One of our deepest-held goals is to scale our prevention programs, reaching new areas and other areas with children who are deeply at risk. Trafficking is such a huge problem, prevention needs to be cultivated in so many more places. But it needs to be done in a way that’s ethical, sustainable, locally-led, and culturally sensitive. The key thing is, we believe others don’t need to keep reinventing the wheel. Through collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and mutual capacity-building, we can spread the message of prevention more powerfully. Our plan has been to prove the power of prevention, which we’ve been doing for the past 14 years. On this foundation, we aim to export our model to other villages, whose leaders can adapt it to meet the specific needs of their communities.
First Step: Putting Prevention into Words
Our process began with writing a manual to explain prevention work – a task that turned out to be harder than previously assumed! It came as a surprise that so much of what our staff did, they did intuitively and from experience grown over time. Putting it into words was an unexpected challenge.
Reaching More Children, Confronting More Risk
We’ve built a team whose focus is to help empower other organizations that work closely with at-risk children to fold prevention work into what they’re already doing. Not to toot our own horn, but nobody else in the region does prevention. Not as their main focus. Most organizations that work with children are focused on poverty reduction or education. Their goals are adjacent to ours, so it’s not a large stretch to incorporate prevention programming. Organizations like children’s homes are a natural ally – similar to orphanages or dormitories, these are homes for children who are separated from parents or guardians. In most of these cases, either their parents may have migrated for work, or they live too far from any schools and it’s easier or cheaper to send children to live at the children’s home in order to attend school. The children have very little in the way of resources and support, beyond the food, shelter, and care received from the children’s home. They would be very vulnerable to the lures traffickers offer – whether money or affection. Helping keep opportunities for advancement open and guiding them around risky choices would be essential to keeping them safe.
We reached out to a select handful of these organizations that work with children at risk and discussed how the children in their community are especially vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation. Though they’ve never done prevention work before per se, these partner organizations were willing to learn about our model and find ways to adapt it to their community’s capacities and needs.
On Building Capacity
The next step is to train them in implementing prevention work – building programs that help raise awareness, play-based activities that teach children about potential abuse and how to protect themselves from it, mentorship, support in legal rights advocacy, and other ways we help children stay safe from predators.
The process of trying to share our model with others has been one of learning and adaptation. One of the differences our team has noticed between the students that we work with and the students in these new communities is that most of our students still have some form of family they live with – an aunt, grandparent, or even stepparent. The children in these homes live apart from their families, or their families are more absent from their lives. For them, it is particularly important to establish a solid relationship with at least one caring adult to help them overcome adverse experiences. There is likely trauma from being separated from their biological family; likely significant damage to overcome to help them stay protected from abusers and exploiters and help build their safety, resilience, and growth.
By exporting our prevention model, our hope is to help even more communities empower themselves to protect children from abusers, traffickers, and exploiters. When they can use our model as inspiration and adapt it to their own context, prevention can grow quickly and sustainably – and be more meaningful for the people involved. By collaborating with other partners, we can strengthen entire regions, sending a clear message that trafficking has no place here.
Our generous donor community should know that, in investing in prevention with The Freedom Story, their gifts both help the children with whom we work directly and go to support even more communities of children at risk. We do outreach work, teaching children in schools about their rights to body privacy and protecting themselves from abuse. In doing so, we’ve been able to reach out to more than 5,700 children. Now, by exporting our model to others, we’re devising a new way to reach even more. We’re so grateful for the opportunities afforded by caring, committed people like you. We hope it’s clear that you too are part of a wide network of people joined in the passion to protect children and keep them safe on the path toward their dreams.