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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NFS Vietnam Update

NFS Vietnam Update

Written by Michael Brosowski

It’s hardly news at all now. The coronavirus, COVID-19, has swept the world. From some murmured concerns in December, this viral infection is now the daily lead story everywhere.

People are worried. Over 130,000 are sick. Almost 5,000 have died.

In response, the world is in panic mode. Wearing a face mask is the new normal in many countries. Schools are closed, supermarket shelves are empty of basic items, flights and events have been cancelled.

This isn’t easy on anybody.

The world has seen global crises before, and we will again. And every time, it’s the poorest in society who are the hardest hit.

Co-Founder of Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation – Michael Brosowski

And without diminishing these very real fears and tragedies, we can see that it’s the world’s most vulnerable who are facing the grimmest of futures because of the virus.

Families living without access to health facilities – or without the ability to pay for testing – can do nothing but hope they don’t fall ill.

Women who spend all day selling their goods in the crowded markets of villages around the world have to choose between working in a high-risk environment… or their whole family going hungry.

Elderly and chronically ill people, who are most at risk of fatal consequences if they catch the virus, risk being stranded at home alone, knowing that simply going out in public poses a risk to their life.

And for Blue Dragon, a very particular group of people is suffering: women and girls in slavery.

Blue Dragon is well known for our rescues of people who have been trafficked and sold for labor or sexual exploitation. Last year alone, we rescued 111 women and girls who had been trafficked from Vietnam into China and sold, mostly to men wanting wives.

Since the coronavirus forced the closure of the Chinese-Vietnamese border, and travel within China became heavily restricted, these rescues have all but ceased. We’ve succeeded in getting just a few people out of slavery and into safe houses to hide while waiting for the restrictions to pass.

Calls for help, however, keep coming. And while all are urgent, some are extremely distressing. One woman last week made the call at risk of her life, knowing that calling for help would be dangerous, but if she cannot escape she will be killed anyway.

The man who bought her beats her routinely and regularly. It’s just a matter of time before he kills her.

That woman is safe now – but there are 27 more people in contact with Blue Dragon hoping we can get to them too.

The coronavirus is bad for everyone, without exception. For the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, the virus is a risk to their life whether they are infected or not.

So what can I do?

If you want to take action, don’t feel helpless. Some ways you can help right now:

  • Check with your neighbors and community – are there elderly people, single parents with kids at home, or chronically ill people who need supplies delivered to their home? Or just a friendly phone call to check in on how they are doing?
  • Make a donation. Right now, charities around the world are canceling fundraising events, and donations are drying up. If you have a few spare dollars, they will be deeply appreciated.
  • Support your local businesses. Unless your government (or a doctor!) advises otherwise, get down to the shops with your facemask on rather than ordering from giant, automated online systems. The first people to lose their jobs as business slows down will be those who are already on low salaries in your local shop or cafe.

The world has seen global crises before, and we will again. And every time, it’s the poorest in society who are the hardest hit.

As we pull through the coronavirus in coming months, let’s stay determined to make the world a more just, fairer place for all people, for the long term.

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