Did you know that you can save a life this Summer, even while you're on vacation?
“You just enter your hotel room, and your room number. You take four pictures, and you submit them to the website,” Washington University Researcher and TraffickCam developer Abby Stylianou said. “And then those become part of the pipeline that law enforcement can use to track down where the victims are being trafficked.”
TraffickCam has built a database of more than 1.5 million images of hotel rooms across the world that police can query to determine where pictures of trafficking victims might have been taken, thanks to photographs submitted by travelers. The police can upload an image to the app and compare it against photographs uploaded by the traveling public, then use that information to narrow down a list of possible locations where the trafficker took the picture of a child being sold for sex. READ MORE
Even before I officially launched Apple Rose Beauty I knew I would have to write this blog. But like a root canal you keep delaying I tried to put it out of my mind. I tried to avoid facing the pain it would bring to the surface of my mind and heart. But, now … I think it’s time.
I’ve shared with you the story of how I met Apple and Rose. I’ve shared with you that my encounter with them inspired me to create my organic skin care company, Apple Rose Beauty. I’ve shared with you that Apple and Rose were victims of human trafficking and our vision for this company, named after them, is to create employment and choice for those trapped in the same horrible system of exploitation.
I’ve shared with you that I met Apple and Rose during a month I spent in Bangkok, Thailand where I worked with Samaritan Creations and lived in their safe house with women who were rescued from human trafficking. But there is something that I did NOT share with you. I have not had the strength to, until now.
Her Name Was Puu
Her name was Puu. I met her and her 1-year-old daughter the first night we spent at the Samaritan Creations safe house in Bangkok, Thailand. It was about 8pm Thai time and even though I had eaten dinner a couple hours before, I was famished. I went down stairs to the café where many of the survivors worked and began making my way to the kitchen. I saw the toddler first. She was sucking on a chicken wing and it smelled scrumptious! She was the cutest little girl I had ever seen and having the tremendous soft spot for babies that I do, I was immediately drawn to her and kind of forgot that I was hungry. Then I saw her mom. She was sitting on the floor next to her, texting on her phone. She spoke very little English and I spoke even less Thai but after asking permission with gestures she allowed me to hold her baby. We communicated through lots of smiles, pointing, giggles and one word sentences. I learned that her name was Puu and I immediately felt a bond with her.
In the weeks following this first encounter Puu and I spent lots of time together. At 18, Puu was the youngest woman staying in the safe house. She became a little sister to me. I taught her Thai and she taught me English. She celebrated her 19th birthday that month and to celebrate I went with her to the nearby mall where we got manicures and iced coffee, walked around and practiced our broken English and broken Thai. At the end of the month before my team and I left Thailand, Puu gave me a heartfelt note and pampered me with a shoulder massage. The next day we said tearful goodbyes. We later connected on Facebook and occasionally each shared simple pleasantries that we mastered in the other’s language.
A little knot began to develop in my stomach
As the months went by I started seeing fewer and fewer Facebook posts from Puu. A little knot began to develop in my stomach. Not long after, the woman who runs the safe house reached out to me and told me that Puu had run away, leaving her now 2-year-old daughter, and was re-trafficked. It’s hard to describe the pain news like that brings. It’s hard to describe the feeling of being punched in the stomach and all the fear and doubts that flood your mind. But even in the midst of all that pain I knew that Puu’s pain was so much deeper and greater than mine could ever be. The desperate search for love and acceptance and deep self-esteem issues that would drive someone back into the pain of selling their body for another’s profit is hard to fathom. Only as you dig deeper into their story and life experiences can you even begin to understand the void and grasping-for-love that has defined their existence from the moment they were born.
The hard truth is that when someone experiences deep trauma it takes a lot and often multiple attempts before they are truly free, not just physically but psychologically and emotionally as well.
Puu's Story (video)
I would like to invite you into Puu’s story. Not for the purpose of creating sympathy but as a way to hopefully allow us all, for a moment, to put ourselves in her place and find empathy to continue in the fight for her and all the other Puu’s out there waiting to be truly free. Watch the video below to learn about Puu’s story. Please pray for her and others like her whose lives we hope to impact by your Apple Rose Beauty Organic Skin Care purchases. Thank you for your Big Beautiful Heart!
P.S.: To support Samaritan Creations directly, visit their website at http://www.samaritancreations.org/
In a recent article on Essence.com, Gabrielle Union talks about the fact that the "majority of identified [human] trafficking victims are girls and young women but it goes deeper than that. We have to call attention to an aspect of this issue that is seldom discussed, and that is the fact girls of color, particularly African-American girls, are especially vulnerable to human trafficking."
She goes on to say that "
To create REAL change, we’ve got to be willing to have REAL, uncomfortable, and challenging conversations."
It's July 2016 and it's our birthday month! That's right. Apple Rose Beauty turns 1 year old on July 7th!
What better way to celebrate than to give gifts ;) This month your purchases will go even further as proceeds will be directly donated to non-profits fighting human trafficking, rescuing and rehabilitating victims.
Each week for the next few weeks we will be highlighting one of our freedom partners, sharing what they do and donating $5 from each full-size product purchased and $1 from each sample kit purchased, directly to them.
Also when you use the code for that week during checkout, you will receive a $5 coupon for future use in the mail with your purchase. Below is a list of the non-profits we are partnering with this month, the dates proceeds from your purchase will be donated to them and the code to use for the $5 coupon in the mail.
"Remember that great love and great achievements involve risk" - Dalai Lama
People often ask me how I could leave a successful, decade long career in engineering and management to embark on a risky venture to serve survivors of human trafficking through Apple Rose Beauty. To be honest, in my low moments of doubt the question fleetingly crosses my own mind.
The answer is always the same, though. I was and am "compelled by love". For me it has always been a question of "how could I not do everything I know how to do to help save even a few?"
From the moment my heart was broken for the cause of human trafficking in Thailand when I met Apple, a young woman trapped in human trafficking, and where I lived for a month, teaching survivors English, I knew I would spend the rest of my life serving them and fighting for them.
As you know, Apple Rose Beauty was founded to address the crime of human trafficking, perpetuated mostly against women. Another crime that targets mostly women is domestic violence. But what many of us were unaware of was the link between this crime and animal abuse. According to a recent article by Huffington Post, there seems to be a direct link between occurrences of animal abuse and domestic violence.
"It is common for abusers to attack their victim's loved pets during the onset or the aftermath of incidents of domestic violence. In these cases, the abuser seems to be sending the message, 'See what you make me do?' But contrary to his claim that he 'lost control', or 'was provoked,' the abuser is actually attempting to exert control by choosing behavior that is designed to frighten, terrorize, or punish his partner. As one abuser, who had left his wife with two black eyes, once related when I asked if he had punched his wife, "No I would never hit her like a man!" If in fact, he really 'lost control', as he claimed, he would have been able to consistently choose his violent behavior, or to seek credit for slapping rather than punching his partner. One victim told me, "It's always my cat that gets kicked, never his."
The underlying logic of such violence is to punish his partner for her defiance by telling her, "That could have been you," or "You're next," or by proclaiming, "See what happens when you make me mad?" In these cases, pets are used as props for reinforcing the abuser's rules, whether these are explicit or implied. It is no accident that the abuser is targeting his partner's and/or his children's cherished pets. Injuring or killing a pet represents a step-up from damaging or destroying the victim's inanimate property."
Just five years ago Alyssa Beck never thought she would be working in finance and administration at Rethreaded, a non-profit organization in Jacksonville, FL. Five years ago she was a victim of Human Trafficking. Today she is a survivor and shares her story to pave the way for other girls. Her goal? "To show them (survivors) that there is nothing to be ashamed of and it is possible to heal."
Rethreaded is one of the organizations that you support with your purchase of Apple Rose Beauty organic skin care. Your Apple Rose Beauty purchases support the fight to end human trafficking by providing life-giving work for human trafficking survivors and financial support for organizations involved in their rescue and rehabilitation. We partner with organizations around the globe to see true freedom brought to the lives of men, women and children trapped in this atrocious system of modern day slavery. We want to open your eyes to the impact you are making and share the amazing stories of lives changed by your support. This is the second story in our Survivor Story Series. See the last story here.
As you know, your Apple Rose Beauty purchases support the fight to end human trafficking by providing life-giving work for human trafficking survivors and financial support for organizations involved in their rescue and rehabilitation. We partner with organizations around the globe to see true freedom brought to the lives of men, women and children trapped in this atrocious system of modern day slavery. We want to open your eyes to the impact you are making and share the amazing stories of lives changed by your support. So we are introducing our Survivor Story Series. Many of these stories will be told in the voice of the survivor as they have shared them with us.
Today we would like to introduce you to Jo. Jo is from Thailand and was rescued from a life of coercion and exploitation by one of our partner organizations in Thailand, Samaritan Creations. I (Kristy) have personally met Jo and worked alongside her at Samaritan Creations in Bangkok. She has one of the biggest, most generous hearts I have come across. When in the presence of her contagious smile and warm conversation, it is hard to imagine the hardships she has lived through and survived. But survived she has and she helps others as she lives and tells her story. Here's Jo …
"My name is Jo and I am 36 years old. Growing up, home was not a safe place. My father was an abusive alcoholic and gambling addict. Neither of my parents cared much for me or helped me grow up. I came to Bangkok for the first time after I dropped out of school in 6th grade. My first job was in construction. I worked long hours mixing concrete and carrying wood and metal around the construction site.
When I saw others my age who had happy lives with families who cared and provided for them, I felt so rejected by my own family. People would tell me how ugly I was which only added to my feelings of worthlessness.
I got married when I was 17. I thought he was the love of my life and that he would take care of me and our children. We were very poor so he went to work in Singapore, leaving me to take care of our three kids. He worked there for four years, returning once for a visit two years in. During that visit, I learned that he frequently visited prostitutes while he was in Singapore. By the end of his time in Singapore, our family was completely broken.
I started drinking, gambling, and sleeping with other men to cope. I thought I was justified since he cheated on me first. It did not take long for our relationship to end permanently.
I realized that, with all my gambling and drinking, I was not providing for my children as I needed to. I left them with my mother so I could go find work.
I went to Pattaya, a town in Thailand known for its bars and prostitution. The man who drove me there said he had connections and could get me a job, if I slept with him first. I worked at the bar that he brought me to for two and a half months, servicing men. I lived in the space above the bar with many of the other girls. It was miserable. It was so small and everyone was on drugs and addicted to alcohol.
Because I was so ugly, I made very little money at the bar. I sent almost all of the money back home to my mother and children. I was miserable. Every day before my shift started, I walked along the beach praying to the spirits in the trees. I begged for a better life. But the trees were silent.
I moved back to Bangkok, hoping to make more money there. I thought my life would be better there, but it only got worse. I could not get customers at the bars so I had to go to the streets which threw me in the path of the worst men. I would sleep with men who refused to pay me afterwards or with men who were horribly abusive and used me for their own sadistic sport. I wanted to leave the bars, but I didn’t have any other way to support myself or my family. I felt trapped.
One day a group from Samaritan Creations came and told me that they had a ministry that could help me. They would teach me to sew and make jewelry and pay me. I decided to accept their help. Shortly after, I left the bar and came to live and work at the organization. 9 years ago, God met me there and began to remake my life. I finally found the love that I had been looking for. For the first time in my life, I experienced the love of God and of people who wanted the best for me.
I was so broken and empty when I left the bar. I never thought I would find people who cared about me. I married a godly man and we have four children together. I plan to go back to my village to care for my aging mother and share Jesus with her and the rest of my village."
Jo has been working at Samaritan Creations for 9 years now. Her dignity is restored and her life is restored. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Jo.