Breahna Jordan

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*Photo taken during our trip in Nepal

Dear Friends of Red Thread Movement,

We at Eternal Threads miss Breahna already!  Her drive and commitment to empower women helped our organization grow immensely. It will be difficult to fill Breahna’s shoes!

I am honored to be the new Red Thread Movement Director. During my time in Nepal, I lived in a safe home and I work closely with the staff to mentor girls who lived there.  I learned countless things about the organization, trafficking, the culture, and myself, and consider it a privilege to have had that opportunity. It’s one thing to get an education; it’s another thing to live it.

I am excited about the future of Red Thread Movement. Please join me in the fight for freedom, one girl at a time!

Freedom for All,

Abby Youngblood

RTM Director
Staff@RedThreadMovement.org
1-888-487-4549


Sewing Machines for Rescued Girls

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Every rescued girl has a story. Every rescued girl has a dream.

Living in a safe home after being rescued is life-changing in countless ways. The girls are nurtured and cared for in a strong community of mentors. However, this alone is not enough to prepare them for the transition back to their home communities. The girls also need skills training as well as assistance in starting their businesses after leaving the safe home. Part of this assistance is receiving a sewing machine.

Recently a project was launched through K.I. Nepal, raising funds to provide 80 sewing machines to assist girls in this transition. The project is called the CHELI project (Community, Health, Education and Livelihood Improvement Program), and the purpose is simple: provide a tool for the girls to make a life-sustaining income. K.I. Nepal is also sending the girls to their communities in teams of two or three. This is helpful on several levels. Girls have each other to provide support and community so that the chances for success in their business is greatly heightened. This crucial step finishes the three part journey of walking with a girl through recovery.

The following is a story about a young Nepalese woman named Rita:

Rita grew up in a poor but loving family. As there were few job opportunities for women in her village, she traveled with two friends to India to look for work. Nepalese girls, especially from rural areas, often think that India will provide job opportunities. Even though Rita was able to find work in India, she was exposed to violence and abuse. One day K.I. Nepal staff stopped her and heard her story of hardship. After meeting with them, she decided to go to a safe home to learn a trade. Rita has flourished in sewing and beautician training, and will be graduating soon. Because of her training, Rita will receive a sewing machine from K.I. Nepal and return to her village with another rescued girl to start their own business.

*Name changed for protection

Help Rita and numerous girls like her be successful by providing funds for sewing machines through https://www.purecharity.com/sewing-machines-for-rescued-girls

PURE CHARITY


Educational Opportunities for Rescued Girls!

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As well as receiving sewing and beautician training in the safe homes, many of the rescued girls have the opportunity to finish high school. This makes them eligible to study for the SLC exam which every student in Nepal takes after high school. Can you imagine how many more opportunities they will have with higher education?

The following is Shanta’s story:

Shanta grew up in one of the rural villages of Nepal, and had a difficult family life. Her father left the family for another woman, and her mother is elderly and sick. Shanta is the youngest of several sisters. She felt desperate to find a job to make money for her family so she and a friend decided to travel to India to look for a job to help support their families. At the border of Nepal they were stopped by KI Nepal staff and warned against the dangers of trafficking. Shanta decided to go to the KI Nepal safe home and learn a trade. She loved being in the safe house and her maturity and kind spirit were a great role model for the other girls. After staying for a few months, KI Nepal opened a new safe home in Kathmandu. Shanta took the opportunity to live in this safe home and study for her SLC exam. There she became a mentor to the other girls. At this time her goal is to pass the exam and start college soon.

*Name changed for protection

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Bitter Sweet Goodbye

This letter was written by staff member, Abby Youngblood, who has just returned from a seven month stay in Nepal.

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Wow, how can I communicate the great experiences I had? Words can’t describe how incredible my time in Nepal was. Here’s my attempt: The staff and girls accepted me as one of them, which is no small thing! To live life with them each day, I learned about their culture, language, and their perspective on things. Challenges came up (struggling to learn the language, miscommunication, cultural differences, missing home, etc.), but they were completely worth it. Many have visited the safe homes from the US, and have learned and experienced great things. However, I had an opportunity that I had only ever dreamed about: I was able to live with the girls and staff and be there when the teams left, when the trips were over. I got a perspective foreigners rarely get, and I don’t ever want to take that for granted.

It is difficult to grasp the issue of trafficking in a given part of the world until you take time to learn about the people and culture. For example, the kind, hospitable, gentle attributes of the Nepalese culture make it unique and rich, but also make the young women especially susceptible to trafficking. Another example is the caste system. It affects the culture and continues to play a part in the deep poverty and gender inequality of the country, further contributing to trafficking.

Finally, living in Nepal for months with the girls, working with the staff and being a part of the organization brought the reality of this cause home. The staff became my older brothers and sisters who fight on the front line against trafficking. They literally devote their lives to save and help as many girls as possible. The girls truly became my little sisters. It isn’t just about working to help people I didn’t know to be free from sexual slavery anymore. It is about a driving hope that my younger sisters will be safe from the evils of trafficking. It is about dreaming for their futures, for opportunity, freedom and success in whatever they put their minds to. I wasn’t able to build relationship with each girl in each safe home while I was there, but for the girls I lived with, our relationships run deep. I will never forget them. I will think of and pray for them often. And as I told them our last evening together: we may be far apart physically, but our hearts will always be close. I love and miss the girls and staff more that words can say, and am incredibly grateful to KINepal for inviting me to come.

-Abby Youngblood

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If you would like to read more about Abby’s time in Nepal, check out her blog at abbyyoungblood.wordpress.com/.

 


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