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Hope Rising 4In 2010, President Barack Obama declared January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.  “I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the vital role we can play in ending modern slavery, and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.” In honor of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Sun Gate Foundation is asking various groups around the nation to stand with us on Monday, January 26, 2015 for an event called “Hope Rising.”

Human trafficking is an epidemic that is plaguing our nation with disregard to human life and dignity.  Many of the stories we hear about human trafficking are disheartening, sad and lacking hope.  Despite, these atrocities we hear about on a daily basis there is hope.  Let us stand together knowing there is hope while being the light in this dark world of human trafficking.

 

Hope Rising” is a symbol of hope and light for:

  • Human trafficking victims and survivors
  • For better laws or the use of existing laws
  • For service providers and NGO’s addressing the issue of human trafficking
  • For law enforcement to better fight human trafficking cases
  • For legislators and our criminal justice system handling human trafficking cases
  • For community members in playing their role in the fight against human trafficking

We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do in the fight against human trafficking. As we fight and work let us not forget to hopeful.

How does “Hope Rising” Work? 

  1. Select an outdoor location to hold the event on January 26, 2015.  (It is winter in some places and it will be cold but this is a challenge. Human trafficking victims endure torture under worst conditions.)
  2. Reach out to at least 5 people in your community/network to stand with you.
  3. Purchase your candles and sky-lanterns here.
  4. You can decide the order of your event. If you wish to stand in silence and then release the sky lanterns you can do so or you can have a short program speaking about human trafficking in your community.
  5. Each person in attendance will make a commitment to self on one step they will take towards the fight to end human trafficking.
  6. Use the hash tag #hoperising
  7. At the end of your program release the sky lanterns
  8. Don’t forget to take pictures and share them on the Sun Gate Facebook page.

holly article 11-23-14Meet Shamere McKenzie, the recently-appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Sun Gate Foundation, a national organization focused on providing support to survivors of human trafficking who wish to gain access to private, continuing, and/or higher education. Why is this mission important to Shamere? Because she herself was once a victim of sex trafficking, and as a young adult pursuing a college education, she has had to overcome many obstacles.

“As a survivor, I know firsthand the stigma and difficulties faced by survivors of sex trafficking,” Shamere says, “And, as the recipient of the first Sun Gate Foundation scholarship, I am a walking example to other survivors that they too can pick up the broken pieces and live a life of their choosing.”  Click here to read the entire article written by Holly Smith.

 

Rebecca Bender PicWhen Sun Gate asked me to be a guest blogger on Education for Trafficking Survivors, I was jumping with joy! This is one of my favorite topics and quite frankly, I believe one of the potential answers to the perplexing question of why survivors often return to their captors.

Why? Why would someone who has been able to find freedom return to bondage? Why don’t birds who have been caged do well in the wild? Why do inmates after years of incarceration find it hard to live in normalcy again? I am by no means calling victims inmates or animals. What I am saying, is that there is something instinctual about returning to the familiar when the unknown is so frightening.

So how is education the answer to victims not returning to the life? {of course there is a conglomerate of answers mixed into a nice concoction and tied with a pretty little neat bow} but one that I think is the most VALUABLE, and rarely addressed, is Economic Empowerment.

Most survivors who have been under the control of a trafficker were lured with a promise. Finding out what the promise was and then helping them to obtain that promise on their own, without their trafficker, becomes something they can anchor themselves to when the storms come. While working in fast food is admirable, “living wage” is well… unlivable. Hope dwindles, circumstances get tough, financial set-backs arise and the zeal toward this newfound freedom fades, like a thick fog rolling in. Will it ever get easier? Will I ever make it out? Will my dreams ever come true?

I remember my first paycheck after getting out of the life. I cried and cried. How do I live on this? How does anyone live on this? I asked God, is this what you saved my life for, to just continue in a different struggle? It’s hard sometimes, to lift our eyes above the cloud of circumstances, and try tirelessly to peer at the promise that seems so far away.

So why is education so incredibly valuable, in helping survivors thrive? Education leads to economic empowerment. It keeps the fog at bay. It keeps our eyes above the clouds. It shows us an end game.

After I got out of trafficking, I went back to community college, taking night classes and online courses after my 40 hours of work a week, still trying to put food on the table for me and my child. I remember getting a raise and was so proud, until I found out that the $50 a month raise put me over the financial need limit and cut my food stamps by $100. So I gained $50 but lost $100. It was the first time I had been on state assistance- standing shamefully in the welfare line. I shouldn’t have been ashamed, that is what assistance is there for, to help people in need. But I was not blind to the looks in the grocery store when someone pulled out their food stamp card, or the jokes about welfare. So I found myself standing in line asking which shame was worse: the painful familiar or the terrifying unknown.

But I kept at it and I stuck with it and I prayed that this too would pass, that God’s plans were to prosper me and that He would reward those that diligently seek Him. This year, I start my Master’s degree. Little by little, I see the fog roll away. I see the idea of self-sustainability for me and my family within reach. Yes, there will be challenges, but the promises my trafficker used like a carrot, to dangle in front of me, are now mine for the taking. I can do this with the support of my friends, family and community; I can do it with the support of organizations like Sun Gate and individual donors. I can see the education that matches my abilities, continuing to eradicate modern day slavery, continuing to change the mindset of our culture and continuing to prevent young men and women from misidentifying trafficking within their own communities. The carrot is no longer dangling, it is in my grasp!

Written by Rebecca Bender

 

 

 

 

Shamere McKenzie of the Sun Gate Foundation talked with York College students Tuesday about how the sex trafficking industry is able to thrive. (SEAN COTTER — scotter@yorkdispatch.com)

Shamere McKenzie of the Sun Gate Foundation talked with York College students Tuesday about how the sex trafficking industry is able to thrive. (SEAN COTTER — scotter@yorkdispatch.com)

 

“You’re smart — how could you be trafficked?”

“It’s a question Shamere McKenzie has faced from everyone from the crowds to whom she’s told her story to the judge who sentenced her to time in jail.

“On Tuesday night, she took the stage in front of a packed auditorium at York College to tell her story — that of a survivor of the expansive American underground sex-trafficking industry, using her own tale to drum up support for the anti-trafficking cause and show that question isn’t the right one to ask.” Click here to read the first article
 

 

 

 

 

 

York College

York College

 

“Throughout the talk, she emphasized one point: people have to be the change they want to see in the world. She encouraged the audience to stand up for what they believe in no matter how hard it seems because it only takes one person to start a life changing movement.”

Click here to read the second article

Sun GaKeisha Head Ebonyte Board Secretary, Activist, Advocate, Motivational Speaker and Survivor of Child Sex Trafficking – Keisha Head, featured in the November 2014 issue of the Ebony Magazine. “You’re being raped, you’re being beaten and you’ve been kidnapped. Every night a different horrific thing is happening and you’re escaping with your life.” Pick up this month issue of Ebony Magazine to read more about Keisha and her experience to being a leader in the anti-trafficking movement . Read more about Keisha here…  GET YOUR COPY TODAY!!!

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