Celebrating Easter and Springtime In a Pandemic

Celebrating Easter and Springtime In a Pandemic

It’s early in the morning and I step outside the door. It just rained the day before, so there’s water in the air: Springtime in Houston. As I savor a moment of quiet before my daughter wakes up, I think about what I am going to do to celebrate Easter this year. Coronavirus has disrupted our lives and displaced us from our home.

My partner works in healthcare and so we made the difficult decision to divide and isolate our family to protect our 16 month-old daughter. We are fortunate to have the resources to be able to make this decision and to move in with my parents, so their house has become a multi-generational home. 

Like a lot of parents navigating their families through this unprecedented time, we seek to create a sense of normalcy for our children and ourselves.

 

Like you, we are establishing new routines where the old ones don’t fit. This is easier said than done, especially when you are struggling to find work, struggling to work from home, or struggling to survive the day. 

To be honest, I had not thought much about Easter or Spring in the pandemic. Life had become too chaotic, switching hourly between the job of Mom and Abolitionist, disjointed at times with a news alerts that were ever-changing, and at the end of the day, I just longed for a sense of peace. 

This morning, as I breathe in the dewy Spring air, I try to focus on building that normalcy.

 

Easter and Springtime can conjure images of rainy days, blossoming lilies, and bunnies. It can be hard to focus on keeping traditions and old routines during a pandemic, mourning what we have lost.

This year would have been my daughter’s first official Easter Egg Hunt and I worry that it won’t be special without the traditional activities and gatherings.  At UAHT, one of our core values is Adaptability, and this is definitely a situation where I channel this particular value.

I’m amazed at how I’ve seen you and this community adapting to our circumstances.

Since Springtime can also be a time for renewal, I decide to let go of what I had thought Easter should be and welcome what it is this year.

I have gathered some environmentally sustainable and Fair Trade ideas to help your family and friends practice social distancing while celebrating the season. 

1. Dye Eggs with Kitchen Basics

Eggs can be hard to come by during the pandemic, but if you have some, The Spruce Crafts shares a number of ways to color eggs that would be a great activity to engage the children. The most basic involves food coloring or Kool-aid. 

2. Use Toilet Paper Rolls for Spring and Easter Crafts

If you are not into prepping and coloring eggs, try collecting all the toilet paper rolls you have accumulated in quarantine and turn them into art. Consumer Queen curates 15 awesome Easter toilet paper roll crafts, some of which you will want to keep crafting as Spring rolls along. 

3. Fill Easter Baskets with Fair Trade Chocolate

If you are short on time and have the means, a couple of businesses are offering bundles that are ready-made and ethically sourced. A 2nd Cup may have temporarily closed their doors, but they have put together some cute baskets (with Fair Trade chocolates) for Pick-up or Delivery. If you want one, you will have to order pronto, because they are going fast. You can also restock your pantry and get some of your favorite morning roast while you’re at it. 

4. Try a Fair Trade Recipe

These tumultuous times are a good time for connecting and grounding yourself. Gather your family and friends virtually and try the same Fair Trade recipe. Fair Trade USA, the body that created the Fair Trade Certified label, has worked with chefs, influencers, and producers to create recipes using Fair Trade ingredients.

My weekly pick is the Avocado Chocolate Mousse, because 1) it seems simple enough that a baking novice like me could make it, 2) avocados were on sale at Sprouts and 3) I scored Fair Trade Certified chocolate chips at Whole Foods. 

5. Relieve Your Stress with A Well-Deserved Bath

Need a little TLC for yourself or want to send a gift to a loved one? Lush has great Easter and Spring bath bombs that are adorable and smell amazing. As you indulge in a little self-care with Lush, you are supporting fair wages, environmental sustainability and good working conditions. 

I hope these ideas inspire you to renew old traditions and create new ones this Spring. My daughter and I will likely be indulging in some toilet paper roll-play and eating Fair Trade chocolate chips straight out of the bag. At UAHT, we hope you have a lovely week with family, friends, and loved ones near and far. 

Clear Vision. Steady Pace. Bright Future.

Clear Vision. Steady Pace. Bright Future.

Dear Partner,

If you’re like us, you blinked and not only a new year, but an entire new decade appeared at your doorstep!

The past few years we’ve kept a laser focus on our goal to strategically expand and serve more victims, so within moments, a decade passed.

Yet, we are fully prepared and pumped to walk through that door, not simply because time ushers us, but because the synergy of our past victories, planning, and expansion joyfully compels us into the next season of serving.

In the past 10 years, our organization and the global fight for freedom dramatically grew to a well-developed movement. We have strong partners, clear strategy, and an unwavering commitment to end human trafficking.

We honor the incredible victories that paved our path into the next decade. 

Over the last ten years, we’ve had the pleasure of training over 100,000 individuals, including 65,000 of our city’s front-line professionals to recognize and respond to both sex and labor trafficking

In the last three years, we’ve connected 210 victims to resources to break free and trained 12,667 youth on how to stay safe from traffickers.

Additionally, we were honored when the FBI recognized our expertise in 2014 and presented UAHT with the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award.

That same year, we changed our name from the Rescue and Restore Coalition to United Against Human Trafficking. The Rescue and Restore Coalition is now a division of UAHT and an integral part of our fabric.

Our new name reflects our deep commitment to unifying an entire movement and creating a space where all are welcome to join the fight.

And what an honor it has been to serve alongside so many wonderful individuals!

UAHT staff, board, volunteers, donors, coalition partners, and so many more make the magic happen.

This past year especially exemplified the beauty of unity, inclusiveness, and diversity of thought. These characteristics are at the heart of everything we do. We provide a safe place for all to serve as well as honor the true heroes in the fight to end human trafficking—the survivors.

We are also thrilled to report that in 2019, our database to connect human trafficking service-providers officially launched. Dubbed “The Pathway,” it is the first system to harness the desire of service providers to collaborate in a tangible way.

It serves as a pathway to freedom for victims of human trafficking by ensuring they are connected to the resources that fight their specific needs.

Finally, it’s a great joy to announce we moved into our second location! Located in the East End, this space is dedicated to serving our clients as our direct services expands.

As 2020 launches, we are filled with gratitude and joy as we reflect on the past decade. We understand what a privilege it is to serve the most vulnerable in our society. As we serve, we bring freedom and justice to the forefront of the anti-human trafficking movement in Houston. We unite, lead, inspire, and transform the landscape of our great city. We’re committed to leading with grace and love, while eradicating the injustice of human trafficking.

We’re grateful you continue to stand alongside us in the fight to end human trafficking. Our vision is clear, our pace is steady, and our future is brighter than ever before!

With love and gratitude,

Timeka Walker, LMSW | Executive Director

Is Human Trafficking the Worst It’s Ever Been?

Is Human Trafficking the Worst It’s Ever Been?

The human trafficking hotline has received more reports of human trafficking than ever before.

In its first year, the hotline received just over 3,000 reports of human trafficking in the U.S. The hotline became inundated with calls as years passed, reaching 10,949 reports in 2018.

It’s heartbreaking to know so many calls are flooding in with reports of human trafficking. The lives of those exploited are ravaged by this human rights violation. Our clients report going without food and living in homes without walls, forced into harsh labor environments and sexual compliance. Human trafficking unfolds in our hometown and those enduring this horrific reality demand our empathy and action.

As reports of unthinkable abuse climb, many people fearfully conclude that traffickers are winning – that human trafficking is the worst it has ever been. Truthfully, they might be right. We instinctively feel overwhelmed and powerless. But these numbers have an upside: you are exposing this hidden crime.

The first conclusion:

Human trafficking is the worst it’s ever been

It’s true – there have been more reports to the hotline than ever before, with Texas reporting the second most cases each year.

Just like you, we see articles on human trafficking flood websites – some stories are so close to home. We see girls who picked up cameras and shared their near kidnapping experiences on social media, warning against traffickers.

It’s tempting to assume that more reports mean that trafficking is happening more than ever. It’s easy to slip into fear, constantly looking over your shoulder.

But we believe that these reports indicate an increase in community awareness and action. And now, we have the resources and networks to support the survivors that we do find. 

The second conclusion:

Human trafficking is being fought harder than ever before

(more…)

7 Holiday Gifts that Fight Human Trafficking

7 Holiday Gifts that Fight Human Trafficking

“What can I do to help fight human trafficking?”

It’s the most common question we hear from you, our motivated community.

Every day, you can disrupt the cycle of abuse. You can change lives through gift giving. You don’t need to work at a non-profit or receive special training. Shopping for friends, family, and even a treat for yourself, ensures that survivors stay free and abuse ends.

How is shopping a solution?

Buying gifts from brands that pay fair wages, hire survivors, and invest in their community, keeps people free. You ensure that a farm worker can provide for her family and that a sex trafficking victim can stay away from his captor.

Imagine a creative and skilled survivor just learned that someone purchased a necklace made by her hands. A smile lights up her face as she remembers she is loved and capable because you choose to buy her craft – rather than her body.

Each purchase is an encouragement to press on into pursing a fair and free future. We’ve made it easy for you to fight human trafficking through gift giving. Look at our fun list below. There is something for everyone!

for the chocolate lover

Guilt free chocolate is a favorite for everyone. This decadent chocolate made in Sugar Land, Texas is not only fair trade, but delicious! This handcrafted chocolate is sure to be loved by your kids, spouse, or friend.

If you’re not feeling adventurous with the raspberry flavor, they keep stocked with the standards – milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and white chocolate. They even have a KETO chocolate bar for your health-conscious friends and other fruit flavors to try!

for the fashionista

The fashionistas in your life know that bold headwraps are an essential accessory for this season. The Sparrow Studio has this ideal Egyptian Fan Headwrap for just $14 dollars. You don’t have to choose between inexpensive or ethically sourced. A cooperative of 27 talented, creative women in Kigali, Rwanda handmake these accessories. These hard working are women are creating a business that fuels hope in their community.

These headwraps make a perfect stocking stuffer! Check out all the colorful patterns. Smaller sizes are available for young kids.

for  him

Treat the man in your life to this classy shave bag. Why? This purchase provides a sustainable source of income for survivors! Hilltop of Hope by Sugar Creek Baptist Church is dedicated to restoring victims of human trafficking in the red light districts of South Asia. All of the profit allows them to escape their captors and rebuild their lives.

for the kids

This fun hat is crafted by refugee women in Houston. Ending exploitation also means supporting the people traffickers target. The Community Cloth provides training and peer support for displaced women. This expands market opportunities for refuges as they create homes in an unfamiliar country. Warm your little one with these sweet, cozy hats. This is just one of the many kinds of clothing, home goods, and accessories that these hardworking women create.

for the techie

We all know techies care about details. These computer sleeves have a top zipper computer compartment with extra padding on back. The front zipper compartment has three net pockets for cords and accessories. Coming in all kinds of colors, patterns, and sizes, there’s a perfect one for the technical person you want to treat. The women at Hilltop of Hope are not only survivors of sex trafficking, they are advocates returning to the red-light district to give hope to other victims.

for the party host

It seems like everywhere you turn, there is a subscription box coming out. Food, clothes, books, and accessories are just a few examples. But what about a subscription that serves survivors of human trafficking here in Houston? Every month you’ll receive a beautiful candle, each one made by a trafficking survivor in our city. If you know someone who lights a candle for every occasion, this is the gift for them.

Elijah Rising provides long-term care for adult survivors of sex trafficking. They teach candle-making and business skills to survivors. These survivors are building a sustainable career and a bright future.

for her

Heirlooms are valuable because they tell the story of someone that is meaningful. This beautiful necklace is not only made by a trafficking survivor in the U.S., but it has the maker’s initials inscribed on it. When you receive the necklace, you can visit the website and read that survivor’s story. The best part? You can even send an encouraging message to the survivor who made your jewelry!
Skip the shipping lag time by visiting A 2nd Cup in the Heights! Grab a cup of fair trade coffee and peruse their store; you’ll find many of these brands there!

You can feel good about these gifts, knowing that they prevent abuse and support survivors.

From all of our team, have a wonderful and restful holiday season!

3 Survivors You Helped in 2019

3 Survivors You Helped in 2019

As we near the end of 2019, we want to say thank you. Your support throughout the year ensures that we can work in our community, helping people understand human trafficking and supporting those who have endured it. You are the reason that it’s possible.

Because of you, 89 victims are reciving care.

Because of you, over 8,000 community members can spot and report trafficking.

Because of you, over 3,000 teenagers can protect themselves from traffickers.

We can’t wait to share a few stories of the people you helped in 2019:

Zoe

Sitting in her principal’s office, Zoe’s knee bounced rapidly as she uttered the scariest words to ever escape her mouth, “I need help.”

Zoe was being trafficked and she knew 3 other girls who were too.

Due to a complicated family life, Zoe always wore the same dirty clothes and never seemed to wear deodorant. She ran away from home a few times and frequently skipped school.

At just 12-years-old, Zoe caught a boy’s interest. He showered her with new clothes, shoes, and credit cards. Soon, she became his girlfriend. Zoe longed to leave her troubled home and fully commit to her generous boyfriend.

In the veil of darkness, she crept out her front door to her boyfriend’s car, leaving home for good. Then everything changed.

The boy sold Zoe for sex at a hotel on the Southwest side of Houston. Night after night, men raped her while her boyfriend profited.

Two years later, Zoe attended one of our youth workshops at her school. (Yes, while being trafficked she still attended school like any other teenager!) She learned what human trafficking was and realized that was her story. Although confused and scared, she didn’t ask for help – yet.

After enduring life with her pimp for another year, she was desperate to get out.

Remembering our workshop, she knew exactly where she could find help. She confided in her principal and asked to speak to us. As soon as she got a call from the principal, Au’Vonnie, our Youth Specialist, leapt into action. She rushed to the school to meet with Zoe and patiently listened to her heart wrenching story. Au’Vonnie connected Zoe to people who gave her a place to rest, warm food, clean clothes, and counseling.

As you read this, Zoe has a safe place to sleep. Now she has an advocate. Now she has someone she can trust. All because of YOU.

Robert

As Robert munched on his BBQ sandwich, he soaked in the sounds around him: upbeat music playing over the loudspeakers, birds chirping, cars whizzing past on the freeway.

Amid it all, he overheard a young woman, “labor trafficking is when someone forces or tricks you into doing something you don’t want to do so they can make money.”

Robert didn’t know anyone at the plastic table, but he piped up anyway, “Hey! Labor trafficking… I think that’s what’s happening to me.”

The young woman introduced herself, “I’m Briana; I work for an organization that can help. Tell me what’s going on.”

Living on the streets, Robert found an opportunity that would improve his fortune. A man offered him a construction job. The pay included wages, a place to sleep in a new home, food to eat, and laundry services. Robert excitedly accepted the position.

He moved into the house, yet realized it was barely a house. No walls, no sheetrock, it was just wooden beams and insulation. Robert’s boss promised that it would be finished soon. But for now, if he wanted a job, he would have to live there and share the space with others.

Robert labored outside in the Houston heat, constructing homes and beautifying landscapes, but his boss refused to provide food or water. Dehydrated and hungry, Robert couldn’t even afford to buy his own lunch because his boss withheld most of Robert’s paycheck for “rent and miscellaneous charges.”

Exhausted, Robert finally had enough. He quit. Robert’s boss demanded he gather the necessary belongings for the day and come back later for the rest. But when Robert tried to retrieve the rest of his belongings, the boss threatened to keep everything unless Robert agreed to work for him again.

After our Outreach Specialist Briana listened to Robert’s story, she connected him to the Department of Labor, which is currently reviewing his case in hopes of getting Robert’s wages back.

Today, Robert has a new job working for a fair and kind employer who gives him a ride to work and provides lunch. Now, Robert affords his own safe apartment—one filled with more than just wooden beams and insulation, but with a cozy bed and a kitchen.

 

Yet there are thousands of men in Houston with a similar story as Robert’s. We know you are as outraged as we are at this injustice. Will you give a gift to help end their exploitation and give them a chance to experience the freedom we all enjoy?

Rene

“Here’s how you can contact us at UAHT,” Sarah concluded, gesturing to the screen.

The crowd, full of non-profit workers and government employees, slowly stowed away their note pads and pens and traipsed through the door. Except for one person.

Rene quickly strode to the front of the room, where Sarah just turned off the projector. Her eyebrows lowered with concern as she whispered, “I think one of my girls is being trafficked.”

Rene works for the Juvenile Probation Department and alarm bells went off in her head as she listened to our Education Coordinator Sarah highlight red flags of trafficking. Rene recalled a 14-year-old girl in her care who was known for running away, skipping school, and leaving in the middle of the night. On her forearm was a tattoo of a man’s name.

“What can I do?” Rene asked with hope in her voice.

Rene set up a time for our Youth Specialist, Au’Vonnie, to meet the girl. After sharing her story, it was clear—she was a victim of trafficking.

Au’Vonnie connected the girl and her parents to an advocate who is guiding her through the long-term recovery process. She’s safe because Rene attended our training and knew what to look out for.

Because of generous supporters like you, we train thousands of people to engage in this fight within their current work.

We are deeply grateful for your impact in these survivors’ lives. As we approach the season of giving, will you ensure the gift of freedom for our men, women, and children? Your support means more people like Zoe, Robert, and Rene live free from exploitation.

3 Fair Trade Halloween Candy That Are Affordable

3 Fair Trade Halloween Candy That Are Affordable

Halloween is just around the corner! As you stock up on candy for Trick or Treaters, consider offering fair trade treats!

We know that finding fair trade halloween candy can be challenging, and when you do find ethically-sourced treats, they can be quite expensive! So we made it easy and did the research for you. Here are 3 affordable candy options that don’t use slave labor:

1. Skull & Ghost Lollipops
by Wholesome

These perfectly themed lollipops are just $12.99 for 30 suckers! 

Based on the simple idea that the products we buy and sell are connected to the livelihoods of others, fair trade is a way to make a conscious choice for a better world.” – Fair Trade Certified

2. Halloween Gummy Snacks by Surf Sweets

Gummy snacks are a great alternative to hard candies or chocolate! You get 20 packs of these spooky snacks for $20.

“Demand quality, not just in the product you buy, but in the life of the person who made it.” – Orsola de Castro

3. Milk Chocolate Minis
by Equal Exchange

You can’t go wrong with classic milk chocolate bites! Get 150 pieces for $32!

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Orsola de Castro

We hope you enjoy these fair trade candies! Have you found any other affordable fair trade Halloween candy that we should know about? Let us know!

 

Wishing you a happy, safe, and fair Halloween!