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!
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!
We are excited to announce that Freedom Fund 21is 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!
This year we are joining with a hundred churches in the Fresno/Clovis area to pray and fast for change and renewal in our cities. Beginning on Jan.11 and ending on Jan. 31 we are committing to devote three weeks to seeking God’s plans for our individual lives and our mutual service. For more information on fasting (what it is, why we do it, what we are praying for, upcoming events) please download the FastingBrochure2016 (courtesy of Northpark and Fresno First Baptist Church).
From our Executive Director:
Human Trafficking is evil.
It’s morally abhorrent and ethically indefensible on every level.
As people of faith, we can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the world’s second largest criminal enterprise (U.S. Dept of Justice). It can feel like there is no hope for the people caught in modern day slavery and despair can overtake even the most committed activists.
Trafficking is an evil trade exploiting a weak system. We must act. – Yvette Cooper
This is why prayer is key in the battle to end slavery. This moment we find ourselves in doesn’t just call for prayer, it demands it. Prayer is essential because prayer is AN ACTION that we undertake. It is a conscious choice to do something profoundly counter cultural.
In prayer and fasting, we recognize the limits of our own abilities and plans. We realize that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves and that we are powerless to defeat evil without the help of an all powerful God. This doesn’t mean we are powerless, in fact, it’s the opposite: when we recognize our own weakness and vulnerability then we are in position to see the greater things Jesus was talking about in John 14:12.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
May we never forget that we have the hope of the world on our side.
We are STOKED to announce our grand total. As of today, we have raised $10,317* towards the Freedom Fund!
(*Disclaimer, our staff is still checking on what may be additional donations. So the grand total may be a bit more! Also, did you know it’s actually #Giving Tuesday today? If you haven’t given, know we met our matching grant goal but have quite a lot of fund raising left to do for 2016. Get your donation in before the year ends by giving today or ANYTIME!)
With the matching funds, that amounts to $20,317 that will go directly to taking on human trafficking head on! We can’t thank you enough for your gifts, prayers and partnerships. When you invest in CVJC by giving financially, here’s just a short list of things that we see happen in very real ways:
God’s faithfulness and provision is celebrated! We step out in faith when we make these goals, and God keeps showing up!
Our leadership team and partners are encouraged and inspired, knowing we have people believing in us and this work enough to give precious resources towards preventing human trafficking helps to fuel our efforts year round!
Victims, survivors and advocates hear loud and clear that THE CHURCH AND COMMUNITY BELIEVE ALL SHOULD BE FREE.
Come join Central Valley Justice Coalition in kicking off National Human Trafficking Awareness Month!
Monday, January 6, 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Fresno First Baptist Church Parlor (1400 W. Saginaw Ave., Fresno 93704)
The evening includes a brief training for Freedom Sunday
Freedom Sunday is February 2, 2014! CVJC wants to equip you and your church (or place of worship) to join in this day of prayer, worship, and response on behalf of those who are trapped in modern day slavery. This 30 minute training includes resources and tools for sharing 5 minutes (or more) at your church about human trafficking in the Fresno area and how to partner with us to end it
Followed by a time of prayer
Prayer is central to all we do – God moves and acts when we gather together in his name! We want to begin 2014 (and National Human Trafficking Awareness Month) on our knees. We will be praying for God’s freedom and justice to flood our Valley, bringing transformation to the lives of all affected by human trafficking. The time will be guided with scripture, media and specific prayer points, held just across from the Parlor in the Memorial Chapel.
If you can’t attend Monday night, come for
Freedom Sunday Training & Prayer
Tuesday, January 7th, 12p-1pm (doors open for networking until 1:30p)
Fresno First Baptist Church Parlor. Beverages provided, bring your own lunch
•not getting paid for their labor
•not free to change employers
•being controlled by someone else
•being forced to do something they don't want to do
•has been cheated into payment of debt upon arrival
You, he, or she may be a victim of human trafficking and eligible for free assistance.
Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888.373.7888 for more information. Or, text INFO or HELP to BEFREE (233733)
Contact us at 559.725.1865 for support, resources, and consultation. You can also contact the Fresno Police Tip Line at 559. 621.5950.