THANK YOU TO OUR DONORS AND PROJECT LEADS!
It's official! As of December 6, 2019, the Center of Hope received donation boxes from Seattle, Montreal, and two from Philadelphia. A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL OUR PARTICIPANTS, DONORS, AND PROJECT LEADS!
Check out the photos below (faces were blurred for their protection but they have beautiful smiles of joy). Paul Maawa, Partnership Officer and our point of contact for the donation drive, had this to say:
"So yesterday, we captured some photos as some of the girls sorted out the donations. They were so happy and excited and could not decide easily which among the nice dresses are they going to pick! We were all ecstatic. They also chose for their close friends as the others have an ongoing program in the activity area."
I was told that one girl said she already picked her holiday 'attire'. They have a series of holiday parties and events to promote awareness with visitors and partners starting next week.
But it's not over yet! The drive was more successful than we anticipated, with another box in Montreal still to be topped off and shipped and the box from New York to be shipped as well. It is not too late to donate supplies if you are in the Montreal area or supply and shipping funds. Any amount helps.
Learn More about this project
Learn More about Voice of the Free
DONATION DRIVE 2019/2020
We will be sending a box of donated supplies to Voice of the Free in the Philippines. Clothes, school supplies, basic supplies like toothbrushes and hair ties will be sent to the Center of Hope, the VF rehabilitation center for girls rescued from human traffickers. Often the girls have only what they are wearing or carrying when they are rescued so the Center is in constant need of basic supplies.
We learned a lot from the first time that we did this (for instance we learned not to send oatmeal because they do not eat oatmeal and their cook does not know how to prepare it), but here are the 3 most asked questions we received:
What's in it for me?
I love this question because we all think it, consciously or not, and someone was bold enough to say it out loud. I once heard this about money but I think it applies here too: "If you're asking what it can do for you, it's because you have not made enough and you have not given enough away." There is so much research on this, not to mention anecdotal evidence all around: You will feel very good.
What difference will it make?
For the girls, all the difference. Many of them were sold by family and a corrupt system. To know that others think about them and care about them enough to reach out makes a huge difference in their lives. It's not enough to survive, we want them to thrive.
For you, see above. You will learn what difference you can make.
For the world, awareness of what's going on. Human rights violations can only survive in ignorance.
Why human trafficking?
Because I had the opportunity (VF is very accessible) and now you do too.
HOW CAN I HELP?
Established in 1991 by Cecilia Oebanda, the Voice Of The Free (formerly known as Visayan Forum Foundation) (VF) is a non-governmental organization in the Philippines known for innovations in addressing modern-day slavery, especially human trafficking and the exploitation of domestic workers.
VF also provides residential care and community-based programs and services for women and children who have been trafficked.
VF aims to disrupt the viability of the trafficking business through effective interception, and it also aims to empower families and young people to guard themselves against new methods of recruitment.
How It Started: We Love Heroes and Visayan Forum
In 2013, I developed a project for the final practicum of the leadership coaching program in which I was enrolled.
The premise of the practicum was simple:
Think of a way we could make the world a better place and then do it.
I was totally lost until one day I saw a CNN documentary about Cecilia Oebanda, a woman fighting
human trafficking in the Philippines. I was so impressed but I thought, “I wish there was something I could do for her.”
I knew right away that I had my project... I’d send a box of donated goods and supplies to her organization where survivors were rehabilitated.
But I kept thinking, why just one box? For that matter, why just from my city? How many boxes from how many cities could I get involved? I started sharing my idea with a friend who was excited about the prospect. Soon my practicum project became a passion project that I called We Love Heroes. A call to action was sent to my network and my network's networks until one city grew to six and one box of donations grew to seven.
A few months later I was in New York to surprise Cecilia who was there picking up a Thomas Reuters Foundation’s Impact Award. The day after the awards we had people send emails of encouragement with “Love from...” as the subject. She received love from Vietnam, love from Paris, love from Tokyo, and love from all around the world. I walked into the restaurant, having arranged everything with her people, and asked her if she was getting any strange emails that day. Needless to say, she was very surprised. We also surprised her with the news of the boxes and with a planned visit of myself and another volunteer, our tickets donated by a generous sponsor.
Not only did we arrive just in time to unpack boxes from Montreal, Toronto, Philadelphia, Houston, San Diego, and Melbourne to wrap and give as Christmas presents, but we were also there to teach the survivors and children how to sing and play music together just in time for the holiday season, establishing two Glee Clubs. Because of our work we were invited to participate in the iFight campaign against human trafficking, a campaign backed by heavyweights like Manny Pacquio, Katie Ford, Former Senator Tatad and Fenny Tatad, Mayor Ynares, and others. It was quite the honor.
And all this from one simple premise and an amazing network of volunteers, donors, and sponsors who embraced an opportunity and dared to make a difference.