Love Mom, Love Justice

Host a Mother’s Day party with purpose!

This May, what better way to celebrate Mother’s Day with your mom or daughter than by hosting a product party with WAR, International? At no cost to you, you can spend a meaningful evening in your home with family and friends, mothers-day-2015perusing our beautiful products from more than 25 countries. You can try on jewelry selections, buy intricate handmade journals and gifts, and learn how women around the world are empowered through the programs of Women At Risk and the support of people like you.

From scarves and headbands to soaps and hand-beaded jewelry, there is something for everyone at a product party. Surprise your mother with a fun party in her honor, or invite your daughter and her friends to each pick out their own special gift. However you choose to do it, hosting a party in honor of Mother’s Day is a powerful and generous way to celebrate the mothers and daughters in your life. You’ll bring joy to your guests and empowerment to women around the world. Just $250 in sales can keep a rescued woman in a safehouse for one month! For Mother’s Day, give the gift of fellowship and fun with a product party as you give the gift of dignity and hope to the world’s at-risk women.

Sweetie Update

A letter from our president

Dear Prayer Warriors,

Get down on your knees fast! Pray hard. Stop what you are doing and pray. This week we received word from our Indian partners that the Madame in charge of Sweetie, who beats her and who I have befriended, has asked for a special meeting to discuss Sweetie’s future. For the first time, she initiated a conversation about Sweetie and implied that she is thinking about talking to her boyfriend (Sweetie’s owner). You might recall that I have spent a long time with this man, begging him for Sweetie. Our hope is that she be raised in a loving Indian home where she could go to school. He just watched me coldly, without any facial expression, basically saying, “No thank you.” Why would he allow his “property,” being raised for sale to the highest bidder, go for free? Because she is owned by a corrupt official, a police raid will not work.

I’m tempted to get on a plane and fly out there tomorrow in order to be at this meeting. But time, commitments to safehouses and programs, and last minute costs make it unwise. Anyway, God doesn’t need me. He can set the captive free! I just spoke at the Pentagon and will be in twelve states in six weeks, so I need to keep my feet to the fire and stay put with my knees on the ground. That’s where I need your help!

This is the first glimmer of hope we have seen. Although we are wary that this might just be words and may lead down a dead end path (which has been every path we have pursued so far), we see that wheels are spinning and the option is still on the forefront of the Madame’s mind.

The Madam moved out of the brothel that she still controls. Another “madam” moved in and there is competition between them for customers. She built a house and lives there and manages from afar. One time, we arrived at the brothel area to find the two in a physical fight and we had to separate them. Moving out and still controlling the women that are “hers” is a face-saving way of continuing to do her “business.” She moved Sweetie into her own home too. Sadly, that doesn’t mean Sweetie is safe. child-slave-sweetieHer home is likely just another brothel site. It does mean that Sweetie is separated from her “biological mom” who is rarely in the original brothel, as the “Madam” often ships her to her sister’s brothel across the country. It also means that Sweetie is not tied to the pole anymore. The Pack ‘n Play that we traded for the red cord that bound her went to the new home. And it means that Sweetie is not in the brothel where creepy customers show attention to Sweetie. That is good news, and I am grasping at straws of good news for this baby who has stolen my heart and the heart of the WAR world.

Last time I was in India, I took a high-end house warming gift from America to give the “Madame” as a good will gesture. Gift giving is very typical Asian tradition. It simply reminds her that I have not given up; I am her friend; I want Sweetie and the conversation will not go away as long as I live. In Asian culture, there is no other hope except to build a relationship that requires “give and take.” There is really nothing this woman can give me so the unspoken hope is that she will be constantly reminded of my passion for this tiny baby. Relationships in Asia mean everything, and that is where the true power and ability to “call in chips” comes from. Not only that, but I also genuinely care for this Madam who God thrust in my path. She too is a little girl whose cries were never heard, but who grew up to be the “owner” rather than the “owned.” She is still controlled by the man she calls her “boyfriend,” who is the corrupt government official. If he gives me Sweetie, maybe I’ll pray for him. Okay I’ll start now, in faith.

We are asking you to gather up your prayer warriors near and far and take this week and month to pray on bended knee for God’s mighty hand to move in the hearts of both the Madame and her boyfriend. God’s plan for the future is unknown, but we do know that His hand is on this precious child and He has promised to “never leave nor forsake” her. Let us pray together for His will to be done.

If Sweetie is to be released to a safe home, where she will hear of freedom in Christ, it will be because of the prayers of God’s people who cry out to the Father of the Fatherless. As we move into Mother’s and Father’s Day…let’s make this our prayer. Then, God alone will receive the credit for this miracle! Scripture repeatedly tells us to be the voice for those who have no voice! That is our earthly calling!

Fighting for Sweetie until there is no breath left in me,

Becky McDonald


Women At Risk, International

“Land of the Free:” Hidden risk in America

Every year, hundreds of thousands immigrate to America. For many, America is the land of opportunity where they can make a better life for their families. But the American promise of “liberty and justice for all” never comes true in the lives of some immigrants. For people like Mai, justice in America is hard to come by.

Mai was lured to America on a false promise. Hoping she could support her family back in Vietnam, she accepted a “high-paying” restaurant job. But Mai’s employer smuggled her into America, telling Mai she’d have to work to repay the cost of her relocation. She worked grueling hours in the restaurant, receiving almost no wage. Mai lived in fear, knowing that her employer could have her family’s home taken away. Without legal status or any knowledge of English, Mai had nowhere to turn for escape. (Department of Justice, 2014)

 Eventually, Mai’s employer was caught and pled guilty to forced labor trafficking.  Mai and seven others were finally released from their abuse. But thousands more immigrants like her are manipulated by their employers in the “land of the free,” cheated out of their hard-earned work.

About Illegal Immigration

 More than 8 million workers, like Mai, are illegal immigrants. But why don’t they just come to America legally? The answer is not simple. Many employers in America, particularly in the agriculture and manufacturing industries, continuously hire illegal immigrants—75% of whom are from Mexico or Central America. (Department of Homeland Security, 2012). Most of these immigrants are drawn by the chance to earn more money for their families. In fact, job opportunities for illegal immigrants far outnumber the legal visas that the United States offers each year. And the process for legally immigrating is difficult and expensive, often taking years to complete. Skilled and educated workers are favored, meaning that underprivileged immigrants who come to America out of financial need have little chance of a legal path. For them, illegally working in the United States can be the fastest and easiest option for improving their family’s situation. (USA Today, 2011)

About Immigrant Risk

No matter their legal status, immigrants, as humans, deserve dignity. But undocumented workers in America are at a much higher risk for labor abuses. Low economic status, language barriers, and fear of deportation make these workers extremely vulnerable to unfair work practices and outright exploitation. Undocumented workers who are injured on the job have no resources for compensation, and many others don’t even receive full wages. A landmark survey of undocumented Los Angeles workers found that more than three-quarters frequently worked off-the-clock or did not receive overtime pay. (The National Employment Law Project, 2013).

 This wage theft is rampant among undocumented employees, but they can rarely fight back. Increased enforcement of immigration laws in the United States has made it easier for employers to threaten deportation in order to manipulate workers. With one simple call to local police, an employer can spark deportation proceedings that lead all the way up to the Department of Homeland Security.

 José, a day laborer, was hired by an independent contractor to pave the parking lot of a local business. After ten hours of hard work, he asked for his pay. But the employer threatened him and drove off, returning soon after with the police. He falsely accused José of stealing from him, and José was taken into custody. Although he was eventually cleared of these bogus charges, the police still turned José over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Now José worries he’ll be forced out of the country, all because he asked for his fair pay.

Workers like José know that a small complaint about an employer can put more than just their job at risk—they risk their family’s entire livelihood in America. With mouths to feed back home, most laborers simply endure abuses at work in order to continue providing for their families. They choose to stay silent if the alternative is losing their income, or even being deported away from their children.

 Mistreatment for migrant workers extends beyond just wages. Women working in low-pay agricultural or factory jobs are at greater risk for sexual harassment, coercion, and even assault. A recent PBS documentary called the sexual exploitation of female agricultural workers an “epidemic.” Corrupt supervisors threaten firing, violence, or deportation in order to take advantage of female workers. These women are forced to sacrifice their dignity for the sake of their jobs and families. (Frontline, 2013)

The Fight for Human Dignity

 Undocumented men and women come to America for better opportunities, only to find that many Americans view them purely as criminals. Yet when they face criminal exploitation from corrupt employers, they have nowhere to turn for help. Some organizations are working to change this, seeking to pass or enforce laws that protect undocumented workers from employer retaliation. Others fight for immigration reform so that exploited workers no longer have to live in fear.

Chicago 2012-BeckyAt Women at Risk, we seek to build circles of protection around exploited people, ensuring safety and dignity for the women and families who are denied basic human rights in our own country. Our Civilian First Responder conference offers people like you the chance to be an advocate for those in your community who are at risk of exploitation. By attending a conference, you can learn to recognize risks like these, hiding in your own community.

 If there are immigrant families in your community, build relationships with them. Find out ways you can help them feel more at home—perhaps they have experienced unfair treatment at work. Or maybe they’d simply like to be welcomed in their neighborhood. From the organizational to the individual level, we all play a part in making America a place of “justice for all.” Each one of us can be a voice for the voiceless.

Sex Tourism: The Dark Side of Spring Break

Spring Break provides an ideal excuse to escape from home. With the kids out of school, you can trade dreary, gray and brown landscapes for palm trees and azure skies. Boots can be tossed into the corner and exchanged for flip flops. Sand castles replace snowmen, beach chairs substitute for office chairs, and thundering seas displace frozen puddles of slush. For seven days, your world is filled with warm sunshine, frosty drinks, and the unmistakable scents of chlorine and sun screen.

As wonderful as spring break is, it offers a potential for sinister activities, like sex tourism. This industry treats sex as just another visitor attraction, and it can also open doors for human trafficking. Some tourists venture away from home for the purpose of going to bed with strangers; others buy prostitutes on an impulse. Whatever the case, perpetrators can be male or female, and victims can be men, women, or children.

Sex tourism exists in several different countries, but some common destinations include Thailand, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines, and the Netherlands (specifically Amsterdam). But it’s more than an international problem; it can also occur in our homeland, particularly in sensual cities like Las Vegas and Montreal, Quebec (also known as the sex tourism capital of North America) (Baklinski 2013). In some of these areas, prostitution is legal (countries that permit prostitution may see higher rates of human trafficking, evidence suggests [Cho, Dreher, and Neumayer 2013]). In other areas, laws are lax and easy to evade.

Perhaps the most troubling segment of sex tourism is that which sells children under the age of 18. And it’s not just pedophiles that purchase sex from minors. Most child sex tourists are “situational”—that is, they are not exclusively attracted to children (as are pedophiles). Rather, they are experimenters. Traveling to other countries or cities offers them the perfect opportunity to do this because of the “anonymity and impunity” it entails (The Code). Those who pursue these activities may try to rationalize them by assuring themselves, “This is helping [the victim] survive/make a living” or “Things are different in this country.”

These are convenient lies. The sex tourism industry is toxic for victims caught in its web, imparting onto them multitudes of problems: dangerous pregnancy, STDs, psychological trauma, substance addiction, bodily damage, and poverty. It is nothing short of abuse. And it doesn’t matter where in the world perpetrators are, nor does it matter what a specific country’s policy is; thanks to the PROTECT Act, U.S. citizens are considered criminals when they exploit children, and those found guilty will be imprisoned for a maximum of thirty years.

In spite of legislation, a fourth of the world’s international child sex tourists come from North America, according to End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT) (as cited in Martin, 2013). We have made progress, but our work here is far from over.

There are several ways you can help during this spring break. Supporting Threads of Hope, located in the Philippines, is one. In a country where sex tourism thrives, this organization offers an empowering alternative to walking the streets at night: weaving beautiful bracelets, which you can purchase through the WAR Chest Boutique. When you knot the ends around your wrist, you can rest assured that you have granted a new life to a human soul.

If you are involved in the tourism industry, you have a special and unique privilege to combat this form of human trafficking. When working directly with clients—or speaking with those who do—inform them about sex tourism and encourage them to take action alongside of you. Your company can also join organizations like the Code, which will provide you with tools and resources to fight child sex tourism. Flight attendants and other airline workers can help, too, by educating themselves about the signs of human trafficking and watching for potential victims.

Whether you decide to stay home or venture abroad this spring break, make sure to enjoy some quality time with your family. But also seize the opportunity to boycott sexual exploitation. Say “no” to pornography, casual sex, strip clubs, wet t-shirt contests, and other activities that objectify people. The heart of human trafficking—the mechanism by which it continues—is the demand for commercialized sex. So refuse to fuel it, and encourage others to do the same. In doing this—or anything else to stop sex tourism—you will begin to loosen the chains of modern-day slavery.