Upcoming Labor Trafficking Panel: Join the Conversation!

If you’d like to learn more about what it means to shop ethically and be an informed consumer, come join the conversation with Fierce Freedom on Tuesday, October 2nd, from 7:00pm – 9:00pm for our first ever Labor Trafficking Panel.

The evening will take place at Ambient Inks, an Eau Claire based print shop that partners with several fair-trade companies to create a wide array of ethically-sourced goods.

Executive Director at Fierce Freedom, Jenny Almquist, will join the panel to speak about what labor trafficking looks like domestically and how to be aware of a consumer’s role in the process. Other panelists include Aaron Brice, Co-Director and Co-founder of Ambient Inks, and Emile Schaut, stylist for “Tailor” and alumnus from UW-Stout’s Retail Merchandising and Management program.

After some words from our panel, the floor will open for the audience to ask our panelists questions. Attendees can also look forward to special deals on new fair-trade Fierce Freedom merchandise that will be available for purchase.

Fab Finds at Fierce Freedom Etsy Store

We are thrilled to announce the opening of our online Etsy store! We strive to offer a range of high quality, ethically-sourced products that help raise awareness of our mission to end human trafficking and exploitation. Every purchase will go towards public education about this issue and to create opportunities for victims. Visit our shop @FierceFreedomECStore for some fab finds you’ll both love and feel good about.

Meet Fierce Freedom’s Newest Staff Member, Tia-janae Johnson

By: Tia-Janae Johnson, Survivor Advocate

In November of 2017, while living in Oregon, I was invited by a woman named Kimberly Brune to go on a 6-month mission trip to Cape Town South Africa to fight against human trafficking. This opportunity stirred up many emotions inside me, leading to the realization that fighting trafficking was my calling.

After living in Oregon for two years, I moved back to my hometown in Wisconsin where I had family, some very good friends, and connections with people who were also fighting trafficking. In 2011, I had attended one of Fierce Freedom’s first events hosted by Harvestime Church. During the presentation, myself and a few others were asked by the presenter, Dave Malone, if we would be willing to share what brought us to the event. I shared parts of my own story with the group that opened many eyes in the room; trafficking does in fact occur right here in our town in ways not commonly projected. This sparked a very special relationship between me and Fierce Freedom Co-Founder and Executive Director Jenny Almquist. Jenny was able to pour into me while building a trusting, real, loving relationship with me over the next five years.

Once I moved home I couldn’t stop thinking about the issue of trafficking in my own hometown. I had a passion to advocate for the women in my community- those who are being overlooked, who don’t feel worthy, and who need a way out and someone to care. In my position as a Survivor Advocate, I hope to bring to the table an experienced, keen eye and a genuine connection with the victims that Fierce Freedom fights for.

Become a Freedom Fighter with Fierce Freedom Advocates

By: Cat Jacoby, Public Relations and Program Coordinator

Have you ever attended one of our presentations and wanted to do more? Is your heart burdened for the issue of human trafficking and exploitation but you’re unsure about how to move forward? I want to share with you a upcoming opportunity with Fierce Freedom, Fierce Freedom Advocates. This may be your next step to equip you to educate others and become a certified freedom fighter in your own hometown.

With education being at the heart of our mission, we feel that the natural progression is to build on this through the development a multi-layered online learning course. This series of trainings will first guide the user through a comprehensive look at both sex and labor trafficking. Once an assessment of their knowledge is completed and passed, they will progress to a more in-depth look at the three pieces of the puzzle- traffickers, victims, and buyers. The next learning module focuses on ways to fight trafficking through a broader approach, through legislation and at the community level through one’s personal sphere of influence. The final module finishes with some steps for personal development as an advocate, and tools for success to put in your Fierce Freedom Advocate toolbox.

While Fierce Freedom will continue to educate our local communities about modern-day slavery and exploitation in our hometowns, we also have a vision to equip others across the nation who share this passion. Our hope is that Fierce Freedom Advocates could be the spark that helps spread the message like wildfire in other communities nationwide. Be watching our website at fiercefreedom.org for more information about Fierce Freedom Advocates, set to launch later this fall.

Never Say Never

By: Jenny Almquist, Co-Founder and Executive Director

Since we started our organization we have said that we do not, and likely never will, provide direct services to victims who have been sex or labor trafficked- our mission is to educate! We all know that we should never say never! The truth in that statement is that we do educate, and education will continue to be the foundation of our mission and work. However, this past year has shown us that human trafficking is complicated and educating needs to go hand in hand with serving this marginalized population.

Over the past six months, we have gone from talking to people who are concerned about the issue of human trafficking to directly assisting 10 women (some with families and young children) who have recently escaped or are in the process of being rescued from trafficking. We are working directly with local and state law enforcement toward the arrests of those who are preying on the marginalized. We had the tremendous privilege of being part of the rescue of a woman and her child this summer.

The more that we dive into this dark and complicated world, we know that education and resources are more important than ever. This includes the need to seriously address the issue of demand. Though our first reaction is often anger and disgust, it is important to understand that it is a slippery slope that often starts with one seemingly harmless click. So many men and women get caught up in the addiction of pornography, which often leads to buying sex. During Human Trafficking Awareness Month in January, we will hit this issue hard with our focus being on buyers. We will share difficult stories that help shed light into the darkness of demand.

Summer often brings different opportunities for us since most of our education happens during the school year with school presentations and other scheduled programming. This summer we have focused on training agencies who provide services such as help for runaways, trauma- informed counseling, domestic abuse shelters and correctional facilities. We have also had the opportunity for our information to be translated. We are just a little bit excited about this!

The phone calls that we receive to help at-risk youth have far exceeded our ability to serve that population. We are looking at ways to serve this population in a meaningful and impactful way. This will most likely look like community wide educational opportunities where we partner with other agencies and churches in our community.

Our other big project this summer has been the launch of Fierce Freedom Advocates. We are happy to announce that this is ready to go to a focus group followed by our soft launch this fall. The timing of this seems perfect since we have people from all over the country asking to use our materials to educate their communities. Our reach this month has been from Florida to California. Who would have guessed?

I posted on facebook earlier this month about the rescue that we were able to be part of. In that post I mentioned the importance of every single one of you. Our small staff can’t do this on our own. We need volunteers with specific skills, we need people who will commit to pray for us and we need each of you to speak into your sphere of influence.

I would also ask you to give financially. To accomplish all the opportunities that I spoke of in this article, we will need funding. The beauty of being privately funded is that each of you is invested in what we are doing to make change in our communities. Just last week we had state agencies comment about how remarkable it is that Fierce Freedom has so much public support and funding – we agree! To do all that I listed above, we need you! We have people ask all the time what that looks like. It could be purchasing from our Etsy store, holding a garage sale to raise funds for us, hosting Birthday for a Cause for your next birthday, considering a corporate sponsorship- the sky is the limit. Every single penny is important to us. Please help us be the change to make a real difference in our communities.

Meet Noah Hanson, Fierce Freedom’s Spring Intern

Noah Hanson is Fierce Freedom’s spring intern, a senior at UW-Eau Claire majoring in Social Work. Noah has worked hard on variety of projects, and has been a great asset to Fierce Freedom this semester. Some of the highlights include Cookies for Cops, planning the Super Bowl Rally, a trip to Madison to learn more about the legislative process, organizing the Night of Freedom & Hope, researching and presenting on labor trafficking in the chocolate industry as part of the Reducing Your Slavery Footprint series, and completing the first of five presentations of the Empower Youth Program at the local Juvenile Detention Center. We wish Noah all the best as he is graduating in May, and know that he will continue on as a force for good in the world!

Welcome to Cat Jacoby, Fierce Freedom’s Newest Staff Member

Cat is thrilled to join such an amazing organization and work alongside an incredible team of social justice warriors. Her passion for this cause was sparked into flame during college while being part of International Justice Mission and after attending a Fierce Freedom hosted event at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She looks forward to advocating for victims of these crimes by working with both policymakers and the public to both spread awareness and bring hope to the hopeless.

Cat studied public relations during undergrad and received her BA from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2016. She is returning to the Midwest after living in Boston to work in her field and is excited to bring both her educational and professional experiences to Fierce Freedom.

For Me, It’s Personal

By: Jenny Almquist, Co-Founder and Executive Director

Several months ago I was at a wedding where the groom stood at the front of the church just before the ceremony and personally welcomed the guests. One thing he said was “Please know that everything we do today in this ceremony is on purpose – we are not just going through the motions. We made every decision for a reason.”

That simple statement made the entire ceremony personal not only for the couple but for each person attending as well. In a similar way, I hope that at Fierce Freedom we never just go through the motions to get to the end of our mission. We strive to be intentional in what we do and that is why I want to share the following with you.

Lately I have been giving a lot of thought to issues around us in our world today. There are many! So I would like to ask you, is human trafficking and exploitation in our culture an issue to you or is it personal? Let me explain. Most of us these days know that human trafficking and exploitation is an “issue”. We hear about it on the news, our friends and colleagues may talk about it, we see billboards or posters. It’s an issue.

On the other hand, when I personally first heard of human trafficking in 2007 I had young children and I was horrified that this was happening in our world. I honestly felt like these people were coming for my kids. That is personal! I felt something and it now affected my world. This year at Fierce Freedom we would like to help you move from this being an issue that somebody needs to address to bringing it home to you, helping you see human trafficking and exploitation in your personal world and sphere of influence.

I would like to introduce you to our friend, Tia. She is a strong, smart young woman and she has a personal story of how she survived being exploited. Please watch:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EA8C2xHNtpM

It’s Personal has become a theme for Fierce Freedom this year. Has human trafficking and exploitation become personal for you? Do you have a story to share with us? We would like to hear about it. You can do that by emailing jenny@fiercefreedom.org, message us on facebook or call the office at 715.514.2890. We would love to hear from you (we will not share your story without your permission).

Reducing Your Slavery Footprint

By: Jodi Emerson, Public Policy and Community Relations

As Fierce Freedom continues to grow, we are always developing new programming. While we have primarily focused on awareness about sex trafficking in the past, we feel compelled to include some programming around labor trafficking and how that affects us in the Chippewa Valley.

In March, we started a new series called Reducing Your Slavery Footprint. Each month we are looking at a different industry and trying to give people actionable ways to ensure that they are not supporting slave labor with their purchases.

There are an estimated 46 million victims of human trafficking in the world today. While a majority of those people are not enslaved in the United States, purchases that we make every day do support those businesses that use labor trafficking to get their products to market.

We have chosen six industries to focus on over the next six months. We chose these industries both because they use a lot of slave labor, and because there are small things we can do to change our buying habits in each of these areas that will make big changes in the world.

If you have ever been in the Fierce Freedom office, you know that we usually have a chocolate supply on hand. In March, we held an event at the office focusing on chocolate, which included an educational presentation and a chocolate sampling. A significant portion of the chocolate produced in the world relies on child slave labor. When you think about how many child slaves are involved in the chocolate industry, it makes chocolate not taste as good.

The best way to avoid slave labor in your chocolate is to buy chocolate with Fair Trade, Rain Forest Alliance or Equal Exchange certifications on the label. Also, organic chocolate is grown in Latin America and most labor trafficking in the chocolate industry is done in Western Africa. Buying organic chocolate doesn’t guarantee that your chocolate is not made with slave labor, but if you can’t find Fair Trade chocolate organic is a good option.

Be sure to watch the Fierce Freedom facebook page and website for information and educational presentations in the Reducing Your Slavery Footprint series:

March: Chocolate

April: Coffee

May: Produce

June: Jewelry

July: Electronics

August: Clothing

Fierce Freedom Neillsville Launch

By: Jessica Reints, Fierce Freedom Neillsville Volunteer

Fierce Freedom of Neillsville is happy to announce its official launch! We are comprised of a small group of amazing people, with a variety of skills and knowledge. Many of us have worked in the mental health, medical, or corrections fields as well as having worked closely with youth victims of sex trafficking in residential treatment facilities.

While some of us were working at a treatment facility in Clark County, we received intense training about sex trafficking which completely opened our eyes to what a problem this issue is in our state. We knew that we couldn’t keep quiet with this information and had to educate our friends and families about it. We then got in contact with Jenny and Jodi from Fierce Freedom in Altoona and hit it off. Without these wonderful ladies, we would not be where we are today. They have supported and encouraged us in our efforts, and have recently given us the opportunity to become Fierce Freedom of Neillsville.

Fierce Freedom of Neillsville has been working hard the last few months educating community members about what sex trafficking really is and spreading awareness wherever we go. We offer presentations, literature, community events, and a toolbox full of other resources. In a short amount of time we have already done employee training and presentations for our Personal Development Center who works with victims of domestic violence, an educational presentation for a youth group’s confirmation class in Stratford, an interview with a local non-profit Dylan’s Den, attended the Tattoos for Triumph event in Stevens Point, did an educational presentation in partnership with Fierce Freedom at Lutheran Social Services in Eau Claire and attended events with Fierce Freedom like the #Notinmytown Super Bowl Rally to continue the fight against this issue. Fierce Freedom of Neillsville is continuing to reach out to possible clients in Clark, Jackson, Wood, Eau Claire and LaCrosse Counties. Our group is passionate about this cause! We are striving to broaden our knowledge and educate as many people as possible.

If you’d like more information about Fierce Freedom of Neillsville, you can contact us at fiercefreedom.org or on our Facebook page Fierce Freedom of Neillsville.