A Life-Changing TED Talk

There have been a handful of times in my life where I can viscerally remember my world being turned upside down. I can remember where I was, what was said, and how everything changed in that moment.

Hearing Gary Haugen speak was one of those moments.

Like so many of you, I am someone who has a picture of a sponsor child on my refrigerator. I have supported missions trips to build water for clean wells, written checks to educate girls, bought a stake in a goat to feed a hungry community.

But until I learned about the Locust Effect, it had never crossed my mind that it was little use to provide a vegetable garden to a widow in Uganda, if her greedy neighbor can steal her land and produce and get away with it. It is of little use for me to pay for school fees and uniforms (and menstrual supplies) so that girls can go to school, if they are so afraid of being raped on the way that they cannot go. It is of no use at all to send clothes and books and staples to impoverished communities in India, if the people are enslaved and physically cannot leave the property to avail themselves of help.

Compassion needs to move us to address the heartbreak of poverty. (And, thank God, it does.)

But wisdom needs to inform our compassion so that, in addressing poverty, we are also addressing the violence which so often keeps poor people poor.

Maybe you’re not a reader. Maybe books like the Locust Effect and Half the Sky are not your thing. But maybe you have twenty minutes to watch a video clip, or to cue this up to listen to as a podcast. It’s a game-changer.

Please listen. This is the best TED talk I have ever listened to. And, I dare say, probably the most important. (Click on the picture, and it will direct you to the talk.)
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Share the video, find out more and follow up with International Justice Mission here.

“History will convene a tribunal of our grandchildren, and they will ask us…. “what did you do?” – Gary Haugen

I want to have a better answer to that question.

Liz’s Story (#ACourageousOne)

Allow me to introduce you to Liz Williamson. Liz is a survivor of child sex trafficking but more importantly, she knows she is madly loved.  Liz is the adopted daughter of Jenny Williamson, founder of Courage Worldwide. Hers is an incredible story with an incredible ending…

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Liz’s Words:

Did you know?  Did you know how old I was, maybe not how old I was presented to be?  Did you care?  Did you think about my heart or my mind or only about your desires?

Writing this, I want you to know my heart.

I longed for a family.  I longed for a home.  I longed for a room that was a safe, for a room that
was mine, for a room that opened from the inside.  I longed for sleep.  I longed for safety.

I once tried to sleep with sneakers on in case I was able to run away.  But, I promise you, I was defeated.

Trying to fight was maddening because I lost every time.  So, I learned not to fight with my body.  I learned to fight in my mind.  I learned to blankly smile and nod and participate but to keep my heart far from it all.  I learned how to not cringe on the outside.  I learned how to be numb.  Maybe worst of all, I learned how to lie to myself.  All of the anger that should have been directed to those that hurt me, to those that designed the plans, to those that should have done something, I turned on myself.

I was still a child desperately trying to make sense of my world.

I believed the only people that cared about me were those that paid money to be with me.  They were the ones who helped me with my Math homework or explained the silent “a” sound in the word was when I got embarrassed in school for saying it wrong. Being hurt was my only constant truth.

As a child, I believed when someone took pictures of my body, they also took my heart.  No one could explain to me anything different.  I knew they were stealing everything and I owned nothing.

The anger I felt was overwhelming.  I want to tell you this not to hurt you but because I believe now if you knew the truth, you would see life differently.  Every Tuesday night for a few years of my life, I went to the local Holiday Inn to spend the night with one particular man.  I would grab every green Starlite mint off the receptionist counter before walking into the elevator. That was my routine. He would eat at the buffet and I would sit in the hotel room eating every mint pretending to be anywhere but there.  I would open the wrapper and focus on crunching on that mint so I didn’t hear how loudly my heart was beating or how scared I felt.

I seethed in anger, but eventually, it felt pointless.

There was no man or woman on my side.  What didn’t they see? What couldn’t they see?  The bruises and scars were obvious.  My absences from school were notable.  Eventually all of the anger settled into one lie, I am invisible, and I deserve this.

Birthdays and years confirmed this.  I believed this for too long.  Running away in the dark at 23, I remember every time my feet pounded the pavement and pain shot through my whole body.

Not one car stopped to help.

Years later, I can see these same memories, this same pain, and the anger I feel fuels a different fight.

Yes, I know what it feels like to be locked in a room and have no control.  But, I want to break down that door for another child, for another human, for someone who also believes they are invisible.

I am on the side of the invisible, of the forgotten, of the ignored.

*******

Liz’s Story: A Song of Redemption

In 2008, when Jenny Williamson was in the early days of working with girls who had been trafficked, she met Stephanie Midthun. Jenny had recently met three women that identified themselves as prostitutes who had all told her the same thing: “Please, build this home and help these girls – they just need someone to believe in them so they don’t turn out like me.”

Telling Stephanie this, Jenny was brainstorming on how they could get the message out: they needed a song to tell the story of the girls, she said, a song to say ‘Believe in Me’. Jenny had no idea that Stephanie was, in fact, a song writer. Stephanie wrote the song a few days later and had a 15-year old with a powerful voice record it. A film maker did a video and it was launched on Facebook in 2009.

(Disclaimer: this music video is tastefully done but does contain themes of violence and sex. While not explicit, is not recommended  for children under the age of 13 without parental supervision)

Half way across the country, Liz saw the music video through Facebook, and emailed Jenny saying she didn’t know anyone else knew about girls like her. The song haunted Liz and eventually propelled her to run away in the middle of the night with no shoes. She fled to a homeless shelter. Soon after that, Jenny invited her to come to Courage House and be her daughter…

And the rest is history….

******

Liz is one of the Courageous Ones. And there are thousands more like her, who don’t know that we are there to help. The #ACourageousOne project is one, tangible you can make a difference RIGHT NOW AS YOU ARE READING THIS. We can help more Courageous Ones like Liz by giving our own courageous one:

  • Donate ONE DOLLAR towards rescuing trafficked women and girls. There are many great organizations working on this, but I have personal relationships with Courage Worldwide and International Justice Mission. Would you send #ACourageousOne DOLLAR and raise money?
  • Pray for ONE MINUTE for the rescue and restoration of trafficking victims? Just one minute. Pray for girls like Liz to hear the message of hope. Pray that they would find safe places to go. Would you spend #ACourageousOne MINUTE in prayer and raise hope?
  • Share ONE POST about sex trafficking on social media. Share yesterday’s post about the A Courageous One project. Share Liz’s story to inspire others. Share Believe in Me, or either of the video clips from yesterday. You never know what other Courageous Ones might be listening. Would you share #ACourageousOne POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA and raise awareness?

Thanks for reading and sharing, friends.

How To Host A Life-Changing Garage Sale

How to host a

There are a handful of items in my house which I found at garage sales: awesome things I picked up for an absolute bargain and which get daily use. I love finding treasures at garage sales. In the past, however, I have not loved throwing garage sales: they seemed like a lot of lonely work for relatively little reward, and I still landed up having to drive the “left overs” to the thrift store afterwards. It felt like a lose-lose situation for me, and a win only for the buyers.

However, in the last year we have held two garage sales which have been win-win situations for everyone. Here’s what made the difference. (And here’s the link to the “If you give a mouse a cookie” version of how we got started on this in the first place. It’s fun. You should read it :-))

Do it TOGETHER

In short: holding a garage sale became worth it when we teamed up with others to make it a community fund-raising event. Rather than doing all the work solo, a few friends agreed we would all like to declutter our houses and pool our things. That way, we could have enough things to make it a worthwhile event for shoppers, and we also had company along the way.

It took three of us. We picked a Saturday, and started to spread the word, giving people 3-4 weeks to start setting aside things they wanted to get rid of.

  • Win: an opportunity to spend time with friends.
  • Win: clear out some clutter.

Do it for CHARITY

One of the hardest things about holding garage sales before was the feeling that we were putting in all this work, and then selling items which had cost a pretty penny before for just a handful of grubby pennies now. If time is money, it felt like we were paying for those items twice.

The easiest way to overcome this was to do it all for charity. That way, all items we were getting rid of felt like a gift freely given. And every cent made at the garage sale felt like money freely donated to a good cause. (Also, shoppers were more generous when they knew where the money was going! It was amazing!)

We chose two worthwhile organizations: Courage Worldwide (who provide safe houses for girls rescued out of sex slavery here in the US), and International Justice Mission (who work to bring justice to oppressed people worldwide: addressing slavery, trafficking, police brutality etc by supporting and equipping local authorities to work on enforcing their own laws. They are combatting the Locust Effect., protecting the poor from violence). Last year, we supported Food for the Hungry, a fantastic community development and hunger relief program.

I made a rustic poster explaining where the money would be going, and we had some pamphlets available for shoppers to tell them about Courage and IJM: you know, raising both funds and awareness. 

  • Win: being able to do some good in the world.

Do it WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR HOUSE

The advent of the internet made this possible to organize after hours and from home.

Getting the word out: I made a simple ad with the date and address, and posted it on Facebook a few weeks before. I asked friends to share it.We put an ad for it in our church bulletin. We invited people to bring their donations to my house any time the week before the event, and stashed them in the garage (more about that later).

Then, on the week of the event, I posted an ad for the event on Craigslist, which has a category for garage sales, as well as in a few neighborhood Facebook groups which buy-and-sell kids stuff and house wares.

TIP: when posting ads on craigslist for garage sales, list the items you have in as much detail as possible, as there are many people looking for particular items. We specifically mentioned some of the items we knew people regularly looked for (radio flyer tricycles, specific appliances, specific furniture items). I also took photos of a few items to put on the ad.

  • Win: do it all wearing pajamas
  • Win: Social Media really can get the word out better than posters can

Arranging to have it cleaned up: I also called the Salvation Army several weeks in advance, and scheduled a pick-up for all the items remaining from the garage sale. This was a deal-breaker for me: I could not have cleared out the remaining items by myself – so if Salvation Army hadn’t been able to come, I might have called around to find a charity which solicited donations.

  • Win: we got to do a second round of donating… to another worthwhile cause!

CREATE A SPACE to stash the goods (Logistics)

We decided to park our car outside for the week, and I cleared a large space on the garage floor. This year, I got a bit more organized and put painters tape on the floor, demarcating different areas for clothes, toys, books, sports goods etc, so that as donations came in, people could put them in the appropriate areas.

I’ll be honest: for a week, my garage looked like a zoo. But, the clutter wasn’t in my house… so that made a difference.

  • Win: a reason to clear out my garage. And, a working space which didn’t cramp our lifestyle while we were arranging.

Getting ready

Before the day, we also:

1) got some petty cash from the bank. I turned $50 into quarters, $1 and $5 bills. We needed the change for the early-bird bargain hunters.

2) arranged a place to keep the money on the day. Last year, I borrowed a cash box from our church, and we had a table set out where people could pay. This year, a crafty friend made us two adorable aprons out of repurposed jeans, and we used the pockets.   Look how cute my husband and I look in the aprons:

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3) We also borrowed a couple of fold-up tables (because items at eye-height are easier to buy than items on the ground), and pulled out a couple of camping tarps to lay toys and clothing items on.

4) We kept the boxes and bags which people had brought donations in to one side, and offered them to shoppers on the morning.

Have a WORK PARTY the night before

I had 5 friends stop over the day before. We used the trusty roll of tape and used a sharpie to price items (and priced them cheaply – better 25c for our cause than nothing, right?)

  • Win: a few hours to chat and work alongside friends. It felt good!

Sell, sell, sell!!

On the morning of the sale, we had 2-3 friends come 2 hours early to help us set out the tables and move everything from the garage out on to the tables. We had hardly begun moving stuff out when the early bird shoppers arrived. (Our start time was 9am. The first shopper arrived at 7:25!! I told them, as I had said in our Craigslist ad, that they were welcome to shop early – but that before 9am everything sold had a $30 surcharge. For charity, of course. They all went away and came back later.)

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It was a fun morning! We had a HUGE amount of people, and we raised a ton of money (last year, $900, this year – $1300!) We chose not to haggle over price too much, but rather to see each purchase as a donation, and to thank them for it accordingly.

Win: All the shoppers got a bargain, and they felt that they were doing good in the world too!

All in all, it was a little more effort than doing a garage sale by myself, but it was so worth it: we connected with friends, we got to support justice in the world, we built community and enlisted our family’s help in doing so (both our kids, and our church)… and at the end of it all, we had a cleaner house and a big fat check to send off to change lives.

Win win, right?

 

 

An incredible movie and a book giveaway – The Locust Effect

Yesterday I introduced you to a book I believe is going to change the way we look at global poverty: The Locust Effect. If you missed yesterday, here’s the link to The Beginner’s Guide to the Locust Effect, and the  link to The Locust Effect website. Today: there’s a free movie and free books (yes! that’s plural! BOOKS!) up for grabs.

Watch the Movie

Maybe wordy words are not your thing. Maybe a picture is worth a thousand words. If so, here is a short video to introduce The Locust Effect.

This week, we are spreading the word about the plague of everyday violence and the urgent need for us to address it for the sake of the billions of vulnerable and victimized poor in our world. This calls for courage on our part: courage to not look away, to ask hard questions, to get involved in something messy for the sake of loving the least of these.

Share and Win!

The goal this week is to be AWARE and SHARE. We want to get the word out. IJM has generously offered to let me give away a copy of the book. A hard back copy of The Locust Effect is up for grabs to all entrants within the USA. However, I want to add another book to the prize pile – and so I am offering a Kindle version of the book to a winner outside of the USA, which can be received by email. That’s right folks – there are TWO COPIES OF THE LOCUST EFFECT UP FOR GRABS!

To enter, leave a comment and tell me what action step you took from the suggestions below (share on Twitter, sign the petition, watch the video, etc…). For multiple entries, leave a separate comment for each action step you took.  I will choose a random winner on February 9th. Suggested action steps:

Spread the word about the Locust Effect: Shine a light into the dark places by talking about The Locust Effect with friends and sharing links on social media.

  • Share the video on facebook, twitter, google +, or email it to someone.
  • Share the Locust Effect website
  • Share a blog post about it.
  • Sample Tweet: Can watching a video change the lives of the world’s 4bil poorest? Maybe not, but it’s a start. Watch: http://bit.ly/TLEveryday#LocustEffect
  • -Sample Tweet: It’s time! Buy @garyhaugen’s #LocustEffect this week & $20 will go to @IJM to fight violence against the poor. A win-win:http://bit.ly/BuyTLE

Grab a button and make it your profile picture or cover photo:

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Buy the book It is available in major stores and online. (From now until February 8th, $20 will be donated for every copy of The Locust Effect sold, up to $40,000 or 2,000 copies. This would fund 8 rescue operations and rescue hundreds! All author royalties go to IJM to help fight violence against the poor.)

Sign the petition – Send a message to the U.N. now. Ask that violence against the poor be elevated as a global issue. (You can sign with one-click by connecting to Facebook, it only takes a few seconds)

Donate – IJM (the International Justice Mission) is on the ground all over the world bringing rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. Give freedom, give justice.

Be creative – share about the Locust Effect in your small group, mention it in a lecture where international affairs are being discussed, write a letter to a newspaper, write a song and share it, shoot a short video with some friends saying “I know what the Locust Effect is!” and upload it onto youtube.

Leave a comment with your action step to enter, and don’t forget to say whether you’re a US or International entrant. Good luck, and thank you for helping spread the word!

A Beginner’s Guide to The Locust Effect

I’ve been waiting for this day for WEEKS, and finally I can tell all! I am honored to be part of a group of writers who get to introduce you this week to The Locust Effect. “What?” you say. Sound interesting? Here’s a beginner’s guide… so you can be completely in the loop.

What is The Locust Effect?

1546096_194950527380441_509728716_n The Locust Effect is Gary Haugen (president of International Justice Mission) and Victor Boutros’ new book.

It is being released this week, and is available from sellers including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. (I wrote a review on Amazon: you can read it here).

The book aims to raise awareness and start a conversation of critical importance in our efforts to address world poverty and advance human rights in the 21st century.

What is the book about?

The Locust Effect, through story telling, field work and compelling research, is about the hard truth that every-day violence against the world’s poor is a critical issue which we have yet to address in our humanitarian efforts, and the single biggest factor which could affect our efforts in the future.

Why is it called The Locust Effect?

A plague of locusts can lay waste to anything and everything in its wake. The Locust Effect makes the compelling case that violence (common, everyday person-on-person violence) is laying waste to anything and everything for the poor in the developing world.

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Seeking refuge from a plague of locusts

Our efforts to feed the poor, educate the illiterate, uplift and empower girls and women, combat cultural prejudices, stimulate bruised economies, provide shelter for the homeless cannot and will not succeed unless we change the conversation and start to consider how deeply violence affects the very people we hope to help.

All that violence sounds awful. What can possibly be done?

The one thing that can (and will) make a big difference for the billions of people who live in daily fear of being abducted, raped, enslaved, trafficked, beaten, robbed or tortured… is having functioning public criminal justice systems.

If rapists fear getting caught and imprisoned, they are less likely to rape. If a thug knows the police will follow up on a complaint that he has stolen a widow’s property and left her homeless, he will more likely leave her alone. If it became less profitable or dangerous for slave-owners to steal people, or for traffickers to kidnap girls and force them into prostitution – those crimes would reduce.

The poor cannot buy protection. They cannot flee a “bad neighborhood”. They cannot pay for legal representation if they are illegally detained. What the poor desperately need is public system which protects them and doesn’t allow evil doers to prey on them with impunity.

I know we can pay for a girls’ school fees or buy seeds for a starving community to plant. But can anything be done about systemic injustice on the other side of the world? It seems too hard and too hopeless.

It is hard. And the problems are complex. But by constructively collaborating with like-minded people in the developing world, change CAN happen. In 2013 alone, 3,400+ children, women & men were relieved from oppression through the work of IJM + IJM-trained field partners.

More than that, history tells us that VERY broken, very corrupt criminal justice systems in the past have been radically turned around: London, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Paris were all documented cess-pits of criminal activity a century ago. People lived in constant fear. But motivated people started talking and planning – and today they are some of the safest cities in the known world.

It can be done, and it MUST be done.

That sounds like noble and important work, but what can I possibly do? What do you want from me?

I want you to be AWARE, and I want you to SHARE this information.

I want you to know that when the World Bank surveyed thousands of the worlds most impoverished people and asked them what they most needed and wanted, more than education, more than opportunity, more than food or shelter, their overwhelming reply was that they wanted to live in safety.

If we care about education for girls – we need to know that the #1 reason girls in the developing world don’t continue with education is a fear that they will be raped or abused at school. We can’t talk about education unless we also talk about the impact violence has.

If we care about economic development – we need to know that the World Bank studies have identified violence and corruption as the single biggest factor that, if even slightly reduced, could hugely increase the GDP of developing nations. We can’t talk about economic development unless we also talk about the impact violence has on it.

If we care about trafficking and slavery – we need to know that it is not enough to provide rescue and rehabilitation for women and girls who are sex slaves: such things will continue until the traffickers themselves are brought to justice and can’t get away with it. We can’t talk about the end of slavery unless we talk about developing working criminal justice systems.

If we care about the vulnerable, we need to talk about the violence.
If we care about justice, we need to talk about public justice systems.

So: here are three things you can do right now:

1. Learn more – buy the book. (A generous donor has also offered to donate $20 to IJM for every copy of the book sold between February 3-8, so not only will your purchase donate all author royalties to fighting injustice, but a whopping $20 will be added!)

2. Share this post. Spread the word.

3. Go to the Locust Effect website, and share it with just one person that you think needs to know about it.

I will be hosting a BOOK GIVEAWAY of the Locust Effect this week.

Check out tomorrow’s post for details on how to WIN A FREE COPY!

Photo credit: AP Photo/Mori Chen