Daily Inspiration: Meet Rebecca McDonald

Author: VoyageMichigan Magazine
September 2022

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebecca McDonald.

Hi Rebecca, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.

I had the greatest privilege in the world of growing up on the Indian Subcontinent in Bangladesh and Pakistan. As a tiny child, my father, an American surgeon, took me to the golden land of Bangladesh. I attended boarding school in Pakistan. All my formative years were spent in lands steeped in Islam. My playmates were mostly Muslims but Hindu and Buddhist as well. My earliest memories are of “playing house,” which meant making “curry” from our mud pies and praying on “make-believe” prayer mats.

At the age of 14, a watershed experience set me on the course of action that my life has followed ever since. My family stayed through the bitter war of independence from Pakistan. The carnage for women was especially horrific. In the poor countryside, women were property bought and sold in a marriage contract. As in all wars, property is attacked. The women were no exception.

Every day I went to my father’s hospital after school to pack 300 units of relief after the war for the most destitute families. I had a helper and playmate. Her name was Neehru, and she, too was 14.

Neehru was a Muslim girl that had been thrown away at my feet by the men of her family for the crime of resisting rape. It is not common for Bengali men to rape their women, but every culture of the world has predatory men and women.

Neehru’s real crime was that she fought back. To teach her she was only property with no voice and no right to fight back, they poured acid down her throat and burned her vocal cords forever. This is a frequent occurrence. The acid of Neehru’s suffering burned a hole in my heart and set me on the pathway that I have been on ever since, of giving voice to the silenced cries of women and children.

My passion is to create safe places around women and children at risk wrapping arms of love around them and empowering them to rewrite the stories of their lives. Since returning to America, I have added to my efforts to open the eyes of my American sisters to the plight of women globally.

In 2006, Women at Risk International became a registered, separate 501c3 entity, even though I had been reaching out to women decades prior. Our goal at WAR, Int’l is to see captives set free; to address 14 different risk issues that prey on vulnerable men, women, and children. We are partnered with more than 171 individuals and organizations in 45 countries, and we continue to bring a voice to the voiceless through these partnerships.

WAR, Int’l now has a storefront boutique & online boutique filled with items made by rescued women from all around the world – including here in the United States through our US Training Center program in Michigan. We invite people to shop with a purpose, bringing hope and dignity to women who have suffered lives of trauma and exploitation. We want to be a circle of protection for these women.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back, would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?

Firstly, whenever you are a founder & entrepreneur, you are learning organically, from the ground up. There’s not a lot of models to look to & learn from, so you must lead with humility & a good sense of humor to be able to laugh at your mistakes, learn from them & pivot quickly. When excellence is a core value these are vital ingredients & demand a commitment to any obstacle. At the end of the day, every obstacle is an opportunity in disguise.

Women At Risk International addresses 15 risk issues; the one we’re most known for is human slavery. The truth of these stories is dark, horrific, & gut-wrenching. Whenever you present those kinds of stories, it has to be done in a way that your audience, your constituency, and your circle of influence respond not with fear but with a heart of compassion that leads to action. There is a real challenge in presenting this subject with transparency while staying confidential & without eliciting disgust or anger. Those obstacles must be overcome; the goal must be to light a fire of passion to create a legacy of safe places & enlist hearts to use their time, talent & treasure to make a difference.

Secondly, the depth of brokenness & horror that the survivors we serve are subjected to demands an excellence all of its own – safety, confidentiality, trauma-informed care, persistence, & unending compassion must invade every aspect of what you do.

Lastly, when you choose to make your passion an area that is unaddressed by society as a whole, you are the tip of the spear & you will hit walls of ignorance, fear & disbelief. 30 years ago, when I began fighting this century’s fastest-growing arm of crime, slavery, people didn’t know what human trafficking was. Being credible & believable & yet not terrifying your constituency requires a lot of diplomacy & persistence. Today, people know what human trafficking is, so it’s no longer an obstacle. However, they still think it’s a foreign problem & are unaware that the greatest risk is within our own nation, to our own children. Up to 300,000 minors per year, AMERICAN citizens with constitutional rights, are at risk & few are talking about it. There’s no such thing as a smooth ride when you start something that is so unknown. The good news is people really do care – overwhelmingly so – when they are exposed to such broken darkness in a way that shows that rescue & healing really can happen. When you give them practical ways to make a difference from the sanctity of their home to those they love, there’s a genuine response.

Albert Einstein said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” My experience, WAR, Int’l’s experience, is that good people really want to set the captive free, be a circle of protection to those they love & bring hope & healing.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?

What I’m most proud of is the survivors we work with. They are the heroes of the WAR world who have been to hell and back, put their lives back together, risen up & flourish. We have graduated doctors, lawyers, engineers, nurses, mommies, teachers, goat herders, cosmetologists, counselors, bakers, candlestick makers – whatever their dream is. Seeing them go from horrific abuse to powerful individuals is what makes it all worthwhile.

What sets us apart is that we specialize in creating circles of protection around those at risk through value-added, culturally sensitive interventions. We are most known for our fight against one of the many risk issues we address, human trafficking: this century’s fastest-growing arm of crime.

We train the WAR world that there are 4 core values that are unique.

First, we believe in wrap-around, holistic services. We address all the needs of our rescued survivors & operate like an umbrella, where we pull in all their needs.

Secondly, we believe in sustainability. We want our survivors & programs to create revenue streams that pay their overhead so that they are not solely dependent on donations. Ideally, donations are for growth, not for overhead. We’re very intentional in helping diversify & have multiple revenue streams. We do not just rescue but help that individual dream of a future, plan a career path, & find ways to avoid being re-victimized.

Thirdly, we are passionately intentional about cultural sensitivity in all programs. What that means is that in any of our 58 countries, no 2 safehouses will look alike. They must fit the cultural value system of that nation, that people group, in order to be effective & long-lasting.

Finally, we believe that anti-trafficking & addressing risks to marginalized people is timely. This generation, globally, is born with a social justice gene in their DNA. Like never before, when this generation gets into positions of leadership, they are going to address the social ills about them. This gives us great hope for the future.

What do you think about happiness?

There is no joy like seeing a man, woman, or child rescued, restored, & empowered to walk in worth & dignity. Even greater is the luxury of hindsight. We can look back on decades of work & see generational change. When grandparents, parents, & children are all united in an effort to end the risks that plagued their family, environment, and world & are then restored together, that is systemic change. On a personal level, when a survivor finds their voice after being silenced, my joy is boundless. My passion is to help them find their voice, whether it be professionally, physically, emotionally, artistically, musically, in their own way, at their own pace, or in their own time. Longfellow said that the voice is the organ to the soul. Till there’s no breath left in my body, I will use my voice to bring survivors to a place of hope & healing & empower them to find their own voices.

I Call Out

Author: Kayla, WAR, Int’l Intern
September 2022


As a teenager in my late teens, I call out for the injustice being done to my generation. I call out for the voices that are silenced. I call out for freedom and protection for children and teens who are vulnerable. I call out for moms and dads to be involved.

I am calling out because it takes many voices to be heard, and I want to voice something that I see is a problem. Many people, including myself, have believed that our voices don’t have value or won’t make a difference. This is my cry to make a difference—not as a political resume but as a voice of freedom.

I have been given this opportunity to share what is heavy on my heart and to invite you to join me in calling out for freedom!

A Cry for Men, Women, and Children to Take Action!

I look around my country in the land of the free, and I see a lot of brokenness and isolation. I see people vulnerable to being trafficked and exploited. I call out for moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandmas, and grandpas to create circles of protection! We like to turn a blind eye to what’s happening, but we can’t! We have to get uncomfortable and reach out to people who are hurting!

This is our problem! We need to do something. We have an epidemic of slavery transpiring in our country! According to the U.S. State Department, at least 1.5 million people within North America fall victim to sex or labor trafficking. Friends, 1.5 MILLION PEOPLE in North America! Don’t think of that number as merely a statistic but as representative of other human beings like you and me, each with a name and a face, each with their own hopes and dreams, each with their own fears and insecurity. People like you and me who are enslaved and being robbed of their future.

I plead with people to take a risk and step up for the voiceless by educating themselves so they will not be caught off guard! The internet and COVID -19 have changed the face of trafficking as we know it. According to Statista.com, 83% of human trafficking is facilitated through the internet.

The popularity of technology and social media has increased trafficking and made it easier for predators to find victims. In a world where a lot of kids and teens are attached to their phones, it makes sense that traffickers have changed tactics. It is much easier to deceive and entice someone on the internet.

I challenge parents and kids to set up precautions and have conversations about the risks that the internet and social media present. It seems so innocent until it’s not! Traffickers know that kids and teenagers are vulnerable, and they use this to their advantage.

Take a stand today and have a conversation with your kids about internet safety. You can’t put your kids in a box to “protect” them from this issue. Parents need to have open and honest conversations about this topic. Talk about “red flags” and boundaries that can be put in place to safeguard them from being exploited. It means being practical and smart as you handle this new generation of technology at your fingertips. Circle around your kids, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren! They are lonely, confused, and hurting. Being a teenager is not easy, so give grace but also give truth. They need you to circle them in protection and love.

To the teenager and beyond, if there’s anything you take away from this message, know that you have a voice! Will you stand with me to reach out not only to our peers but also to our communities?! Not in anger, but with love and a heart to listen. As I wrap this up, I want to communicate a spirit of humility that I am right there with you wrapped in my own comfort bubble, and this is the beginning for me to break out of my own comfort zone one step at a time. That’s all I ask—to take one step at a time!

This is Kayla calling out!

Hello Fall

September 2022

What a summer it has been here at WAR, Int’l. In June we launched our 1st Mystery Box, and thanks to all you shoppers, we very quickly sold out! With the subsequent success of Mystery Boxes 2 and 3, look for more opportunities to get a great deal as you #ShopWithPurpose.

Another special we offered this summer – 10% off total sales at home parties held during the months of June, July, & August – made a considerable impact. Below, we’ve detailed the significance of these events in rescuing, redeeming, restoring, and empowering vulnerable lives around the globe, including right here in the Land of the Free.

Read on to hear more about the latest and greatest with WAR, Int’l!

Shoutout to Hostesses
By taking advantage of our 10% summer party special, YOU have helped transform the lives of rescued and at-risk men, women, and children around the world. The numbers are still coming in, but so far YOU have sold over $8,000 worth of products! That’s more than enough to support 25 survivors in an international safehouse for an entire month! Thank you for bringing hope to their lives and empowering them to forge a bright new future!

Email party@warinternational.org to schedule your pop-up party today!

The Great Flood at HQ
Bright and early on August 15th, WAR staff members were greeted with water rushing out the side door of our building. Not how they had anticipated starting the new work week, to say the least. Apparently, over the weekend, a plumbing malfunction in the upstairs restroom led to major flooding of the upstairs and eventually the downstairs as well.

In an effort to maintain a sense of humor in the midst of a discouraging turn of events, we’ve dubbed our HQ “Noah’s Ark.” The restoration will take months, but we will prevail. We will continue with the work we are called to do.

To stay up-to-date on the latest, follow our WAR, Int’l Facebook page.

If you wish to help with the costs of restoration, please consider leaving a financial gift here.

Have you Read…???
Our latest blog post is written by no other than our inspiring founder and president, Rebecca McDonald. If you haven’t already had a chance, be sure to check out what she has to say about the transformation of her shopping habits after her experiences of walking alongside survivors and lifting them to lives of dignity. Smile and take heart that you too can make a difference in the lives of the rescued and at-risk by shopping the work of their hands!


Read the latest blog post here!

New Product Highlight
The Committed Necklace is handmade by rescued women and designed to connect an advocate like you to a survivor in the trafficking hubs of Asia. It is not one but two necklaces—one for you, and one created from the inside heart of your necklace and gifted to a woman during outreach in the red light districts. As our partners place the delicate heart around her neck, your gift of a heart speaks the truth that she is neither forgotten nor alone. It sparks courage and opens up the door to freedom.


Commit to ending injustice by purchasing your necklace here!

Mystery Box #3
If you’re looking for a simple-trendy-glitzy-everyday vibe to spruce up any outfit, then MB#3 is just what you need! Handcrafted by at-risk Thai women who are now working with dignity, you contribute to their future with the power of your purchase. Originally valued at $30, this mystery box set is available to you for only $10 while supplies last! Grab yours today at warchestboutique.com!

Don’t forget our Outdoor Market!
Ever run errands after dropping your kids off at school for the day? Before heading home, why not stop at the WAR Chest Boutique to get in on some early Christmas shopping, or better yet, meet up with some other moms to shop with a purpose before grabbing lunch together!

Our Outdoor Market will be open through September and is offering some great deals on jewelry, accessories, and more! Take advantage of the warm weather season while it lasts and enjoy browsing our treasure chest of unique gifts both indoors and outdoors as you support survivors and those at risk with the power of your purchase.

Monday, September 26nd – Light Up Your World

Don’t forget to join for us this month’s Light Up Your World Zoom call! We are honored to have Carrie, a survivor of domestic violence, be part of our conversation with WAR, Int’l founder and president Rebecca McDonald. Carrie will relay the twists and turns of her journey through heartbreak, loss, and abandonment, and how she ultimately discovered spiritual and emotional healing through the ministry of healing prayer. Your heart will be touched by her testimony of God’s redemption and the lessons He has taught her from a place of brokenness. Mark your calendars and join us on Monday, September 26, at 7:30 pm EST. To learn more, follow the link below to our upcoming events page!

Light Up Your World

My Shopping Habits Were Changed Forever

Author: Rebecca McDonald, President & Founder
August 2022


My experiences of rescuing survivors of horrific abuse and teaching them to work with dignity by making artisanal products changed my shopping habits forever.

I was never one to buy shoes, purses, or jewelry. Then I started creating programs for survivors on a global scale and realized they needed a sustainable source of income. I told God, “If I’m going to have to sell something, it has to be beautiful!”

And so it began. WAR, Int’l started selling handcrafted jewelry and accessories made by rescued and at-risk women (and even men) from around the world. Now, I’m a walking mannequin for WAR!

Besides, the day I don’t dress up is the day I will be asked for an interview or meet with a person of influence, and I want to take every opportunity to show off the work of our artisans’ hands! Today, the WAR Chest Boutique has over 7000 unique gifts handcrafted by or sold in support of rescued and at-risk individuals.

The stories of the survivors we support are the heartbeat of our mission, and every product comes with a story card allowing you to read personal stories of men, women, and children who have passed through our programs. Whether they’re made in a preventative or a restorative program, our artisans craft fair trade items within a safe environment where they receive wraparound services designed to rescue, restore, and empower them to live with dignity and purpose.

Shopping with a purpose proves how my meager purchases have the power to change a life forever. Another non-profit that rescues survivors and sells handmade candles as we do says, “A single candle cuts through the darkest night.” Decades of experience have taught me the truth of Dr. Martin Luther King’s statement, “Darkness does not drive out darkness, only light can do that.” Our goal is to shed light on a dark subject and give hope and healing to those who seek safety beneath the shelter of our wings.

When you buy a product from the WAR Chest Boutique, you’re truly a fellow soldier in the fight to set the captives free. You literally jump in the trenches with us lifting the lives of those once trafficked and exploited to jobs with worth and dignity.

I can’t shop at Walmart or JCPenney anymore! I struggle shopping at the dollar store. I don’t know who made their products, their working conditions, if they’re being paid fairly, how they are being cared for, how old they are, or even if they’re free to choose differently. My eyes have been opened.

Every Friday, just for you, we curate a collection of specialty gifts from the WAR Chest Boutique. It is a treasure chest, if you will, of unique and beautiful handcrafted items – like ​jewelry, scarves, accessories, and more – to provide you with moments of opportunity.

-The opportunity to add fresh style to your home and attire.
-The opportunity to equip and empower survivors.
-The opportunity to give a hand up for those at risk to live in freedom.

Please take a moment to shop with a purpose at the WAR Chest Boutique!

Browse this week’s collection at Fresh Finds!

Last Call for Summer

August 2022

We know you want to make the most of your time so we’re here to help you relish the last days of summer with some exciting offers and impactful events! Scroll down to see what’s happening with WAR, Int’l in the month of August. We hope you’ll join us for one last hurrah before summer comes to a close!

Mystery Box #3 is Live!

If you’re anything like the rest of us, you may find yourself standing in front of the mirror and thinking, “I have nothing to wear with this outfit!” If that’s you, the simple-trendy-glitzy-everyday vibe of MB#3 is just what you need! This set will sweetly pair with your jeans and t-shirts. As well as subtly glam up that cute summer dress. And go with that office outfit that needs a bit of pep. Handcrafted by at-risk Thai women who are now working with dignity, you contribute to their future and pay it forward with the power of your purchase. Originally valued at $30, this mystery box set is available to you for only $10 while supplies last! Pop on over to warchestboutique.com and grab yours today!

P.S. You can still get in on MB#2 for a few more days! Just specify that you want MB#2 in the special instructions section at checkout. Offer ends August 5th!

10% Off Special

If you haven’t booked your summer party yet, now is the time! This is the last month to capitalize on our 10% offer, and you don’t want to miss this limited-time opportunity! Link arms with women around the world by scheduling your summer pop-up party today! It can be as simple or elaborate as you choose Get creative and feel free to ask us for ideas on how you can party with a purpose this August!

Contact Party Central!

Monday, August 22nd – Light Up Your World

Don’t forget to join us this month for our Light Up Your World Zoom call with WAR, Int’l founder and president Rebecca McDonald! In this month’s discussion, Becky will be sharing updates on her most recent travels around the globe. Hear about her visits to our partners in Guatemala, Portugal, France, Kenya, and Zambia. Additionally, Becky will also be providing the latest report on WAR’s partnerships in both Ukraine and Moldova. Mark your calendars and join us on Monday, August 22, at 7:30 pm EST. Learn more here!

August 6 – WAR, Int’l Course

Want backstage knowledge about WAR, Int’l? Then the WAR, Int’l Course is for you! Led by founder and president Rebecca McDonald, topics include our history and mission, how programs and partners are developed, the handling of products and sales with artisans, specific ways to get involved, and more. The registration deadline is fast approaching, and space is limited so snag your spot today by registering HERE!

August 10-13 – Unity Festival

WAR, Int’l will be at Unity Fest selling beautiful items handmade by rescued and at-risk individuals. Founder and president Rebecca McDonald will also be speaking on the main stage on the evening of Friday, August 12th. Learn more here!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT!

It may be August, but Christmas is still in the air! If you haven’t had a chance to check out our Christmas in July Featurette, this is your moment! Browse our ‘Merry Medley’ of items and find a treasured gift for yourself or someone you love. By doing so, you extend the light of love to those who need it most. In shopping the work of their hands, you give survivors and those at risk a chance to heal and the opportunity earn an income with dignity!

#ShopToRescue Here