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CourageSpeaksNH & Keynote Event with Guest and Survivor, Cheri Chrider

We are excited to host the CourageSpeaksNH Gallery at The Freedom Café on Tuesday April 17th from 1-9pm. 

Join us throughout the day to learn, support and be inspired.

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  • Gallery Opening & Reception: 1-2pm
  • General Viewing: 2-6pm
  • Keynote Event w/Guest, Cheri Crider 7pm-8:30pm
    Cheri Crider is the Office Manager and Outreach Survivor Leader for Amirah, Inc. in the Boston area. Her administrative gifts have enabled Amirah to achieve the level of excellence for which it is known. Having escaped commercial sexual exploitation 39 years ago, she knows both the heartache and triumphs of healing from trauma. Today, Cheri lends her experience to universities to develop curricula to protect vulnerable youth from exploitation. As an advocate and speaker, she facilitates groups to empower women and carries the message to end commercial sexual exploitation. As a member of the N.E. Survivor Leadership Collaborative, Cheri is a mentor to other survivors who desire to become active in advocacy work.  The mythical unicorn is Cheri’s symbol that recovery from sexual trauma is not only possible but leads to fabulous freedom!

    Join us at 7pm on April 17th, to hear Cheri's powerful story and important message about prevention. 

Portsmouth Community Radio Interview

On the first of March, The Freedom Cafe co-founder and executive director, Bryan Bessette and former volunteer and NH social worker, Sharissa Stout were interviewed about The Freedom Cafe, human trafficking and how we can all support the creation of a traffic-free (slave-free) world on Portsmouth Community Radio's, Seacoast Currents with Kathy & Larry. 

Give it a listen to learn more about The Freedom Café and how you can be a part of the movement to end human trafficking. The interview starts about 6 min in and is available on soundcloud at: https://www.mixcloud.com/wscaseacoastcurrents/hour-2-bryan-bresette-president-and-executive-director-of-freedom-cafe/



By Katrin Kasper


How do you END something that has been going on since the beginning of time as we know it?

When I first went to The Freedom Café in Durham, I was in search of a really good cup of tea.  I had no idea what The Freedom Café was; I only knew that my fellow tea-loving friends kept telling me I had to go.  I went looking for tea made with filtered water, at the right temperature, steeped for the right amount of time, made with quality leaves, and all the other things that make a great cup of tea.  I found that at The Freedom Café, but I was surprised that I found so much more there as well.  

The counter crew at the Freedom Café helped me start to learn about human trafficking in ways I never understood before.  At first it started with learning about the places that grew my tea, how it was sustainably grown and harvested, and how the tea was Fair Trade Certified™.  I always knew it tasted better, but I never really understood the depth of why.  As I learned more about my beloved tea, I also learned about chocolate and clothing, two major areas where human trafficking is prevalent.  I started to see how many times a day I was voting with my dollar to either support fellow humans or harm them.  I started to read more and watch videos. I eventually asked how I could help out around the Freedom Café. Finally, I became a board member at the Café.  I still have so much to learn, but if you were to look in my tea drawer at home or see where I shopped this past holiday season, you would see that I am starting to understand just how important each little purchase can be to someone else’s life.  

Human Trafficking isn’t just something we can shop away. It’s complicated and layered.  If it was easy we already would have solved it.  Didn’t we free the slaves after the Civil War? Isn’t slavery over? No, and it won’t be until human life has value everywhere.  Human trafficking won’t end until we globally decide that no one is worth less than anyone else.  

Fighting human trafficking at its root is not just a rescue operation.  It is a legal battle.  It is about persuading governments to create laws to protect all humans and then being able to back those up with enforcement that isn’t corrupt. It is about all of us refusing to purchase products or services produced by people who have been trafficked.  It is about changing the system.  It's about showing companies and producers that they can make money and have lasting success when they enact fair policies and provide a living wage to all workers. Otherwise, trafficking just keeps going on and on.

We must demand that human trafficking stop being an option for producers.  We can do that through the products we buy, the adventures we take when we travel, the people from whom we buy services, and so many other ways.  But we also must demand that laws change, demand our police force have the resources and the laws to support them when they do run into a trafficking situation.  We must help other countries find ways to help their own people through changing what they allow.  

None of this can happen without awareness, understanding and wisely directed resources.  That is why The Freedom Café is so important.  We have to start right here at home. We must strengthen our laws, provide the funding to allow officers and case workers to spend time on these cases.  We must support victims and make sure they have a chance at life, and help others not fall into the same traps.  We need to find solutions that work and then back those solutions with resources until everyone on this planet is free.  Until that day, we have to keep fighting.  We need everyone to be aware, we need to vote with our dollars, and we need to care about every life on this planet, regardless of location, sex, race, religion, addiction, age, or anything else that makes one population more vulnerable than another.  

This is a big problem. It is going to take all of us to solve it. So come and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, and help us end human trafficking one ethically sourced mug at a time!

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!