28 October 2013

Why Research is Important to Counter-Trafficking

by Julia Smith-Brake

I love research. I love literature reviews and methodology and bibliographies. I love engaging is discussion about research and seeing programs change or begin based on good research. It may seem obvious that the counter-trafficking sector (like any other social justice or development sector) needs professional, scientific research, but we often forego this “step” in an attempt to address problems quickly. Not necessarily well, but quickly.

So why can’t we see research as a response to human trafficking? Maybe because of the unfortunate divide between academics and practitioners, a gap that often means research does not reach the field, and practitioners feel research does not represent the reality on the field. Maybe because it is difficult for practitioners to know which research is good and which is irrelevant, and practitioners lack the time and motivation to distinguish and access relevant research.

Chab Dai is in a good position to not only do research, but also to provide some of this access to practitioners in the field. Practitioner research is a good way to go about exploring and providing relevant information to other organizations because it is based in an assumption that action will stem out of the research. Research is imperative to the counter-trafficking movement, especially at this juncture, because we need to reflect well on what has led the movement to this point and how we can learn from past successes and failures, what responses have worked and which ones haven’t, and how lessons from other sectors can inform our way forward. 
If we begin to see research as a response to trafficking, in the continuum of responses including prevention, intervention and others, we may be able to integrate it more holistically into our work. If we are continually going back to research and allowing it to inform and challenge our preconceptions and frameworks, won’t our programs be more relevant and better suited to the needs of those we serve?

17 October 2013

TechCamp Comes to Phnom Penh: Bringing the issue of Human Trafficking to the Tech World

By Luke Weatherson
I was very excited to present at Tech Camp Phnom Penh as it was the first time Freedom Registry Cambodia was to be presented to a broad range of stakeholders. I was hoping to meet with a few key stakeholders to further discuss the project, garner some feedback and maybe a little buzz.

#TechCampGlobal are global events that organize stakeholders to develop innovative strategies and create tools using technology. These particular TechCamp’s focus is to be a platform to harness technology to fight the battle against human trafficking.  I couldn’t ask for a more perfect venue introduce Freedom Registry to stakeholders.

Tech Camp format was to connect influential NGOs with digital experts in areas such as mapping, mobile, voice, data collection, and social media awareness to create real time solutions. As Freedom Registry is applied technology the question was how would it be received, would stakeholders see it as a solution to the issues they’re facing, would technology experts see it as effective?  Remember again in attendance was world class technologist from all over the world and anti-trafficking experts with years of experience, including two TIP Report Heroes.

I first presented Freedom Registry  in 5 minute speed geeking sessions and then in 30 minute breakout discussion. Camp attendees listened intently and asked engaging questions and you could see they like the idea. I was approached for the remainder of the camp by participants wanting to learn more about Freedom Registry. Questions like “when is it coming to Cambodia?’ or Will it be available in the Philippines?” were common.  3 of the presentations of the real time solutions generated by participants mentioned Freedom Registry as tool they would use.  I was astounded by how the trafficking community embraced the idea and how eager they were for it’s launch.

Check out our previous blog on Freedom Registry's New Tools.

24 August 2013

Getting your Nonprofit Dream Job is about Collaboration... and It Begins by Embracing How We Work

Our lives have become more transparent and more interconnected, and our jobs and careers both reflect and help to produce this new way of being in the world. Within the Nonprofit sector, our work has always been interdisciplinary, requiring us to play multiple roles, develop creative methods of problem solving, and network with a variety of groups and organizations. So it’s no wonder that our training and job search embraces the core value of collaboration in nonprofit work. Collaboration -- as it relates to getting into a nonprofit organization and finding your dream job in international development -- goes beyond networking. 

In order to collaborate you first need to understand that what an organization can offer you is just as important as what you can offer an organization. You have to figure out what you hope to do in the future, in reference to daily tasks and responsibilities; and then you have to identify your strengths and current skills. So far these are basic steps everyone, I am assuming, has been told to follow at some point in their careers, whether in school or in the job market. 

As a freelance communications and media specialist I have offered my expertise to a variety of groups using multiple angles, strategies, and targets, always keeping in mind what I am offering and expecting to gain: personal success, connections, experience, purpose, etc.. 

And for me, taking a job always comes down to whether I believe in the project and can see my work having a collective impact in order to establish a relationship with the organization and its members.

When you find a niche you are passionate about follow these strategies:
(1) Plan out specific ideas you bring to that position and how they will relate to the organization;
(2) Map the different ways your skills can be helpful and determine the sector in which they are needed;
(3) Focus on specific programs, especially if you have an idea of the type of group or location you want to work in, researching their missions, making contact with people on the ground, and understanding the goals and processes of the organization.

Once you have your story and are comfortable pitching what you can offer, it is important to find and analyze the organizations or projects that have the most potential to allow you to grow and develop your skills and experiences. In my own career, this is the point where I begin to network, now that I know which direction to take. By “network” I don’t mean going to meetups, posting contacts, or taking advantage of contacts. I am talking about a collaborative process that allows us to apply our values in the nonprofit sector to what we do every day, to create a space for committed individuals to work together on mutual goals.

If we begin to use collaboration rather than networking as our main strategy, we add a second element that gives the individual who’s actively looking to enter the nonprofit sector a new mindset to search out a space or group to collaborate with rather than just “work-a-net” (networking).

But coming up with a strategy and executing is only half the battle; the other 50% of “Getting a Nonprofit Dream Job” is for nonprofit organizations to allow for cross-disciplinary innovation and developmental growth within their own missions.
Which brings me to my current dream job working with ChabDai.org. Chab Dai is an organization that addresses human trafficking and exploitation by bringing communities, organizations, and people into a relationship to create a dynamic coalition that builds partnerships, shares knowledge and lessons learned, and empowers advocates. By encouraging true collaboration internationally we facilitate coordination, develop connectivity, and grow together by seeing what others are doing. We build from their work to create a collective impact.

Applying the strategies that Chab Dai uses to build coalition through collaboration, nonprofit organizations can attract strong and innovative team players that will help them to develop strengths across various sectors. One way to do this is to search spaces within your field that allow for such activities to happen, like The Freedom Registry or The Freedom Collaborative-- online platforms for organizations, agencies, institutions and advocates to communicate, exchange resources and information, and COLLABORATE.


Written by Pablo Robles, Chab Dai International Communications Coordinator

29 May 2013

New tools on the Freedom Registry

We launched a new version of the Freedom Registry! The major addition in this release is an interactive data visualization map of the movement's services. We can now dynamically visualize and filter the specifics of how organizations have registered the types of services they offer. This enables the movement to see who is doing what on a regional basis, and — just as importantly — where there are gaps in services. Potential volunteers can use it to see which nearby organizations have listed themselves as requesting help. We think this new tool goes a long way in cultivating new and powerful layers of connectivity into the movement.

Continuing in this narrative, we are building a means for anyone — organization or individual — to build new tools for the movement on top of our existing data structure. In tech-speak it is called an application programming interface (API). It enables third-parties to connect to our application and build their own new tools for the vetted organizations that make up our user base. We're very excited about the possibilities that are opened up with this type of freely accessible data ecosystem! Our hope for all of this is to facilitate organic coordination and relationships between counter trafficking organizations, agencies and institutions.

Currently, the Registry is only released to the United States, but over the past year we have been in the process of working with national steering committees in a myriad of countries to tailor the Registry to regional needs. As we launch the many additional tools we will be releasing this year, we will simultaneously open up the Freedom Registry to the rest of the world.

09 April 2013

Economic Re/integration for Survivors of Trafficking in Cambodia

by Julia Smith-Brake, a member of our team in Cambodia

Chab Dai's 2012 Butterfly Reintegration research report is now downloadable online! We are only 3 years into the 10-year research on the reintegration of survivors of sex trafficking, but there are already some emerging trends and fascinating issues to report on.

One section of this year’s report is on economic reintegration, with survivors’ perspectives on education, vocational training, employment, family financial responsibilities, migration, and poverty. Something I love about this research project is it prioritizes the voices of survivors’ themselves, instead of telling their stories for them.

So what better way to share the main findings from the research than with direct quotes from some of our participants?

On sacrificing for opportunities:
“I prefer to live with my family but I stay longer in the shelter to get my education.”
– Female participant in a shelter program
On desiring appropriate vocational training:
“I want to learn Computer and English language. Beauty salon skill is not enough for me, I want to learn more. If I don’t know how to use computers and English, it will difficult to find a good job in the future. I don’t have a choice so that’s why I learn beauty salon now, but then I want to learn IT and English.”– Female participant in a residential training program
On poverty:
“I feel being poor is complicated.”– Female participant who declined assistance
“For the poor like us, our children didn’t have intelligent games to play. The poor children just played outside and then go to collect the recycling items [scavenging]. Then they become friends with bad friends so their lives are terrible.”– Female participant in a community-based assistance program
On hopes for the future:
“So far, I just want to work in a suitable workplace. I want to save money. When I have saved a lot of money, I can dismantle one store in front of my house and then I can sell groceries. I want to have such a life in the future. I can live peacefully with my family. That’s what I like ... My mother wants me to sell food there but I am not interested in this kind of small business. If I want to run a business, I want to depend on myself. I don’t want to borrow money from others. I am not 50 years old yet, I am still young so I have time to earn a living.”– Female participant in a shelter program 
As you can see, issues survivors are dealing with are difficult and complex. The above quotes are much better understood in the context of the quantitative and qualitative analysis of the report, and I invite you to read further by downloading the report here

04 April 2013


Written by guest blogger Miranda Kerr, currently volunteering for Chab Dai in Cambodia.

This week in Cambodia, a report was released stating that an Australian-run orphanage had been shut down in an emergency response to human trafficking and abuse (you can read the article here SISHA - Emergency Shutdown).

Before leaving this year, friends would sometimes confuse my plans of working in a school with 'Miranda's trip to an orphanage in Cambodia'. Without taking any offense that my friends didn't know my actual plans (well actually Jemma, I regularly took offense that you couldn't get it right), this little sentence made me cringe inside and I instantly felt the need to say 'no, no - I'm not working in an orphanage'. Why?

Here's why

Cambodia's tourism has been booming over the last few years. People are coming here to see the the stunning and ancient temples in Siem Reap, to learn more about the Khmer Rouge regime in Phnom Penh's museums and to soak up the sun and beach down south in Kep. Most come here with the best intentions and when they arrive, the poverty they face draws them to say something along the lines of 'I need to do something'. Keen to help this war-torn country, increasing numbers of tourists are now also working as volunteers.

Unfortunately, well-intentioned volunteers have helped to create a surge in the number of residential care homes (orphanages), tempting impoverished parents with promises of an education and western-style upbringing. In 'worst cases' these children are 'rented' or even 'bought' from their families because they are perceived to be of more value by earning money pretending to be a poor orphan than studying and eventually graduating from school. Parents 'willingly' send their kids to these institutions believing (through the lies they are told) it will provide their child with a better life. Unfortunately in very many cases, it won't.

Orphanages rely on donations and know that the more children they have in their care, the more 'at risk' and 'in need' they are and therefore, more likely to receive funding. Unfortunately, in many of these institutions (but not all), very little of the money donated will ever actually assist the children who will remain living in sub-standard conditions. The orphanages have also relied on the big hearts and curiosity of tourists who are invited into the facility and asked to stay and play with the children.

I get it. I once did that. 

In Hoi An, Vietnam - my friend and I visited an orphanage run by an Irish woman that we'd heard about at a local cafe. It was a warm and fuzzy sort of experience at the time. Cuddling little children and playing games with them before sharing the lychees we'd purchased as a gift before entering. We'd left a donation at the end of the day and (as 19 year olds on our first trip through South-East Asia) promised that we'd return. 

We didn't - and it's taken me 7 years now to reflect on that experience. 
The 19 year old me walked away thinking that somehow I'd made a difference in the lives of those kids. I'd put a smile on their face. I'd given them fruit. I'd given them love, hope, blah blah - who knows what I thought I gave them. 
Really - a stranger, speaking a foreign language, entered their home, took photos, gave them food, held them, waved goodbye and never returned. 
When would that ever be OK in Australia? Or anywhere?

This is SUCH a massive topic and debate for people working with vulnerable children and victims of human trafficking here in Phnom Penh, and mixed in with the heat - doesn't take much to get the blood boiling when reports like the one released by SISHA this morning come out.

Below is a little more information on orphanage tourism. Please, please, PLEASE consider these things before you embark on any journey that may lead you to visiting or volunteering in an orphanage.

Orphanage Tourism - ChildSafe Network This document seeks to assist travelers and volunteers in finding a way to contribute, yet avoid situations or actions that may lead to child exploitation. Certain 'tourist attractions' such as orphanage tours exploit children's vulnerabilities. 

ChildSafe Questions and Answers

Blog post borrowed from Miranda's personal blog, My Traffick Jam.