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Purchase with a Purpose: Creating a Sanctuary for Survivors of Human Trafficking

Neither of the founders of iSanctuary expected to be engaged in business as mission, particularly not in the area of helping victims of the commercial sexual exploitation industry. However, after spending time in India, Stephanie and Wendy saw needs that they could not turn away from and decided to act. In Stephanie’s case, a magazine article about sex slaves captured her heart. Wendy first visited India and “fell in love with the country and its culture, but was haunted by the incredible poverty.” The two met on this trip and found a common desire to be a part of providing hope and facilitating freedom for these women in whatever way they could.

International Sanctuary (iSanctuary) was founded in 2007 and began working with young women in shelters in India. The organization aims to live out its name by being a sanctuary for survivors, a safe environment that contributes to their being able to transition from surviving to thriving. They generate revenue through the sale of jewelry and also offer educational and support programs to survivors of human trafficking in both India and the United States.

The founders of iSanctuary visited India, as a part of separate missionary-type journeys. Each felt a pull toward taking action that lasted well after their scheduled trips. They determined early in their business life to avoid an outward label of being a “Christian organization” and many of the individuals who have served their organization faithfully have been volunteers who do not share a common faith with the founders. However, throughout their journey, the leaders of iSanctuary have sought God’s direction. They share that despite a lack of previous experience, God has shown them way and provided guidance. He is also central to their business ethics and choices. Read more

Imagine This: People Are An Organization’s Best Resource

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

Dear BAM Mentor,

I work in Human Resources in a BAM initiative in Nepal. We’re working on developing a discipleship program and ways to develop our staff as people. We’re exploring ideas for one-on-one mentorship and weekly values teachings, maybe going through a book together? Does anyone have any recommendations and/or resources they’ve used? Also ways they’ve made this kind of staff development work for employees who are illiterate?  

~ Needing Advice in Nepal

Dear Needing Advice,

People are the most important part of any organization. This is the case for both the employees of the organization, as well as the clients which the organization is seeking to serve. Effectively valuing people is always a challenge in practice. This is even more so the case when the organization employs the very people it seeks to serve – people who are worthy of dignity and respect, and yet who may not yet have the hard and soft skills needed to succeed.

One way to deal with this gap in where they are now, versus where they need to be to succeed, is to have a dual-structured company in which the employees who are ready to face customers work on the front line, whereas employees who are still early in their healing process work in a more private space – where greater emphases can be placed on their personal development though discipleship, mentoring, etc. and where greater grace can be offered as they learn the soft-skills such as showing up to work on time, work ethic, etc. This can help at a practical level to help the business succeed without having to sacrifice employees who aren’t yet optimal, as well as not making the business suffer because of its commitment to patiently helping employees mature. And yet, in doing so, it is important not to make certain employees feel like they are second-class citizens, but rather to communicate that all employees are valued members of the team no matter where they are in their personal and professional development process. Thankfully, modern human resource development theory supports the value of developing employees – all employees, not just those who are also “clients.” Read more

Creating Jobs for the Exploited: a Vital Need and a Unique Challenge

Employment and Employability

Human trafficking feeds on economically depressed and unstable communities. In these communities, the general population is desperately searching for employment (often in another city or country) and economic opportunity is seen as dependent upon an outside force. In such a climate, families can be tricked into selling one or more of their children. Desperation for work and transience create a potent mix that leaves people vulnerable to exploitation, particularly young women. The creation of jobs in such vulnerable communities prevents many from entering the trade – whether out of desperation or trickery. BAM enterprises, economic development and other job creation approaches can effectively work in these communities to raise families out of poverty and reduce vulnerability. This is vitally important, however, does not necessarily require an in depth understanding of the complexities of anti-trafficking work.

On the other hand, those who seek to create jobs and provide employment for individuals who have previously been victimized by human trafficking and sexual exploitation must consider unique challenges arising from this situation. Although there are many facets to the development and restoration of these individuals, finding secure employment is a basic need that must be met in that process. There are many challenges associated with creating employment opportunities for these individuals, along with helping employees gain the skills needed to sustain employment. These can be minimized by a keen awareness of needs, resources and the overall restoration journey. Read more

Evaluating Business Ideas for Freedom Business Startups

by Christa Crawford

 

What are the most important questions to ask myself when evaluating a business opportunity?

My background is Business for Freedom – that is using business to bring freedom to people who would otherwise be trapped in trafficking, prostitution, or other forms of exploitation. The traditional model for reaching these people is the charity model, but in recent years there is a movement toward business, including business as mission. As such, much of my audience knows very little about business basics. For them, I would say that the most important questions are:

  • Is this business a good fit for the market?
  • Is this business a good fit for me?
  • Is there someone who can do this business better, and how can we partner together?

Is this business a good fit for the market? While this question may seem basic to business people, to many getting started in business for freedom the first question they ask themselves is “What can we sell?”, where they should really be asking, “What do people want to buy?” We must ensure that we are selling products that have the demand and quality to sell on their own, and not merely as “pity purchases.” Read more

In Business for Freedom: Fighting the Business of the Sex Trade with Business as Mission

It is estimated that between 12 and 27 million people globally are currently caught in human trafficking and exploited for their labor or sexual services. In a report by Dall Oglio to the UN General Assembly in 2004, he stated that 10 billion dollars are exchanged every year in the sex industry. Putting this number in perspective, of the 186 member countries in the International Monetary Fund in 2004; 81 of those members had national GDPs that were less than the amount of money generated by the sex industry that year.

To begin combating the monstrosities represented by these numbers, we must recognize that trafficking is an industry and the sex trade is a business. These are economically driven enterprises.

Trafficking was first defined by the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Put in the simplest of terms: it is the recruitment, transfer or keeping of humans for the purpose of exploitation. According to the US Department of State report Trafficking in Persons (2007), human trafficking is the world’s third largest criminal enterprise after drugs and weapons. While the exact numbers for these three enterprises are understandably hard to obtain, it is speculated that human trafficking has more recently taken the number two spot over weapons. There is more money to be made in human trafficking, and less chance of being caught or punished. The entire chain of distributors will earn a profit, the product is less capital intensive and the ‘merchandise’ can be sold over and over again. Understanding the sex trade as an economic enterprise means we must intentionally and systematically consider the use of business as a strategy to fight the trade on both a macro and micro level. Read more

Business and the Body: Burgers, Burma and Keeping Connected

From the rooftops you can see it. The personality of the land shifts as the row of buildings stretches towards the river shore. There is a gap there, the space for the river that marks the border, and on the opposite shore the skyline is again lifted by buildings. The buildings on either side of the border hide secrets behind their darkened windows and signs. These are the real stories behind the international headlines about war and human trafficking, about refugees fleeing persecution. The stories are reflected on faces around town – the people that have ended their journey at this border town where the river divides Burma from Thailand.

Set into the curve of the river on the Thai side is a small city, unremarkable by Asian standards. Bustling with local Thais, NGO and aid workers, adventure-seeking tourists, and the quieter but prominent refugee community; the unspoken undercurrent is ‘we’re all here, hoping for the best, and doing the best we can.’ It’s a promising setting, ready to receive the incoming ‘Friendship Highway’, which is said will unify these Asian countries with trade partnerships and tourism. New buildings and malls dotting the cityscape are the first evidence of a hoped-for economic boom. The new road is not all good news. It will also provide a thoroughfare for the darker trade of humans, vulnerable to poverty and traffickers. Read more

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