Welcome to the Bridge to Freedom Foundation Blog

Thank you for visiting the Bridge to Freedom Foundation (BTFF) blog, where we look forward to bringing you inside information on the inner-workings of BTFF, inside information on our volunteer team and leadership, in-depth coverage of BTFF and partner events, news and happenings from across the globe and so much more.

Learn more about Bridge to Freedom Foundation and how you can help on the BTFF website. We do hope you will subscribe to and follow our blog and please e-mail us at blog@btff.org if you have any feedback, ideas or contributions.

Thank you for your support!
Cassandra Clifford
Executive Director and Founder of BTFF

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Making of a Child Soldier

Most Americans probably do not realize that everyday young children are forcibly recruited into armed military groups and forced to fight in deadly combat situations. War is an everyday reality for much of the world, and therefore, the demand for child soldiers continues to increase with each new or ongoing conflict. Research has revealed several factors which make a child more vulnerable to becoming a child soldier, the primary factor being that many adolescents see few, if any alternatives to "volunteering" for the army. Economic, social, community and family structures are frequently destroyed as a result of armed conflict, leaving many adolescents with a desire to avenge the killing of family members and the destruction of their community. Poverty, lack of access to education, and the absence work opportunities are important factors as well. When coupled with the desire for power, status, and social recognition, as well as family and peer pressure, the "choice" to become a child soldier seems a bit more understandable.

Source: http://www.child-soldiers.org/home

Image: http://www.awsg.us/block-edit/

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ask the Founder & Executive Director

What advice would you give others trying to live their passion and start up a nonprofit based on your experience?  

Jump!  No in all seriousness, take your time and ensure you know your market and niche; you don't need to do what everyone else is doing.  Research the capacity gaps, talk to the organizations that are on the ground and see where they are unable to fill the need, talk to your potential clients, talk to the community and corporations and see what they are really willing to do.  Utilize the resources that are there, there is no reason to reinvent the wheel, work in partnership with other organizations; it’s the only way to truly have a sustainable impact regardless of your cause. Let it grow organically and don't run before you can walk, sometimes you have to say no or wait until you’re ready. Don’t be afraid to mess up, while for me there is no room for failure for the organization on the whole. There are every day little misses and we won’t get it all right the first time, but we are in this for the long hull.  If it takes a little longer than planed at times then that’s fine, reevaluate, the ultimate goal for us is to break the cycle of slavery through sustainable empowerment, and bring victims from surviving to thriving and this won’t happen in a day and we’d rather ensure our programs are effective and sustainable, therefore do small pilots first, but never quit evaluating yourselves and listening to your clients.

Do you have a question for Cassandra? Send your questions to blog@btff.org

Monday, July 25, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Argentine President Decrees Ban on Media Sex Ads
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez announced that advertisements promoting sexual services will be prohibited and an office established to monitor the ban. Specific regulations including penalties are being implemented by the country's Justice and Human Rights Ministry. The decree goes into effect this Friday.

21 Human Trafficking Victims Rescued

Police in Tawi-Tawi, Philippines, rescued 21 human trafficking victims in two operations on Friday. The victims were being transported from the Philippines to Malaysia. The victims were transferred to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for assistance. The Friday operations bring the total number of trafficking victims rescued in Tawi-Tawi up to 39 for July.

ASEAN Convention on Human Trafficking Sought
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held a two-day meeting of experts last week to advance the creation of a regional human trafficking convention. The meeting followed a joint statement signed in May in which ASEAN leaders agreed to strengthen regional and international cooperation to prevent and combat human trafficking, enhance capacity-building to address human trafficking, and to consider immediately the establishment of an ASEAN Convention on Trafficking in Persons.

Myanmar Steps Up Efforts Against Human Trafficking
Myanmar authorities have formed 26 special police squads focusing on cross-border human trafficking. The squads have found 30 of the country's 300 townships serve as trafficking hotbeds. There have been 348 trafficking victims repatriated to Myanmar since the start of the efforts; 183 from China, 14 from Thailand and Malaysia, 10 from Indonesia and 7 from Timor-Leste. In addition to enforcement, the efforts have included preventative education in border areas, and support such as vocational training for repatriated victims.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ask the Founder & Executive Director

What have you found the biggest reward? 

The biggest reward in our short time so far has been seeing how quickly, and organically, the idea and passion that I started the organization with is taking off.  To hear one of the service providers in the field say, "I'm so glad you’re doing this now we don't have to worry about it", is the reason we began, to fill the capacity gap and allow them to focus on what they are good at, and we become the next step.  We were established to be not but one bridge to freedom, but many bridges that lead "from surviving to thriving".  My face has also come aglow when I have sat down to speak with a potential board member or volunteer staff member and I hear them say "we", I created this not for me, but for everyone, I am merely the one who laid the first brick in the bridge. 

Do you have a question for Cassandra? Send your questions to blog@btff.org

Monday, July 18, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

How to End Modern-Day Slavery, 3 Voices
It seems impossible. Human trafficking cases, blind promises of freedom, forced prostitution rings — these aspects of modern-day slavery come to light all too often. Estimates of the number of slaves worldwide range from about 10 million to 30 million. Approximately 100,000 victims are in the United States, working as slaves inside homes, in agricultural fields, in the sex industry and other places, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report. That’s millions of women, children and men struggling to escape captivity. That’s millions of people wondering what it means or what it would take to be free again. But what about solutions - How can we end modern-day slavery? Three experts weigh in what businesses, governments, the public and individuals must do.

18 Years for Sex Ring Boss Convicted of Human Trafficking

Troy Bonaparte, a 46 year old Chicago man has finally been brought to justice after running an operation that forced women into prostitution. He was convicted of involuntary servitude and trafficking in persons for forced labor and pandering and was just sentenced to18 years in prison. Bonaparte is the first person convicted in Cook County under updated laws against human trafficking. Bonaparte would keep all of the money earned in the prostitution and threaten to beat or kill the women if they tried to disobey him, prosecutors said. He would rent motel rooms in the city and suburbs and force women to prostitute themselves to between 5 and 25 men a day.

Georgia Passes Sex Trafficking Law with Heavy Penalties
Georgia has passed one of the nation's toughest laws on human sex trafficking, giving victims advocates greater hope that other states will follow suit. The intent of the law is to impose tougher penalties on criminals and provide more treatment options for victims. The new law is the result of a four-year battle that sought to satisfy religious conservatives who argued the changes could in essence legalize prostitution, and children’s advocates who maintain a safety valve was needed for victims forced into the sex trade.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ask the Founder & Executive Director

What have you found the biggest hurdle in starting an organization up from scratch?  

For me the biggest hurdle was making the jump to do it, the idea was there it was forged, I knew it was a good one and I just needed to move it from an idea to a reality.  The scary part was making the commitment to do it, as once you jump there is no return.   I'm every day I’m glad I did it; no matter how hard it is, I made that jump...there is no reason for me to ever look back.  It’s not an easy decision to put your life out there and make the jump, it’s a life commitment, I am truly married to this fight, and to death do us part!

Do you have a question for Cassandra? Send your questions to blog@btff.org

Monday, July 11, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Britain's own child soldiersAccording to a report by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, in 2010 at least eight of the under-18s who had gone awol were sentenced by court martial to military imprisonment. The report also calls into question the economic rationale of early recruitment: between 2006 and 2011, almost half of the recruits who had enlisted before their 18th birthday had left the armed forces without completing their minimum period of service.

Minister, wife guilty of human trafficking in forced labor of African woman“Human trafficking, while taking on many forms, consists primarily of those who prey on the vulnerabilities of others for personal gain,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Mr. Brian D. Lamkin said.
“That was, in fact, the case in this matter as a young woman from Swaziland was being forced into labor and was unsure of who to turn to for help.”

Italy Dismantles Human Trafficking RingItalian officials say they have dismantled an alleged human trafficking ring which smuggled migrants into Europe in life-threatening conditions. Officials said Wednesday they had issued arrest warrants for 35 people after raids were conducted.

Daughters of Indian sex workers unite
A filmmaker discusses the stories from the lives of sex workers and their daughters in an infamous brothel in the Indian state of Bihar that dates back some 300 years. This article and a related documentary look at Naseema, a girl raised amid the world of the brothel, but who was sent to school by the woman who raised her. Naseema has founded a group that works to free trafficked women, offers prostitutes alternative forms of employment, persuades sex workers to send their children to school and publishes a handwritten monthly magazine.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Celebrate Freedom this 4th of July

Today Americans gather to celebrate as a nation both our independence and freedom. The United States is a nation built on the back of injustice one who fought to overcome religious persecutions, escape a dark slave past, one that seeks to have equality and freedom for all… a nation that continues to search and fight for justice. We celebrate today a nation that stands for justice, the right to free speech, the right of religious choice, the right to live our lives how we choose to live.

Take a moment from your BBQ’s and parties, and with your friends and family, and reflect for a moment to remember that countless millions of men, women and children around the globe are not so fortunate. For there are some 27 million people around the world who continue to remain affected by modern slavery, and that millions of children around the world who are faced with the daily ravages of war and conflict. Millions of children continue to face gender inequality; are denied an education, are sexually exploited, suffer needlessly from preventable diseases and poverty. Forget not that these children are not always in some land far away, but here in our own back yard… here in the land of freedom.

Use your freedom and your voice to help those who cannot celebrate today among the summer fun of BBQ’s and sit under the night sky ablaze with fireworks. Remember that freedom is not free, and it is the right of every man, woman and child.

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

How U.S. budget cuts prolong global slavery
In April, Congress slashed the grant-making capacity of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. When the Republicans won the House of Representatives last November, the office's $21.2 million annual budget to fight the war on slavery was already microscopic. At the time, it was barely equal to the U.S. government's daily budget to fight the war on drugs. For fiscal year 2012, Congress sliced away nearly a quarter of those antislavery funds, as part of its broader $8 billion State Department budget cuts.

The country where slavery is still normal
The North African nation of Mauritania has tried three times to abolish slavery within its borders, most recently in 2007, and three times it has failed. Though the most recent effort established tougher legal penalties -- 10 years prison time for holding slaves, two years for "promoting" slavery -- the practice remains pervasive, with an estimated half million Mauritanians enslaved. Paradoxically, the government's official position is that slavery has been abolished, putting it in the awkward position of trying to fight slavery while simultaneously maintaining that it doesn't exist.

Massachusetts Senate approves anti-human trafficking bill
Pimps and others found guilty of trafficking children for sex or forced labor would face life in prison under a bill passed by the Massachusetts Senate. The anti-human trafficking bill passed Thursday increases the penalties for human trafficking and for soliciting a prostitute. Under the proposed law, anyone convicted of trafficking would need to register as a sex offender. The bill would also consider children and others forced into prostitution victims instead of offenders.

Report: illegal immigrants abused as domestics
Illegal immigrants working as domestics in the European Union are often subject to beatings, sexual abuse and overwork while being paid a fraction of what they would be entitled to if employed legally, an EU agency reported Tuesday. The Vienna-based EU Fundamental Rights agency interviewed 72 people working illegally in 10 EU nations. It described the accounts it heard as "chilling." "Migrants in an irregular situation employed in domestic work are at heightened risk of exploitation and abuse, including sexual abuse," the report says.