Tag: advocacy

Feature #1 of our New “How To” Series

“How to”…give to the mission of justice, even if you have no funds to contribute.

When fighting human trafficking, giving monetary support to organizations that already have the structure, the strategy, the connections and the “know-how” is a huge way to be an agent of change, but it is most certainly not the only way. While it is of paramount importance for nonprofits to receive donations to stay alive and strong, there are other ways to contribute to that nonprofit’s work without doing so financially.

  1. Spreading awareness is one of the most important keys to preventing trafficking situations. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all valuable tools in warning about potential dangers posed by traffickers as well as exposing that slavery still exists.  These platforms also can help connect people who want to donate to the organizations that could use their dollar for good.
  2. Becoming a Prevention Project Ambassador. We at RJI provide trainings for those wanting to bring life-saving information about human trafficking to middle and high schools, church youth groups, and youth programs. Trainings cover everything from important facts about human trafficking to the Prevention Project curriculum itself, how to implement the program and the impact it is having on students. Contact joell@rvaji.com if this sparks your interest!
  3. Prayer is the strongest force against human trafficking. Please remember to keep RJI and the work that we are doing with the Prevention Project® program in your prayers. If you are interested in becoming more active in preventing human trafficking, click here to sign up on our volunteer interest form and to receive our prayer updates.

Education Unlocks Freedom

“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” -George Washington Carver

I never knew about human trafficking.” “Knowing that people my age, people younger are the target for all of this, it hurts”. These and many other similar sentiments are echoed in the classroom as teenage students learn about the facts and lures of teen human trafficking through RJI’s Prevention Project program.

Many ask how we can prevent human trafficking. As many survivors of human trafficking have said, it is so important to understand how traffickers lure teens into trafficking situations, because once you know the signs, you can help yourself and others in your school, church, and community not fall prey and know what to do when trafficking does occur in our communities. The purpose of the Prevention Project is to prevent trafficking from occurring and to help those who are currently in a trafficking situation. By equipping students, teachers, and counselors with the educational tools needed to understand, identify, and safely report trafficking situations, we use education as the tool to ‘unlock the golden door of freedom’.

We celebrate as many schools will be teaching the Prevention Project at their schools this fall: Hermitage High School, Godwin High School, Goochland High School, to name a few local schools. RJI is also in process of working with and reaching out to many other local schools as well as schools in multiple states. To find out more information and to get the Prevention Project program into schools in your community, please contact Jessica at Jessica@prevention-project.org.

I don’t know where I would be now without The Prevention Project! The Prevention Project is probably the most life-altering thing that has happened to me so far.” –Prevention Project student

Written by: Jessica Willis
Richmond Justice Initiative Prevention Project Manager

Prevention Project Classroom
{Above pictures © A Girl Named Leney, Prevention Project year three students}

Fundraising: Partner Spotlight

Shopping and Making a Difference. Though these two concepts aren’t always found side by side – they are when talking about Fair Trade and this fundraiser!

This past month, Ten Thousand Villages hosted a two-hour fundraising shopping event, with a total of 20% of the proceeds donated to Richmond Justice Initiative. Thank you Ten Thousand Villages! While at this event, RJI staff and volunteers shared with shoppers about RJI, human trafficking facts and prevention, and how to get actively involved in the prevention and eradication of human trafficking!

One of the shoppers that day was a pre-teen named Grace. She asked us what RJI was raising awareness about. I quickly but carefully crafted an age-appropriate response, as I wanted it to resonate with her, but not frighten her. I briefly explained to her what trafficking is and about some of the methods that traffickers use to lure teens (as the average age of entry is 11-14 years old); she responded with the most impactful and touching question of the day: “I only have $.75 in my bag; can I donate it all to help?”

Humbled and inspired, I told her that her money would be going to help a very important cause. She smiled and hugged the Vicuna stuffed animal that had just been bought for her at the store.

Richmond Justice Initiative has partnered with Ten Thousand Villages Richmond, a Fair Trade Retailer, for several events in the past years. Our two organizations share many purposes in common, including anti-human trafficking. One of the principles of Fair Trade Certification is to ensure that no child or forced labor is used in producing goods. This means that whenever you shop Fair Trade, you can be certain that the source company went through a rigorous certification process that reflects 10 different principles. Because of this, RJI commends Fair Trade certification standards and other ways that businesses go to lengths to ensure no forced labor is used to produce any part of their products. This is why staff from both RJI and Ten Thousand Villages, among other organizations, also serve on the steering committee for Fair Trade RVA, a movement to get retailers and organizations in Richmond to carry Fair Trade products so that Richmond can be recognized as a ‘Fair Trade Town’.

The truth is, we can all make a difference. If you are inspired by Grace’s story and would like to make a difference as well, donate here to make an impact and write “Inspired by Grace” in the notes to seller section.

Written by: Jessica Willis
Richmond Justice Initiative Prevention Project Manager
Fair Trade RVA Steering Committee Member

Partnerships & Giving to a Cause

Richmond Justice Initiative is a faith-based organization. We value prayer as our recognition of our complete dependence on God. We believe in His provision, making way for all of our needs, in order to do the work of justice He has called us to. We are thankful for many individuals, organizations, and companies in our community and around the state of Virginia and beyond who have stepped up and supported RJI’s efforts in donating their time, energy, fundraising, or donating directly to our organization! This month we want to spotlight two organizations that have used their creativity to fund-raise on their own for RJI.

New Creation, a partner organization that fights human trafficking in the Shenandoah Valley, partnered with a local high school student to create the Light the Night 5K for his senior project to help raise funds for RJI’s signature teen anti-trafficking curriculum, Prevention Project program to be in schools in his area! The student led event had around 125 participants that enjoyed a walk/run around the beautiful campus, along with prizes donated by local businesses, giveaways, and a DJ dance party. The event was very successful and they have already had multiple students offer to lead the project next year. When raising awareness and funds in your community, Sabrina Dorman of New Creation says, “I would encourage youth to get involved, their passion and energy is contagious.

Ashley Topping, of Wells Fargo Advisors, Innslake Office, had personally been aware of and involved in the fight against human trafficking. When she became part of a group at Wells Fargo Advisors called IMPACT, she used the opportunity to educate her co-workers about human trafficking and the work RJI was doing in the community. When she made her team aware of the issue, there was an abundance of support to get RJI as the approved charity for their Spring Basket Fundraiser. Ashley said, “The topic may be uncomfortable to talk about, but if people don’t understand what is going on, how can they stand up to fight against it? The amount of people I was able to inform during our fundraiser week simply blew me away. There are so many who just have no idea what is happening, not just all over the world, but right here in our city.

During the Spring Basket Fundraiser, each department selected a basket theme and put the baskets on display for one week. Team members were able to purchase tickets for $1.00 to place in the basket of their choice that they would like to be eligible to win. At the end of the week, one name from each basket is drawn and the baskets are delivered to the winners. All the money raised from the raffle ticket sale is given to the chosen charity. RJI is honored to be the charity they chose this spring.

We have heard from and trust many of you would like to start your own funding campaign to support RJI. The power to help end human trafficking is in your hands and this is a great way to be creative and use your talents make a difference, and above all to serve the Lord. Please contact us at info@rvaji.com or check out or Action Menu for more ways you can raise awareness and funds at the same time to fight human trafficking in your city! You can also be a part of fundraisers that are currently being planned:

Hope Thrift Fundraiser, August 9, 10am-5:30pm

Chipotle, Eat for Change, August 11, 4-8pm

Amazing Raise, September 17-18

Broad Street Mile, September 20, 11:30am

Be sure to check out future features about fundraisers and donations, as we highlight them in upcoming newsletters!

By: Alisa Feliciano | RJI Volunteer

Intern Testimonies

Here at RJI we greatly appreciate our interns. We could not do the work we do without hard-working passionate interns on our team. Below read about two of our recent interns and what they had to say about working with us:

 

KylieKylie: Advocacy Intern

My advocacy internship with the Richmond Justice Initiative (RJI) was an absolutely amazing experience. During my internship, I learned how to work in a professional environment and take on the responsibilities of being a part of a team. I left my advocacy internship more knowledgeable about public policy and the political inter-working of local, state, and federal governments. I was exposed to a network of organizations and contacts that will prove to be beneficial in my future professional endeavors. I was so grateful for the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. twice to observe how one of RJI’s partners, the International Justice Mission (IJM) works to fight human trafficking on a global level and to lobby with them at their annual Advocacy Summit. The most influential part of my internship was experiencing a work place that is grounded in the love and hope that God provides. Dealing with something as unjust as human trafficking is very difficult and the fact that RJI believes that God is the only source of strength that can combat this was very impacting. My co-workers learned to put their hope in God so that they would not become discouraged in this challenging work. RJI’s reliance on God sets it apart from other organizations in that it taps into a never-ending source of strength and energy. RJI’s work environment was extremely friendly and supportive. The staff took time to understand my personality so that I could excel. My internship with RJI has given me so much that I will take into my professional life after college, but more importantly it has helped me to understand how to take on the challenges of life, and that is through the strength of God. I am so thankful for the opportunity they gave to me and would highly recommend RJI to any person looking for a great internship experience.

 

MelissaMelissa: Prevention Project Intern

When God moves your heart and tugs at your soul, the only thing to do is follow Him. The thing I love about interning with Richmond Justice Initiative in the Prevention Project department is seeing a spark light up in other people, especially students. The best part is seeing people be moved to change the lives of people affected by human trafficking because you know difference makers are arising. Even in the day to day office tasks, whether it is answering emails, creating documents, or organizing paperwork, as an intern you are making a difference in the fight against human trafficking. There is soul satisfaction in doing God’s work to bring justice. When I finish my days after working for RJI, I always feel that I made a difference in some way that day. Some days are tougher than others because of the heart wrenching subject matter that we research, but the best thing is having a supporting staff that is always there to share the sorrows and pray for the justice. I feel like I have grown in so many areas of my life through interning with RJI, for example learning to rely on God solely, understanding how to be a business professional, learning the importance of lawmaking, learning the potential that I have personally to help change the world, and so much more. Through it all I learned you can do anything with God and amazing people who continuously support you.

 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people  light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Sundays: A Message to Church & Worship Leaders (and anyone else who wants to read this and be challenged)

Did you know that the life that Christ has called us to live is not easy or safe? In fact it is quite the opposite. The life that God is calling us to live, and the life He NEEDS us to live requires great courage, and can often feel dangerous. Doing God’s will in a fallen world IS inherently dangerous.

God has called us to 1. Tell the truth and 2. Love hurting people and neither are easy or safe.

So glad you started reading this right? I promise I am not stating these facts to be a Debby Downer, but to make a point and ask some questions that I hope provoke a sense of purpose when we walk into our corporate gatherings and to state that:

Somehow…
The God we name…
The music we sing…
The prayers we offer…
The scripture we read and preach…
HAS to call us deeper into God’s heart and deeper into the world for which Christ died.

Because if we are called to live dangerously and to love hurting people our services should be equipping rooms that accomplish more than the “post-church buzz” from good worship, but our worship must move the people in the congregation to courageous action that is set to take place most often outside of the Church walls.

Matthew 23:23-34 Challenges us to look at what we are offering, and how so often we “forget the weightier matters like Justice, mercy and faithfulness.

Question for consideration: Aside from the coffee, bagels, snazzy sermon illustrations and new vamp on that worship song, are we remembering that we are ministering to a group of people with a calling to be doers of justice, mercy and faithfulness to love hurting people, and are we equipping them for that task?

So many of us have been devastated by the situation in Nigeria and have shown our support with a hashtag, mostly because aside from praying the situation feels pretty helpless. Here is the reality. This is just one horrifying example of the Locust Effect of every day violence and injustice that is happening around the world. We are awake to this one because of the enormous attention it has received from the media.

Challenge: After we have parked our cards, dropped kids off at the nursery and rushed into rehearsal or your office for last minute prep, what are you thinking about?

What do we have as a reminder of the sufferings in the world which reveals the urgency of the need for hearing and living out the Gospel and sacrificial living in the name of Christ?

Those reminders are what remind us of the need to be attentive to the people in front of us and to lead them in trans-formative worship

In the last 5 years I have been working against the injustice of human trafficking and violent oppression, I have heard countless stories of injustice, and I have heard stories of God bringing freedom to so many lives. I have met precious survivors that demonstrate more love and bravery than I will ever have and on Sundays, whether I am on stage or in my seat and we begin to worship and sing of Gods love, freedom and our need for more of Him, my experience is no longer just for me or just about me, it is always with them in mind. 

I can’t help but keep in mind those around the world who are also having Church, but their Sundays look quite different from ours. That there are those who are having Church in a brothel, praying for their freedom day. Some are having church in their new home after being sold for $12 and are praying that God will come to their rescue.

I also keep in mind the incredible stories of hope like Griselda’s, who was freed from her abuser and is now free to live our her dreams, and countless stories similar to hers where the goodness and faithfulness of the God of Justice comes to life, and worship and praise always abounds from the reality of the freedom that IS available in Christ when we come to Him and ask for His help.

To wrap this up, as I could continue for quite some time on this subject, here are a few questions for personal or group discussion:

1. Are people leaving that service, and actually giving their lives away for the poor and oppressed in a tangible way?

2. How do we measure whether this has been accomplished? What is the criteria?

3. What/who do we have our mind set on during our Sunday morning prep time?

4. How are you leading in worship with integrity?

5. Will God’s people wake up to worshiping God in such a way that we demonstrate we are awake by loving our neighbor in God’s name?

6. Will we demonstrate faithful worship by “Doing Justice, Loving Mercy and Walking Humbly?

* Excepts from Mark Labberton’s book “Dangerous Act of Worship” (So if this blog offends you, it’s his fault.)

Ending Poverty Requires the End of Violence

“We don’t have to have all the answers in order to sound the alarm.”

Buy The Locust Effect

Page 49 came alive when I traveled to Guatemala City, and I went to the zoo…

I was one that had the advantage of reading this “Game Changing” book before its release, and page 49 stayed with me, as I knew I would be visiting Guatemala City soon. Well, I just returned from being there with International Justice Mission, and the Locust Effect, as I suspected, went from black and white to radiant color when the IJM Team took us to the Zoo in Guatemala City for what they call a “Day of Joy”, a time for us to spend with clients with the hope of, quite literally, bringing them joy!

My experience was a time of feeling joy and pain all at the same time. Pain, because I knew the circumstances that led to the birth of this precious baby I was holding, and his 10 year old mother that sat next to me with her Aunt. Joy, because after I pulled out my Photo Booth App, these kids were laughing like they never have before, and in that moment, they were happy.

This book, like my trip, is filled with pain and joy. Pain, because there are countless stories just like the one I experienced at the Zoo in Guatemala City. Stories where the justice system not only is absent when those suffering violence need them to help, but the justice system IS the perpetrator of the violence they need rescue from. This book is also filled with joy, for me at least, because it starts the discussion about the need to address violence when addressing poverty, and that conversation has been sorely missing and is also the KEY to squashing the locusts of violence that are invading the most poor and vulnerable in our world today.

I am excited to start this discussion and invite you to join me in it! Here is the breakdown of the book:

What is this book addressing?

4 billion people around the world today, literally have NO 9-1-1 to call. As Gary states “The world knows that poor people suffer from hunger and disease, so they get busy trying to meet those needs. But overwhelmingly, the word does not know that endemic to being poor is a vulnerability to violence. As a result, the world is not getting busy trying to stop it. And, in a perfect tragedy, the failure to address that violence is actually devastating much of the other things we are seeking to do to assist them.” So, to put it bluntly, when conversations about alleviating poverty in the developing world were happening at the big boy table, addressing violence was never part of the plan along with building wells, schools and orphanages. The bottom line is, if you are not safe, none of that other assistance matters.

Wow. How did we get to this place?

“Sadly, the public justice systems in the developing world not only fail to protect the poor from violence, but they actually perpetrate violence, protect perpetrators, and make poor people less safe.” Every part of the criminal justice system pipeline is broken. Police. Prosecutors. The Courts. Every bit of it.

Tell me there is some hope for a solution?

In Chapter 10: “It’s Been Done Before” and Chapter 11: “Demonstration Projects of Hope”, Haugen and Boutros provide real life examples of how reforms have been made to the criminal justice systems in the developing world. It’s a glimpse into what is possible when people are awakened to reality of this plague of violence afflicting the poor and we make it a priority to address these complex issues.

What do I do now?

“Likewise, a better day for the poorest in our world will only come as we are willing to walk with them into the secret terror that lies beneath the surface of their poverty” We need to begin having conversations about the clear and urgent need that exists for increased law enforcement and working justice systems. Without those key elements in place, any efforts to alleviate poverty in the developing world will continue to get eaten away by the #LocustEffect. Be that person that starts this conversation. I dare you.

TAKE ACTION:

  1. Buy the book. Read it. Encourage others to understand the problem by doing the same. Check out the book’s website.
  2. Spread the word – Help us get the word out on social media using the hashtag #LocustEffect as well as including this topic in your everyday conversations.
  3. Tell Missions leaders, youth leaders & world leaders – Ask the world’s leaders to make this a priority. Start by signing this petition to the UN.