[find us around 34 seconds!]
This past Saturday, Bloggers Against Social Injustice(BASI) co-founder Christine, and a group of friends from New York, attend our spotlight charity's 3rd Annual Freedom Walk! Our chosen charity, [free-them], is "an initiative to partner with people, organizations, & businesses to fight human trafficking– the modern slave trade." It consists of all volunteers! The purpose of the walk was more than raising funds, but raising awareness of human trafficking taking place right in Toronto, Canada.
We raised $660 to go towards this initiative which will help rescue and rehabilitate victims of human trafficking.
Come with me and experience our walk for freedom through this blog post. I truly hope you feel like you were there with us! And remember, you always have a chance to make a difference and be a light, it just takes the courage to take that first step!
[Written by: Christine, founder and co-editor of BASI]
So Here We Go!!!
5am Wake up, get ready, go!
9am Arrival to Toronto, Canada after passing border patrol, Niagara Falls & Lake Erie! I invited friends from the area to join me in the Freedom Walk. Together we helped raise awareness of human trafficking, and represented BASI in both the United States and Canada!
9:30am Registration. Smooth and easy because we were pre-registered! See the blanket of purple? That is their color for FREEDOM!
|Left to right: Darlene and David filling out pre-registration forms|
10:30am We had our photos taken on the "purple carpet" in our DIY screen print/dip dye/cut-out shirts I made. It was really fun, and all the volunteers there were so enthusiastic and purposeful... you could tell by just standing next to them! You know those people who just ooze amazingness? That would be them!
|Left to Right: Jas, Christine(me), Darlene (former Miss.New York), Marc, David|
11am Darlene, Miss. New York 2010-2011, was interviewed by [free-them]. I actually met her in my college psychology lecture nearly 3 years ago. When I asked her if she wanted to come with us, she loved the idea of raising awareness to help FIGHT human trafficking!
11:30am Ready to hear amazing speakers who are people, just like you and me, that are taking a hold of legislation, helping RESCUE people who are being trafficked, taking action to educate others, and taking action to motivate people to take part in this campaign for change!
|I was super impressed and goosebumps lined my skin when I heard the passion in the tone of this high school representative of Youth Troopers For Global Awareness. He rapped a poem for us which hit on so many of the global issues prevalent in our society today. This organization plans on opening a fair trade cafe, meaning all the food will be purchased from known sources which are regulated, free of human rights violations.|
" One thought... committed"
She is such a catalyst for change, with a beautiful soul. It reminded me that one person CAN start a movement to change the world! "Her dreams became a reality and it showed that nothing is unattainable." -Randy, PR for [free-them]. Invidiata shared how her parents always told her to dream and believe in her dreams. This is exactly what she did! Her speech ended with a much deserved standing-ovation. Because she believed in her dreams she was able to change lives and motivate an entire nation! Take a peek at her blog and be inspired by all she has done to raise awareness and create change HERE!
"Never doubt that a group of thoughtful and committed citizens make a change. Each one of you in this room are changing our nation(Canada). Even if you don't know it- you are changing history right here today."
|Christine (Me), scribbling many notes while listening to the many amazing advocate speakers.|
Joy Smith, a member of Canadian Parliament, was also a speaker. She is doing so much work with the government to combat human trafficking. Smith reminded me that the children of the world are OUR children too! My eyes were opened to how much politics plays into global problems sometimes for the worst, but Smith is using it for the better. Smith referred to us as heroes because we were taking a stand for change. She also reminded us that it is the citizens who need to push for change. Smith told us all, "We are the future... if we don't make a difference, who in our generation will?" Check out what she has done to help combat modern-day slavery HERE.
"Take a risk for one more girl, one more boy... go one more."
--Joy Smith, Canadian Parliament Member
Constable Lepa Jankovic was another one to share their story of their FIGHT against human trafficking. Just his past April, Jankovic worked to help bring down the largest known human trafficking ring in Canadian history. See article HERE. According to another speaker, she is one to never take no for an answer when it comes to freeing victims of human trafficking. Jankovic told us that she would go knocking on the doors of officials every day until they would allow her to look more into a case which she felt could have a possible case of human trafficking. Her efforts are making a difference, and it is government heroes like her who are not always seen, but should be remembered and thanked for their efforts. (So I thanked her for her work after she spoke and shook her hand- what an honor!)
1pm I took a picture with Timea, a victim of human trafficking, forced to be an exotic dancer until she escaped. Now she works with her anti-human trafficking organization, Walk With Me, which helps RESCUE victims of human trafficking in Canada, and finds them places to live upon rescue so they can restart their lives. I purchased her book which tells her story- she signed it too!
|Left to right: Christine(me), Timea Nagy, Darlene (Miss.New York 2010-2011)|
Timea Nagy, victim of human trafficking, was yet another of the incredible advocates combating modern day slavery. She is a survivor of sex slavery. In her adorable accent she began to speak into the podium and told us she would try not to cry(but she actually did have tears rolling down her cheeks by the middle of her speech).
When Nagy arrived to Canada from her country she was forced to become an exotic dancer and was sexually and mentally abused. She escaped! After her escape she sought out assistance from the local law enforcement... but back then there were no organizations to help people survive after being trafficked. This is why she started Walk With Me; she knows what it is like to be in their shoes. At first, she volunteered her time to help rescue victims but it came to the point where she was forced to quit her job because there was not enough time in a day to both work and help rescue. At this point in her life, all the money she spent came straight out of her pocket. This is when one of her friends told her she should not speak again without being paid for it. Jokingly she told us, "I told him, 'Okay then, give me 5 dollars.'" Now she dedicates all her time to Walk With Me, to help bring people out of the night mare she once lived.
20 hours to save 7 lives that otherwise would have been executed in their home countries. Yes, with many phone calls in a 20 hour span, she helped save 7 lives. These problems which rise with the crisis of human trafficking are what Nagy fights against. From Nagy we can learn that just because we may have suffered in the past does not mean our lives are over. We can take our bad experiences, and use them to help others and make a difference.
1:15pm The walk to raise awareness of FREEDOM begins! I was amazed at the diversity of people, all ages, many races, and even dogs came to tell Canada they WILL NOT STAND for human trafficking. The government and people alike have a duty to show that they stand to combat the trafficking of persons.
I met representative Kavita from We Talk Women. This woman's organization strives to "invoke change by informing the public of rights abuses faced by girls and women across the globe today." She actually recognized me through Facebook pictures!
|Children for Freedom|
You can see David (left) chanting with the 700+ group!
"What do we want? FREEDOM!"
"When do we want it? NOW!"
|Loved ones for Freedom|
Children and puppies for Freedom
|Covering Toronto, Canada in a blanket of purple- the color of Freedom.|
Fashion bloggers for Freedom
2pm Conclusion of the Freedom Walk. We weren't suppose to release our balloons, but I suppose some people just couldn't resist... Balloons for Freedom!
800+ attendees of the Freedom Walk! We are in the center by the white sign reading "END". You can see Darlene's (Miss.New York) crown and banner if you look close enough!
|Left to right: Shae Invidiata (founder), Darlene (Miss. New York), Randy (head of PR @randyme77)|
"Say it & speak it into existence."
--Shae Invidiata, founder of [free-them]
--Shae Invidiata, founder of [free-them]
2:30pm I was lucky enough to snag an interview with the founder of [free-them].
Summarized interview with [free-them] founder, Shae Invidiata
1. What were you doing at age 20?
In Hawaii for a study abroad program. This is where I began to learn about the industry (human trafficking), it was happening right on my street. I began to learn that the word "prostitute" which we equate often with "choice" should be replaced with "prostituted."
2. What sparked your interest in a campaign targeting fashion?
My vision is to create consumer activism, to create tags for clothing, and partner with fair trade brands and allow them to use our [free-them] label.
3. What is the easiest way for college students to get involved?
Do something... something fun that combines your passion and hobbies. Even a fashion show with a line that resembles a depiction of freedom or fair trade featuring upcoming designers from your college!
4. What was your biggest social media outlet to help you campaign and spread the word about events like today's Freedom Walk?
Twitter, definitely twitter! Facebook is good for press releases and big events. Twitter over Facebook. Our email-blasts also helps a lot too.
5. You are a real estate agent. How do you incorporate advocacy into your everyday life and find time to do it all?
My clients and staff have to be supportive of me, but I can't always say yes to everything I am asked to do (pertaining to speaking events).
6. How did you feel when you first heard about human trafficking? Was it like a passion to bring change?
I had a heavy heart... a very big burden like a weight on my shoulders. It wasn't like a burning passion, it was hard because it wasn't something I really wanted to do as much as something I felt a heavy burden to do.
7. How do you spark interest in people who are not interested in taking part in bringing about change?
Make it personal! People are being forced (to have sex to make money for a pimp) 10-15 times a day. Everyone was born and has a mother and father. What if it was them? What if it was your sister? It is always someone's sister, someone's daughter. If you believe in a higher being or God, or are a human being on earth, it is your sister or brother. If you call yourself a human... it is your sister because all are created from God. You can look the other way, but you can't say you didn't know!
3:30pm We spent the extra time exploring Toronto, Canada and got home around 10pm. What an amazing day! I wish you were all there with us! But heads up... committee member Donna is organizing a BASI event in Philippines to take a stand against human trafficking too! So if you are from the Philippines, or even Singapore, contact us!