2017 Annual Report
Free for Life has been working on the border between India and Nepal since 2010. During this time, over 1,000 women and girls have been rescued from trafficking situations! In 2017, Free for Life partnered at two locations: Krishnanagar and Dhangadhi. Through these stations, 173 were rescued by our partner organization this past year! In addition, we interviewed and counseled over 4,700 individuals and their travel companions. This is 4,700 women and girls who may have never received education about the dangers of human trafficking, or the warning signs, without this Border Monitoring Program.
In March 2017, Free for Life, and our partner in Nepal, completed the organizations’ second successful raid in Delhi, India! These efforts were in collaboration with the Indian police and both Nepali and Indian NGO’s, and led to the freedom of 3 beautiful girls.
All three rescued girls were from poor, Nepali families and traveled to India with hopes of lucrative job opportunities. Their dreams took a turn for the worse, however, when each of their journeys ended at Majula Ka Tila Dehli Brothel. This brothel is located on GB Road — a “popular” road known for its number of Nepali slaves in Delhi. Fortunately, Free for Life and Peace Rehabilitation Center worked alongside social activist Budhi Maya Ghale, and other local NGO’s, to successfully organize the raid and bring the three girls home!
Free for Life relaunched a brand new scholarship program in 2017! This program is meant to build and sustain relationships between FFLI and individual trafficking survivors around the world dedicated to pursuing education or vocational training. Free for Life’s goal is to empower survivors in their lives of freedom.
These scholarships can be awarded for higher education or skills training in various fields and are designed to be sustained over a survivor’s entire educational journey.
Free for Life is also excited to announce that we chose our first scholarship recipient in 2017! She is a survivor in Mexico City with dreams of becoming a psychotherapist — we are so excited to walk alongside her in this journey!
We have already received applications from all over the world, and cannot wait to award more scholarships as the program continues to grow!
Prevention & Education
In 2017, Free for Life was passionate about expanding prevention and education initiatives internationally, as well as in the U.S.
Prevention in the U.S.
One of the most exciting new Free for Life programs is a unique training curriculum for medical professionals that covers warning signs of trafficking in patients, as well as how to appropriately respond. Reports show that up to 88% of sex trafficking victims have contact with healthcare system — many of which will go through the system multiple times without being identified. Further, very few medical professionals, including those in emergency medicine, have ever received any formal training regarding human trafficking. Free for Life is actively responding to this need, and bringing together medical professionals, survivors, and trafficking experts from all over the country to do so.
The ultimate goal is for this program to be a certified continuing education credit available to medical professionals throughout the country. We are so grateful to have already received funding for this program from the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and Retail Orphan Initiative! In 2017, we trained 150 medical students and professionals in collaboration with Quillen College of Medicine, New York Medical College, and the Internal Medicine & OBGYN Units at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville.
It is no secret that traffickers are experts at exploiting vulnerabilities. One of the most vulnerable and at-risk populations across the globe is made up of impoverished youth and orphans. Due to these vulnerabilities, and because prevention is the most sustainable way to combat trafficking, Free for Life has implemented a new youth prevention program.
This program will be specifically designed to teach educators and orphan-care workers internationally about the risk factors for human trafficking, and how to equip the youth they work with to protect themselves and others. We are providing a three-module training for the facilitators and a seven-module training for them to share with the children and youth they work with. In 2017, Free for Life piloted this program in coordination with VisionTrust in the Dominican Republic. Moving forward, Free for Life is excited to partner to expand the program’s reach to various regions across the world in need.
There is already work in place to potentially take this program to the following countries: Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Guatemala, Brazil, Peru, Central African Republic, Liberia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, Zimbabwe, Peru, Columbia, Moldova, Russia, India, Nepal and Panama.
At the age of 14, Aapti was happy. Although she grew up on a small farm in rural Nepal, she was very blessed. Her family was far from wealthy, yet her parents were always supportive of Aapti pursuing a future beyond agriculture. In 9th grade, the teenager was a star pupil, balancing her studies with her work on the farm, as this was the family’s only source of income.
Things started to change when Aapti’s father fell ill. To keep the family business going, it was imperative that he recover quickly. Because the closest doctor was in the city, Aapti and her father caught the only bus as soon as it came to town. During the long ride, the young girl began chatting with the bus assistant, a 20-year-old man. The two hit it off right away and even exchanged numbers upon arriving in the city. The pair quickly became friends and messaged each other regularly over the next couple of days.
After some time, Aapti’s father was feeling better and hard at work catching up for time lost. Aapti set off for city because she needed to run errands for the family. When she arrived, she called her new friend and they spent the entire day together, shopping and enjoying each other’s company. Aapti quickly lost track of time and before she knew it, she had missed the last bus to her home. Without skipping a beat, the bus assistant suggested they get a hotel room together while she was trapped in the city. Feeling uncomfortable at how prepared he seemed for the situation, the teenager trusted her gut and respectfully declined. The man grew angry and tried to force Aapti to go to the hotel with him. Terrified of what might happen, Aapti took the only available chance she had and ran from the man she thought was her friend.
She ran back to the bus station and told a police officer what had just occurred. The officer contacted Free for Life’s partner in Nepal and explained the situation of the stranded teenager in the city. Our partner organization took Aapti in and repatriated her to her, very relieved, parents. When asked about the bus assistant, Aapti says she is confident the man would have raped and exploited her in that hotel room. She is so grateful to be home with loved ones and vows to not be naïve to the charm of strangers again.
Growing up was difficult for Jenya. With her family living in poverty, and barely able to keep food on the table, she had no choice but to drop out of school in the 5th grade. Over the next several years, the family continued to struggle financially. When Jenya was 19, her mother abandoned the family and as a result, her father fell into a deep depression and became an alcoholic. Jenya’s older brother was forced to become the main provider for his younger siblings. After approximately a year, Jenya’s brother arranged a marriage for his only sister with a local young man. He made this decision out of hope — hope that this would provide a better life for Jenya and their youngest brother.
After a month of marriage, Jenya’s husband announced he was leaving Nepal to pursue work opportunities in India. Several months passed, but Jenya had not once heard from her new husband. Her in-laws, feeling no emotional tie to Jenya, kicked her out of their home. Heartbroken that she had been abandoned again, Jenya was forced to move back in with her brothers. During this time, she befriended an older man from the town over—his name was Mohan. Mohan and Jenya quickly became inseparable. Each time he visited, she finally felt this was her chance to love and be loved in return. When Mohan announced his love for Jenya, and his intention to marry her, she was overcome with joy. She left her home without a second thought.
This joy quickly vanished, however, when the young woman arrived at her new husband’s home. She was shocked to find out he was already married and had two daughters. She wanted to leave immediately but hopelessness began to set in. Who else would take her in? Her parents were not an option, her brothers could not support her, her ex-husband had abandoned her, and her in-laws had kicked her out—staying with Mohan seemed like the only choice. After a few days, Mohan told Jenya he wanted to move to India with her. In no position to refuse, Jenya agreed to the move.
Just before the Nepal / India border, the unusual couple stopped at a local restaurant for lunch. Unbeknownst to Mohan, the owner was a good man and noticed how uncomfortable Jenya appeared. The owner contacted Free for Life’s partner in Nepal and reported the odd duo. When border monitoring staff spoke to Jenya privately, she immediately told them her story and how scared she was! When the staff contacted Mohan’s wife to confirm the story, she revealed that there was a warrant out for his arrest for polygamy! Mohan tried to deny the accusations and refused to reveal his intentions for transporting Jenya to India. Even without a confession, there was enough evidence for Mohan to be taken into custody by the local police.
Jenya has since moved into our partner’s Safe Home and is finally happy. She is now receiving the education that she desperately desired in her youth. The young woman no longer feels that she is a burden on others’ lives and has embraced her freedom to pursue her passions. Jenya is grateful that her story ended positively, but will be more hesitant to trust strangers from the town over in the future.
Gabrielle Thompson, Executive Director & CEO
“The past year at Free for Life was defined by reaching new goals and covering new ground as an organization. We kept our focus on the gaps in resources available to survivors and those who are at high-risk of being trafficked. We worked in two ways — to both address these gaps and to develop new initiatives and programs that better serve these populations.
In 2017, we created a prevention curriculum for the most at-risk population globally: orphans. This curriculum is deeply needed, as orphans around the globe are often not adequately served by the systems in place, and they are especially vulnerable to encountering traffickers. Since piloting this curriculum, we have found incredible traction from orphan-care organizations around the globe. Moving forward in 2018, the plan is for Free for Life to be working in over 10 countries, assisting and actively preventing the trafficking of children.
Additionally, this past year, Free for Life recognized the serious need within the medical community for practitioners to be trained on human trafficking intervention. To respond to this need, we developed educational tools to provide current and future medical providers with the skills to appropriately identify and intervene in a situation with a trafficked person. In 2017, we developed a medical curriculum, training materials, and a patient simulation script to prepare students in residency.
In addition to these newly developed programs, our long standing rescue and rehabilitation programs in Nepal reached new levels. We are so proud to report that for the first time in the history of Free for Life International, we have rescued over 1000 women and girls! We are so grateful to have been a fundamental part of the story of freedom for so many precious lives. This has motivated us more than ever to continue with this vital work and rescue 1000 more. This year alone, our Border Monitoring Program pulled 173 lives out of the darkness of slavery, and we completed our second successful raid in Delhi, India.
From all of us at Free for Life International, thank you for believing and supporting our vision of “Freedom for All.” You are the reason we get to reach those in the darkest places. You are supporting the work of God, and bringing justice to the lives of women and children around the world.”
Katie Peters, Board Chair
“2017 was an incredible year for Free for Life International with the addition of new programs and partners. Two of the programs that the team is most excited about are the Youth Prevention Curriculum and the Medical Training for Healthcare Providers. Throughout the next year, Free for Life will continue to build and grow these initiatives, as well as expand the existing Scholarship Program for trafficking survivors.
Most importantly, we would like to take this time to thank all of our supporters, partners and staff. Because of you, we made an impact on over 5000 lives in 2017 through programming in prevention, rescue and restoration. We look forward to the future and continuing our relationship with you and all of our partners.
Thank you for making a difference in the lives of others and partnering with us in the fight against slavery.”
Katie Thompson, Administrative Specialist
“This year, the Free for Life team truly embraced our vision statement ‘freedom for all.’ It was a year of tremendous growth and new success, but also stretched each team member in different ways. For me, I was most excited about having a hands-on role as the organization expanded its reach through new projects and programs. This fight is one that can be overwhelming and exhausting, but what keeps me pushing forward is knowing that Free for Life stands for empowerment, for sustainability, for education, for stronger communities, for freedom.
My role has already changed an incredible amount since I first started with the organization in 2015, and I am so thankful for the ability to use, and grow, my talents in the pursuit of such a worthy cause — freedom and restoration for these survivors.
I can honestly say that I have never been so proud of Free for Life or more excited about where we are going next!”
Sarah Weeks, Art & Media Coordinator
2017 was a year of shifting, molding, and transitioning into an organization with a clear identity and purpose. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to grow and learn in an environment that truly draws the greatness out of everyone involved.
Personally, this year stretched me in such a profound way. I was challenged to develop my organizational skills, as well as learn new principles and programs that have equipped me to more effectively serve in my position. The growth, on both personal and organizational levels, has truly been remarkable to watch and experience. The strength, motivation, and love that our team embodies is a blessing to be surrounded by. I am grateful — deeply grateful — to lock hands with such an incredible team in this fight to bring freedom to the captives and to see dignity restored.
Together we create change; we are at our strongest when we are one.”
Lauren Bradish, Business & Processing Assistant
“This past year has been one of personal growth — for both myself and my abilities with Free for Life. This organization has given me the confidence to speak up for the injustices surrounding us and has empowered me to give my best in everything I do.
Although my work takes place in an office, there is no better feeling than knowing that it truly makes a difference to someone in the world. I look forward to spending another year with a great group of people and continuing the fight against human trafficking.”
Peace Rehabilitation Center, El Pozo de Vida, Vision Trust, CTRL ALT DEL Poverty, American Medical Student Association, Retail Orphan Initiative, Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, Sertoma Club of Nashville, N2 Publishing, Adams Family Foundation II, Christ Church Cathedral – Monteagle, TN.
— After a long and successful partnership, Free for Life will not be continuing our programs with Peace Rehabilitation Center in Nepal. Free for Life will instead be transitioning into India to focus on the immense need there and pursue even more lives saved!
- Continue to make an impact for communities around the world in prevention, rescue and restoration.
- Launch final Youth Prevention Curriculum to make a difference for at-risk youth.
- Continue to expand Medical Training Curriculum and train providers, students and medical personnel.
- Transition programs from Nepal into India to rescue even more lives.
- Fund motivated survivors around the world through our Scholarship Program.
- Continue as a resource for anti-trafficking research and information.
- Increase trafficking awareness through events and training.
- Rebuild and restore hope to each woman and girl we work with.