Looking back and looking ahead

The phone rang in our office and a woman on the other end of the line said “please talk to my daughter— she has been sex trafficked.” Our new friend agreed to come to the office and she told us her horrific story. She spoke of when she was a young girl sold over and over again to older men in our community to do un-speakable acts.

After speaking with our friend, I am relieved to say that we were able to connect her with local authorities. It was especially important because our friend is dying from cancer and she only wanted to be heard so that she could be sure that the details of her story were told to local officials now in her last days. I wish that each of you who have support our cause could have been in our office that day. Just to hear her say that she is now at peace because she knows that people finally know that truth was so empowering.

During the past year we have heard the highest highs and the lowest lows. Along with stories like the one above, we have seen people stepping up to see exploitation of youth and the sale of something that should never be sold stopped.

Thinking back on the past year I can’t help but think of all of the courage that we saw unfold in front of us. I felt with all certainty that we chose the right name for our organization – Fierce Freedom. Though I rarely feel “fierce” myself, I believe that I have come to an understanding of fierce this year.

Fierce comes from the Latin ferus ‘wild animal.’ It means strong, proud, dangerous and ready to roar. Fierce can also be used to mean intense.

Yes! That is fierce. However let me also tell you of what I have seen to be fierce. This past year I have seen weak and broken women stand up and say NO to further exploitation. I have seen shy and timid people stand in front of groups of people to talk about this crime and what it is doing to our youth. I have seen people quietly but fiercely give of their finances to see that our law makers understand what trafficking looks in WI – laws are changed in our state, enforced in our counties and our vulnerable neighbors cared for.

The coming year holds huge promise for fierce change around us. Our focus will be to train hotel staff how to recognize human trafficking and how to protect those who may be in danger. This program is called Be Aware and we are proud to partner with Visit Eau Claire and the Eau Claire Police Department for this endeavor.

Along with Be Aware we have presentations scheduled a year out with many exciting opportunities to prevent human sex and labor trafficking in the Chippewa Valley, throughout Wisconsin and in our neighboring states. It is because of these timely opportunities that I want to ask you to consider giving generously as we complete this calendar year. Your tax-deductible gift will help us bring the message of freedom and hope to thousands of youth and at-risk students in our area.

Please make plans to join us for our Night of Freedom and Hope on Thursday, February 23rd at the Lismore Hotel in Eau Claire, WI. This will be a great opportunity to hear how local lives have been impacted and changed through the efforts of freedom fighters on our team. Consider purchasing your tickets early or sponsoring a table—or coming early to bid on amazing silent auction items (details coming soon). We are excited to corporately celebrate the progress that has been made to eradicate local human trafficking.
From everyone here at Fierce Freedom, Merry Christmas and a very happy, safe and fierce New Year!

Jenny Almquist,
Fierce Freedom, Executive Director

Movie Night

Bring your popcorn and get ready to help us spread awareness by attending some of our upcoming movie screenings. We are screening two movies over the next few months and we would love for you to join us. Both movies are free and open to the public. Please see upcoming events for exact times and places.

Chosen: By Shared Hope International. This movie is meant for middle school and high school students and those that interact with that age group.

Learn the shocking true story of two teen girls tricked by traffickers. Brianna, 18, was a star student, cheerleader and waitress eager to break out of her small town to attend college in the big city. Lacy, 13, enjoyed church and school but struggled to help care for her siblings while her stepfather was deployed and mother worked to support the family. Brianna and Lacy share how traffickers used manipulation to lure them into the world of sex trafficking.

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, is a hard-hitting documentary that exposes the disturbing trends in modern sex slavery. From the very first scene, Nefarious ushers you into the nightmare of sex slavery that hundreds of thousands experience daily. You’ll see where slaves are sold (often in developed, affluent countries), where they work and are confined. You’ll hear first-hand interviews with real victims and traffickers, along with expert analysis from international humanitarian leaders. From initial recruitment to victim liberation––and everything between–– the previously veiled underworld of sex slavery is uncovered in the groundbreaking, tell-all Nefarious: Merchant of Souls.

 

Upcoming Events

Sept 29 – Menomonie Public Library – Chosen 6.30

Oct 3 – Eau Claire Public Library – Chosen 7PM

Oct 9 – Parkview Baptist Church, Black River Falls WI – 8:15AM and 10:30AM

Oct 20 – Corporate Partnership and Just us for Justice Run Sponsorship meeting

Oct 23 – Alliance Church of Menomonie – Nefarious Documentary 6PM

Nov 2 – St. Matthew’s Church, Eau Claire – Tough Conversations (how to talk to students about porn and sex trafficking) 6:30PM

Nov 4 – Private Event 3-5PM

Nov 6 – Chippewa Valley Bible Church – Nefarious Documentary 7PM

Nov 12 – Fair Trade craft event at Down To Earth – T-shirts and gifts for sale for Fierce Freedom funding

Nov 13 – Colfax Bethany Lutheran Church Women’s Group 6PM

Dec 1 – Private Event 11AM

Dec 3 – FF Staff and Volunteer Christmas Party

Dec 7 – State Taskforce Meeting

Jennifer McBride, Fierce Freedom President

Owner of VES Environmental Solutions, LLC., Acer Trading Group, LLC. (CEO), VES Asia, LLC. and VES Environmental Solutions Europe Limited (2008-Present)

My interest and involvement in Fierce Freedom comes from my many years of traveling the world and seeing the impact of Human Trafficking. From a business perspective, I strive to help other businesses understand the impact of Human Trafficking not only in our community but around the world. I have a passionate belief that education is the key to understanding the truth about Human Trafficking. When we educate others on the truth of what Human Trafficking is, what it looks like and look for those who are enslaved, only then will it motivate someone to make a difference.

Note from the Director

By Jenny Almquist

As a growing organization it is critical that members of the Board of Directors are dedicated to our mission. I alone could never lead this organization—nor would I want to! I couldn’t be more proud and thankful for this group that brings their expertise and leadership to see “modern-day slavery exposed in our home-towns.”

In my organizational position, I know that it is critical to have a healthy and well-rounded board. It will be my pleasure to introduce each of them over the next few months.

This month, I would like to introduce you to our Board President; Jennifer McBride.

Jennifer took over as President last spring and I am grateful for her leadership and passion to fight human trafficking right here in the upper-Midwest.

 

Apps that fight human trafficking

By Jodi Emerson

We live in a digital age. We’ve seen how websites have made human trafficking available to the masses. But did you also know that there are many websites and apps out there to help fight trafficking? Fierce Freedom has spent some time looking at a few and would like to offer our thoughts on them.

TraffickCam by Exchange Initiative

This app allows the user to take pictures of a hotel room and record the city and room number of the hotel. This is important because much of the sex trafficking that happens in the U.S. happens in hotel rooms and many of the ads posted contain pictures of people in hotel rooms. The app developers are in the process of assembling a database of hotel rooms so that when law enforcement finds a picture in a hotel room, they can compare it to the database and narrow down the search for the victim.

Pros: Easy to use. Makes the user feel like they are doing something to fight trafficking. There are warning signs listed in the app so it educates people while they are helping fight trafficking.

Cons: Room database is not available yet. Rooms get remodeled so pictures can be outdated.

Sweat and Toil: Child Labor and Forced Labor by US Department of Labor

This app deals with overseas labor trafficking that is so hard to fight. The app allows the user to look up goods by area or country to determine if child labor or forced labor is used in the production of the item. This app is wonderful because the majority of human trafficking that happens worldwide is labor trafficking and this app helps people make smart decisions with their consumer dollars.

Pros: Easy to use. You can look up items by type or by country. Has numerous categories which reinforces what a big problem labor trafficking is throughout the world.

Cons: Organizations of all sorts manufacture projects and we know that there can be good and bad businesses in the same area. This app does not include the United States, so it gives the appearance that labor trafficking does not happen in this country.

The STOP APP-End human trafficking by 5Si

This app allows you to record instances when you suspect human trafficking is happening. We do not -recommend this app be used. If you see something, contact local police and then call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888.

Pros: Gives good information about what to look for and warns the user to report to local law enforcement first and them second.

Cons: Puts the user in dangerous situations of playing cop. Traffickers are dangerous individuals and often will react violently if they are afraid they are being recorded.

BAN Human Trafficking! by Inellex and Lifeboat ACT game by Jill  Cohen                                                        

These gaming apps allow the user to act out scenarios of how traffickers take advantage of people and groom them for a life of trafficking. Both of these apps put you in the shoes of someone in either an everyday situation or a desperate situation so you can understand how easily someone can be tricked into doing something they would have never imagined doing.

Pros: Great way to start a conversation with teenagers about human trafficking. Helps you understand what a victim goes through. Learn lessons while playing a game.

Con: The STOP APP was developed in Europe, so it would be easy for users to assume trafficking doesn’t happen in America. Remember that trafficking can happen anywhere and apply the scenarios to your neighborhood.

Apps are great tools as we work to educate everyone that modern day slavery is happening in our hometowns. But we must use them carefully. Never put yourself in danger. If you see something happening, contact local police. Please do your part to educate yourself and those around you to fight the fastest growing crime on the planet.

9th Annual Just Us for Justice Run

By Jessie Podolak

The 9th Annual Just Us for Justice Run was a huge success this July.  Despite dangerously high temperatures, runners (674 of them), volunteers (175 of them) and supporters headed to Carson Park to support Fierce Freedom and International Justice Mission.  Over $27,000 was raised to fight human trafficking and modern day slavery!

This year, Fierce Freedom began to transition into a new role for the race. Race founder, Jessie Podolak, approached Jenny earlier this year and asked her to consider having Fierce Freedom take over the leadership of the event.  This would allow many of the people who express a desire to “do something” to help fight trafficking to participate in a tangible event that IS making a difference globally, regionally and locally.  Jessie thought it would also take the race to the next level, bringing a fresh perspective and creativity to the table.

Fierce Freedom has accepted this challenge and is excited to transition into the role of “Event Coordinator.”  Some things will change in the upcoming years as Fierce Freedom takes on this role.  While International Justice Mission will still receive donations from the event, a higher percentage of resources will stay local, so we can fight trafficking here in our own back yard.  In addition, some logistical aspects of the run itself will change, as we hire out a chip timing company, and other details that will come together.

However, many things will stay the same.  Race leaders will continue to embrace a community driven event, with sponsors from various businesses and churches (multiple denominations) being represented.  We will continue to strive to put on an event that the entire family can enjoy, and hope to expand our children’s activities.  We will continue to use the event as a platform for educating our community as well as raising funds, and hope to inspire a new generation of freedom warriors!

This is a great step for Fierce Freedom and for the future of the Just Us for Justice Run!  As the 10th anniversary of the run approaches, we look forward to celebrating the work accomplished and pushing on to new goals ahead!

 

Freedom and Food

 Have you ever wondered what you can do to help fight trafficking but don’t know where to start? Join us for our Freedom and Food event and help raise money to fight trafficking here in the Chippewa Valley. The Food and Freedom event will be at the Altoona Family Restaurant (2000 N Hillcrest Parkway in Altoona) on May 16th and the Chippewa Family Restaurant (1701 Kennedy Road in Chippewa Falls) on June 9th. Enjoy the wonderful food at these restaurants and a portion of the day’s sale will be donated to Fierce Freedom. We will have staff and volunteers available throughout the day to answer questions about local human trafficking issues. Please join us!

Faith Community’s Response to Human Trafficking

On April 7th, Fierce Freedom will be sponsoring an event aimed at helping area faith communities identify and fight human trafficking. The event will feature talks from Pastor Steve Rutter, Pastor James Whatley, Jodi Emerson of Fierce Freedom, Lt Ryan Dahlgren of the Eau Claire Police and Jessie Podolak founder of the Just Us for Justice Run. The event will be at St Matthew Church in Eau Claire and will start at 10 AM. Registration is appreciated. Please contact jodi@fiercefreedom.org to register.

Looking Forward to 2016

Several years ago I was giving a presentation when I stated that I believe that modern-day slavery can be abolished in our generation. One person in the crowd was quite vocal about the impossibility of that goal. However, we at Fierce Freedom believe it to be completely possible and with your help, it is becoming a reality!

This year we have seen some very practical ways that the anti-trafficking movement is making a difference here in the Chippewa Valley. One example is that a young lady who volunteers with Fierce Freedom was approached by a trafficker in the parking lot of a local coffee shop. She knew the trafficking warning signs but just as important, she knew that “something just didn’t feel right.” Even though she educates youth about the trappings of sex trafficking, she was almost lured into a trap that could have endangered her life. I am so happy to say that she is safe and continues to tell her story to youth – helping them to see how this could happen to each of them.

Its stories like that which keep us going. Last month we had a young lady tell us that she heard us speak at her school several years ago, and because of that presentation, she realized that she was being groomed to be trafficked. She was able to make some safe choices, therefore taking herself out of an at-risk situation. We know that trafficking statistics are hard to come by, but we do know for sure that 50% of the time that we speak to any given group we encounter someone who is affected by trafficking. We can do that because of your investment into Fierce Freedom.

This coming year we have many exciting opportunities. In January we are partnering with the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire to give an anti-trafficking seminar to continuing education students and community members on how to combat human trafficking in rural Wisconsin.  We are also actively involved in training area law-enforcement, providing anti-trafficking training on university and college campuses as well as outreach into area school districts.  Along with those very exciting opportunities, we are thrilled to be part of the first ever State of Wisconsin anti human trafficking taskforce. In fact, here is a quote from one of our State Representatives: “…thank you for testifying at the public hearing on Safe Harbor legislation to protect children. You are very informed and an important voice on this issue… “       – Jill Billings

2016 marks our 9th year of educating the public about local human trafficking. We have made some good headway but this coming year looks like nothing we have seen so far, with state-level opportunities and trainings for organizations that will make decisions for thousands of children, women and men in the state of Wisconsin.  Will you join us in exposing modern-day slavery in our hometowns? We have so much opportunity to do so much good this coming year. You have the opportunity to make a difference with us to help the enslaved and exploited. Please join us!

With much gratitude,

Dave and Jenny Almquist

Fierce Freedom, Founders