Archive for April, 2010

Donors for Taste for Freedom!

Posted: April 29, 2010 in Events

The fine restaurants, stores, entrepreneurs, and wineries are still rolling in, but so far, here are our supporters:

Auction Items/Services:

Food & Wine for the Tasting:

The U.S. State Department has an Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, and since 2001 they’ve released an annual report summarizing efforts on the issue. We’ve copied here former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s introductory letter from 2007, which is especially well-written.

Read the full Trafficking in Persons Reports here.

* * *

June 12, 2007

Dear Reader:

Two hundred years ago, the British Parliament outlawed the trans-Atlantic slave trade, culminating a decades-long struggle led by William Wilberforce.

Trafficking in persons is a modern-day form of slavery, a new type of global slave trade. Perpetrators prey on the most weak among us, primarily women and children, for profit and gain. They lure victims into involuntary servitude and sexual slavery. Today we are again called by conscience to end the debasement of our fellow men and women. As in the 19th century, committed abolitionists around the world have come together in a global movement to confront this repulsive crime. President George W. Bush has committed the United States Government to lead in combating this serious 21st century challenge, and all nations that are resolved to end human trafficking have a strong partner in the United States.

The seventh annual Trafficking in Persons Report documents efforts by foreign governments to prevent human trafficking, prosecute criminals, and protect their victims. The report probes even the darkest places, calling to account any country, friend or foe, that is not doing enough to combat human trafficking.

The power of shame has stirred many to action and sparked unprecedented reforms; and the growing awareness has prompted important progress in combating this crime and assisting its victims wherever they are found.

Defeating human trafficking is a great moral calling of our day. Together with our allies and friends, we will continue our efforts to bring this cruel practice to an end. Thank you for joining the new abolitionist movement. Together we can make a difference, and together we can build a safer, freer, and more prosperous world for all.


Condoleezza Rice

Why “Free Is a Verb”?

For one, we’re not politicians, activists, law enforcement, or businesspeople–we’re writers, and that is the main skill we’re bringing to this cause. But second, and most importantly, we want to promote action both locally and abroad, because that’s what it will take to end modern-day slavery.


What am I donating to?

All of our work in the Philippines will be volunteer, so you will be supporting us for the 12 months we are there. We’re volunteering with Samaritana Transformational Ministries, and International Justice Mission (IJM).  Samaritana does some amazing aftercare work, helping prostituted women build a new life and providing them with counseling, livelihood skills (and a new way to make a living), scholarship programs for their children, and a loving, accepting Christian community.  IJM works to prosecute traffickers, rescue victims of trafficking, and place those victims in aftercare facilities like Samaritana.

Fight human trafficking from the comfort of your own wallet!

Are donations tax-deductible?

Yes.  Prior to our departure for Manila, our fundraising was with the Joyce Family Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit set up for supporting charitable work. The tax ID # is 41-6378114.  While in the Philippines, we are working under the umbrella of Converge Worldwide.

What is your budget, and how are you planning to cover your expenses?

Our budget for a year in the Philippines is approximately $40,000.  The Fulbright scholarship will provide $11,000, but the remainder we need to address with a combination of our savings and donations.  We’ve saved enough money over the last seven years to cover our California mortgage while we’re gone, and to cover personal expenses during our year away.

How else can I help?

You can volunteer locally with any of the organizations listed in the sidebar, or donate to them. Please visit their respective web sites for more information.

You can also spread the word about human trafficking to everyone you know!  We’re continually amazed by how many people in our lives don’t know about it, and humbled by how long it took us to learn about it ourselves.

Neither Laura nor I have ever felt called to full-time charitable/missions work, but the year before we got married we got the idea of putting our regular lives on pause for one year out of every seven, and donating that time to helping others. (We were inspired by the scriptural idea of the Sabbath Year, as found in Leviticus 25.) We got married in 2003, so 2010 marks the seventh year. We knew we were going to go somewhere and do some sort of charitable work, but what?

Once we started learning about human trafficking, we were impressed with the urgency of the problem and concluded that fighting this injustice would be a worthwhile use of our year away. While it is a global problem, we were drawn to Asia for various reasons, and as Laura went through the application process for the Fulbright scholarship, that helped us narrow it down to the Philippines, which met several of our criteria: hot spot for trafficking (5th worst in the world), yet not hopelessly corrupt government; existing organizations in place whom we could partner with; culturally different enough to force us to re-evaluate our lives.

Laura recently received notification that she has been awarded the Fulbright, confirming that our work in the Philippines will involve the following: Laura will be working with Samaritana, a Manila-based non-profit that rehabilitates women rescued from prostitution, and writing a novel about sex trafficking, in consultation with a scholar at the University of the Philippines. Nate will be working with some combination of Samaritana and International Justice Mission.


The Mills College Student Union was full of hope on Thursday, May 21, 2010 as Bay Area guests tasted not only food and wine, but the reality of human trafficking in the Bay Area–and what they could do to fight it.  Ten abolitionist organizations had tables in the midst of the food and wine, which was donated from restaurants and wineries ranging from Sonoma Valley to Oakland.  The event also included a silent auction, with exciting art work by local Bay Area artists, restaurant and winery gift certificates, and services like pilates lessons and massage therapy.

Among the non-profit organizations present was Because Justice Matters, California Against Slavery, Freedom House, Garden of Hope, International Justice Mission, M.I.S.S.S.E.Y., New Day for Children, Trade as One, and Workers of Faith (Mills College).  Nate and Laura Davis of Free is a Verb hosted the event.

The event began with some words from Council Member Jean Quan, who is running for Oakland Mayor and has done remarkable work in fighting human trafficking in Oakland.  She spoke about the harsh realities that Oakland girls face, and the need for volunteers and donors to support organizations like the ones present at Taste for Freedom.

Later in the evening, hosts Nate and Laura Davis shared their own story about how they found out about human trafficking, and why they are uprooting their lives in Oakland to move to the Philippines for a year.  They also shared their own top ten list of how you can start fighting human trafficking today:

Anti-trafficking top ten list:

1. If you have more money than time, make a donation to one of the non-profits here making a difference in your home, the Bay Area.

2. If you have more time than money, volunteer. You’re a bunch of educated, skilled, accomplished, beautiful people. And you’re here, so you have heart! They can use you.

3. If you haven’t already, sign California Against Slavery’s petition to get stronger anti-trafficking laws in place.

4. Buy fair-trade products from Trade as One, because sustainable business helps break the cycle of poverty that so often contributes to the supply side of trafficking. (There are a number of other online resources for finding fair-trade products, such as

5. Bring up fair trade when you’re at the grocery store. Let’s make fair trade as common vernacular in 2020 as local and organic are in 2010!

6. Like Free Is a Verb or one of these other organizations on facebook.

7. Write a letter to one corporation, government official, or media outlet. Look for letter templates on our site next week.

8. Shop consignment or thrift store, to reduce the demand for new slave-produced clothes.

9. Ask your company about donating or matching a donation to an anti-trafficking organization.

10.  Tell one family member, one friend, and one co-worker how you spent this evening.


You can see more photos of the night taken and donated by photographer Steve Babuljak here.

Thanks to all of our amazing volunteers and sponsors.  Please support the businesses below, who were generous enough to support us and make Taste for Freedom possible:


Indian child working at a brick factory

Are you ready? There is no going back.

Since you’re online, the Free the Slaves and International Justice Mission web sites are a great place to start.

For a brief introduction, and for auditory learners, this talk by Kevin Bales (University of Surrey professor and leading slavery scholar) is a great place to start. If you’d prefer to watch a movie, we recommend Call+Response, a “rockumentary” involving several notable actresses and musicians.

For book-length treatments of the subject, pick up Disposable People (also by Kevin Bales), his pioneering study of slavery around the world today. Not for Sale, by David Batstone, is a similarly well-researched tour of representative examples of slavery in various countries worldwide; he is a University of California journalism professor. Escaping the Devil’s Bedroom and Terrify no More focus on prostitution, the latter discussing International Justice Mission’s sometimes-dramatic work rescuing enslaved women.

National Geographic also did a story (September 2003 issue) on 21st-century slaves, with their trademark compelling photos. Read an excerpt here.

Nepalese girls at a brothel in Calcutta

Wasn’t slavery abolished? Yes, it was, in the United Kingdom in 1807 and the United States in 1865. And technically, slavery is illegal in every country in the world–just like smuggling drugs and weapons–and those are the only two black-market activities that make more money than selling humans. (According to the FBI, slavery is a $9 billion+ global business). After all, why pay someone to work when you can make them work for free?

That is why there are an estimated 27 million slaves today, the secret labor force in almost every country around the globe: making bricks, sewing clothes, staffing restaurants, picking fruit, or in prostitution. For an overview of modern-day slavery, watch this excellent 18-minute talk from the TED Conference by Kevin Bales, the world’s leading scholar in the area.

[Photo by Jill Filipovic.]