Co-Founder Update

Co-Founder Update

Written by Mark Wexler

This week I’d like to provide you updates from several of our projects in the field. The effects that COVID-19 is having on our community of survivors is very real. 

Peruvian Amazon

Our fishery project deep in the Peruvian Amazon has been crucial to keeping many indigenous communities COVID-19 free because they don’t need to travel into the city to purchase their protein. If the people there contracted COVID-19 it would have horrific effects, as they lack access to hospitals that are equipped to handle the pandemic. However, adding new fisheries was halted last month because of a funding shortage due to COVID-19.

“Not since the early days of the HIV pandemic have I witnessed such challenges. South Africa is under lockdown. There is so much fear around what Covid-19 could do because of the number of people with HIV.”

Southern Africa Not For Sale Director – Tom Hewitt

Bahn Kru Nam, Golden Triangle, Thailand

Typically, half of the kids that live at our Bahn Kru Nam community home attend boarding schools during the school year. Due to COVID-19, all of our kids are back living in the home. This has put great stress on our staff, who now have to feed more kids than expected, help with school work, and much more. Making things more difficult, food costs have tripled, putting pressure on our already limited budget, which had to be cut due to COVID-related funding shortages. 

 

Durban, South Africa

Our Southern Africa director, Tom Hewitt, shared the following: “Not since the early days of the HIV pandemic have I witnessed such challenges. South Africa is under lockdown. There is so much fear around what Covid-19 could do because of the number of people with HIV.”

We have ensured that all of our children are in safe local care throughout this lockdown period. This plan is vital as the homeless are being rounded up and put in poor conditions in stadiums and “hostels.”

At this critical time, our funding to support our work in South Africa has been cut short due to COVID-19.

 

We will continue to share updates from the field and the reality of the effect that COVID-19 is having on our work. Thank you for your continued support.

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Finding happiness

Finding happiness

Written by Mark Wexler

Finding happiness during these difficult times can be hard.

That’s one of the lessons I’ve had to remind myself repeatedly during this crisis. Happiness can be there, right in front of me, but I still have to be open to it to actually feel…well, happy.

This week I found sources of joy in perhaps some of the most unexpected places.

Over the last few weeks I have been on a litany of calls with funders, partners, and project implementers on every inhabited continent. To be honest, most of the call’s main topics weren’t positive. Candidly, we’ve lost major sources of funding during this time. Of course, the loss of funding is not out of malice, but reality. We are learning to navigate these losses, as are countless others.

I am proud to stand with them. I am proud to continue to the fight with them. I am proud to share the moments of happiness with them.

Co-Founder of Not For Sale – Mark Wexler

You might forgive me, however, if I wasn’t in the mood to be happy.

And yet, I have left every conversation with our project teams with renewed vigor to keep up the fight and…well, yeah, be happy.

For example, early Friday morning I was on a call with Ntakamaze Nziyonvira, our East Africa project director.

I chatted with Ntakamaze while he was in Goma, Congo, for some personal time. If you know anything about the history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo you might ask yourself, why go there for personal time?! And why now?!

You see, Ntakamaze was born in the DRC. When he was a child he was forced to flee to Uganda as a refugee. After later completing his studies at the University of Rochester in NY, he returned to East Africa to run our partner NGO, CIYOTA. He now helps more than 1,500 refugees go to school every year.

So, why return to the DRC, a place he was forced to run from? Well, surrounded by a small group of family and friends, Ntakamaze and his wife Vanessa were married there last week.

It could have been easy to meditate on the pain of funding losses and hard conversations, but this weekend I kept returning to the strength and joy of the brave people on the front lines of this fight against forced labor, environmental destruction, and COVID-19. And I have the utmost honor to call these amazing people friends and colleagues.

I am proud to stand with them. I am proud to continue to the fight with them. I am proud to share the moments of happiness with them.

So, today I have a simple ask: can you please join me in congratulating Ntakamaze and Vanessa? Email us ([email protected]) back with words of encouragment and we’ll be sure to send them on to the newlyweds.

And — if you want — take a moment to smile on all that gives you joy. It might come from the most unexpected source.

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NFS Uganda: Founder Blog

NFS Uganda: Founder Blog

Written by Mark Wexler

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I am, because you are

I am, because you are

Written by Mark Wexler

15 years ago I sat on a balcony overlooking the Indian Ocean in Durban, South Africa. I was with my former professor and future co-founder of Not For Sale, David Batstone. Stiff drink in hand, we discussed this insane thing called human trafficking.

It was during this conversation that we decided to start Not For Sale.

For the previous half year I had worked with a friend, Tom Hewitt, assisting his non-profit organization that uses sport to support at-risk and exploited youth. Tom later became Not For Sale’s Southern Africa Director, helping drive our programming in both South Africa and Mozambique. 

One of the many lasting things that stayed with me from my time in Southern African was an ethic called ubuntu. 

Quite literally my humanity is tied to yours, and your humanity is tied to mine. And our humanity is tied to the people that Not For Sale serves on a daily basis.

Co-Founder of Not For Sale – Mark Wexler

A rough translation of ubuntu’s meaning is: “I am because you are.” 

Another way to think of ubuntu, is that everything I do has an effect on you and your well being, and everything you do has an effect on me and my well being. Sure, we might be different, but undoubtedly we are interconnected. And importantly that is what animates our humanity. Our connectedness is actually what makes us…. us. 

Today, for the first time ever, on a global scale we are facing down a foe, COVID-19, that illuminates these (for many of us) previously invisible ties of ubuntu. Quite literally my humanity is tied to yours, and your humanity is tied to mine. And our humanity is tied to the people that Not For Sale serves on a daily basis.

Over the last few days we have talked with many of Not For Sale’s project leaders around the world. COVID-19 is having a real effect on people we serve.

We wanted to briefly share with you some of the immediately known effects on our work:

UGANDA: Last year Not For Sale supported 1,512 children refugees gain access to education in Uganda. We learned Friday that schools have been ordered closed for a month as a precaution. This will have a massive ripple effect on our kids. For most of them the food they receive at our school is the only meal they eat on any given day. We’re working on a way to safely deliver meals throughout the refugee camp.

NETHERLANDS: Our Dignita restaurants in Amsterdam have been ordered closed indefinitely. This has meant that our culinary training program for survivors, which supported 164 people last year, is working to set up an online video training course.

VIETNAM: Our partners are seeing an uptick in human traffickers preying on people most effected by COVID-19. This is in large part due to business closures and job losses which means that families are unable to provide for their children. It means that teenage girls are at higher risk of early marriage. But even through all this, just yesterday, our team rescued a 23 year old woman that was trafficked into China 6 months ago. (She remains in 2 week quarantine.) 

Over the duration of this crisis, we will be sharing with you updates on the effect COVID-19 is having on our team, friends, partners, and the people that we serve. Later this week we will share with you an interview with co-founder, David Batstone. 

More than ever we are committed to helping people that need support. Our resolve has not wavered, it is only strengthened by what we are up against with COVID-19.

In the spirit of ubuntu, acknowledging our interconnectedness, we will also be coming to you, our Not For Sale family, as specific needs arise in our community of survivors and at-risk people to appeal for your help as well. 

In Solidarity, Mark Wexler

Co-Founder & CEO, Not For Sale

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Spence Diamonds Visits Not For Sale Uganda

An Experience Like No Other

Today’s guest post contributor, Jordan Broom-Hall, is employed by Not For Sale partner brand Spence Diamonds. Jordan recently joined a team of representatives from Spence Diamonds to assist with Not For Sale and Spence Diamonds’ Entrepreneurship Challenge, and visit Not For Sale Uganda. In today’s post, Jordan shares his perspective on the experience, and Not For Sale’s impact.  

 

Upon acquiring a position as a Diamond Consultant with Spence Diamonds in 2014, I NEVER would have imagined that I would be traveling across the globe to Uganda to take part in anything like Not For Sale and Spence have designed. Making a difference in peoples’ lives is only the beginning of what we, as a team, are accomplishing there! Together, we are giving hope to those in desperate need, and we are providing them with basic living necessities such as clean water, education, and the ability to lead more comfortable lives. In turn, the people in Uganda are providing each of us more than they could ever know… The refugees we interacted with and got to know had such a joyful presence! I have never seen so many smiles before in one place!

My experience on the trip to Uganda was nothing short of amazing, life changing, emotionally charged, and the most rewarding experience I have EVER been a part of. Terra, Dave and Mark from Not For Sale are some of the most genuine and driven people. Their passion for what they do exudes and imprints on everyone they meet. It was impossible for me not to enjoy myself when in their presence!

Perhaps one of the most compelling and beautiful memories from this trip is the moment we learned that the students of the refugee school had come in on a Saturday for an EXTRA day of school just so that they would have the chance to meet and play with us. When we arrived, our emotions were already heightened, and we were greeted with a ‘roar’ of cheers that could be heard a mile away! After a 5-hour bus ride on quite treacherous roads, it was the most uplifting feeling to have that energy welcome us. When the bus doors opened the sound of children echoed through and filled my eyes with happy tears! When we exited the bus the kids were grabbing our hands and giving us hugs; It was quite literally one of the most happy moments of my entire life, not just of this trip. It pained me SO MUCH when we had to load onto the bus and head back. I could’ve stayed there for the entirety of the trip.

 

 

As a company that takes a different approach to our industry and truly wants to give back and make a difference on those affected from poor practices, I am optimistic for the changes and growth we can encourage and support over the next few years with Not For Sale in Uganda. What has been accomplished already is motivating enough, but to see the future projects unfolding is something that will drive me to push my team and the company to perform that much stronger! Knowing that every day we go to work and do what we do best impacts an entire refugee community across the globe brings an overwhelming sensation over me, and that feeling of ‘good’ is something I want to share with the world! I am crossing my fingers I can be chosen to go again next year.

 

 

Author Biography 
Jordan Broom-Hall began his career in the wedding and engagement industry at the age of 19. He imagined and brought to life ‘Atmosphere Wedding Planning & Event Design’, an international award winning and thoroughly sought-after design company that reached as far as Mexico and the Caribbean with his unusually beautiful and modern design hand. Broom-Hall was an exclusive planner to such celebrities as country musician, Brett Kissel. He also held a standing position on Breakfast Television as a weekly guest on The Bachelor Panel, and design mentor for holidays and wedding / event trends.

He began his career with Spence Diamonds in 2014 as a Diamond Consultant and is currently the acting Store Director of the Edmonton location. 

Jordan currently resides in Edmonton, Alberta – Canada with his husband, Mathew, and his 3-year-old son, Bennett.

Learn More about The Entrepreneurship Challenge and Not For Sale’s work in Uganda