2017 Tuesday Justice Holiday Gift Guide

by Michelle Palmer

This year there are plenty of ways make a difference with your gifts! Here are some of my favorites:

DSC_1357_square_cb805d68-fe7e-49eb-885e-d9bd082fe2ff_1024x1024LottoLove – I think this one is so cool! I was first introduced to scratchcards at Christmas while I was in England when I received several in my stocking from Father Christmas. Pretty sure I won £3, and I realized how fun they are, no matter how much you win. Anyway, even the most anti-gambling gift-giver could probably get on board with these: Each card is a guaranteed winner. How? Each card donates something via a partner charity:  clean water, solar light, literacy tools, or meals. They run $10 each, but they’re currently advertising Black Friday and Giving Tuesday deals, which I’m FOR SURE keeping an eye on.


Sevenly – When you shop with Sevenly, you can either shop by collection (if you’re looking for a specific item) or by cause (there are over a dozen to choose from), including human trafficking, women’s empowerment, and refugee care. There’s apparel, jewelry, and a ton of cool mugs!

162858ec13ef8d893_800x80031 Bits – Think of these guys as an alternative to Anthropologie. Their mission: “We use fashion and design to drive positive change in the world by providing artisans with dignified job opportunities and inspiring customers to live meaningful lives.” 

Better World Books – “The Online Bookstore with a Soul.” Think of these guys as an alternative to Amazon. 

05236Charity Pot Lotion by Lush – AKA “Philanthropic Skin Softener” I would legit love this! There’s an $8 size and a $28 size. You know it’s quality because it comes from Lush, and 100% of the proceeds go to “small grassroots organizations working in the areas of environmental conservation, animal welfare and human rights.”

Lip-Smoothie_1024x1024Thistle FarmsThey have tons of great gifts, but I’m especially here for the STOCKING STUFFERS! 6 items under $7. Never heard of Thistle Farms? Here’s their mission: “…to HEAL, EMPOWER, AND EMPLOY women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. We do this by providing safe and supportive housing, the opportunity for economic independence, and a strong community of advocates and partners.”


Macy’s – Yes, THAT Macy’s. I’ve never lived near a Macy’s, but as an avid Thanksgiving Day Parade Watcher/Miracle on 34th Street Fan, it will always be dear to my heart. And they have an entire line dedicated to “Gifts That Give Hope.” They also have what is possibly my favorite gift on the whole list….A NARWHAL ORNAMENT. How precious is he?!

GlobalGiving Gift Cards – These gift cards are the coolest. You choose the amount (starting at $10), the recipient chooses the project. And there are TONS of worthy projects to choose from.


Preemptive Love Coalition – I previously wrote about the amazing work that Preemptive Love Coalition does, and they have an entire catalog of cool gifts, many handmade by the refugees they support, t-shirts, and other cool ways to donate!



Heifer International – Heifer’s gift catalog has a wide range of options from the adorable ornaments pictured to the right to actual flocks of geese and chicks for communities in need! “Heifer International’s mission is to work with communities to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth.”

If none of those suit your gift-giving needs this year, check out the socially concious businesses below:

And a few more lists for good measure….

And if all that wasn’t enough, consider me your personal GOOD GIFT concierge!!! Seriously, Channon and I would be MORE than happy to help you find the perfect gift that gives back.

Happy Holidays!

For more information….

Pathways to Modern Slavery


by Michelle Palmer



The reality is that most victims of modern slavery and human trafficking are not abducted or kidnapped. That can happen, and people should exercise reasonable precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, but there are factors that create higher risk, or vulnerabilities, to enslavement. Many of these factors can only be fully alleviated by ending global inequality and extreme poverty, but don’t let that discourage you. While ending global inequality and extreme poverty is a noble pursuit that will take years, understanding these vulnerabilities will help us to understand more ways to fight back against traffickers in the meantime. These factors intersect and overlap and several can be present at once, but because each one can be tackled in different ways, each deserves its own look.


“A bonded laborer named Haresh in West Bengal, India, once described to me how he took a loan of approximately $110 from the local landowner to get married to his beloved wife, Sarika. Two decades later, Haresh told me, ‘My entire family is still in debt to the landowner.  Sarika and I work in the fields, my sons and their wives work at the brick kilns.  One day my grandchildren will work for the landowner.  There is no way to repay these debts.  We will only be free when we die.’” – Siddharth Kara, CNN Freedom Project

Poverty overlaps with almost all of the other risk factors. Debt bondage, or bonded labor, is when a person exchanges their labor for a loan but ends up trapped by the employer, coerced into working long hours to pay off unreasonable interest rates. Often, the employer will provide minimal food and shelter and add these costs to the worker’s debt, resulting in a never ending cycle. 


What happened to Haresh is not wholly uncommon in South Asia. Kara estimates “18.5 to 22.5 million debt bondage slaves in the world today, almost 90% of whom are in South Asia.” The ILO gives a more conservative estimate: 11.7 million slaves in the region, most of whom are bonded laborers. This form of debt bondage is illegal, but extreme poverty leads people to fall prey to these dubious lenders in times of desperation. Many of my examples are from developing regions, but this isn’t something that only happens “over there.” There are people in extreme poverty in the West, and their desperation could lead to situations of enslavement and various forms of forced labor.

Lack of Opportunity

“Nartey is the oldest of 10 siblings. His mother, Maria, is disabled. She cannot work in farming, the traditional and predominant occupation of the family’s indigenous people in a village in the Central Tongu District of Ghana. She had no way to provide for her children and could not afford school fees, so Nartey had to abandon his education at just 13. That is when Nartey was trafficked to a fishing community along Lake Volta.” – Anna Bengel, Free the Slaves

Thankfully, Nartey’s story doesn’t end with his enslavement. Because of Free the Slaves’ efforts alongside partners in Ghana, Maria learned about slavery and is working towards learning a trade so she can be financially independent despite her disability.

In 2015, I worked as a volunteer on a literature review for Free the Slaves on sex trafficking in Nepal. One of the recurring themes I came across was the lack of opportunity for women and girls in rural areas. Their desperation led them to seek work outside of their villages, and in some cases, women were trapped in sexual exploitation in Kathmandu or trafficked into India.   

rgq8JnWhen I was in grad school, I quoted Captain Jack Sparrow at the start of a paper on the concept of freedom. It was risky, I know, but I don’t regret it. In the first film, he tells Elizabeth Swann, “Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and sails; that’s what a ship needs. Not what a ship is. What the Black Pearl really is, is freedom.”  You see, if the Black Pearl is freedom, then a keel and a hull and sails are the tools needed to escape poverty and desperation. One of the primary tools people need for freedom is opportunity.

Lack of Access to Healthcare

“Impoverished and faced with impossible challenges, Setsofia’s sick mother arranged for him to be trafficked to a fishing village along Lake Volta. It was a desperate bid to get money for treatment for her protracted illness.” – Anna Bengel & Theodore Atsu Ameme, Free the Slaves


As I said, many of these factors overlap. Anna and Theodore (quoted above) tell a story about Setsofia (spoiler: it has a happy ending!), and it sounds really similar to the story about Nartey. Nartey’s mother didn’t have opportunity because of her disability, and Setsofia’s mom was bedridden due to a sudden illness. The difference is that access to quality healthcare may not have helped Nartey’s mom, but it would certainly have made a difference for Setsofia and his family.

Lack of access to healthcare can also lead to debt bondage. “Lenders” prey on those who can’t afford a life-saving procedure or treatment for a loved one, and family members can become trapped by the debts obtained paying for medical expenses.

Violence/Lack of Law Enforcement

Millions of the world’s poor are trapped in slavery, because there’s no one there to protect them. In many places, the laws against slavery simply aren’t enforced by the police and courts—so slave owners and traffickers know they can prey on the poor without fear of any consequences at all.” – IJM

On duty

Anti-slavery laws are on the books everywhere, but those laws must be enforced. The American anti-slavery organization, IJM (International Justice Mission), focuses its efforts on this particular weakness. In fact, IJM CEO and founder, Gary Haugen, wrote an entire book on the issue; in The Locust Effect, Haugen argues that ineffective justice systems are hindering poverty alleviation worldwide. “While the world has made encouraging strides in the fight against global poverty, there is a hidden crisis silently undermining our best efforts to help the poor. It is a plague of everyday violence.” In regards to slavery in particular, whether law enforcement officers are not trained to spot human trafficking or they’re being bribed by the traffickers, effective law enforcement is a key component of ending the practice altogether.

War and Unrest

“Armed conflict and a weak government allow slavery to flourish in eastern Congo. Forced labor and sex slavery are widespread in mining regions—as is forced marriage.” Free the Slaves, Congo

121123110824-congo-crowds-fleeing-horizontal-large-galleryWar and unrest in a region create vulnerabilities to modern slavery in a number of ways. In Democratic Republic of Congo, which is remarkably rich in natural resources that are used in our modern technologies, men and children are forced to mine for these resources by groups of armed militants to fund their war. In other regions, children are forcibly recruited into the conflict. (See Channon’s post on Child Soldiers.) Refugees are also at a higher risk of being trafficked, simply because of the desperation of their situation. Without a home, seeking asylum, people may come to rely on traffickers to help them escape to what they hope will be a better, safer life.  


“‘I’d seen a lot of women in my village go abroad. I thought I could earn enough money and do something with it.’ Instead, for attempting to access the basic human right to a decent job, Seema was trapped as a domestic slave for more than two years.” – Survivor Stories, Free the Slaves

This particular vulnerability is closely connected to poverty, lack of opportunity, and war and unrest. Not all immigrants are vulnerable to trafficking. For example, Channon and I both immigrated to the UK for our studies. The difference is that we chose to leave our homes to study, not to escape a desperate economic situation or violence in our home countries. Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked.migration1-537x350.png

I took the quote above from Seema’s and Kamala’s Survivor Story from Free the Slaves (another happy ending!). It’s a story I’ve come across all too often in my research (but not always with a happy ending):  No opportunity at home. Recruited for a job overseas. Arrive in a foreign country. Passports and visas taken by employers. Trapped and abused as a domestic slave. (Or a construction worker. Or a farmworker.)  

Runaway and Homeless Youth

“…people who may not be financially stable because of homelessness or a lack of job opportunities may be susceptible to manipulation by traffickers who promise safety, stability, a job, or a better life. Runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, past violence or abuse, or social discrimination are also frequently targeted by traffickers.” –  Stay Safe, Polaris Project


Many of the examples used previously have been about factors that are more common in, but not confined to, developing regions. However, this particular issue affects young people both at home and abroad, particularly those identifying as LGBTQ. According to Covenant House, “40% of homeless and runaway youth in the U.S. identify as gay or transgender.” If they are rejected by their families after coming out, LGBTQ youth may end up on the streets and be targeted for sexual exploitation. To a slightly lesser extent, this is true for other homeless and runaway youth as well. Without a home or a family, there is a desperation for stability and belonging.

I’m ending this section with another quote because it’s incredibly important in combating this particular risk factor.

“Sociological research shows that what makes people most vulnerable to being victims of trafficking is the same thing that makes people most vulnerable to being perpetrators of trafficking: an extreme need for belonging. Actual, sustainable trafficking prevention at its most foundational is, therefore, loving yourself, being yourself, loving others, and encouraging others to be themselves. Creating community and being connected is the safest way forward.” – Zhaleh Boyd

Lack of Rights Awareness

“In the Congo, for example, we support the broadcasting of anti-slavery messages over a network of community radio stations. In Nepal, we explain the risks of labor trafficking and how to migrate safely. We work with communities to organize anti-slavery committees that act as a neighborhood watch against slavery and as a bridge to the police and other authorities.” – Free the Slaves FAQs

00532006701_20150525Simply put, people just don’t know their rights or the dangers of modern slavery. Many who are trapped in debt bondage don’t realize that the lenders are violating the law. Seema and Kamala, whose story I mentioned earlier, now work to educate other Nepalese women about the dangers of migrating for work and help them determine if they are being tricked by recruiters. Rights education is an essential component of prevention.


This is by no means an exhaustive list of the causes of modern slavery, but I hope it sheds some light on the ways in which traffickers prey on people in desperate situations. By tackling these areas of vulnerability, we can begin to prevent slavery before it happens.

For More Information…

Syria: Find the Helpers

At risk of sounding like a broken record, find an organization that resonates with you and get involved! Donate, engage via social media, like and share their posts, support them as they serve on the ground.

I know, I know, I know — it feels painfully insignificant in the face of such horrific tragedy, but if we all do what we can, we can actually make a difference. Promise.

by Michelle Palmer

1655605_846742275396821_62768170551269110_oI was going to post about something very different today, something much more in my wheelhouse. But it just didn’t sit well with me to ignore what’s happening in Syria. (Because that’s what happened for far too long.)  If you’re looking for a Master’s level introduction to the Syrian conflict with all the hows and whys, you won’t find it here. I want to offer a very basic overview of the situation, provide you with resources to find out more, and then, most importantly, highlight some groups who are helping in the middle of the mess.

As many of us do, I understand better with visuals. This particular video helped me understand the basics: “Syria’s War: Who is Fighting and Why.” 

(Another helpful video is “Syria in Five Minutes,” which is now slightly outdated, but is helpful in understanding the beginning of the conflict. // Related: “Understanding the Refugee Crisis in Europe, Syria, and around the World.”)

Syria Timeline:

[2011] Protests break out during what became known as Arab Spring. These were peaceful protests for democracy. The government, under President Bashar Hafez al-Assad, lethally attacks the protestors. Many from the military defect to join the protesters and form the “Free Syrian Army.” Thus begins the Syrian Civil War.

But then, it gets complicated.

Extremist Islamists join the rebels fighting the government, including Al Qaeda.

[2012] Iransyria-war-anniversary-body-image-1426292557 begins to back Assad, sending aid to government forces. Other gulf states support the rebels to counter Iran’s influence. (Sunnis are generally supporting the rebels, and Shias are generally supporting Assad.)

[2013] ISIS expands into Syria, creating its own “caliphate,” and fights against the rebels and the Kurds, who have taken up arms in the north. Assad’s forces use chemical weapons and kill 1,400 people in Damascus. Obama threatens military action, but through Russia, a diplomatic agreement is reached. Syrian government forces agree to get rid of all chemical weaponry. US sends non-lethal aid to opposition forces.

[2014] US and allies launch airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. “76,000 people died in the Syria conflict in 2014, according to the UN. The deadliest year yet.” (That’s too big a number for me to imagine, but that averages out to about 208 lives lost, each day, for an entire year.)

Sincegettyimages-591717242_custom-628e98f91625439d550f0297a147dc6cce2ef421-s900-c85 then, airstrikes and fighting have continued. Over half of the prewar population is displaced (11-12 million people), and with involvement from wealthy nations who can provide near endless supplies and firepower, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

[Lots of links to much better explanations of the situation are at the bottom of this post.]

So, what does this have to do with justice?

In the middle of all the fighting, there are civilians who have no access to food, clean water, and basic necessities. And like Mr. Rogers’ mom used to say, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

We previously highlighted two organizations, Preemptive Love Coalition and International Rescue Committee, who both work in Syria. That post can be found here.

Syria Civil Defence (The White Helmets)syria-civil-defense-team-aleppo-body-6-2-2014

How do they work?

“We work in accordance with International Humanitarian Law. As defined in Protocol I (Article 61) of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, we pledge to provide the services listed at paragraph 5 for the following purposes:

  • a) To protect the civilian population against the dangers arising from hostilities or other disasters.
  • b) To speed recovery from the immediate effects of such events.
  • c) To provide the conditions necessary for survival of the civilian population. “

Watch the Oscar-winning documentary about The White Helmets on Netflix.

[I donated while writing this post. How about you donate while reading it? And let us know if you do!]

Doctors Without Borders

msf_logoHow do they work?

“Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare.”

Long standing, and well-established. Find them on Facebook.

Karam Foundation

e8882099d0c8c40a7bef37f57667e54dHow do they work?

“We develop Innovative Education programs for Syrian refugee youth, distribute Smart Aid to Syrian families, and fund Sustainable Development projects initiated by Syrians for Syrians.”

A very cool U.S. based organization, started by Syrian-Americans. Find them on Facebook.

Mercy Corps

mercy-corps-internships-2016How do they work? 

“Support Syrian families who’ve been displaced by ongoing conflict. Meet immediate needs for food, water and shelter while focusing especially on the longer-term emotional and developmental needs of traumatized children and adolescents.”

Find them on Facebook.


At risk of sounding like a broken record, find an organization that resonates with you and get involved! Donate, engage via social media, like and share their posts, support them as they serve on the ground.

I know, I know, I know — it feels painfully insignificant in the face of such horrific tragedy, but if we all do what we can, we can actually make a difference. Promise.

For more information….

Organization Profiles: Preemptive Love Coalition & International Rescue Committee

I know many of you have been burdened over the last few weeks by the plight of refugees, and I want to offer a little hope that 1) there are people fighting for them and 2) there is something you can do to help.

by Michelle Palmer

I had several ideas floating in my head regarding what to write about this week; there seems to be so much in the news that we could (and perhaps should) address. But as I laid in bed Sunday morning, scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across a couple of posts from organizations that are committed to refugees and people in crisis zones, and it just made sense to me to h9374744871_73d9c478e7_b.jpgighlight a couple of them. I know many of you have been burdened over the last few weeks by the plight of refugees, and I want to offer a little hope that 1) there are people fighting for them and 2) there is something you can do to help.

I’m going to highlight two rather different organizations. The first, Preemptive Love Coalition, is less than 10 years old with a budget a fraction of the second. The second, International Rescue Committee, started because of a suggestion made by Albert Einstein and has been around in various forms since 1933.

[Sidenote: I’m highlighting two organizations here because people connect to different organizations for a variety of reasons. (For example, I explained my undying love for Free the Slaves on the blog a couple months ago.) Maybe it’s a particular ethos you connect to or you love their founders’ tweets or there’s a story of their work that impacts you on a deeper level than all the others. If you don’t particularly connect with either of these, there’s a list of others at the end. As they say, get in where you fit in!]

Preemptive Love Coalition

Where: Primarily Iraq. Also Syria, Libya, and Iran.

The Method:  

  • Lifesaving Heart Surgeries for Childrenplc-logo-v2
  • Emergency Relief for Families Victimized by ISIS
  • Empowering Grants for Small Business Owners
  • Education for At-Risk Children
  • Peacemaking in Conflict Zones
  • Counsel to Policy Makers

When I first read that one of the big things Preemptive Love Coalition does is provide heart surgery, I was bit thrown. It didn’t quite fit with my assumptions, but it all makes sense when you read the story of how it all started:

PLC+anesthesiologist.jpg“Our story began in a hotel lobby inside Iraq in 2007. A fearful father, his beautiful daughter, her ailing heart, and the simple question, ‘Please, will you try to save her?’ From that day, we threw ourselves into eradicating the backlog of children waiting in line for lifesaving heart surgery, often in the most war-torn, unreached parts of the Iraq like Fallujah and Tikrit.

“These years of investing in Iraq’s medical infrastructure through training and lifesaving care resulted in over 1,300 heart surgeries. Because of our world renowned surgical teams, we were invited into every major region of the country. When ISIS rampaged onto the global scene, we were uniquely positioned to expand our programming so that we could continue to go to the conflict-zones others were fleeing, to love those no one else will love.”

Specific reports of what PLC does on the ground aren’t hard to find on the website. Take the Fallujah Report for example. It documents how much was raised ($672,226 between May 26 and early July), how much food was delivered (306,600 pounds), and how much water was provided (414,039 liters). In addition to the reports, there’s a blog with lots of information as well.

The impact:

Numbers help us to measure the size of the impact, and these are the big numbers for Preemptive Love Coalition:15154683630_0531fd1277_b.jpg

  • 2,200 operations for children
  • Over 1 million pounds of food delivered to ISIS victims
  • 95 businesses started by displaced men and women

But beyond the numbers it’s important that the impact not only serves the locals in the short term, but leaves lasting (and sustainable) improvement. PLC is clearly committed to locals. Firstly, in their medical work, they welcome foreign volunteers, but they also seek to train locals. Secondly, instead of requesting supplies, they request money so they can source supplies locally to support the local economy. And thirdly, it’s clear that empowerment is key to their work. Direct quote from the website: “When a family says they don’t need us anymore, we consider this a success.” Organizations like PLC should always be seeking to put themselves out of business in an area.

How you can help:

  • Donate!
  • Shop! (I wear a 2x tee, and my birthday is in August…)
  • Put on a fundraiser!
  • Follow & share!  Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Vimeo
    • I personally particularly enjoy PLC Senior Field Editor Matthew Willingham’s Instagram
  • Volunteer – If you’re a doctor or nurse, you can look into volunteer opportunities here. Or if you live in the Waco area, you can contact the stateside office here.

International Rescue Committee

Where: Worldwide, and in crisis zones of Nigeria, Burundi, Greece, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The method:

irc_logo_rgb_large.jpg“Internationally, IRC teams provide health care, infrastructure, learning, protection, and economic support to people in more than 30 countries, with special programs designed for women and children. When crisis occurs, the IRC arrives on the scene within 72 hours with urgently needed relief supplies and expertise. The IRC stays as long as required, helping survivors to heal, recover, and rebuild their communities. In the United States, IRC teams help resettle thousands of refugees each year in nearly 30 cities”

One of the more interesting strategies I read about on the IRC website is
cash relief. Rather than just providing the goods, cash relief helps families to purchase necessities and regain control over their lives, while also keeping money in the local economy. Like Preemptive Love Coalition, sustainable solutions are central to the IRC mission.

As a data and research geek myself,  I am very excited by the work of the Airbel Center. In humanitariaphotos%2F2012%2F01%2F3877ffa6685d149c.jpgn work, resources are limited. Research matters because it’s important that we seek the most cost effective solutions to humanitarian crises.

“The Airbel Center’s mission is to design and test life-changing, scalable solutions for people affected by crisis. By bringing together field staff, designers, strategists, researchers and technical experts, we aim to uncover and nurture ideas that make a big impact on people’s safety, health, education, income and power.”

The impact:

In 2016 alone, the IRC served over 26 million people in various ways. (You can check out more stats here.) And like PLC, the IRC seeks not only to serve locals in the short term, but leaves a lasting (and sustainable) improvement.

To demonstrate, here are few of my favorite stories from the IRC website:

  1. Congo: “The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and its partners implemented a large-scale community-driven reconstruction (CDR) program called Tuungane (“Let’s unite” in the local Kiswahili language) from 2007 to 2016. Funded by the UK Government, this program took place in more than 1,900 conflict-affected communities of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a budget of approximately 103.7 million GBP.”
  1. 1_5_1.jpgThe Muppets & Education: “The Muppets are embarking on humanitarian missions. This spring, Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy for the Sesame Workshop, and Sarah Smith, a director at the International Rescue Committee, announced a collaboration to develop educational programs for refugee children.”
  1. Jordan:There are limited livelihood options for refugees in Jordan and they can face negative repercussions if they are caught working without necessary permits. Recognizing the direct benefits many vulnerable families will receive from financial assistance, the IRC started its cash assistance program in May 2013, and has since reached over 4,100 vulnerable Syrian and Jordanian families in Mafraq and Irbid Governorates.”

How you can help:images

If neither of these organizations appeal to you, there are other organizations serving refugees. The organizations in the following list also have opportunities to get involved, give, and volunteer. We cannot stay silent when so many are suffering. Find a way to plug in, and let us know what you’re doing! refugee_sign.jpg