CUTTING THE

FIRST LINK

Free for Life’s Innovative Prevention Approach

Today, the world is engaging with many important issues ranging from environmental protection to remaining healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, there is a growing issue that has been often pushed aside: human trafficking.

Globally, over 40 million men, women, and children are forced or led into human trafficking. Human trafficking involves more than labor and sex trafficking—it also includes forced marriage, involuntary domestic servitude, bonded labor, child soldiers, and more recently, organ trafficking. Nonprofit organizations have been leading the effort to rescue and rehabilitate victims, in hopes that all can find peace and happiness. There is one organization, however, using a unique prevention method in the fight against human trafficking. 

Founded in 2006, Free for Life International (FFLI) is an organization in Nashville, Tennessee that focuses not only on the rehabilitation of survivors, but also the rescue of victims, prevention of those at risk, and long-term solutions for survivors to be protected from re-victimization. What is unique about FFLI is their approach to prevention and innovative curriculum, defending against the recruitment and trafficking of victims across the globe. 

Gabrielle Thompson, FFLI’s Executive Director and CEO, spent a year searching for an effective teaching method to spread awareness about human trafficking and how to equip and empower individuals with the “tools” to prevent it. 

“We identify what are the gaps in the anti-trafficking community, how we can fill those, how we can be innovative and not recreate the wheel and actually help the community as a whole, and support those that are at risk as well as those who have been victimized,” Thompson softly said.

The curriculum was thoughtfully created using a holistic approach, making it fully adaptable to every region and country FFLI teaches in. FFLI partners and works with many organizations from all over the world —  a team member will travel to those at-risk and vulnerable areas to host a train-the-trainer session to train leaders within the community. These leaders are typically from youth and orphan-care organizations, schools, and government agencies. The highly approachable materials  can be understood and applied by anyone, no mater their age. 

“The reason that we decided to implement the ‘train-the-trainer’ approach was through different experiences of realizing that it was going to be the most effective,” Thompson said. Susana Martinez, the International Curriculum Specialist, continues, “As a small organization, we can reach out to more vulnerable children around the world by equipping people that have the heart to help their community and who directly work with youth that are in need.”

In 2019, FFLI expanded their prevention curriculum training sessions to Guatemala. During the train-the-trainer session in Guatemala, FFLI trained 130 facilitators from orphan-care facilities, according to their 2019 annual report. During that session, those facilitators were educated on how to prevent, identify, and respond to potential trafficking situations.

Although FFLI’s prevention curriculum is full of global statistics, the materials are customized with information relevant to the specific area and region the curriculum is taught. The core of the materials, however, is the Prevent, Identification and Respond

statistics of the specific area and region the curriculum is taught, and what the trafficking types are, the core of the curriculum lies within the Prevent, Identify, and Respond (PIR) method.

The PIR method is taught through a story-telling approach, using different potential scenarios that could be at-risk for human trafficking. The story-based content can be easily taught to all age groups. 

“A story-telling approach was effective because it is really challenging to teach people theory. We really wanted it to be something that children can easily learn and digest within their brains,” said Thompson. 

This portion of the curriculum allows for the facilitators, as well as children, to really think about human trafficking in a way that relates to their own community. FFLI spends a lot of time in preparation to ensure that the scenarios represent the norms and customs within that country or region accurately, making it more impactful when it is taught. 

The primary focus of the PIR section is to equip facilitators with the tools they need to prevent, identify, and respond to potential human trafficking situations. This is accomplished through questions in the scenarios that highlight key warning signs in a potential situation.

“I consider it a simple method that makes people think about many possibilities and precautions by just asking themselves a few questions that later they can bring to action,” Martinez said. She continued, “The most important thing for me is that it brings a sense of community by discussing sensitive issues  – in this case about human trafficking – in the society and/or region that the participants in common call their home.”

FFLI dedicates their days to creating different programs and educational materials that protect the lives of vulnerable men, women, and especially children from human trafficking. The key to working to end human trafficking is cutting the first link. That can only be done through prevention efforts, such as FFLI’s unique and internationally adaptable curriculum. FFLI has worked tirelessly to teach their curriculum to hundreds of people so that they can teach more facilitators and at-risk children the critical knowledge. 

FFLI has continued to grow and expand its reach to many organizations, advocacy groups, and orphanages. Since 2017, FFLI has trained almost 800 people about human trafficking prevention in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Peru. 

“I do personally believe that we are on the cusp of growth right now and what that growth looks like is the absolute doubling of our impact around the world,” Thompson said. “All of our programs have such a fantastic foundation and are able to be scaled for growth in any way. I see us continuing to sharpen the programs that we have to make them more impactful as well as growing how we are achieving each.”

You can be the one to protect the precious lives of children from being victimized by human trafficking. For more information about partnering or donating to Free for Life International, please visit their website at https://freeforlifeintl.org/.

Delaney Dickey

Delaney Dickey

Delaney is a graduate student from Nashville, Tennessee. She is getting her Master Degree at Middle Tennessee State University studying International Affairs. She specializes in journalism and Middle Eastern studies and is pursuing those areas of focus as a practicum student for Free for Life International.

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