Many of us are looking to earn some money over the summer, so it’s important to know your rights. Flip through to learn more and message us on Instagram if you have questions!

Common scenarios for labor trafficking include traveling sales crews and peddling operations. In traveling sales crews, young people are recruited to move from city to city selling cheap goods, such as candy, magazines, or other trinkets for little or no pay.7 In peddling operations, they are required to solicit “charitable” donations on the street or in shopping centers.8 Another common form of forced labor involves coerced drug dealing; of 641 homeless youth interviewed for a large 2016 study, 7% said they had been forced to sell drugs, often for gangs. These reports constituted 81% of all instances of forced labor that youth in the study said they experienced.

https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/human-trafficking-americas-schools/child-labor-trafficking

This is the first in a blog series highlighting how important our annual Freedom Fund challenge grant is. Every donation provides direct funding to our programs and services. We need your help to fulfill our mission of preventing human trafficking and exploitation in the Central Valley and beyond!

As I reflect on my first year with the Justice Coalition, I am filled with a tremendous amount of gratitude for the blessings that have been provided to me! While countless others, myself included, lost their jobs when a global pandemic hit, after just a few short months on unemployment, God presented me with an opportunity to apply for a position with the Central Valley Justice Coalition to fill the position of Program Manager.

As an advocate and lived-experience expert (who has volunteered countless hours over the last 9 years in this field) it was an actual dream come true to start this new job. It was also a little scary to take on the responsibility that comes with building a program from scratch, in the midst of a shutdown!

As most of you know, volunteering and being an employee are very different things, and so I began the process of trying to figure out how to do a job no one had ever done before with only faces on a screen to help guide me.\nStarting out was rocky at best. A lot of my early days were spent engaging in Zoom trainings and soaking in how the day-to-day operations worked. There were days where I felt I was not doing much to contribute and I struggled with self-doubt. However, thanks to constant reassurance from the rest of the team over time I began to find my own groove. Beginning with tasks like managing our social media content and assisting Christa in the development of S.E.E. helped build my confidence and I could see (pun intended) that I was helping to build the coalition at the same time!

Arien Garcia was instrumental in getting AB 262 passed and signed into law in 2021

The biggest turning point for me in this first year was when I received the first referral to work with youth identified by the Department of Social Services as being extremely at-risk for human trafficking. Now, a year into the work, we’ve had the opportunity to reach almost two dozen youth with direct services in addressing at-risk behaviors that could lead to exploitation. My role at the coalition, by God’s grace, has become a very impactful one. This first year was a year for expanding on, not only my own capacities but the capacity at which the Justice Coalition serves the community. Being in this position has been a dream-made reality and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next few years!

“Now, a year into the work, we’ve had the opportunity to reach almost two dozen youth with direct services…”

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Arien shares in this video, giving her perspective as a human trafficking survivor and professional educator in the field

We are excited to announce that Freedom Fund 21 is taking place from October 18 through November 17. Once again, we are partnering with True Organic Products Inc. This year, TRUE has given $25,000 in the form of a challenge grant, which means that every dollar up to $25,000 will be doubled!

From our humble beginnings as a small, all-volunteer prayer group, we have grown to an organization with multiple staff members. Since 2015, we have been able to educate well over 27,000 people in the Central Valley and beyond. Hundreds of people have banded together to give thousands of dollars to fund this vital human trafficking prevention work.

To date, our annual Freedom Fund has generated over $251,000 in donations and every dollar makes a significant impact in preventing slavery and exploitation.

It would be an understatement to say that the last 18 months have been a challenging time for us at the Justice Coalition. As the light dawned on 2021, we were presented with an opportunity to streamline our operations through converting two vacated part-time positions into a full-time associate director role. We conducted a thorough search and found the perfect candidate, Dan Carter, for the job.

Only trouble was, as she is a foreign national from Australia, we would need to get a work visa. What we thought would take 6 weeks wound up taking 22 instead but praise God, she has now finally been able to start! I can’t thank all you enough for your support, encouragement and prayers during these trying times.

As an education organization working with vulnerable populations, primarily through in-person presentations, trainings and gatherings, it’s been difficult (the last year plus) to measure our impact using the methods we spent years developing. Yet, even when we haven’t been able to see our efforts produce the numerical impact we desire, this time has been far from wasted.

Currently, we are doing the hard work to streamline our systems and increase our capacity because we know that our mission has never been more important than it is now! With Dan, Arien and myself we now have three full-time staff for the first time in our history and we are joined by Christa, Marissa and Jessica in part-time roles. As we move into the always busy fall season, requests for speakers and classes are skyrocketing. Like a cellphone plugged in overnight (or in this case for the last 8 months) we are charged up and ready to go!

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I found this image online last week as I was looking for something to show my gratitude to the hundreds of people who are participating in Freedom Sunday this month.  Though it may not be Fresno, I felt it accurately reflects the love we have for our city and the people in it.

Thank you for partnering with us.

 

In sharing with churches about Human Trafficking in Fresno, I’m drawn to the incident in Luke 7 where Jesus is anointed by the woman. It’s such a beautiful display of love for her savior after realizing how much debt had been paid… a proclamation of freedom and an act of true love! (Read it here.) To know your debt has been paid is the most freeing experience of all! Nothing can hold you back anymore! Think of a time when you were forgiven, when your life was spared, when grace overcame and all you could do was say “Thank You Jesus”…

 

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She poured out her most valuable possession and risked being criticized by those around her because she had the FREEDOM that only Christ can bring to LOVE him more than anything…

Jesus says,  “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.  Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 

Oh to be the “sinful woman” at Jesus feet. To understand how much has been forgiven and how free I really am because of God’s great love for us… oh to have that repeated throughout our city streets and churches and brothels and night clubs in Fresno… in the hearts of men and women on the streets… among the trafficked and the saved…

 

May you know the freedom of forgiveness today and understand how much you are truly loved. 

–Kelly Mitchinson, CVJC Staff