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A Journey to Awareness and Action

by Rachel Sanborn

If you’re reading this blog, then it’s likely that you or one of your friends have sought out information on The Freedom Cafe. What caught your attention? Was it the brightly colored murals on the walls outside of the “Lighthouse” building at 10 Mill Road in Durham, NH? Or maybe an open mic night you attended in the cozy basement of a random building on the edge of the UNH campus to watch a friend play (or for you to play!) their music in public? Maybe you’re on a mailing list for updates from The Freedom Cafe because you heard about it from a volunteer, board member or our director, or maybe you saw a large “GIFT Box” art exhibit that inspired you to think about how people in so many situations end up being exploited.

This is a story of moving from ignorance with a high cost to others, to awareness and action at a small cost to oneself.

However you ended up here, reading this blog, we are now a part of each other’s stories. This is a story of moving from ignorance with a high cost to others, to awareness and action at a small cost to oneself. It is not a story of judgement, but of empathy and a hundred small steps towards improving our world for everyone in it. This is the story of my own journey towards understanding human trafficking and working to end it, but now that you’re here, I hope it will become part of yours too.

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In 2011, my brother-in-law Bryan, a chaplain at The University of New Hampshire, made the long journey to Nepal with a group of students to assist firsthand in their efforts to build ongoing support systems for these survivors of trafficking. Upon his return home to Durham, Bryan began to take action on the campus of UNH to extend the anti-slavery freedom mission from the survivors in Nepal to a focus on human trafficking in our own backyard, right here in New Hampshire and New England. This lead him to initiate and co-found The Freedom Cafe as a venue for both increasing awareness of the issue locally, and as a way to raise funds to grant to other organizations working to prevent human trafficking or directly with survivors of human trafficking.

I started to search out information from others on how I could individually contribute to ending human trafficking, which for me translated to buying ethically-sourced products as often as possible in my daily life.

Bryan would share over and over again at each family gathering about his work in these areas and the new movement, The Freedom Cafe, that he and others had started to contribute to the cause. My interest having already been piqued, I would listen to his impassioned narrative of how tea, coffee, and chocolate could actually make a difference in the lives of thousands, if not millions, around the world and in our own neighborhoods. I started to search out information from others on how I could individually contribute to ending human trafficking, which for me translated to buying ethically-sourced products as often as possible in my daily life.

It seemed like such a large issue that no individual could have an impact, but what I have found is that putting my money where my mouth is - truly valuing the lives of others more greatly than my own convenience or consumerism - has made a huge difference in the way I view and treat others. It is often difficult to remember (or even discover!) the creator of every item or experience we consume today, but the more I look for products or experiences that don’t use exploited workers to produce them, the easier it becomes. The more that you and I and our peers do this, the more companies will see financial incentives to create their products ethically. To assist you in this part of your journey to end human trafficking, The Freedom Cafe has created a conscious consumer guide, which you can find here: http://www.thefreedomcafe.org/conscious-consumer/

The most recent step in my journey has been to start sharing what I’ve learned and the ways I have found to participate in the fight to end modern-day slavery of all kinds. I’ve been inviting friends and family to visit the Cafe for Open Mic nights (which really are fun for everyone - my 60-something year old parents and my 6 and 2 year olds all enjoy them!), encouraging friends to meet me at the Cafe for coffee or tea and conversation, and reminding my loved ones to be conscious of sources when choosing products or experiences. I’ve recently joined the board of the Cafe so that I can make an even bigger impact on more people with consistent and clear communications about the work the Cafe is doing to end human trafficking. And of course attending the Masquerade Ball hosted by The Freedom Cafe in an ethically sourced gown and mask!

Did you know that there have been over 300 reported human trafficking victims in the last 10 years in New Hampshire and Maine?** That’s three per month, right here in our own backyards, without including unreported victims or survivors. So what can you and I do to move from just awareness of the issue to real action? Here are some of my favorite ideas right now:

  • Be a conscious consumer of products: always ask who made it and how they were treated. Buy more from companies who tell you exactly how and by whom their products were made or are Fair Trade Certified(r). Better yet, buy local handmade products!
  • Be a conscious consumer of experiences: think about the treatment of the service provider. Is that nail technician being paid less than minimum wage and having their passport held against their will? Is that driver for your favorite car service subject to poor working conditions and do the profits help fund executives who exploit others in multiple ways? Are the girls or guys at that strip club you were thinking of going to for a friend’s bachelor or bachelorette party there of their own free will (the answer is often no!) or are they being exploited because of drug habits or financial needs?
  • Be a conscious investor: think about the companies you have invested in via savings programs like 401(k)s or IRAs. Does your money go to fund companies with a history of exploiting workers, such as large textile and apparel companies, or mining and energy companies? There are a whole slew of investment options out there now that are “socially responsible” in various ways and still earn similar returns to traditional investment options.

  • Learn: attend one of The Freedom Cafe’s events to learn more about the issues and how you can help end modern-day slavery. Go to http://www.thefreedomcafe.org/events/ to find scheduled public events or http://www.thefreedomcafe.org/outreach/ to schedule your own outreach event with the help of the Cafe and its volunteers.

  • Talk about it: once you’ve learned how to spot the signs of trafficking, report suspicious activity to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888-373-7888 or https://humantraffickinghotline.org/report-trafficking). You can also contact your local, state, and national lawmakers asking them to introduce supply chain management legislation, protection for victims of human trafficking and tougher laws against traffickers: https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/

  • Vote: your power to vote in elections both locally, statewide, and nationally, can have a huge impact on these issues! Find candidates who are willing to initiate and support legislation or local campaigns that will target the issues surrounding human trafficking, such as immigration issues, supply chain tracking, or programs to fight poverty and drug abuse. Find out how to register to vote here: https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote

  • Volunteer: come join The Freedom Cafe in our mission to consistently engage the local community about human trafficking issues and to raise funds to help in local efforts to end human trafficking! http://www.thefreedomcafe.org/volunteer/

More than 1,500 years ago, Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu mused that

“A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.”

On this journey to awareness and action to end human trafficking, what will be your first step?

- Rachel is currently the Director of Financial Planning for a technology startup in New York City, is a Certified Financial Planner professional, and holds a Masters of Science in Financial Planning from Bentley University. She received a crash course in branding when she joined her first technology startup (a women's finance blog-come-financial planning firm) five years ago and enjoys all aspects of clearly communicating the Freedom Cafe's mission to our community and supporters.

*You can read more about Marian’s story and how it impacted the King of Nepal’s decision to ban slavery here: https://www.bridgetonepal.org/our-story

**According to the calls and reports received by the National Human Trafficking hotline for NH and ME from 2007-2017: https://humantraffickinghotline.org/state/maine and https://humantraffickinghotline.org/state/new-hampshire

Informed Advocates

Empowering advocates who will work to end human trafficking through their personal and profession lives is the main goal of our volunteer program.

In the following video, recorded at our Perform for Freedom open mic on 9/13/17, Becca Robichaud talks about her volunteer experience and how she has developed as an advocate. (Recorded and produced by Sarah Balmilero)


The NE GIFT Box is hitting the road this fall. We are looking forward to the opportunity to raise awareness and empower local communities to take action to end human trafficking through two upcoming campaigns.

Volunteers load the GIFT Box preparing for a summer campaign event!

Volunteers load the GIFT Box preparing for a summer campaign event!

In October the GIFT Box is heading up to Burlington, VT for an event at the University of Vermont. Student org, Chi Alpha Vermont will be hosting the campaign at UVM. Following the UVM program, the display will travel down to Plymouth State University for a campaign hosted by students participating in a Criminal Justice course.

GIFT BOX Campaigns are a great opportunity for collaboration. Many of our campaigns have brought 5-10 different organizations together as sponsors and volunteers. If you are would like to volunteer, sponsor or co-hosting one of these or another event, please let us know!

Check out the NE GIFT Box timeline of events and impact at http://thefreedomcafe.org/giftbox!

Coffee Guide & Online Store

We are excited to roll out a new Conscious Consumer Guide focused on coffee. The Coffee Guide, based on research gathered from the Free2Work Coffee Industry Trends Report, grades brands based upon their policies on sourcing and subcontracting, traceability and transparency, monitoring and training, and finally on their commitment to worker rights and providing living wages. You can pick up a copy in the café or order one on our new online shop.

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Here at The Freedom Café, we have a great relationship with the University of New Hampshire and benefit from numerous volunteers, career related internships and learning collaborations. We would like to thank professor Howland and students from the spring '17 Technical Writing class for assisting in the development of both the Coffee Guide and Online Shop!

Volunteer Spotlight - Sharissa

The Freedom Café has a vibrant volunteer program that connects individuals from a diverse range of ages and expertise. Over 75 individuals, including 50+ high school and college students, are equipped each year to be advocates. These volunteers help run the café counter, host community gatherings, plan awareness events, and manage the organization’s marketing, communication, research, and fundraising efforts. The Freedom Café educates volunteers on social justice issues and empowers them to take action, while helping them develop meaningful transferrable skills that carry over into their vocational endeavors. 

Shariss (Left) with members of The Freedom Café Student Outreach Team at our Fall 2016 Gala

Shariss (Left) with members of The Freedom Café Student Outreach Team at our Fall 2016 Gala

The journey of one of our UNH student volunteers, Sharissa, paints a great picture of how volunteers grow as advocates during their time at The Freedom Café. Sharissa connected with The Freedom Café in the fall 2014 and got excited about our project goal to fund the construction of a clinic for survivors of bonded slavery in Nepal. Sharissa went home over the Holiday break and started talking up the project with her friends and church community. When she returned for the UNH spring semester she had raised $250 that she wanted to donate. We opted to use the funds as a matching gift and hosted a special open mic night where everyone's donations were doubled. We raised $600 that night and by the end of the semester had raised the $3600 needed to build and stock the clinic.

As Sharissa's knowledge of the issue grew, so did her passion to help end human trafficking. Sharissa connected with another volunteer who was passionate to help spread the word and the two of them initiated a student outreach team. The Freedom Café provided speaking training and helped the group develop 3 accessible seminars. Two months later they had given 8 presentations in residence halls, class rooms and a 200+ lecture class. This spring, as a social work major, Sharissa was able to bring the knowledge she had gained at The Freedom Café to her senior year internship where she created and presented an awareness and prevention program about human trafficking for the High School students with whom she was working.

Guests and volunteer applicants continue to share how those presentations inspired their own further research and engagement with the issue. 

Join the The Freedom Café and be a part of the movement to end human trafficking today! 

Save the Date - NH Gives - June 6-7, 2017

We need YOUR help to make NHGives* a success for The Freedom Café!

On June 6-7, 2017 The Freedom Café is excited to be participating for the first time in a statewide giving movement: NH Gives!

During this 24-hour giving event, The Freedom Café is raising funds to support our fall educational programing including our weekly Perform for Freedom and NE GIFT Box events and to pay the printing cost for educational materials like our Consumer Guide Post Card series. [We are looking forward to sharing our new coffee buyers guide soon.]

Our goal is to raise $4200 during the #NHGives event!

#NHGIVES is hosting a series of cash prizes for orgs based on amount raised and most unique givers between various time frames. We would like to focus our giving on the Tuesday6 June 6, 6-9pm in hopes of winning the $500 prize for that session.

Mark your calendar and get ready to give back! On Tuesday June 6, starting at 6pm, visit our fundraising page https://www.nhgives.org/organizations/the-freedom-cafe. You will have 24 hours to make your donation. All giving will end at 6pm Wednesday June 7th.

*NH Gives - an initiative of the NH Center for Nonprofits – is designed to bring the state together as one community, raising as much money and awareness as possible for New Hampshire’s nonprofits within a 24-hour, flash-mob of giving.

CourageSpeaks NH


The Freedom Cafe would like to thank to Cheri & Allison for being a part of the CourageSpeaksNH gallery and the YWCA, Haven, Deb Cram, Bags of Hope and Tabitha McElroy for collaborating on a fresh, compelling and hopeful project. 

We look forward to seeing CourageSpeaksNH continue to bring attention to the issues of domestic abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking and "offer hope for those who identify as victims and survivors of these crimes"!

Dialogue on Human Trafficking in NH

On Monday 3/27/2017, The Freedom Café hosted 3 members of the NH Human Trafficking Collaborative Task Force to speak and field questions concerning human trafficking in NH. 

- Kate D'Adamo, Project Manager
- Rebecca Ayling, Senior Case Manager, Child and Family Services
- Mike Posanka, Supervisory Special Agent, Homeland Security Investigations

We opened the event by showing a short film created for the task force by AccessNashua, "A Conversation About Trafficking in the Granite State" available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nK7_0... 

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Each of presenter introduced their role in the task force and work that is or needs to be done to address the issue of Human Trafficking in NH. Following these presentations at about 18 min. the dialogue turned to audience questions.

We are please to present a recording of the event. Our camera shut down prior to the completion of Q&A and final action points.

To bring the program to a close each presenter offered an important next step. To paraphrase their responses, here are 3 things you can do to help end human trafficking:

Mike - Be a good witness (ie notice the people around you and also understand the issue in the event that you serve on a jury) 

Kate - Be a good client / consumer (tip service industry workers, chose known ethically sourced products as often as possible)

Rebecca - Learn and re-share - leak information about trafficking to those around you

The Freedom Café would like to thank event sponsor Josh and Leah Bourdon for making this program possible.