What’s on our radar in human trafficking

We just thought we’d share a few things that are on our radar (click on the links). Most are related to human trafficking or slavery and they are in no particular order.

10,000 children refugees have gone missing

Exploitation in electronics

(Get the full report here)

Recent change of focus for Destiny Rescue

We were so encouraged to see the latest reports from DR in late 2015. Rescuing girls is one thing, but having a best practice approach to rehabilitation and reintegration is another. Based on the numbers of rescues they were reporting in the beginning of 2015 we were concerned about how they were keeping up with the massive after-care process. We love that these guys are willing to go back to the drawing board and make sure they are complying with Governmental standards and helping these precious souls have long-term healing and change.

Shopping ethically

You will be horrified by some of the latest news stories you’ll read:

Most Aussies don’t know that in December Woolworths, Coles and Aldi were all buying prawns and seafood from a Thai company involved in the forced labour of men, women and children. If we knew our prawns caused someone else to be trapped in hell I’m sure we would all have a re-think about where we bought them.

This job in Margate with Save the Children

Maybe it will suit someone else 🙂 If you don’t know who Save the Children are check them out here.

Zika virus and travelling to Brazil

Obviously most things concerning Brazil are close to our hearts and this one is no exception. Another level of concern is that Tim and my Brother will be heading over to Rio in August this year to once again serve and observe all that God is doing in this country. We watch the spread and handling of this virus with deep concern and pray for the beautiful babies and families that are affected.

What is causing the microcephaly outbreak?

Olympics and Zika

Zika related abortion debate

That’s all for now…stay educated. Don’t shut yours eyes because it’s painful, but keep it balanced or we’ll all end up depressed.

Love Jess xxoo

Four days with abolitionists of child sex-trafficking by Jess

Disclaimer: If you’re hoping this post will be full of photos of the girls or details of heart wrenching rescue stories, you will be disappointed. Firstly, we haven’t built relationship with the girls or gained their permission. Secondly, it’s just not our style. We want to respect them and continue to create an environment where they feel safe, not exploited.

After our time in Chiang Mai, we jumped on a bus for the three hour trip to Chiang Rai, home of Destiny Rescue (DR). More on what they do a little later.

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We bunked in at our accommodation at Le Patta and decided it was up there with the nicest places we’ve stayed. We booked it in Chiang Mai whilst I was in the midst of a horrible bout of gastro, but we got a 60% discount, so it was more affordable.

The room was beautiful and Amy got to feed the giant gold-fish at the foyer every day. She loved it there and the staff loved her.

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Over the next few days we met staff (mostly in the Destiny Cafe) and got to learn more about what they do.

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For those of you who don’t know anything about DR, I’ve taken this blurb from their website to give you an idea.

Destiny Rescue is a grassroots, internationally recognised, Christian based, non-profit organisation dedicated to rescuing children from human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

RESCUE: Our Rescue Agents visit red lights areas undercover and identify underaged children. 

Once identified, they will either: 

  1. Build trust with the children and offer the safest escape route possible. 
  2. Partner with anti-trafficking police to gain intelligence and help facilitate a raid. 

The brothel managers are often arrested and the premises shut down, meaning no more abuse can take place there. Both methods of rescue are vital in fulfilling our vision to see child slavery ended in our lifetimes.


AFTER CARE: Through our aftercare programs, not only are these children and young adults offered medical care and counselling, they are brought to a “rescue home” where they can live peacefully, eat nutritious meals, get a valuable education and play interactive games with other children. In addition, when they reach a certain age, they can learn a skilled trade like sewing, jewellery making, hairstyling, waitressing or cooking. A proper education and vocational training are key components for successful reintegration back into society.

We were very honoured to spend one day with Jenny Kirwin, founder of Destiny Rescue. She took us to the rescue base and introduced us to people who gave us greater insight into what they do. They were gracious enough to answer our questions, even if some were a little tough. You can tell that everyone who works there loves what they do and has a passion for the beautiful girls they rescue. They are continually seeking to improve their integration processes and empower the once powerless to have a better life.

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We did manage one touristy thing whilst in Chiang Rai. The always wonderful Jenny and her daughter Jessie, took us to see the white temple.

Some of the white temple is still off-limits due to renovations from a major earthquake, but I’m glad we went. Honestly it’s more an artistic creepy masterpiece than an authentic Thai temple. There are status of demons everywhere and inside the temple there is a mural with Star Wars images, which has nothing to do with Buddhism at all. It’s just a little odd.  See the last photo for one example.P1060166P1060168P1060181 copy

We finally said goodbye to Thailand and now we’re in Vietnam for about 6 weeks, but before I go I have just a few extra thoughts for you.

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When we originally started planning this trip, Destiny Rescue was the first place we thought of and connected with. After all this time it was great to finally visit. We were able to hear their heart and let them hear ours. The solutions to child sex-trafficking in Thailand are simple and complicated at the same time.

Firstly, the simple… IT IS NOT OK, IT HAS TO STOP.

The complicated… there are cultural barriers, racism towards tribal groups and discrimination against the poor (because it’s their karma), political corruption, discouraging red-tape, financial restrictions, lack of staff, lack of resources and the list keeps going.

If you’re interested in the intervention and reintegration aspects of child sex-trafficking, this is my advice to you:

~ Realise that every organisation from prevention to reintegration needs to be working within their own specific area. We need each group to be working well and realise that one organisation can’t do it all. So find out what you’re passionate about, and support that organisation.
~ Realise that prevention looks like community development. By investing in a community or sponsoring a child, you are in fact fighting human trafficking. It may not be ‘exciting’, but it’s extremely powerful.
~ Financially support those who are on the field. It costs money to live overseas and it costs money to run training programs for girls (or boys). You’ll be surprised how far $10 will go a month. $10 is better than $0. Give what you can, but give something.
~ Read a few books (I ask everyone for their recommendations). Here are three to start with: When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, Walking with the Poor by Bryant Myers, The White Umbrella by Mary Frances Bowley. The No Project also have a great reading list: http://thenoproject.org/english/videos-books/books/
~ Go to uni and get the skills that organisations like DR need – trauma counselling, business management, administration, teaching, TESOL, social and human services workers, community development, international law etc.

Over the past 5 months we have been blessed to connect with many organisations and meet many people who have a passion to see human trafficking, specific the sex-trade, ended. We felt God ask us to step out and serve and observe groups such as these for a season. To be honest we don’t know why and we don’t know where it will lead our family. We are glad that we have stepped out of the boat and we can do our little part to help where we can.

So our journey continues and we will continue to follow where God leads.

Love Jess xxoo

Time with The River – by Tim

We recently spent two weeks looking, listening and learning at The River ministry in Hang Dong, Thailand. Led by Erik and Marianna Klar The River team aim to raise, train and empower people to be effective through their lives and in their communities. The journey has taken many years of making connections and serving the people of Thailand but this team has seen many lives transformed in a number of areas around the country.

Here are some of the highlights from our visit to The River…

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It was here that we really got to learn about Thai culture and customs. We learnt to always wear footwear that was easy to take on and off regularly. Suited me greatly!

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We found some great places to explore. There are loads of coffee shops all over Thailand and Chiang Mai was booming with caffeinated goodness! The photo below was taken at The River Cafe where we got great food and coffee or fruit shakes.

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We also got to feed some giraffes and many other animals at the Chiang Mai Night Safari! Paradise for a two-year old who is obsessed with animals.

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We got to hang out with many amazing people including these basket cases!!! We’ve known the Rudresh family for many years and it was so great to spend time with them and be blessed by their lives of faith.

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I had a great experience going to a mountain village with Erik, Rudy and Colin. It was a great day meeting with locals, connecting with the pastor in that region and hearing about what God was doing. I left very inspired and blessed.

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I also had the opportunity to visit The River ministry in Bangkok. I went down with Erik Klar and two others, Corinne and Steph. We walked the streets and prayerfully observed the environments of the bustling city. From the simple alleyways to the booming malls and to the red-light districts we covered a lot of ground via trains, taxi’s, tuk-tuks and lots of walking. It was a great day!

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Back in Hang Dong as much as we could we participated in prayer meetings, kids clubs and church services. It was an amazing environment and Jess and I felt refreshed and blessed by been there.

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After our two weeks we moved on once again. It was sad to leave this place but we hope to visit there again one day.  Thank you Erik and Marianna and Rudy and Lara and all the team for some great memories!

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From Tim

A Major Update: Trust without borders

Since January 2014 until now, we have slept in 24 locations and had 14 flights (not including domestic transfers). Our family has travelled through five countries and stayed in 20 different cities/towns. During this time we’ve met many people who have inspired us and seen sights that have amazed us. Our experiences have changed us greatly and it certainly has been an adventure!

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Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Lyrics from Oceans, Hillsong

Well… It’s time to update you all on what’s been going on behind the scenes over the last two months and let you know what’s in store for the Greenwood clan.

Firstly, from us to you, THANKS. Thank to all the people who have prayed for us, followed our journey, given money, sent us emails and FaceBook messages and encouraged us when we needed it. Some of you are from Aus, some the USA, some Brazil and the list is growing. Without you, this journey would have been a lot harder. We honour you for taking time out of your busy lives and in-putting into ours.

Now for the update, we originally planned on spending a year in Thailand in Chiang Mai with a group called Destiny Rescue. However because of some visa complications and changes this is no longer possible at this time, there may be other options in the future. In knowing this we’ve been waiting to see what doors God would open.

So the Greenwoods flew into Thailand uncertain of what we would be doing in two weeks but feeling peaceful without knowing the next step. After a few days in Bangkok (spent mostly in hospital with Influenza A), we headed to Patong, Phuket for a missions conference. The conference was not only inspiring, but also provided us with connections all over Asia.

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A few things have helped us decide what the next step is:

1. Re-reading the ‘about us’ section of our blog and coming back to what we felt God was calling us to do.

2. The realisation that once we fall pregnant again, we’ll need to ‘settle’ somewhere and will probably be unable to move around as much. This is a unique season.

3. Going back over a few prophetic words that emphasise the importance of timing and that there was something we were meant to do for a specific time.

4. Our interest in human trafficking/prostitution and therefore community transformation.

With all this in mind… we have (scarily) decided that perhaps our travels aren’t over yet. We feel that we’re meant to continue to travel to a few more groups around Asia to serve and observe what they are doing. It’s all about following God’s direction for where to go and how long to stay.

The complexities of constant travel are not unfamiliar to us. There are the cultural changes, language barriers, unfamiliar environments and looking into visas and flights which is never easy. However, when we talk about this idea, we’re filled with excitement and peace. We can set our own pace and we know what our family can and can not handle more these days.

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There is an organisation called Doctors without Borders. DWB are doctors who provide medical care to people regardless of gender, race, religion, creed or political affiliation, because they believe that the needs of these people outweigh respect for national boundaries. We believe that God is asking us to trust him without borders. That no matter where He opens doors (regardless of gender, race, religion, creed of political affliction), we trust God and are called to serve people no matter what country they are in. We trust God without limitations, without borders.

So what have you been doing the last few weeks, I hear you ask? Great question. After Phuket we headed up to Chiang Mai with The River team where our friends, Rudy and Lara are based. We’ve been able to see a lot of what they do here, as well as rest, reflect and recover from various illnesses.

What’s next? On Monday we’ll catch a bus for 3 hours and have four days with Destiny Rescue in Chiang Rai before we head over to Vietnam to visit two groups there. After that, we honestly have no idea at this point. One step at a time.

So watch this space, the grand adventure continues. Perhaps we’ll be back in Australia in two months, or not until the end of next year. Only God knows. We will keep you up to date as best as we can. We’re taking a walk on the water with Jesus (Picture below by Dana Jensen) and that is pretty exciting!

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To live IS an awfully big adventure.

Love Tim, Jess & Amy xxoo

Counting the numbers by Jess

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This is it, the countdown is on. I can hardly believe that in 7 days I’ll be on a plane heading off overseas to work with organisations rescuing women and children from sex trafficking. Crazy stuff! Half of me is excited and the other is having a little freak out. As I look at our to-do-lists and the days left on the calendar, sometimes the math (which I was never very good at) concerns me. Will we get everything done in time? Perhaps… fingers crossed.

With so many thoughts in my head, I’m sure it would be easy for me to forget why we’re doing this. Fortunately, I don’t. I know that as I write this there are millions of people world-wide, trapped in horrible situations from no fault of their own. While I sit here with my laptop, they sit in dark rooms, forced to ‘service’ countless customers and do unspeakable acts. I can not forget about human trafficking and sex slavery.

Tim and I have wanted to write blog about what’s going on globally, but the difficulty is making statistics and facts seem relevant and interesting. I know that for many of you, the details of modern slavery or trafficking are unknown. Don’t worry, that was me a few months ago. I’ll try give you the basics (from a few reputable sources) and then some more specific details about the places we are going. Perhaps then, if you didn’t before, you will see why we are doing what we’re doing.

Here I go…

You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.
– William Wilberforce

‘Slavery’ refers to the condition of treating another person as if they were property – something to be bought, sold, traded or even destroyed.

‘Human trafficking’ is another related concept, referring to the process through which people are brought, through deception, threats or coercion, into slavery, forced labour or other forms of severe exploitation.

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Some global info:

  • The recent 2013 Global Slavery Index puts global slavery numbers at 29.8 million – more than Australia’s population of 23.4 million
  • 27% of all victims detected globally are children. Of every three child victims, two are girls and one is a boy. (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, 2012)
  • Trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation accounts for 58% of all trafficking cases detected globally (UNODC, 2012)
  • 98% of all victims of sexual slavery/sex trafficking worldwide are women and girls (International Labor Organization, 2012)

It’s horrifying and absurd to think that there are currently more slaves on earth than at any other time in human history. But when that massive number overwhelms your heart, take a step back and consider that each one of them has a face and a name. While it may be impossible for any one of us to reach and rescue every one of them, each one of us can certainly make a difference in one precious life.
– Louie Giglio

Brazil Trafficking in Persons Report 2013, By US Department of State:

  • Child sex tourism remains a serious problem, particularly in resort and coastal areas in Brazil’s northeast. Child sex tourist typically arrive from Europe and, to a lesser extend, the United States.
  • The Government of Brazil does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.
  • In 2012, the Government operated anti-trafficking offices in 16 states, but did not fund specialized services for victims of sex trafficking
  • The government took public measures to reduce demand for commercial sexual exploitation of children by continuing to raise awareness during the Carnival season.
  • Despite the significant number of child sex tourists visiting Brazil, there were no public reports of prosecutions or convictions for child sex tourism in 2012.
  • Brazil is a signatory of the 2000 UN TIP Protocol (United Nations – Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children).

If there were no demand for commercial sex, sex trafficking would not exist in the form it does today. This reality underscores the need for continued strong efforts to enact policies and promote cultural norms that disallow paying for sex.
– Trafficking in Persons Report June 2013, U.S. State Department

Thailand Trafficking in Persons Report 2013, By US Department of State:

  • Thailand is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.
  • In 2012, children were exploited in the sex trade using false identification in karaoke or massage parlors.
  • Sex trafficking generally involves women and girls as victims. Sex tourism continues to be a problem in Thailand, and this demand likely fuels trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
  • The Government of Thailand does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government has not shown sufficient evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking compared to the previous year.
  • In 2012, corruption remained widespread among Thai law enforcement personnel, creating an enabling environment for human trafficking to prosper. There were credible reports that corrupt officials protected brothels, other commercial sex venues from raids and inspections, colluded with traffickers, used information from victim testimony to weaken cases, and engaged in commercial sex acts with child trafficking victims.
  • Thailand is NOT a signatory of the 2000 UN TIP Protocol

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If everyone will just do something, we will change the world.
– Mary Frances Bowley

These are the basic facts and numbers of modern slavery in the world today, so believe me when I say this is just scratching the surface. There is so much I don’t know; I am consciously incompetent. However, I know that doing nothing is not an option for Tim and me. We must do something and our ‘something’ just happens to involve travel and hands on engagement. So yes, I’m counting down the days until we leave and dealing with all the emotions that come with saying goodbye to family, friends and country, but I’m also counting the numbers of people who need to be set free. If I can be involved in just one rescue, I will be satisfied… maybe… probably not.

Love Jess xxoo

Resources

United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime – Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2013 http://www.unodc.org/documents/Global_Report_on_TIP.pdf

International Labor Organisation – Global Child Labor tends 2008-2012 http://www.ilo.org/ipecinfo/product/viewProduct.do;jsessionid=5885ca73218eb71626d7da341392b719b15d4ba1386bddda2eb6042cd72ca0e8.e3aTbhuLbNmSe34MchaRah8Tah90?productId=23015

US Department of State – Trafficking in Persons Report 2013  http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2013/

A Merry Update

Merry Christmas everyone! We thought we’d end this year with a more detailed update of our trip plans. We have been so overwhelmed and blessed by people’s love, words, excitement and support for us at every step of the way. We have amazing family and friends and we feel like we’re doing this with you.

So, what are we planning?

A quick snapshot: USA – April, Brazil – May to July, Turkey for 3 nights, Thailand for a year – August 2014 to September 2015….

Travel Map

USA – Northern California & Florida (1 month)

Time for a holiday! We’re going to stay in San Francisco for about 5 nights before doing a little road trip up north to Redding (including a few days near Yosemite).  Although some of the destinations are only a few hours apart, we want a relaxing trip and have to keep Amy in mind. We’ve never done a road trip together before, so it’s bound to be lots of fun. We’ve paid for a some of the accommodation and hire car and pretty much know where we’d like to stop along the way. After 12 nights in Redding catching up with friends and celebrating Easter at Bethel, we’ll be heading over to Florida to connect with an amazing couple we met in Pennsylvania in 2011.

Brazil – (3 months)

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When Tim went to Brazil earlier this year, he fell in love with some incredible people and we’re so excited to stay with Hangar7 for about 3.5 weeks. We’re hoping to serve and observe in any way we can during this time. It’ll be a great opportunity for us to be exposed to a different church culture. Hopefully we’ll get some Portuguese lessons too.

Rio
Jess turns 30 in Rio, so we’re meeting up with her folks and sister to spend two weeks exploring the city and filling up the family love tank. After this we’ll be spending a month partnering with Exodus Cry during the FIFA World Cup. We’re so excited to connect with these guys and learn as much as we can from them. This will involve a lot of prayer and worship as well as street outreach. Between us, we’ll spend 6 hours a day in the prayer room while the other person looks after Amy. How involved Amy will be in this venture will depend on the atmosphere and environment. We will be connected with a local church (we think) and hope/pray that they will be able to host us… otherwise, we’ll have to look for our own accommodation eeekkk! If we’re lucky, we may even attend a soccer/football match.

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Recife
The end of our Brazil leg will be a two-week visit to Shores of Grace. The leaders of this great ministry were Tim’s trip leaders when he was in Brazil in March. This incredible couple (Nic & Rachel Billman) and their team have a huge heart for Brazil and the women and children in Recife effected by poverty and abuse. This will be more time of connection and learning.

Turkey – Istanbul (3 nights)

It’s about a 12 hour flight from Sao Paulo to Istanbul and then another 7 hours or so to Bangkok. If we were just travelling as a couple we may not have scheduled this stop, but once again, we need to keep Amy in mind and be fair on her. So a stop over in Istanbul for three nights is our plan. We haven’t booked our accommodation yet, but we have somewhere in mind. We looked into making a trip down to Gallipoli, but it’s a 5 hour drive one way and a two-year old in a car for 10 hours in one day is probably not the best idea. We’ll stick to easy things and we know we’ll enjoy our short time there, now we just wish it was longer!

Istanbul

Thailand – (1 year minimum)

This is the least organised part of the trip so far. Here’s what we have on the cards at the moment. We’ll fly into Bangkok and then head over to Phuket. We’re hoping to attend the Australian Christian Churches (ACC) International conference where missionaries come together with Australian pastors to connect.

After this we plan on serving with Destiny Rescue, taking a single volunteer position between the two of us. Once again this will mean that Amy will always be well looked after. How this will look we are yet to work out.

We hope to get a 2-3 bedroom apartment whilst in Thailand to host any family and friends who may want to visit . There is always room at our Inn (nice Christmas reference there) if you want to check out what Destiny Rescue are doing or just want to come and hang with the Greenwoods.

Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves!

When we think about all the different destinations of this adventure, we want to be at all of them now. We want to be holidaying in the USA, praying for people in Brazil, walking through the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, and partnering with Destiny Rescue in Thailand. How exciting and challenging at the same time! There’s so much more planning (and spending) to come and of course that can be stressful, but we’ll just keep going at it and enjoy this part of the ride.

Once again from our family to yours… Merry Christmas!

Love Tim, Jess & Amy