Central Valley IICF presents us with an $8000 grant

Yesterday, March 12, we were presented with an $8000 grant from the Central Valley Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) at our office in South Central Fresno. The money will help us with our prevention programs for teens and adults for sure, but it is also a huge encouragement to know that hundreds of people from the insurance industry gave to make this grant possible! Valley businesses that provide opportunities for their employees to give charitably to local organizations are a vital part of our collective work to prevent human trafficking and exploitation.

We would like to thank the Steering Committee for the Central Valley Chapter of IICF for their hard work and dedication to raising funds to provide grants to local Community Benefit Organizations like ourselves!

Central Valley Steering Committee Leadership

Diane Carpenter, Zenith Insurance Company
Ed Clark, The Hartford
Jennifer Donato, Markel
Bob Funnell, Liberty Mutual
Sheila Ghimenti, Travelers
Christina Gomez, Relation Insurance Services
Diana Granillo, Hanover
Jody McTavish, TheHartford
Michael Osmer, SCIF
Greg Patton, Valley Regional
Tom Powell, Cal Valley Insurance
Kathy Schroeder, Sierra Specialty
Marcia Shafer, Zenith Insurance Company
Rene Swan, United Valley Insurance

The founding division of the IICF, the California Division was launched in 1994.  In 2008 the Division expanded and became the Western Division serving the Western United States. Each division determines its own grant focus areas, grant guidelines, events, and volunteer activities. The Western Division’s grant focus areas are Children at Risk, Education and Human Services. To date, as a whole organization, IICF has contributed over $31 million in local community grants!

The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) helps communities and enriches lives by uniting the collective strength of the insurance industry in providing grants, volunteer service, and leadership. You can find out more by visiting their website IICF.org or by searching the hashtag #insurancegivesback on social media channels.

We weren’t excited to leave our office at 487 W Shaw. We had it pretty good over there! Although less than two miles away from our previous space, we were hidden and this can be helpful in our line of work. Our gracious hosts at Aplos were growing quicker than they expected and simply needed the space they so generously gifted us, so the search was on again! Despite our reluctance to pack and haul our stuff again, we sensed God was up to something and we were on a mission to figure it out!

join us for monthly prayer!

Eventually we called Zack Darrah, Director of Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries (FIRM). Fun fact – Zack and I shared an office at Fresno First Baptist for about two years, while CVJC was just beginning, and had no name…

Zack Darrah and Bounkham Nounvilaythong. Before launching CVJC, I served as a Board member and visited Laos three times partnering with Pastor Bounkham (Director of Southeast Asian Friendship Ministries, SEAFM). SEAFM and FIRM started as one organization in the 80s and divided to conquer – SEAFM focusing work in Laos and FIRM in Fresno.
2008 trip in partnership with SEAFM

Today, FIRM works with well over 10,000 refugees a year. This includes about 100 unique walk in clients a month in addition to case managers who see 500 clients a month. Although we do not know all the ways our work will intersect as we share a space off McKinley and Fresno Street, and do know a few things about how this all connects to our work as a Coalition. . . for starters,

Trafficking is an exploitation of someone’s vulnerability for personal profit.

I have had the privilege of sitting with several refugees and hearing their stories – friends from Laos and from Syria. I certainly can’t imagine a more vulnerable situation than fleeing from a war torn country, often with young children, and entering a new land where you don’t speak the language, don’t have legal status or much money, and know little about system you suddenly rely on for basic life necessities.

Zack shared from his almost five years of working with the refugee community that there are many taboo topics, and human trafficking is certainly one of them. The issue is often not discussed. Like many cases we see, people may know something unfair or bad is happening to them or those they know, but they need context. He and I worked together on a case a few years back. Zack believes that if that if he hadn’t attended some of our earliest trainings years before, he may have just thought to himself, “This guy this lady is describing is a jerk.” With education and context, he knew it sounded a lot like labor trafficking.

“We need to create pathways to services for people who do not have open doors to have these conversations in a safe place,” Darrah said.

We are honored to partner in seeking justice with the FIRM, and with the many other partners we work with.

“Justice is at the heart of why we exist,”

Darrah said. It sounded rather familiar…

Thank you for being a partner who seeks justice with our Coalition and is bringing oppression into the light!

Already over 1300 students have been educated about the dangers of human trafficking and equipped to be difference makers in their communities. Presentations at Edison, McLane, Sunnyside, Fort Miller and more have been possible thanks to your support of Central Valley Justice Coalition.

Who do you know that needs to be part of the conversation?

Send us mail! Permanent address?

Central Valley Justice Coalition

PO Box 6099
Fresno, CA 93703


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At the end of each Not a Number youth session, during the fifth and final week, each student is asked to fill out a reflection form. Many have given us permission to share these reflections with you! When referring to Not a Number, one participant said, “It is very enlightening and eye opening because [human trafficking] is unknown. It teaches you about perspective and critical thinking as well as preparing you to create safety plans.” This is why we’re excited to share that Not a Number begins tonight. We have seven students enrolled and space for three more if you have been wanting to join or to sign up your teen. (This class is for boys and girls ages 12-18! More info including short videos can be found on our website.)

2018 quote

Once CVJC has a permission slip, youth will dive into topics related to human trafficking such as: what is human trafficking, social media, healthy relationships, and safety planning. During the program, students will be provided with snacks, a resource guide to help with safety and advocacy, and a certificate of completion at the end of the last module. There are 3 more spots available as of now and we encourage those interested to register asap, it’s not too late! (It will be soon, obviously, class starts in about five hours! It will be the last opportunity to enroll in this class this year…)

NotaNumber _ Love146 Logo Combo

Teens in this program learn that they are “Not a Number” within negative statistics of human trafficking. However, we hope that by adding to our number of over 9,700 individuals educated, these same teens will be empowered to make a positive difference.

Please join us in prayer for these students who start our class tonight! Devin-Alexus Marin and Renee Lane are facilitating this class and I am thrilled to support them in every way.

To contact us with questions email info@justiceco.org or call 559-227-8001. To reach us after hours for this class or any other time sensitive reason, contact our Resource Line at 559-725-1865.

Thank you,

Marissa Garcia

“After the training ended, one of the educators approached us and asked to talk. She said that she had been a victim of trafficking, and that her trafficker had sat right across from her in a high school class. She knew the importance of our message first-hand…

That day, the room was full of educators, most of whom worked with middle schoolers. Ryan and I (Christa) had finished a one-hour presentation about what trafficking is and what it looks like in our schools.

As educators, they are often on the front-lines, whether they know it or not, interacting with students and building relationships with families.  With the right background knowledge, they might be the ones to identify vulnerabilities and build support, to identify victims, and to recognize traffickers on their own campuses, but they need to know what to look for.  Of course the audience was responsive. They work in the schools because they care about kids, and as we shared stories of the realities of trafficking in our community, they could recognize students from their own schools.  

One of the students we worked with last year shared this story which stands out to me as a powerful example of what we’re all working hard to prevent. 

“The story I told you today about the guy who wanted to pick me up…I kinda thought about wanting to get in the car but then I thought that It was wrong and something could happen to me.

But I also thought about what would happen then if I got in, and I thought about our group and heard stories about what happened to the girls. And I did not want that happening to me. So I thank you for being here (and sharing your stories and stuff. I don’t know what I would do without this group.”

lifechanging18

We have had 97 students complete our extended youth programs so far this year! We have given Human Trafficking 101 presentations in a variety of settings and to a number of different professional groups. We have trained social workers, teachers, medical professionals, group home supervisors, and community members. It is easy to believe that we know where trafficking happens and who is at risk.  We read stories and watch movies and we think we have an idea of who is safe and who really needs this information. What we know after all of these presentations, is that everyone needs to be educated.  In every profession, in every neighborhood, in every school, in every church, there is someone affected by human trafficking. Everyone has the potential to be an advocate, to offer help to someone who needs it.  They may never identify themselves to you as a victim of human trafficking, but the resources you will gain can be used in a variety of situations to offer assistance and support. If we have not yet been to your community, your workplace, your school, you can be the one to invite us!  You can speak to the decision-makers in your area. You can even go online right now and fill out a speaker request form. It only takes a few minutes. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Please consider donating NOW so we can reach more people! Every dollar is matched today through Friday. We urgently ask for YOU to help us reach our goal of $25,000 to prevent trafficking!

Freedom Fund Info Graphic 2018

 –  by Christa Wiens and Jessica Pittman