A Little Goes a Long Way!

It’s hard to believe that this is the fourth year we have had the opportunity to raise money for our Freedom Fund! Back in 2014, we were just getting started! We had no idea how much we would grow. We began with two part-time staff, lots of awesome volunteers, and the opportunity to raise up to $5,000 that would generously be matched by our partners at True Organic Products.

This time we are aiming to raise $20,000 from Nov. 1 to 20 which will then be matched by True Organic for a total of $40,000!

In the past four years, we have grown in so many ways!  We have solidified our area of focus as a coalition, which I continue to believe is a desperate and urgent need in our community: Prevention. We must PREVENT trafficking from happening by educating everyone we can and surrounding those who are most vulnerable with resources and trusted advocates.

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We have grown from a staff of two part-time employees to employing a full-time Executive Director and three part-time paid staff. We have 10 people trained on our prevention team and numerous other interns and volunteers working on other projects. We are truly growing into a community coalition!

We’re excited this year to launch our Freedom Fund because we know that every dollar given literally changes lives. Every dollar given is part of a movement. We are making the statement that FREEDOM REIGNS. We are backing up that statement with tangible results through sharing our progress towards #JusticeGoals.

We invite you to be part of it this year, whether for the first time or again for the fourth time because every single one of us is needed if we are going to prevent people from being exploited as slaves!

Thank you for catching the vision and running with us! We are deeply grateful to each of you who have given to our Freedom Fund.  And we especially thank True Organic Products, for the fourth year in a row, for leading the way and helping us extend to others the opportunity to invest in freedom for all.

– Jessica Pittman, October 2017

Sometimes people wonder why we, the Justice Coalition, get involved in advocacy in addition to education/direct service. There are many reasons behind our involvement in advocating for change relating to preventing human trafficking. For the sake of not going too far into tl;dr territory, here are the most important reasons.

  1. Scripture calls us to use our voices for those whose voices cannot be heard. Proverbs 31:8 (NIV) says “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”  Further, we see that God’s eyes are turned towards those who are oppressed.Psalms: 34: 15 – 18 (NIV) emphasizes that “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”vlcsnap-2016-10-31-15h49m25s319
  2. Systemic oppression requires systemic change. Helping one person at a time is vital work but it won’t prevent someone else from being exploited in the future. One reason why traffickers have thrived is that our laws have been slow to change in order to reflect new realities. New legislation is needed to confront evolving criminal activities that enslave the vulnerable.IMG_0136
  3. In our system, elected officials are supposed to be accountable to the people who voted them into office. I get it, a lot of us don’t want to rely on the government to solve all of our problems. I hope that we all are doing something personally, individually to fight the evil of human trafficking. However, we need more than just individuals to combat modern-day slavery. Cartels and gangs are organized, powerful forces for evil. We need local, state and federal governments to get equally committed to fighting for justice. The reality is that we can’t solve this problem without the government, faith community, businesses, schools and community benefit organizations working together!Coalition-Group-Photo

Advocacy usually involves getting government, business, schools, or some other large institution (also known as Goliath) to correct an unfair or harmful situation affecting people in the community (also known as David, and friends). The situation may be resolved through persuasion, by forcing Goliath to buckle under pressure, by compromise, or through political or legal action. – Prue Breitrose

Learn more from the Community Tool Box, a resource from the University of Kansas

 

This week we got to celebrate our country’s Independence Day as we have each and every year since our founding. America is a place that is built on the idea of equality and freedom for all. Though we outlawed slavery over 200 years ago, it still persists in our own country. According to new 2016 data from the Global Slavery Index, there are an estimated 45.8 million people in some form of modern slavery in 167 countries.

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According to those same numbers, there are nearly 58,000 people caught in modern day slavery in the United States today. California leads the nation in cases reported by state (Polaris Project) with over 1,300 incidences of human trafficking last year, almost double any other state!

Our faith (and our basic humanity) demands a response to this grave injustice. While we enjoy pool parties, barbecues, and fireworks, there are tens of thousands of people who aren’t just missing out on the American Dream, they are missing out on basic human rights.

So, what can one person do to respond to human trafficking in our country and the world beyond? A whole lot, it turns out! You can join us by becoming a monthly partner. We just completed a 50/50 Challenge Drive where we fell short of our goal of 50 new donors but added 31. We will continue to push for more monthly supporters as it enables us to do the crucial work of preventing people from being exploited as slaves!

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You can get educated in one of our HT 101, 201 or Boots on the Ground Training courses. These classes will give you the information and tools you need to become a freedom fighter!

You can get involved in a mentoring program, like Project Stealth or CASA Fresno/Madera. You can join us in praying for the end of slavery.

Whatever you choose to do, DO SOMETHING! There’s no reason to sit on the sidelines. Together, we can make a difference! Contact us at 559.227.8001 if you have any questions at all.

Ryan Townsend, executive director

 

One of my favorite scenes from a movie this year comes from Logan, the darkly dystopian X-Men road movie. Regarding a family in need of help on the side of the road, Logan (played by Hugh Jackman) says to Patrick Stewart’s Professor X, “Someone will come along.”

“Someone has come along,” replies Xavier.

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I’ve thought about this scene often during the last month. Our organization is currently experiencing the growing pains that come from the transition from friendraising to fundraising. When I left Northpark Church to take over at Central Valley Justice Coalition, I relied on the support of people I’d known for a long time to help make the transition and raise the support necessary. Jessica, Kelly and Melissa had done the same before I got here.

At this point, we are now in need of people who will come along, basically out of nowhere. People who see the dire situation of human trafficking and don’t turn away. People who will step up for the cause and take a leap of faith on the people who are running point for the battle.

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I’ve had a number of people tell me that they would rather not know about the realities of human trafficking in our valley. Ignorance of the situation allowed them to have a naive comfort in the midst of the struggle and pain of others. I don’t think this is because they don’t have a heart. I think it’s because they feel like nothing can be done in the face of such overwhelming evil and exploitation.

But it isn’t true. Something can be done! And someone has come along. You are here now, reading this blog entry. What’s next?

Join our team and partner with us to prevent human trafficking in the Central Valley. Sign up to pray. Get involved as a volunteer. Pray, Give, Act.

Ryan Townsend, executive director.

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Human Trafficking 101 and 201 have been a major focus for us this year and we are so excited about the learning and community mobilization that is happening as a result of these classes!

This year, 2 of the 3 classes we have offered have sold out, with a total of 134 attending so far just in the first quarter of the year. We say it each time and mean it: each person who comes is taking a HUGE step towards preventing modern day slavery in our community and in our world.

“It (HT 101 class) is eye-opening and busts a lot of myths, also shows what I can do to help.” – class participant18527908_1664610786896549_5974405855454874889_n

For three hours, participants learn the local and global realities of trafficking and hear real life stories about how it affects men, women, and children who live in our community. It is our hope and prayer that each person leaves knowing ways to take action both immediately and in the future.

In March we offered our first ever Human Trafficking 201 course, developed by our newest staff member, Education Coordinator Christa Wiens. HT 201 focuses on the global realities of trafficking, conscious consumerism, the impact of legislation, and offers participants a chance to hear from other community leaders such as the Fresno Police Department.

CVJC is thrilled to have Christa Wiens in this expanded staff role, as she’s volunteered with us for over two years and is constantly making our presentations and workshops better. Christa is an extremely gifted communicator, and she demonstrates her passion for justice in her day-to-day life.

If you haven’t taken our class, plan ahead now to join us in September! Also, we are constantly needing more people on our prevention team as we receive more and more requests for workshops. Contact our office to get more involved today!