It's been a while since I've talked about Project Liberty on my blog. When people ask me how to get involved in the fight against human trafficking, I always point them to Project Liberty first. They're a small group making a big difference in the stand against modern day slavery. They're also humble, so it's easy to miss just how much they do. Whenever I get an update from Saundra, their founder, I'm floored by all they're involved in. Here's just a glimpse of what they've been up to lately, taken from a message I received from Saundra. They've had some victories and cases that didn't turn out as they'd hoped, but on they fight.
A little update...
This past year we were contacted about a missing 19-year-old because law enforcement had pretty much exhausted all leads and information. The mom called us and it was evident to us this fit the profile of Human Trafficking. We searched for and located the girl, who was taken from Michigan to a large city in another state. It appeared she'd been lured into meeting these people who were going to get her into the music industry, writing and singing.... Of course when she got there they were waiting for her as soon as she got off the bus.
We worked with the law enforcement (NYPD) and found her with the info we gave them. But she was too scared to walk away and ran from help! We kept tracking her until she showed up in another large city, in another state (Portland, Maine). We contacted PPD and by this time we had Homeland Security working with us. PPD went from hotel to hotel and found her and she finally accepted help. PPD was wonderful! They put her in a hotel, which we paid for ($450) at a discount.
We helped her get into GEMS and a pimp found her (back in NYC) and started contacting her there and GEMS had to let her go. They recommended another place, but this girl was so upset she went back to the street! Now, she is on the streets of NYC in this weather! She stayed a Covenant House for a while. Her mother is in touch with her from time to time and we have sent messages to this girl about a church that would take her into their warming center. But we have not heard that she actually went there.
Both the NYPD and PPD were wonderful to work with. I got to know them very well and our investigator did fantastic work and has continued to assist NYPD on other cases. They have thanked us many time for our work, and we've remained in contact. And the PPD was just awesome. They had social workers meet and become friends with the victim and I spent many hours on the phone with them for the month she was there. I got an email a few months ago from PPD thanking us for our work because it help them to get 3 federal indictments and one of them was an underage prostitution ring!! Thank God!
Now, we are beginning to have victims who have escaped or been rescued contact us for assistance. I don't have the heart to turn them away and say that's not what we do. The Lord has put them in my path! They don't have a lot of resources or finances. We have taken on supporting some of the victims financially as donations come in. This is how we met the survivor I wrote about in the email. We have been working with her for a year and half and she has come so far!
So we've begun to develop teams to work one-on-one with victims to help them find resources and social services. They don't have computers, don't know who to call, don't have printers to print out all the forms requested, and many don't even have transportation to and from appointments.... and so much more. So we are creating VAST - Victims Assistance/Support Teams. Working one on one with some social workers and mentors. Please pray about that as we organize this new part of Project Liberty.
Right now, Project Liberty has an urgent need for a specific trafficking victim. If you can at all, please click below to donate and help her cause. Any amount is welcome. (I know I've hesitated to donate to these before because I had $5 to spare and it felt too small an amount - I want to assure potential donors that we truly do welcome any amount. It adds up!)
And if you want to become involved in the fight against trafficking, I urge you to contact Project Liberty. They are definitely the good guys. (And for all of you Vance Davis fans - these guys are the real deal that inspired the character.)
I can't believe it's been four years. But then, I also can't believe it's only been four years. It was January 2011 when I decided to release four ebooks for free to raise awareness for human trafficking. (If you want to read more about that journey, you can find it here.)
So much has happened since then. I've been threatened with bodily harm for raising my voice, and I've been called a joke for thinking it will do any good. I've had moments where I was sure we were making a difference, and I've had moments where I've felt like a complete and total failure for not doing enough. It's in those moments when I have to remember I wasn't personally called to eradicate slavery all by myself, only to add my voice to the growing shout that this is not okay.
I've met some amazing people on this journey - at the top of that list is Saundra Lawson of Project Liberty. If you haven't checked them out, you should. They are real people making a real difference in the fight. (And, as it happens - they have a pressing need for funding on their current case. If you can at all, please consider donating to them.)
But what really keeps me going on my path are the readers who circle back to tell me how they got involved after reading my books. They're organizing rallies and fundraisers. They're telling their friends and neighbors. They're sharing the information at their schools and churches. They're changing shopping habits and finding organizations they care about to help out. They are changing the world in ways I never could.
So, as human trafficking awareness month comes to a close, I'm giving away the new and improved Devil in Disguise for free on Kindle. Several of my books deal with human trafficking, but this one was the culmination of all the others. It was the product of many-a-discussion with Project Liberty's lead investigator.
Sometimes, the bad in the world seems so overwhelming that it tempts us to do nothing at all. If you can't move the mountain, why bother trying? But something in us changes if we lie down and let the bad steamroll us. We have to stand for right, for truth and for goodness - if only to be able to say to ourselves we tried. But the funny thing about trying is that it's contagious. When one of us makes a stand, it gives courage and hope to the people around us to make their own stand. And that becomes a groundswell and suddenly the odds aren't so insurmountable.
Dylan, my oldest, summed it up best: "Holly is the smartest dog we've ever had and sometimes, that's really irritating."
When we made the decision to get an Australian Shepherd, I knew going into it that they're the kind of dog that needs a job. Having owned an Aussie mix before I knew they were devilishly smart. With no other dog breed mixed in to temper them, there is something about a full-blooded Aussie that's a force to be reckoned with.
At three months old, Holly knows sit, stay, come, shake, settle, release, outside, pen, and leave it. She can open her cage to get her favorite toy or put herself to bed. She's potty trained (now that we've overcome the setbacks created by potty training pads - never again). She plays fetch like a champ and loves the game "where'd it go?"
But she also chases anything that moves (chickens are fun), forgets herself when excited (which is often) and is as bullheaded as a Missouri mule (you know she's going to dig her heels in when she gets "the look").
She's not a couch potato kind of dog. Holly is not the type of dog to be content in a yard by herself, either. I'm pretty sure that kind of life would literally drive her insane. This really, truly is a dog breed that needs a job or you'll both be miserable.
Because of the chicken thing, she can't be let loose on our 10-ish acres. She has to be walked on a leash until she's old enough to learn the ropes. But she's high-energy, so she needs lots of time to run and play. There are five people in our family and it takes every one of us to keep up with our little tornado. We work from home and homeschool and she is still exhausting. I can't imagine keeping up with her if I were working outside the home and she had 8 hours a day in a cage to store up energy. No wonder so many Aussies end up rehomed!
The thing about Aussies, and Holly specifically, is that they're deceptively cute. Everyone who sees Holly wants her - or so they think. But Holly's mind craves problems to solve, things to do, like most people crave chocolate. If she's bored, she WILL find something to occupy herself. Probably not something mom-sanctioned, though.
Her zeal for life is enchanting. Daily, she "helps" me with my chores with such enthusiasm I can't help but smile. Some of her quirks are super cute (like the Pepé Le Pew run). Some of her quirks are super irritating (like her need to dig to the bottom of her water dish every time).
Don't misunderstand the title of this post. I adore my Holly puppy. She brings me an incredibly amount of joy and has been a delightful addition to our family. When she and I have a training session, I know I'm incredibly lucky to have this once-in-a-lifetime kind of dog. Watching her mind work is like having a front row seat to a magic show. (And yes, you can see the wheels turning when she studies something.) And there's something special about being the person who's won the respect and loyalty of a dog like this. She didn't give it easily.
As my boys are growing up at break-neck speed, I look at this puppy and think she's going to be the one to go on adventures with me when the boys are off and gone. She's my baby girl and she's worth every second of trouble. But boy, there are lots of seconds of trouble...
Why yes, those are his brother's boxers on Blake's head. Doesn't everybody wear boxers on their head when they fold laundry?
I promised my husband I'd reduce the number of chickens we had. I promised myself I'd reduce our numbers so everyone would fit in the main "chicken compound" so we only had one group to feed at chore time. With this last amazing round of warm weather, we finished shuffling chickens around and finally had it down to 20 birds in the main houses/run. The little red coop was cleaned and boarded up - our "just in case" coop.
Then last night our neighbor and friend pulled in with a dozen chickens in the back of his SUV. Someone he knew couldn't keep them and he wanted to know if we could take them.
What person in their right mind would say no to a bunch of perfectly healthy laying hens? Right?
So we put them in the red coop for the night.
My sister called today in the middle of the day. She never does that during the school year. Wanna guess what she wanted?
Someone she knows has a bunch of chickens they can't keep and she wanted to bring them to us.
Wanna guess my answer?
Yeah, I'm going to be swimming in chickens for a while.
Blake: Hey guys, how does that Las Vegas song go?
Us: Viva Las Vegas?
Blake: Oh, I thought it was Howdy Las Vegas.
Trivia question: What band took on Will Champion as its drummer even though he didn’t play drums at the time?
James (nephew, with confidence): Beethoven
Trivia question: What Latin American country shares its name with a nut?
Adam and Dylan: Brazil
Me: There were four pizzas and only four of us eating. Why are there no leftovers?
Blake: I don’t know; I only had 9 pieces and I stopped.
Things I shouldn’t have to say: Don’t fart on the puppy. (Dylan would like it noted that the before was said to Blake.)
Do not pretend to hike your leg and pee on our friends’ table. You’re a guest. (Again, said to Blake)
Chris: The universe has something against my beautiful face today.
Dylan: Watch me succeed and cringe for the future.
Chris: When I’m 18, I’m going to open a restaurant and I’m even going to let you work at it, Mom.
Blake: You’re going to let her work at it?
Chris: Yep. I’ll give you a discount. Sometimes.
Snickers's oldest son is definitely the most rambunctious baby we have so far. His antics never fail to make us smile. I was able to catch a video of him meeting one of the cats for the first time, so of course I have to share!
Rolling hills that had been vibrant green just weeks ago were now muted in tone, as if they were taking a deep breath before bursting into the song of fall.