Posts in category 'General'

“Can you take me with you?”

A young boy sat on the dirt floor of a crowded sweatshop. Eyes wide, he pleaded.

“The shop owner’s gone. Can you take me with you now?”

I looked at the floor and paused.

“I’m sorry,”  I said. Our small nonprofit’s funding for the year was long gone. “We can’t. At least not yet.”

In my 10 years working to rescue and redeem young people from slavery, I’ve never felt such emotions. Desperation and sadness overwhelmed me, as they do hundreds of thousands of young men and women in the city of Addis Ababa who are enslaved and deprived of successful, long-lasting futures.

Yet, the boy’s wide, expectant eyes also filled me with hope.

“We’ll find the funding,” I told him. “We’ll come back for you. We promise.”

Out of this promise Friends of Beza was born.

If you’ve been around Beza a while, you know we give 90 percent of our proceeds to rescuing and rehabilitating youth from forced prostitution and sweatshop labor. How could we possibly do more?

With Friends of Beza, we give you the agency.

You choose how you’d like to fight slavery. Whether it’s rescuing a young woman from forced prostitution through Beza Rescuers, or helping us safeguard children from falling into slavery through Beza Protectors, each sponsor program plays a transformative role in a child’s life.

We never want to enter a sweatshop or brothel without the funds and capacity to say yes to every child who is ready and willing to leave. Will you join us?

Click here to learn more about our new child sponsorship program.

Help our partners in Ethiopia get a van

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Organization with 50 employees serving 3,600 struggling Ethiopians owns just one 4-passenger vehicle. Let’s change that together.

Beza’s boots-on-the-ground partners in Ethiopia desperately need a van. They’re well on their way through the commitment of a church in Des Moines. We hope you’ll help them push over the final hill for a $20,000 purchase.

The organization, Hope for Children Ethiopia (HCE), serves thousands of children every year (freeing many from forced labor and sex trafficking). They provide these rescued youth with a place to live, food, education, and hope for a brighter future. With a staff of 50 people, HCE annually supports 3,600 Ethiopians across the eastern Africa country. But the nonprofit owns just one four-passenger vehicle. That means racking up a tab of thousands of dollars a year for taxis and riding bicycles or walking countless miles to accomplishment their work.

The leadership team with HCE has voiced the need for a van as a top priority over the past two years. Beza Threads is thrilled to respond to that call with the dedication of a local Des Moines church and generous partners just like you.

Ashworth Road Baptist Church, in partnership with Beza Threads, has set the ambitious goal of raising $10,000 within the church (during its annual missions campaign). The target will cover roughly half the cost of the vehicle. That’s where you come in!

We are asking our generous friends, family and neighbors to help raise an additional $10,000 (or more) to get HCE the perfect vehicle for their unique cause. Will you join us in raising the funds to support such a worthy organization? Sometimes it’s the most practical steps that bridge the gap between freedom and those in desperate need.

Give here: https://www.gofundme.com/ashworthroad

Redemption Story: Yetenayet

Yetenayet Beza Threads Ethiopia

Meet Yetenayet. She is 17 and lives in Hope for Children Ethiopia’s New Life Home.

Yetenayet’s father died when she was a baby, so her mother did all she could to raise her and her two siblings. But, when Yetenayet was just 11, her mom suddenly died.

“When my mom passed away, our family faced the biggest challenge,” Yetenayet says. “We had no immediate relatives who could help us. My brother begged on the street. Two separate neighbors took my sister and me.”

After few months, Yetenayet left her guardian home because of an argument and she stayed in the home of one of her classmates. Her classmate’s mom made a living in sex trade and life was not comfortable for Yetenayet. She decided to find her brother and live with him on the street. He told her to come back when he got a house to rent.

Yetenayet didn’t want to wait, so she decided not to go back to her guardian home and continued living on the streets of Addis by herself. It was very difficult to get enough to eat. She was begging for food and for daily shelter (to rent a bedroom), and when she couldn’t get enough money for her daily needs, she was trapped into sex trade.

During this time, Yetenayet heard from a friend who was contacted for a rehabilitation project by Hope for Children. She registered and joined Hope for Children New Life Home. Now she is training to be a hair dresser.  She is actively participating in training and other psychosocial support that is provided by the training center.

“After I graduate, I have plans to hire [work] in hair style shops, save moneys from my salary, and gather my families (my brother and sister) and to live together,” Yetenayet says. “Furthermore, I will continue my education, and if God will, one day I will have my own hair style shop.”

Yetenayet is very grateful for Beza Threads and their support that helped change her life.

When you buy a scarf, like our Facebook page, volunteer at an event, or wear a Beza Threads t-shirt, you help reduce the impact of sex slavery and human trafficking in Ethiopia.

Want to get more involved, or have an idea for how to partner with us? Send us a message and let’s connect! Thanks again for all your help furthering the fight to end human slavery.

Redemption Story: Tizeta

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Meet Tizeta. She is 18 years old.

Tizeta’s dad died when she was 7 years old and her mom passed away when she was 14. She has two brothers and three sisters, but only three of them grew up together.

“Poverty was so bad my sisters and brothers couldn’t grow [up] together. My mom was unable to feed all of us, so she sent three of them to live with her relatives in different places,” Tizeta says.

Tizeta’s mom sold a local drink called “Tela” and snacks to support her family, but she struggled to have enough money to provide for them. “My school expense was covered by a generous neighbor,” Tizeta says. “She supported all my school expense until I reached grade seven because she understood my mother was unable to cover my school fees.”

“The support stopped after I completed grade seven and my brother helped me for my grade eight education with the money he earned from daily labor,” Tizeta says.

Then her brother got married and had a baby and couldn’t continue paying for her schooling. “After I passed to grade nine, I dropped out of school and started to work in a flower farm,” Tizeta says. She was able to support herself this way for awhile, but work at the farm slowed down and she lost her job.

“I didn’t have money for my basic needs and hopelessness overwhelmed me,” Tizeta says. She was on the verge of entering the commercial sex trade, which is the only option for survival for many young women in her situation.

Her friend, Samrawit knew Tizeta needed help and supported, advised and cared for her. Samrawit was in commercial sex work, and she knew how bad that life was. She shared the money she earned with Tizeta and warned her not to employ herself in commercial sex.

Samrawit heard about the Hope for Children in Ethiopia (HCE) program for those trapped in commercial sex, and she and Tizeta joined together.

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“Now I am in New Life Home of HCE,” Tizeta says. “I have started training in food preparation, and I am receiving support for my basic needs (food, shelter, medication) and other psychosocial support. When I finish my training I plan to work as cook in restaurants and be self-sustained. I am grateful for HCE and Beza Threads’ support. God bless you all.”

Redemption Story: Mehiret

image004Meet Mehiret.

She is a 21 year-old woman born in Welmera; a rural district near Addis Ababa, the capitol of Ethiopia.

Mehiret’s mother died when she was young. “After the death of my mother, my brother and I started to face so many problems. I dropped out of school after grade 4 and started to shoulder adult women role in my childhood like cooking food, collecting fire wood, fetching water for my family. In all this my father was not good for me,” she says.

When Mehiret was 19 years old, she went to live with her uncle. “I went to my uncle’s home hoping [for a] better life. He promised to care for and send me to school, but he betrayed me,” she says.

Mehiret’s uncle made her be a maid in his home. She ran away and worked as a waitress. After 8 months, she moved to Addis Ababa to work in a hotel. She didn’t earn enough money doing this to survive and turned to prostitution to supplement her income.

Mehiret learned about how Hope for Children in Ethiopia (HCE) rescued women from a life of prostitution. “When I heard about the HCE program for young women like me, I decided to go to the new home immediately. I was always thinking that who can redeem me from this life and work of a sex worker, to follow a man back to his hotel room,” she says.

She immediately joined the new life home of HCE and registered for training in food preparation. Mehiret has since then left behind a life of prostitution thanks to the support she received from Hope for Children in Ethiopia —a Beza Threads partner organization.

Together, Beza Threads and Hope for Children in Ethiopia helped get Mehiret off the streets. Today she is supporting herself in the food industry and investing in other woman through HCE.

“I give praise to God. Now I am on the right way to lead a normal life, thanks to your support,” Mehiret says.

When you buy a scarf, like our Facebook page, volunteer at an event, or wear a Beza Threads t-shirt to the grocery store, you help reduce the impact of sex slavery and human trafficking in Ethiopia.

Want to get more involved, or have an idea for how to partner with us? Send us a message and let’s connect! Thanks again for all your help furthering the fight to end human slavery.

#endhumanslavery

Upcoming Events

If you missed an opportunity to buy online, we’re holding some stock back in order to make it easier for local Des Moines-ians to get their hands on a scarf. We’ll be out in DSM on December 7th and 8th.

On Saturday, December 7th, we’ll have a table at the annual Ladies’ Bazaar at St. Theresa Church on Saturday, December 7, 2013 from 9:00am–3:30pm.

On Sunday, December 8th, we’ll be selling scarves at Gateway Church’s Advent Conspiracy Gift Mart. Check out all the information here.

Thanks for all you do. Hope to see next weekend.

The Value of Life

It’s strange how small facts can change your life forever. If you hear that Americans spend $61 billion annually on pets, it may change how often you groom your dog. Or if you read a news report saying dark chocolate can be good for your heart, you might feel better about eating an entire bag of dark chocolate M&Ms.

The one small fact that changed my life forever was something I heard while taking a tour of Merkato, the world’s largest open-air market that also contains Addis Ababa’s prostitution district. After visiting the district, a friend held a quarter up and said, “This is wealth in this district. Most of those girls are sold for no more than this quarter.”

I remember how that statement shook me to the core. Multiple times every night for a quarter each time. How could it be that these girls were having their childhoods sold for almost nothing? That fact became an unyielding obstacle to my future. I would do anything to rescue my sister from the same situation. Why would I not do the same for these girls? Did their life hold any less value than my own or the lives of those I love? Their price tag seemed to indicate that their innocence wasn’t worth much more than a gumball.

I knew that doing nothing would not be an option. From that single fact about a quarter, my passion for rescuing slaves was born. Since that moment five years ago, we have been fighting for freedom through Beza Threads. I’ve become an “expert” in the topic of slavery, spreading the word about the appalling reality of modern-day slavery. I remember reading that the value of a slave has dropped from $40,000 to $90 since the height of the African slave trade in the 1800s. It is truly hard to believe that the average price to buy a life—not to rent, but to own—is only $90, and subconsciously I thought this was an exaggeration to drive action. But this last spring I was faced with the realization that this fact held true.

In April, I spent a few weeks in Ethiopia collaborating with our partner organization to work on our plans for this fall. I met Bjorn, a Swedish businessman in his 70s. He had been very successful in life and had been traveling the last 20 years around the world sharing the gospel and fighting extreme issues of poverty. Our organization rescues individuals from slavery through an underground system; however, Bjorn was there to literally buy freedom outright. Solving world issues is a complex process, but changing a single life is often simple.

Bjorn had brought $3,600 with him to Ethiopia and he set out to haggle with slave owners to buy freedom for as many slaves as possible. I’m not sure how much of it was his business sense and experience with negotiation and how much was just an appalling undervaluing of lives, but with that money he purchased freedom for 24 boys and girls. Let that sink in: he paid $150 per person. The value of one of these children to their slave owners was less than my utility bill. It was less than a phone. It was less—so much less—that what they are worth. How encouraging to know that a life can be changed so easily, and yet how much more disappointing that so many remain in slavery when it takes so little to get them out.

This simple fact once again changed my life and has shed further light on how tragic the issue of human slavery really is. This fall, every time I share about slavery, I will share my first-hand experience of witnessing slaves being bought and freed for as little as $150.

Note: I realize there is some controversy over paying slave owners to release their slaves which they had no right to own in the first place. However, I can tell you that for these children their freedom was not at all diminished by the means in which it came. For these children, their gift of freedom was worth so much more than $150. Any argument will pale in comparison to the fact that the parents were able to hold their children again.

Ignorance. Idealism. Initiative.

Although I would like to consider myself an intelligent, informed individual, I have realized lately that many days go by where I don’t give a [serious] thought to things that don’t affect me. Me. Personally.

This is not to say that it is even possible for a human being to be completely selfless, but a lot of us have a long journey to embark upon.

As a part of the Beza Threads team, I’ve started a journey that I recently [just now, actually] coined the ‘Tri-I.’ It starts in Ignorance, winds its way through Idealism, and lingers a while around the Cape of Initiative. Bear with me.

ig·no·rant [ig-ner-uhnt]

Ignorance wears many hats. It doesn’t—or rather shouldn’t—always come with a negative connotation or be confused with the adjective ‘stupid.’ In definition, ignorant means ‘lacking knowledge or training; lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact.’

Prior to my involvement with Beza Threads, I had little to no interaction with sex slavery. I didn’t know how many women and children were involved against their will, or under the guise of making a better life for their families. I didn’t know that it existed to the level that it does in the United States. In our state.

This brings me to the Di-I:

i·de·al·ism  [ahy-dee-uh-liz-uhm]

I’ve been charged with this one my entire life. People describe it as ‘pie in the sky,’ ‘head in the clouds,’ or any other appendage and/or dessert in the atmosphere. Your choice. In actuality, it is defined as ‘the cherishing or pursuit of high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc.’ I deem it as head in the sky with firm footing on the ground.

I would venture to guess that if you’re reading this blog, you have, at one point in your life uttered the statement ‘I want to make a difference.’ This doesn’t have to mean an all-encompassing global impact, but leaving your mark on your actually, very small, corner of the world.

The fact that a small group of inspired individuals—idealists I might add—are touching lives in Ethiopia, is incredible.

Last, but not least, the Tri of the I’s:

in·i·ti·a·tive [ih-nish-ee-uh-tiv, ih-nish-uh-]

Let’s cut to the chase. Initiative is ‘an introductory act or step; leading action; readiness and ability in initiating action.’

Initiative is the identification of ignorance and the embracing of idealism. It is seeing women and children in the streets of Ethiopia, who most just walk by, and having a heart for them. It is bringing that very real struggle back to Des Moines, Iowa and trying to get others involved in the fight.

Check us out. Buy a Scarf. Spread the Word. Discover your own Tri-I.