Tag: human trafficking

Not I but Christ….

I think that most days we make it without having to rely on God to get us through the day, or so we think; we go about our days with our to do lists, and if you are like me its all in your head. April 12 gave me a whole new perspective of what it meant to walk in His strength…..  A few months ago the alumni chapter of Delta Sigma Theta asked RJI to come and speak at their Spring Forum, I agreed to be the speaker.  The two days before the forum I used every available moment (which don’t come often) to prepare; because I am not a stranger to speaking in front of people I wasn’t terribly nervous but I have to say I always get a little shaken up before I speak, so I needed to be sure I had everything mapped out. The nature of an all volunteer organization makes it impossible to pay the bills without another job, and mine happens to be working with small children, while they are sleeping I focus on RJI.  That day we could not get the presentation to download to my computer, I found out that the location was moved and we would no longer have power point capabilities so I would have to completely change my approach, and the children didn’t sleep as long as I hoped they would so I was trying to figure all of this out while taking care of them….. I also had to figure out how to get to the other side of town during rush hour in less than 45 minutes….. It’s interesting that the deeper we all get into this issue of advocating for those that do not have a voice of their own the more we see the hand of God guiding us and opening doors we could have never imagined. In the midst of all the craziness and with the help of Anna Hurley I figured out the technological problems changed up my speaking approach and got there on time. On the way there I found myself asking God to be with me and to guide the presentation, because on top of everything else I wasn’t feeling well and I knew that I needed His strength to get me through.  When I got there I learned that my fellow speakers were a Virginia senator, a judge, and the president of a well known advocacy organization on Virginia…..  Needless to say I felt a little out of place, thankfully, I didn’t learn any of that until we were introduced so I didn’t really have time to let my nerves get the best of me.  During the presentation I mentioned our core values: awareness, education, advocacy, prevention and prayer, I expounded on the ways that we are living them out in what we do at RJI.  When I talked about the advocacy piece I mentioned the bills that we presented at our lobby day back in February and are waiting to be signed by the Governor, then I went on with each of the other values.  After the presentation the senator who was sitting next to me leaned over and asked if those bills would put Virgina where we need to be as far as our laws against human trafficking; since I also mentioned that Virginia is one of the states in the country with the worst laws against slavery. I told him that they were a good start but they were not enough, and then I remembered that I earlier that day in the midst of all the commotion I printed the bills out and had them with me! ( I normally don’t do that because I try and do my part for the planet and all)  I highlighted the bills and handed them to the senator and he asked if he could keep them, and I said yes sir!  We had a time of question and answer that went really well, at the end of the forum the president of the chapter got up and said that she was shocked that this was an issue in our city.  After the meeting was over the president of the well known advocacy center came up to me and said, “The senator and I would like to work with your organization.” He went on to tell me about some of the “small” issues that they took on and brought to light in the community, he also went on to tell me about the church connections that would be available to us because of their connections. It was a success!  The more I reflected on this event the more I realized that it was not because I am this amazingly charismatic speaker (which I can assure you I am not) or because the information was terribly compelling, it was because we serve a God of justice that is committed to rescuing the weak and this is His fight not ours, it is His strength, power and vision that we depend on and that empowers us to “Love mercy, Do Justice and walk humbly with our God”.

-Lea Whitehurst, Church Partnership Coordinator

Support Federal Bill on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking

Virginia has made leaps and bounds this year legislatively on a state level, and now we need your support on a federal level. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) are major supporters of legislation against minor sex trafficking and are reintroducing a bill that will establish a grant program to support victims. Please call your senators today in support of S.596, Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence & Victim Support Act. Below you will find facts about the bill provide by Shared Hope International.

  • Status: Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee (effective 3/18/2011)
  • It will provide $2m to $2.5m a year in funding to six state and local pilot projects to serve and shelter child victims of sex trafficking.
  • Applying entities must have a multidisciplinary, collaborative plan to combat the sex trafficking of minors.
  • 67% of funds must be used for direct services and shelter for victims.
  • Funds can be used to increase law enforcement efforts to combat the sex trafficking of children.
  • This is a bipartisan bill.
  • The legislation is sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX).

To track this bill, please visit here. Contact Warner here or call him at 202-224-2023.

Chopstix Social Fundraiser Huge Success

Thank you so much for everyone who made it out this last Wednesday night for our Social Fundraiser at Chopstix. We were able to raise funds for RJI’s work and bring awareness to trafficking in Richmond. The manager of Chopstix was so happy with the business that we brought in that he invited us to have a fundraiser every Wednesday of March! So if you were unable to make it out this past week don’t worry you have three more chances to come eat some delicious Asian cuisine, support RJI, and educate your friends and family. You can find the events on our calendar or on Facebook.

By the way, the gyoza dumplings and edamame are delicious!

Hands That Heal Weekend

Our recent Hands That Heal weekend was a huge success! RJI partnered with the local The Grey Haven Project (TGHP) and Students Stopping the Trafficking of Persons (SSTOP) to host a faith-based, three-part weekend conference here in Richmond, VA.  Friday night West End Assembly of God hosted us for a documentary viewing and panel discussion. The documentary gave the 120 attendees an eye-opening view into one face of human trafficking: the commercial sex trafficking of domestic minors in New York City.
Saturday morning and afternoon 57 people – from Richmond, Liberty, Virginia Beach, and Farmville – attended our aftercare training at the University of Richmond campus with Nicole Wood from Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking (FAAST). Wood covered human trafficking 101, the biblical response to human trafficking, cultural issues and trauma involved in aftercare, and an introducation to holistic aftercare. One participant remarked that it was powerful and encouraging to simply be in a room with individuals for the training who are all passionate about fighting human trafficking on some many levels. We are now planning the continuation of this training, which will be provided as an 8-week follow-up course.
Saturday evening’s Prayer and Worship Night for Modern-Day Abolitionists provided a fitting close to the weekend as individuals gathered at Commonwealth Chapel to worship our God of Justice and to seek His heart for victims.  Another participant mentioned that while she has always cared about issues of justice, this weekend truly gave her God’s heart for justice.  In conclusion, it was an incredibly packed and exciting weekend – and we look forward to seeing the fruit and action that comes out of it!

Texas Task Force Announces 133 Arrests During Super Bowl

The Attorney General of Texas announced Thursday, February 17th “the North Texas Trafficking Task Force (NTTTF) – which included the Attorney General’s Special Investigations Unit, state and federal law enforcement agencies, and six North Texas police departments – conducted undercover operations through Super Bowl Sunday that resulted in a total of 133 arrests”. The office also released the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force Report 2011.

Legislation Update – Call Your Representatives

Thank you again to all who attended our lobby day in January. We are happy to announce House Bill 2190 has passed in both the House of Delegates and Senate, but there are two bills  that still need our support. Our delegates and senators will be voting on these bills in the coming weeks, so we need everyone to call their representatives to encourage them to support the bills.

Please contact your delegate in regards to SB1453 and your senator in regards to HB1898. You can easily search for your delegate’s & senator’s contact information here. If you have any questions about how to contact your representatives please email RJI.

The bills are as follows:

HB 2190 – Passed both the House and Senate
Introduced by Delegate Ebbin

Requires the Department of Social Services to develop a plan for identifying victims of human trafficking and coordinating the delivery of services such as housing, health care, legal services, job training, education, as well as advising victims of any benefits the victim may be eligible for under Virginia or federal law.

HB1898 – Passed in the House & Pending in the Senate
Introduced by Delegate Hugo & Delegate Watts

Amends the current statutes to criminalize abduction of any person for purposes of prostitution, extend evidentiary protections to victims of human trafficking, and criminalize receiving money for causing a person to become a victim of forced labor or services, prostitution, concubinage, or the manufacture of pornography.

SB 1453 – Passed in the Senate and Pending in the House
Introduced by Senator Newman

Gives the Department of Criminal Justice Services the power and duty, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, to advise law-enforcement agencies and attorneys for the Commonwealth regarding the identification, investigation, and prosecution of human trafficking offenses using the existing criminal statutes in the Code of Virginia.

FACE – January

A few months ago,  Sara had the incredible opportunity of speaking to over 300 teachers in Henrico County about the importance of teaching about modern Day Slavery to their students. She explained that in the United States, children as young as 11 yrs old are lured into this industry, and it is important to reach them at this middle school level to prevent them from potentially being in that situation. We also wanted to educate the kids on this issue as it relates to globalism, and also to raise up future abolitionists!

After this engagement, our first call came from a teacher at Fairfield Middle School. They were very  excited to be a part of a pilot program to raise awareness amongst the students as well as raise funds for RJI. Our first meeting began with educating the kids on what injustice means, and what it is not. We were honored to have Major Steve Drew from Richmond’s Police Department come to speak to the kids about how to remain safe in their neighborhoods. We also showed a short clip from Internaional Justice Mission about a student who raised money for IJM by collecting loose change, which turned into a whole program that IJM uses today! We ended the meeting with a contest! We wanted to make sure the students really owned this program, so we had a contest for the name of the program! We had so many great entires, but the winner was, Falcon’s Against Child Exploitation (FACE).

The program will run through June, with a different lesson each month and we are so excited to see the impact this program will have on the kids in the program, but also the impact THEY will have on the entire school! Stay tuned! Also if you are interested in helping with this program, please contact justicerva@gmail.com

“Its amazing to see such young kids with such a passion and heart to serve so early on, its the generation after us that will have to fight what we are teaching them now.” –Tessa Smucker, photographer


“Seeing how engaged they are is so exciting to me, it blesses my heart. I’m so excited to see the results of hard work from these kids in the next few months. They have beautiful dreams and ideas and I’m blessed to be apart of the process.” – Kourtney Hetrick, RJI Staff

“Seeing the kids get passionate about something that has so much impact on their world and the world they will grow up and seeing them want to make a difference was encouraging and made me excited about the future of RJI and the abolitionist movement of the future!” –
Mary Hampton Elam, RJI Volunteer

Legislation Update – Lobby Day

Around 50 people came out on Wednesday, January 26th to discuss with their legislators the need for stronger legislation in Virginia against human trafficking. There were nine bills supported, including changing the language of abduction codes to include more trafficking cases, developing a social services plan for survivors of trafficking, and requiring the posting of the national human trafficking hotline phone number in all adult entertainment venues. Several attendees also participated in committee hearings in support of two of the bills.

We are happy to announce that half of the bills lobbied for have passed! Thank you so much for all of those who were able to attend and for those praying for us all day! If you would like more updates on VA human trafficking legislation please visit polarisproject.org.