During 2011, Freedom Stones worked closely with a locally run children's shelter in Poipet, Cambodia. The success of our program there led to an invitation to run a trafficking prevention project sponsored by Samaritan's Purse. Samaritan's Purse observed that children in their feeding programs were rapidly dropping out of middle school to migrate across borders for work. This illegal migration at such a young age most often leads to exploitation and human trafficking, and continues a cycle of poverty in the community.
Freedom Stones completed a significant amount of local research to identify actual drop out rates, poverty rates, drop-out rate connections between migration and trafficking, and the reasons for dropping out, as well as community perceptions of education. The overwhelming reason for teens dropping out of school beginning age 12, was to help support their families financially. Most parents and community leaders value education and prefer their children finish school, but options are very limited in this region of Cambodia. As a result of our research, in cooperation with the local community, Freedom Stones launched our after-school program to employ teenagers of labor age and to provide weekly holistic skills training. This program provides income so that the teens can help their families financially without the risk of being trafficked or exploited. Each month, the students make a presentation to their community about what they have learned in order to benefit the community as a whole. To date, our retention rates from 7th to 8th grade have been 100%, compared to 50-75% previously.
Empowering vulnerable single mothers is a proven way to prevent child trafficking. At Krobodan Beads, an NGO focused on training vulnerable mothers how to produce jewelry, the objective is to improve the lives of women who are economically disadvantaged and therefore vulnerable to traffickers' offers for their children's labor. Through the project with Krobodan Beads, these women are offered an opportunity to change their lifestyle, contribute to development within the community, and the ability to better educate their families and feed their children three times daily. Freedom Stones engaged Krobodan Beads during our work in Ghana in 2010.
Creating sustainable employment for vulnerable individuals such as women and people with disabilities can reduce instances of human trafficking. By partnering with Freedom Stones, Sun Trade, an indigenous jewelry business in Ghana's capital city, Accra, is able to employ many urban poor individuals, including individuals that are physically challenged, who would otherwise be vulnerable to human trafficking. Sun Trade's founder, Kati Torda Dagadu, has also been an invaluable advisor to Freedom Stones since the inception of our work in Ghana in early 2010.
Village of Hope (VOH) - Vocational Training Center
Youth living on the streets of Ghana's capital city of Accra are vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation. When teens on the streets decide to make something more of their lives and learn a trade, the VOH vocational training center in Ayawaso, Ghana, welcomes them. In addition to the Freedom Stones jewelry program, VOH instructors train these young people in tailoring, batik and tie-dye, kente weaving, leather works, and auto mechanic skills. By partnering with Freedom Stones, VOH is able to provide innovative income-generating and skill development activities to the youth to break the cycle of poverty and injustice. Freedom Stones engaged VOH early 2010.