Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Freedom Journals

I love when I can use my journaling habit to help others.

What? How can a personal, private journal help others?

Good question. It's all in where you get the journal from. My journals have come from many different places. Walmart, book stores, gifts from friends and family... But one of my favorite things is when I can support a cause with my journal purchases. It's literally using my writing habit to help others! One cause that is very important to me is the problem of human trafficking, and particularly sex trafficking.

Wait. What? Sex trafficking? That's a thing? What is that?!?

Kidnapping or misleading people, usually (but not always) children and teenage girls, into forced commercial sex. Young people all around the world are put into brothels and forced to suffer unimaginable horrors. Often they're promised freedom after a certain amount of time, or after earning enough (through prostitution) to buy their own freedom.

How does it happen? A human trafficking victim might be homeless, a runaway, or very poor, usually tricked with promises of a place to live and good, well-paying job. A smooth-talking, trustworthy-looking person will approach a child or her family with a proposition:

"I'm looking for              (made-up job offer). I'll pay             (too-good-to-be-true salary and benefits), I just need you to come with me to                  (town or city)."

Sounds great to the homeless child, the desperate family, the uncaring father. "A good job just walked right up to me!"

The trouble is, good jobs rarely just walk up and knock on the door.

Is this for real? In this civilized, reasonable age of justice and human rights? 

Unfortunately, it's far too real. According to a recent estimate from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the number of current human trafficking victims is at least 2.5 million, and not a single country in the world is unaffected. Even Switzerland, with its famously low crime rates, and the United States, with its blind belief that it's immune to such horrendous crimes.

The good thing is, there are quite a few organizations that work to prevent sex trafficking and rescue those trapped in sex slavery. These organizations work in various countries around the world, and one thing they all have in common is providing communities and/or trafficking victims with education and career training, to prevent the financial desperation that leads to sex trafficking.

I've had the privilege to support two of these organizations by buying some of the products handmade by former or potential trafficking victims, including journals.

Rapha House

This journal was made by a girl in a safehouse run by Rapha House. When I first heard of Rapha House, I had no idea what human trafficking was, let alone the fact that it exists and is thriving today. Hearing the mission and stories of Rapha House, I was heartbroken (and still am). Over the years I've been able to buy several other items from Rapha House, and I'm always impressed by the amazing quality and durability of the products. 

Rapha House works mainly in Cambodia, but they're currently raising money to build new safehouses in Thailand and Haiti. They rescue the girls, bring them to safehouses where they're provided with food, a safe place to live, education, medical care, and counseling. The girls are receive training in jobs like sewing or hairdressing so they can support themselves, and when they're ready, Rapha House helps reintegrate the girls into society so they can live healthy, safe, and self-sustaining lives in freedom. 

Update: unfortunately, Rapha House has discontinued their line of journals, but they have purses, backpacks, silk scarves, jewelry, ties, coffee mugs, t-shirts, and lots of other things! I chose to keep this portion of the post because, although they no longer sell journals, I'm still a huge fan of Rapha House and believe it is a very well-run, quality non-profit. I've actually gotten to meet Stephanie Freed, the director and co-founder, and she is the real deal.

 Rahab's Rope

Rahab's Rope is very similar to Rapha House, but works in several cities in India. Like Rapha House, they work to prevent trafficking, and provide safehouses and aftercare for those they rescue. 

I bought both of these handmade elephant journals from Rahab's Rope, and I love them. The paper has great texture, they tie shut to give your thoughts extra privacy, and best of all, they have elephants on the covers! They have lots of other cover designs (not all elephants!), and many other products as well, like silk scarves, jewelry, home decor, bags, wallets, and adorable headbands.

These are just two of countless wonderful non-profit organizations all around the world devoted to the prevention and abolition of human trafficking. Many of these organizations work in the same way as Rapha House and Rahab's Rope, by rescuing the girls and teaching them to make things they can sell (all sorts of products, ranging from purses to jewelry, clothing and scarves to journals, kitchen supplies, and home decor).

 If you're interested in using your new-found love of journaling (or your love of fashion or art or anything else; the options are endless) to make a difference for the women and children trapped in sex slavery, be sure to visit the sites mentioned above. And if you know of another great organization like Rapha House and Rahab's Rope, please let me know in the comments!

Praying (and writing) for freedom,

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