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Liberation January 30, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — julieannclark @ 6:58 pm
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Liberation: Doma International

Last Monday night was inspiring.  A doma colleague and survivor of human trafficking, Theresa Flores, hosted and organized the Liberator Awards to recognize the abolition heroes amongst us in Ohio. At the end of the night, Theresa asked me what my favorite moment was.  Was it the glitter that fell down from the ceiling, missing the award winners, but landing directly on Glenn McEntyre of Channel 10? Was it being in the room with the 15+ agencies who collaborate so well to rescue and restore survivors?   (Shout out to The Women’s Fund and Central Ohio YMCA for your continued support of us!!)  Was it the delicious Freedom a la Cart food?  (Shameless plug for catering and box lunch menu here!) 

Hmmm…  Nope.  It was when there was a moment of spontaneous eruption of applause and cheering:

At some point in the film about Theresa’s life, an amazing abolitionist in town (Bev Delashmutt) recalled when Theresa was testifying at the hearing for the new  Ohio anti-trafficking law, when a senator attempted to speed up her testimony.  

Theresa so poignantly said “Sir, I have prepared for this moment for a very long time and you will hear everything I have to say”.  

At that moment in the film, the entire Liberator Award audience celebrated.  

I think everyone realized that indeed, Theresa has found her voice.  Reflect on how empowering it is that a survivor, gave out awards to those who liberate– during January, National Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Month, and on MLK day, a day to celebrate the birth of a prominent civil rights leader who promoted nonviolent activism.  How inspiring that must be to those who are still seeking to use their voices. 

This is our hope for the survivors we work with here in Ohio.  At doma, we have intersected with 122 survivors of forced and coerced prostitution—or modern-slavery.  We know this intersection has extreme responsibility and vulnerability for all of us.  We form relationships with them; we enter into their new norm alongside of them.   We journey with them as they find their voices.  We empower them to use their voices, and support them along the way. It was amazing to see some of these strong survivors in attendance at these awards.  And for doma, it was beautiful to celebrate our partnership with SOAP exactly as we envisioned it to be– what beauty to have such a seamless partnership that actively fights slavery in our own nation.  And what an honor to work with our amazing survivors, equipping them to rediscover ‘self,’ providing a path to find their voices, and empowering them to liberate others enslaved. 

Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery- MLK

For Liberation, 

Julie A. Clark

CEO, doma and Freedom a la Cart

Attend our volunteer training on February 10th from 1:30-3:00 at the YMCA- 40 West Long.   Register with Vanessa@domaconnection.org

Visit freedomalacart.org and domaconnection.org to learn more. 

Short film about Theresa’s story can be found here.   

Follow us on twitter and facebook!  

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Assigning homework after Connecticut…Ending on a high note… December 18, 2012

Filed under: Connecticut,Uncategorized — julieannclark @ 5:57 am
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The older I get, the less opinionated I become.   Many blogs are opinions or reflections or observations on important aspects of life.  And so, because of this, I have thought that maybe I don’t have much to offer the blogging world.

Until Connecticut.

I have to admit that I just now, for the first time, read a CNN article about what happened last week.  I just now took a look at Obama’s speech.  Why did I take so long to read the articles published about it?  Because I knew it would leave me with the familiar paralyzed, empty feeling, with no resolution.

I know now exactly what I can offer through the work of doma.  Some resolution.  Some redemption.  Some hope.  True stories of hope and healing as we see lives transformed every day.  Hope packaged with: Authenticity… A glimpse into the struggle…And a silver lining.  Not an answer to the complex questions raised last week, but checkpoints along the way as we strive to address realities and challenges within our humanity.

So in response to that feeling of ‘no resolution’,  I just now decided to open up to you all and be vulnerable about the very hard work we do at doma as we fight against human trafficking, or modern-day slavery.  Girls and women from the United States who were tricked or forced into prostitution from an average age of 13 in Ohio.

Working in Anti-Human Trafficking every day is hard work. Just this week, along with Connecticut, here are the things that crossed my desk from Columbus alone… one city:  A survivor in her 30’s died today; A survivor in her 20’s went missing 3 days ago;   Two teenaged girls were reported missing 7 days ago, last seen with a young man reported to be involved in a Columbus area with high trafficking (see picture below).

So what do I have to offer?

Authenticity.  I’m going to be super honest with everyone right now and ask you to look at our world dead in the eye and take on the evil.    This is our world, folks.  This is our nation.  These are our kids.  These are our teens.  These are our adults.  These are our families.  And it most definitely is up to us to do something about it.  Together.  To invest and not forget.  To align our calendars and pocketbooks to our inner priorities.  To shift and prioritize our innate values:

Peace and harmony.

A life well lived.

Bringing out the best in those around us.

Working our tails off to be able to say that we did everything we could to promote health and life– and to fight against injustice.

Consider investing in the learning curve so that you don’t feel paralyzed, overwhelmed, disheartened.  Glimpse into the struggle and turn toward the silver lining.
The homework I’m giving myself is to get a blog plan in place for the new year.  Yes, all because of Connecticut.

At doma, we try not to focus on the horror, because we all have hundreds of horrific images floating around in our heads from newspaper clippings and the realities of the pain in our world.  Believe me, I’ve sat through countless human trafficking and orphan care presentations that are gratuitous…without the hope.  Sure, they tug on emotional heart strings, and sometimes borderline manipulate people into donating or caring temporarily.  We won’t do that to you.  We want you to know just enough of the reality and the struggle to be motivated toward a true shift in values. 

Along the way, I’ll give you some homework assignments, offer up forums for discussion,  share doma’s authentic stories of hope… and look for some hopeful stories from you.  We want you to share in our joys, and invite you into our home.  I’ll share hard lessons learned along the way, funny stories about what happened today (we laugh a lot!), and maybe even throw in a few anecdotes from home life.  How does our core doma team balance having 15 collective kids, one newborn grandbaby, two pregnancies,  5 dogs, 4 cats, and an unidentified critter (…long story about my Christmas tree this year…)… ??
And I promise I’ll always end on a high note.  (Seinfeld reference, anyone?)  We need to hear more of the high notes. 

Your homework this week should take  5  1/2 to 8  1/2 minutes, in order of priority:

1) Take 2.5 minutes below to meet Vanessa, a doma teammate and survivor,  as she shares what the word freedom means to her;

2) Take one second to view the pictures of the two missing girls in Columbus; (and maybe take another second to offer up prayers and positive thoughts);

3) Take 3.5 minutes to view our indiegogo campaign here  and hear one way we fight trafficking at doma (since you have only 10  days left to get a free sandwich);

4)  Take one second to subscribe to my weekly or bi-weekly blog over to your right and subscribe to the monthly or quarterly doma newsletters here. (USA for Anti-Trafficking news and volunteer updates); and

5)  Leave a comment!

BONUS:  Watch a few clips from the above quoted Seinfeld reference– 30-seconds here or 3 minutes here.  

Peace and Harmony to all,

Julie

photo

 

erasing the pain…. March 31, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — julieannclark @ 4:45 am

“The strength of our survivors  is such a remarkable asset”, says Jenice, doma’s Chemical Dependency Counselor.   Today, Jenice was able to witness and work through some really tough issues with our dear *Melinda, as she received her first treatment for tattoo removal.  And we’re not just talking about a rose on her ankle or a dolphin swimming around her belly button.

After the “numbing” cream stayed on for about 20 minutes (which did nothing according to Melinda), Dr. Hicks-Graham enters the room with 2 of her medical staff to begin the process of removing the brand “grandaddy” that Melinda has worn for much of her adult life. With Melinda’s permission, the doctor explains to her staff the significance behind today’s procedure and shares information about Judge Herbert, the CATCH program, and the ways that doma supports these beautiful survivors.

Melinda begins to explain to us the history behind her tattoos. Pointing to the side of her neck,”we started on this side, and it wouldn’t take. So he made me try the other side. That one stayed,” Melinda reveals.

“Is that something they do often?” asks the doctor.  (they, as in, “the pimps”).

“Yes, it’s like a,  a…”

“A brand!”  Jenice interjects to assist Melinda with the adjective she was looking for.

“Only two of us had this tho,” Melinda shares, pointing to the tattoo on her neck. “The other girl died,” Melinda explains as she begins to stare outside the window remembering the young lady who she once ran the streets with.  “She was murdered”,  she continued, giving all of us a glimpse into her past life.

In a room where are all now silent, from the initial shock of Melinda’s reality, Dr. Hicks-Graham (moved to compassion) says,

“It’s time for that to come off.”

The procedure was extremely painful. Melinda was ready to give up at first:  “Nope, I can’t do it. Stop! Just forget it!”, she cried. However, being the strong willed survivor that she is, she persevered, and made it through the first step.

Way to go, Melinda!   Way to go, Jenice!  Way to go those of you who helped raise funds and donate toward this amazing effort.   Phew!   What a day.   Only 7 or so more treatments to go before ‘grandaddy’ is gone…   and that’s not counting the ‘treatment’ needed for the emotional and trauma healing that Melinda faces every single day.

 

Bloom! Garden and Freedom!!! July 29, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — julieannclark @ 11:10 am
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Introducing Freedom a la Cart– doma’s new social enterprise for our ladies of CATCH court– women who have exited a life trapped in the sex trade and human trafficking.

Kae, doma’s US Project Coordinator has been caring for the Bloom! garden this spring.  The garden was created to support this new social enterprise this summer!  And wow, has it been fun for me, Kae, Lauren, and all of the survivors who have been working hard to see it through from seed to harvest.

Although Kae will be scaling down her time spent with our survivors while she is caring for her two twin boys early this fall, she has ‘given birth’ to an amazing garden and this fabulous social enterprise idea for our dear survivors!

In her words:

Everyday is Greenday at Bloom! Just a few weeks ago, our garden had its very first harvest: squash, basil, parsley and okra…

which turned into an amazing pesto dish–the ladies saw food go from the earth to our bellies in 30 minutes. But let me start at the beginning.

March:  Our garden has two jobs — to feed our lovely ladies and to support our social enterprise, Freedom a la Cart-  FALC. It was started by an awesome donation of indoor grow lights from Indoor Gardens.  (Thanks, Paul!)  We had one survivor in Bloom at the time, and neither she nor I had ever grown anything under artificial lights. Julie’s dad donated the seeds.  Pots were donated by Fishers Gardens on Truro Ave.
— all we had to buy was dirt, trays and a watering can. Caris Post, super doma volunteer, monkeyed up to the rafters of the basement and rigged up the lights. I planted the seeds with A.M., and she watered faithfully every day, toting that watering can up and down the stairs over and over. After just a few days it looked like this:

April:  And then this:

May:  And this!

June:  It was time to go outside. There was a big ol’ rectangle of earth outside, all cleared. The Heritage folk came and filled it with lots of compost. Then the Vandeveer Family from Abolition U. came and planted four nice fat rows of veggies and herbs — they even brought their dog and took the survivors grocery shopping. When they left, Kate Snow came and helped put down all the straw (holds in moisture, lessens the weeds, slugs hate it). We planted a ring of marigolds around the garden (turns the bunnies away).

We planted

• tomatoes (3 varieties)

• okra

• parsley

• basil

• eggplant

• snow peas

• squash

• zucchini

• broccoli

• brussels sprouts

• peppers (bell & hot)

 July:

Our beds multiply! As Freedom a la Cart comes into real fruition, we realized that cilantro was about to become very important to our lives (Freedom’s flavors are pretty Brazilian–who knew?). So Emily Dannemiller and ladies from her Bible study came and dug us a precious little bed. Then Bailee Frasier  brought her two daughters and they put new soil into the plot and sowed cilantro seeds right in. People say it’s hard to start from seed, but that plot now houses about 100 little cilantro plants.

Heritage came back toward the end of July to till a new plot for our remaining veggies–Trish Dehnbostel of Local Matters donated more parsley and peppers–we have more of our own tomatoes and eggplant and three watermelons to put in the ground.

Some of our Bloom! survivors are a little leery of dirt and bugs, but S.H. was my super waterer (she just moved from Bloom! to Amethyst last week), doma’s Lauren and Kayla have been helping, and more loving green thumbs are incoming.  And there’s even a great story about Lauren using the organic habanero insect deterrent to clean the Bloom! house.  It may involve a lot of coughing and gagging…

August:

We have been harvesting and will use the harvest for our food cart this month!

Several events for Freedom a la Cart are already on the calendar:

August 7th is “A Night of Hope” .  Join us around 4pm in the parking lot of 345 E. 2nd Ave. in Columbus for some yumm-o, locally grown food!  See below for a short promo video about the event, featuring our dear CATCH survivors and Judge Herbert.

August 11th is a luncheon with Judge Herbert for church and community leaders who want to hear more about how to get involved in doma’s Bloom! programs for the CATCH court ladies. Email daniel@domaconnection.org for details.

AND….

Follow Freedom a la Cart on twitter to see where we are located each day we are in operation at lunch time downtown C-bus.

 

OUR VIDEO!! May 23, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — julieannclark @ 11:48 am

Why yes, the long-awaited video from the Women’s Fund was released today!   This video highlights women who are in our Bloom! program, gets to the heart of WHY doma is serving the ladies at CATCH court– why we are journeying with and LOVING these courageous women.   Some of the content is disturbing– some is hopeful– but it completely captures the heart of WHY we do what we do.

I had the privilege of attending the Women’s Fund Goldie Hawn event with 4 amazing survivors.  And they LOVED the experience.  They were so thrilled to dress up and be among 2500 women (and a few men, including our dear Judge Herbert) whose mission is “Investing in the potential of women and girls”.   The grant we received from the women’s fund has been instrumental in helping doma organize and train all of our MANY generous volunteers for our CATCH court ladies.  Why did we decide to take 10 weeks to train people on Human Trafficking and victim interaction?  Because it’s HARD and emotionally draining and at times, counterintuitive. Because usually, when I teach Human Trafficking 101 to a group of people, they look like deer caught in the headlights when I’m done…(It’s a lot of information to process!)   So taking 10 weeks to FIGHT slavery together– including going flyering, visiting the freedom museum, reading and discussing important books, etc…  has been a critical part of doma training as we work with survivors of Human Trafficking.  And if our volunteers are trained, then they can respond appropriately to tough situations, tough questions, and surprising turn of events… We see, before our very eyes, every week— lives being restored and communities being renovated.

And as you will see, working with our ladies, there  always are these amazing stories of hope to give us strength as we press on.

Watch our video HERE!

 

Freedom!! May 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — julieannclark @ 12:53 pm

Yesterday will go down in history as one of my ALL-TIME FAVORITE doma days! As the alarm went off at 5:45 for doma’s charity running team at the Cap City 1/2 (and for those of you who know my night owl tendencies– you know what a sacrifice that was!!), I didn’t realize what a special day it would be. I love surprises like that!

The team was energized and well-fed from the pasta dinner the night before. We had 40 volunteers from Covenant Church to man a water table at mile 11. Several of our survivors came out to pitch in, as well. As Dan and I TOGETHER crossed the finish line after our 5K, (yes, we downgraded from the 1/2 last year!)– we thought we’d go say hi to the water table (a few miles away!) And it was THERE that I was amazed. Amazed that this group of volunteers,wearing our doma Team Up shirts still had smiles and energy and encouraging words. And among them, our survivors were jumping and cheering on the runners with such beauty. At one point, a brand new 21 year old resident of doma’s Bloom! home, just out of jail the day before, pulled me aside to share her thoughts:

“I can’t believe all these people came out to support doma– to support ME– And they don’t even know me. I’m standing here passing out water to teammates, and they don’t even know that they’re running for me. How can I fail when I have the whole city behind me?”

Later on, when she heard we were headed to go make empanadas for our new social enterprise, “Freedom a la cart”– she shared that she wanted to be a chef– that she had already started culinary school before her downward spiral. She asked if she could come pitch in– so of course we were glad to have the extra help! It was beautiful to be in the kitchen rolling empanada dough, dicing, chopping, and creating culinary masterpieces with the very Human Trafficking survivors we are supporting with the business!  And even a traveler from doma’s Ethiopia team was rolling dough, albeit completely jet-lagged.  (Read here about the trip and hear how the chief of the village says ‘doma was an answer to generations of prayers’).  Today the food will be served from 11am-5pm at the Spring Flea in the short north. Columbus Alive gave us a shout out here.   At one point, this courageous survivor pulled Dan aside and told him ‘You know, your wife– doma– is giving me my LIFE’.  (cue tears!)  And I say back to all of you — THANK YOU for helping doma give lives back.  We couldn’t do it without you.

We still need support for this business to be successful this summer, so contact daniel@domaconnection.org if you want to invest in this social enterprise.  And the Team Up team page is still accepting donations.   And of course, we now have our webpage for the tattoo removal– so spread the word here.  I’m sick of looking at those ugly tattoos that literally are the names of their traffickers– Yes, the name ‘Greedy’ remains on the neck of one of our ladies.  ugh.  Sickening.   But hey, at least she has her LIFE back!!

Now for my Mother’s Day lunch at the Spring Flea– this is the first year I haven’t gone out for Indian on Mother’s Day since my first baby was born 5 years ago.  Ahh– what amazing and flexible and lovely kids I have who so wonderfully put up with me bringing them around everywhere to fight slavery and the orphan cycle– from Africa & Russia to the Bloom! house, court, bowling-haha-  and sometimes even on drives downtown looking for survivors we have temporarily lost.   Many of you have heard that Jude once asked if I remember when he was a Russian orphan (?) haha.  And yesterday, the kids were make-believe playing ‘jail’.  Jude says “Lucy, we’re getting out of jail today”.   And then they gathered all their babies.

I guess that’s the hope, isn’t it?

 

Tattoos of slavery April 20, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — julieannclark @ 2:03 pm

The Auschwitz tattoo on the forearms of survivors serves as an incessant and harrowing reminder of slavery. In the same way, the survivors of human trafficking that doma works with are constantly reminded by past remnants of being enslaved. Whether it be the name of their pimp/boyfriend/dope boy/perpetrator in huge block letters across their shoulders and necks, or tear drops and other gang symbols on their faces, these courageous ladies are coming forward and asking us to help them get rid of these constant triggers and reminders of their lack of freedom…and daily reminders of the pimp or boyfriend or gang leader who first used force/fraud/or coercion to get them to sell their bodies for the perpetrator’s own repulsive profit. (If you didn’t catch it, that is THE LEGAL Definition of Human Trafficking!!) Since now they are living free lives of survivors… they should no longer have to wear the branding marks of imprisonment.

Thank you to those of you who responded so quickly to these pleas. Your compassion and care have overwhelmed us!

In the last day or so, I’ve learned way more about tattoo removal than I could have ever thought imaginable! Looks like we need to bring our ladies in for estimates. Could be $300, could be $1000, depending on location and size. One lady who is living in the doma Bloom! house has a small one on her face. A few other ladies have them on their necks. At court on Thursday, I’ll set up a consultation date with those who need them removed– and then I’ll publish the entire estimated cost for any designated giving. These next two weeks, any giving at domaconnection.org will go toward the tattoo removal. And if there is extra, we’ll use it for our daily doma Bloom! program costs:

We support over 25 survivors with daily necessities, doctor visits, glasses, legal consultation for child reunification, transportation, life skills classes, and mentorship– plus another 3 or 4 ladies per month live at our doma Bloom! home and receive intensive, specialized care with chemical dependency counselors, social workers, and case managers–not to mention all the living costs for the survivors. (The resident status is fluid depending on relapse, detox, mental health status of ladies waiting for placement, and the mental health status of doma employees–haha-joke!…another blog on this another time– it’s been a crazy year!)

In the meantime, if you know of a Columbus dermatologist/laser specialist (?) who wants to donate the removal, then send them my way! THANK YOU FOR THE AMAZING, overwhelming facebook response to this need! You ROCK!

Ahh– I still have to tell you all about our trip to Russia/Ukraine. A taste of what’s to come: key faith-based leaders have approached doma to begin an anti-human trafficking program for incarcerated survivors in partnership with the government. They are SICK of their status as being a top recruitment country. We’re sick of it too! And I’m pretty certain that God is sick of it too! We’ll be looking for major church and business partners to help with this one!