Category Archives: Events

Why You Should Know Shane Claiborne

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unspecified“The hardest steps are the first ones. As we begin to move, we find community.” – Shane Claiborne

 

Last week, The SOLD Project was honored to host an event with activist, peacemaker, and writer Shane Claiborne. With his 2006 publication, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, Shane introduced some of the countercultural heroes of Christianity’s radical legacy to many young American Christians for the first time. He presented an inspirational vision of human life where justice, sustainability, community, and spiritually were prioritized over the pursuit of wealth, consumption, and materialism.

Yes, he spent time in India working at Home of the Pure Heart with Mother Teressa, but he continued to live out his vision in the US: making his home in a marginalized community in Philadelphia, practicing various forms of creative activism, and continually growing in his thinking, writing, and speaking.

Whether motivated to combat injustice and suffering in this world, tackle global climate change, or simply reorient their religious proclivities and experiences around something more meaningful than the culture wars of American civil religion, for many millennials Shane’s message is good news. In important ways, his voice has helped shape a new monastic movement alongside the countercultural movements of the early 2000s—OWS, ecological and human rights activists, and the early beginnings of America’s contemporary movement for civil rights.

While not a Christian organization, SOLD finds inspiration from much of the Judeo-Christian tradition, as we do from much of the Buddhist tradition and the other religious and spiritual heritages we moderns have inherited. We see Shane as standing firmly within the prophetic thread of the Judeo-Christian tapestry—a thread that includes such characters as Jonah, Nathan, Daniel, Jeremiah, Hosea, Jesus, John of Patmos, the desert fathers and mothers, Francis of Assisi, Dorthy Day and MLK Jr., Mother Theresa and Desmond Tutu, Daniel Berrigan and Cornel West, and many more. While always controversial and sometimes even a little crazy, prophets hold spotlights to their culture’s hypocrisy, violence, and inequity. Using rhetoric and reason, public discussion and dialogue, and sometimes even performance art (one OT prophet took a dump in a public square), prophets call us back to our humanity, while reminding us that it can be fully realized only when equitably shared.

In a small setting and surrounded by a group of SOLD’s supporters, SOLD’s President Rachel Goble curated a lively group discussion with Shane, ranging from Black Lives Matter and the contemporary movement for racial justice in America to Biblical theology around wealth to what it’s like to be married to an activist.

You can read some of our favorite Shane quotes from the discussion below. After these, you can read a brief review of Shane’s latest book.

 

On Storytelling 

“We always have people who want to tell the story, but they want to tell it a particular way.”

“If you’re not careful, your clout comes at the cost of someone else’s dignity. (The story you tell) could make you look like a hero, and your neighbors look like crap.”

 

On Activism  

“The great thing about being 19 or 20 years old is that nobody’s convinced you that things are impossible.”

“Gun conversions in the streets, where we melt guns into plows. There’s something that you can’t argue against when an AK-47 is being pounded into a shovel by a parent who’s lost her child to gun violence.”

“The Spirit’s on the side of this imagination.”

“I have come to see that this whole conversion thing is not about a moment, but about the movement of the Spirit within us that is constantly changing who we are.”

“The hardest steps are the first ones. As we begin to move, we find community. If you want to be courageous, you hang out with courageous people… We need to do something concrete. We need to take a step that gets us out of that.”

“Everybody wants a revolution, but nobody wants to do the dishes.”

 

On Communal and Sustainable Living

“There’s a lot of things to do to live sustainably.”

“Instead of asking how do I increase my income, we can ask how do I decrease my expenses.”

“We can share.”

“We can create safety nets in community… We’ve only come to know abundance by living in community. We live a very abundant life. It’s been very liberating.”

“It’s contagious.”

“I had air conditioning before I got married. When I got married, I became Amish.”

 

On Politics and Race  

“Our politics are shaped by what we see out the window.”

“In high school, the Confederate flag was on everything.”

“When I moved to Philly, I came to see through a different window. I saw racism. I had different eyes to see, as Jesus said.”

“Racism, systemic oppression, bigotry—I can recognize some of those demons because I’ve looked in the mirror.”

“We’ll continue to see through tunnel vision until we see through the different lenses that we each have.”

“We’ve got to listen to each other right now.”

“Part of our role as the church is not necessarily to give voice to the voiceless but to amplify the voices of those who are not being listened to.”

“The Church is not about the monoculture of value.”

“Jesus wants us to see the world in color.”

 

Executing Grace: Review

Just as the new monasticism has grown and changed, so has Shane. He still wears his DIY monk’s attire, but he’s cut his dreads. Similarly, in his latest book, Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us, he still holds Biblical theology and the Christian tradition central while developing his argument with the power of true stories that he’s lived, heard, or read, but his central thesis challenges a contentious US public policy: the death penalty.

Shane argues that the death penalty removes the possibility of restoration for perpetrators, robs innocent people of their lives, further victimizes the families of victims, and is connected, both historically and in the present, to racism, lynching, and injustice in the justice system. It’s Biblically unwarranted and morally unjustified. It should be abandoned, and along with it criminal justice, in general, should too.

According to Shane, we can replace criminal justice by developing practices of restorative justice. While criminal justice sees crime as the violation of the law and the state, restorative justice sees crime as a violation of people and relationships. In criminal justice, violations create guilt. In restorative justice, violations create obligations. Criminal justice requires the state to determine guilt and impose punishment, the central focus being criminals getting what they deserve. Restorative justice, on the other hand, involves victims, offenders, and the community in an effort to make things right, its central focus being the needs of the victims and the responsibilities of the offenders to repair the damage they’ve done.

Shane reminds us that we can and must abolish the death penalty. I agree. While I agreed before reading the book, I now have more nuanced reasons as to why.

Along this line, my favorite chapter is the one in which he makes clear the connection between lynching and the death penalty:

Eight in ten lynchings that occurred in the United States from 1889 to 1918 occurred in the South. Now (since 1976) eight in ten executions are in the south… By 1915, court ordered executions outnumbered lynchings in the former slave states for the first time. But those executions looked a lot like the old lynchings. For example, two-thirds of those executed in the 1930s were black. As African Americans fell to 22 percent of the South’s population (by 1950), they still made up 75 percent of the executions. To this day, even though African Americans make up only 13 percent of the nation’s population, 42 percent of those on death row are black, and 34 percent of those executed since 1976 have been black. (170, 177)

Thanks to the work of brave activists, we as a nation are again exploring and attempting to deal with our racist past and its continuing legacy. During this moment in our history, all efforts to reveal how our justice system perpetuates injustice, especially in racially skewed ways, are central to the endeavor to root out the demonic legacies of our past so that we can find healing together.

 

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Dan Olson is The SOLD Project’s in-house writer and researcher.

SOLD’s 2016 Summer Events

Summer Events Featured

Summer Events

Summertime is one of our favorite seasons here at SOLD. Not only do we enjoy the extended sunlight and balmy evenings, but we also get to host fun events that make joining the fight against human trafficking and child sexual exploitation as easy as watching a movie in a vineyard or drinking a beer with activist and author Sean Claiborne.

Here’s what we have going on this summer so far:

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What: Bocce Ball and Brews with Activist and Author Shane Claiborne

When: July 18th between 2 and 4 PM.

Where: 15 Homestead Court, Danville, CA 94506

For more info check here.

 

 

Inside Out

What: Movie Night in the Vineyards: “Inside Out”

When: July 23rd, the vineyard will open at 7:30 PM, the movie will begin at dusk

Where: 655 E Vineyard Ave., Livermore, CA 94550

For more info check here.

 

 

The Sand Lot

 

What: Movie Night in the Vineyards: “The Sand Lot”

When: August 13 , the vineyard will open at 7:30 PM, the movie will begin at dusk

Where: 655 E Vineyard Ave., Livermore, CA 94550

For more info check here.

 

 

As the summer progresses, we’ll be updating this page with more events and happenings so be sure to check back soon.

The Newest Addition to SOLD’s Board of Directors

Meet Nick Parisi — the newest addition to The SOLD Project’s board.

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Nick is a business-minded adventurer who has worked in real estate private equity for the past eleven years.

During his free time, he’s managed to survive motorcycle rides through the rainforest, rappelling off everything from college dorms to jungle sinkholes, and SCUBA diving in near-freezing temperatures. His business experience, past work with international non-profits, and personal travel opened his eyes to how connected the world is, leading him to pursue a global MBA from Duke University. During his MBA program, he studied in Russia, UAE, England, India, and China and was struck by the global need for organizations like SOLD.

Nick has been a supporter of SOLD since its start. When Rachel Goble, SOLD’s president, asked him to become more involved by becoming a board member, he decided he couldn’t refuse. When asked why, he said,

striving to end child exploitation is not a hard cause to throw your support behind, but what differentiates SOLD is its focus on prevention. If you can identify key indicators and find a way to prevent exploitation before it happens, that’s something I want to invest in.

He also noted that he continues to be impressed by Rachel’s leadership and ability to address complex issues with both intelligence and intercultural understanding.

With his love for numbers and data, Nick is excited to see SOLD continue to grow in its field research and academic rigor. He considers it a privilege to join the Board of Directors for The SOLD Project.

Songkran in the SOLD Community

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If you have ever been to Thailand or Southeast Asia in April then you are probably familiar with Songkran: the festival of water fights! April is the hottest month in Thailand (this year even breaking records) and to celebrate the Thai New Year people toss buckets, spray water guns, pump hoses and engage in massive water fights to cool off. But looking beyond the fun water play, Songkran is also a holiday steeped in meaning and tradition. Songkran is celebrated in coordination with the Buddhist calendar to celebrate the New Year. For three days the Thai people make merit, give offerings to monks, build sand jedis, have parades, and have ceremonies where they use water to wash away negativity and give blessings and good wishes for the upcoming year.

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I have been in Thailand several years and have been a part of Sonkgran festivities, but this year was special for me. One of the things that I have always noticed and appreciated about the Thai culture is their sense of family and community. When I arrived to work with SOLD in November, I was immediately taken in and treated as family being invited to participate in community gatherings, events, being taken care of, fed, and they are ever so patient with my attempts at learning Thai! In this manner, I was invited to participate in the Songkran festivities of paying respect to elders in the village. In Thai communities the elders are looked to and respected because of the wisdom they can offer.

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When I arrived in the morning, all of the elders of the village were seated in the front of the gazebo and the staff had made a special mix of flowers and water to put into small bowls. I was told this flower water was a northern Thai tradition. Kids were sitting in the sala and the staff was speaking in honor of the elders. Everyone lined up to get a bowl of flower water and following their lead, I took a bowl and kneeled in front of the first elder. She smiled at me as I awkwardly held the bowl in front of her. She placed her hands on it as well and began speak softly of all the things she wished for me for the upcoming year. She said that she could see I had a good heart and gave me blessings that I would grow old and wise (like her). She continued to speak and then dipped her fingers into the bowl and sprinkled the water gently on both her head and then mine. Even though I couldn’t understand all of the words that she said to me, I was touched by her genuine care for me; a foreigner to her village. I thanked her and moved on to the next elder, and on down the line until all of them had given me their blessing. What a beautiful way to start my day by having good wishes put upon me. Regardless of the language barrier, I felt blessed and ready to take on the upcoming year. I realized then that emotion and appreciation are things that don’t always need translation and my heart felt full.

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As I watched the children of the village go down the line, and each elder smile, bless them and impart their wisdom, I thought about how these kids will grow up to be the next and future generation. And what better way to give them wisdom than to give them an education. It reminded me how important the resource center is to this community. It reminded me of the work that the families and the staff do to keep these kids in school. It reminded me of how education will give them options in life and I realized that they are blessed. They are blessed with community. They are blessed with mentors. And ultimately they are blessed with the promise of following their dreams!

 

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–Lisa Winterfeldt

Human Trafficking: Questioning the Numbers

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SOLD DataBig data, metadata, metrics, numbers, stats — these days measurement is king. When Andrew Forrest, one of Australia’s wealthiest men, decided to join the fight against modern slavery, Bill Gates’ advice to him was to find a way to measure it, because if you can’t, “it doesn’t exist.” Thus, the Global Slavery Index was born.

We at the SOLD Project get this. Whether updating our donors or trying to measure our impact, we gather and report data all the time, and we’re often impressed by how data collection methods continue to be refined. Nevertheless, there are some areas where trustworthy data is still incredibly hard to get.

Two such areas happen to be human trafficking and sex work. Alas, Thailand offers a great example.

In 1992, Thai Police estimated that 800,000 prostitutes were currently working in Thailand. In 1995, a Coalition against Trafficking in Women (CATW) map stated that the estimated number of prostitutes in Thailand was between 300,000 and 2.8 million. (In order for the higher estimate to be true, every female between the ages of 15 and 29 years old and living in an urban area in Thailand would have to be a prostitute.) In 2003, a Thai government report stated that only 81,384 sex workers worked in Thailand at that time. A 2013 estimate put the number of children (under 18) involved in the sex trade at 60,000, which would make the overall number much higher. However, even in 2003, some activists and organizations believed the number of Thai sex workers to be well above 2 million. The contemporary slavery researcher and expert Kevin Bales estimated, in 2003 as well, that the number of sex workers in Thailand was between half a million and a million.

How many sex workers are there in Thailand right now? A lot. How many child sex workers? Way too many. Other than that, it’s hard to say with any certainty.

The issue isn’t better when it comes to trafficking victims. As a UNESCO Bangkok report states:

In 2001, the FBI estimated 700,000 women and children were trafficked worldwide, UNICEF estimated 1.75 million, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) merely 400,000. In 2001, the UN drastically changed its own estimate of trafficked people in 2000, from 4,000,0000 to 1,000,000.

When highlighting the problem of modern slavery on SOLD’s website, we note that Thailand has an estimated number of 475,300 modern slaves. This claim is based on data from The Global Slavery Index, a respected index produced by the Walk Free Foundation. While we feel fine using this number because it helps communicate the immensity of the issue very quickly to a culture with the attention span of a two-year-old (sorry, what were we talking about again?), we also recognize that the data is not as clean as we would like given that no one has figured out a perfect methodology.

With the help of Gallup Inc., the Walk Free Foundation was able to conduct random sample surveys in Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Nepal, Nigeria, Russia, and Pakistan. Well and good. Random sample surveys are a good way to gather data on many social issues.

When it came to the other 160 nations it reported on, however, including Thailand, the Index had to use secondary sources. While the methodology the researchers used (clustering countries by key vulnerabilities, geographies, etc.) is good, given the data they had available, it’s not ideal. For Thailand (in cluster V), the data sets used for extrapolation weren’t even secondary sources from Thailand itself but came from Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Qatar. Until random sample surveys are administered across Thailand, we should be skeptical of this estimate. In fact, given the clandestine nature of modern slavery and human trafficking, even random sample surveys can’t present a full proof picture.

The point is not to suggest that it’s impossible to gather trustworthy data on this issue. The Global Slavery Index is working towards this and many other researchers are as well. In fact, we’re excited to be partnering with Liberty Asia to help with this in our own small way. Rather, the point is to highlight that while data can help us understand the scope of modern slavery, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation, we’re not at a place yet where we can present most of this data as if it’s conclusive.

That’s okay.

Unfortunately, we at SOLD witness the problem of modern slavery, human trafficking, and commercial sexual exploitation all the time. Even though nobody has figured out a perfect way to measure it yet, we know it exists. And, more importantly, while estimates are important for highlighting the immensity of the problem, we’ve always been aware that these issues don’t come down to abstract numbers but to the exploitation of actual girls, boys, women, and men, and what we can do to prevent it.

 

 

Dan Olson is SOLD’s inhouse writer and researcher.

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Shop to Support SOLD!

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For a limited time only, The SOLD Project has partnered with Causegear to bring you beautiful handmade products that give back. The human justice brand provides life-changing jobs to women in India by paying them 5x the usual wage, helping elevate them out of poverty and injustice and towards a self-sustaining life.

Shop now and use code: SOLD when you check out. 25% of your purchase will go directly to The SOLD Project’s prevention of child trafficking in Thailand.

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The Surprising Thing About Education

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Photo credit: szefei/Shutterstock

Imagine you are a subsistence level farmer living in a rural village more than an hour’s drive away from the nearest city of any notable size. You grow tamarind and collect recyclables to sell on the side for the money to buy a few more meals. You have less than six years of schooling, which is more than your parents who were refugees, but less than you hope to provide for your children. Now imagine that your oldest son has shown an aptitude beyond which you can guide. Teachers have commended his abilities, and through some luck and determination, your son has a chance at a real degree. He could finish secondary school. He might even go to college! Your arthritis is acting up from the hard labor, and your lungs are giving out from years of working with pesticides. You worry about your mother who is also ill, and your youngest children, who go home to an empty house after school every day and watch TV until your eldest gets home and can help them with chores and homework. You know you have many more years of uncertain labor ahead of you, but it’s worth it because you have your entire family’s hopes pinned on your eldest son. He will break the cycle of poverty. He will find a good job, and earn good wages, which he can then use to support the family.

Now imagine this young son, fresh from graduation, stumbles upon a job offer—a lucrative position in a different country. Don’t worry, though, they tell you, he will be able to visit home often, and of course send money home. You have an inkling of fear, but this is the dream you’ve been waiting for, right? You can’t pass up such a good opportunity. So you pack his documents and his bags with silent prayers and wish him well on his way.

You never hear from him again.

The story above is a piece of fiction, but it is built on hundreds of thousands of true ones. The linchpin in these stories is education. Research has shown that education is one of the biggest deterrents to trafficking: the better one’s job prospects (and possibly the more experienced and skilled in critical thinking), the less vulnerable they are to being exploited.

However, there is a twist in this story about education.

In a recent survey of trafficking victims in the Greater Mekhong Subregion, it was found that around 30% of adults had completed secondary education (grades 6-8), and nearly 44% of children had. A small number had gone on to higher secondary education, and a few adults had even obtained a university degree. While the great majority of victims are obviously undereducated, thus demonstrating what impact education has on trafficking, some of the more educated people still fall prey.

These cases are explained more fully by findings in a pilot study recently conducted in Vietnam. This study found that better-educated households and villages are more impervious to trafficking, but that individual education is positively associated with trafficking risk. This study is small, so results must be taken with a grain of salt, but it does tap into trends those of us on the ground know exist. Namely, that when households are vulnerable, they often will send their best and brightest hopes out into the world to try to maximize their potential.

This is one of the big reasons why it is critical that we do more than provide education. Education is the key to opening many doors, but we need to help our students determine which doors are the ones they want to open. We need to raise general awareness in the community about the existence and dangers of trafficking, and how to avoid exploitation. We need to teach the students how to identify safe and unsafe situations. And we need solid relationships of trust and mentorship, so the students always have some place safe to turn to, and so they always have an advocate to keep an eye on them when they go out and pursue opportunity.

This is why we are building a second resource center in Chiang Rai City: so we can be there to help protect and guide our students every step of the way.

If you would like to contribute to growing operations in northern Thailand, please visit our Global Giving Page to learn more about how you can help.

A Response to “The Problem with Little White Girls…”

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Do white girls (and boys) do more harm than good in the developing world? In a recent article on The Huffington Post, the author shares her experience as a volunteer in various developing nations and how her presence was at best benign, but often more of a hindrance to those she was trying to help. She had been led to believe that she would be a godsend, but honestly, she was not. She argues, “It turns out that I, a little white girl, am good at a lot of things. I am good at raising money, training volunteers, collecting items, coordinating programs, and telling stories. I am flexible, creative, and able to think on my feet. On paper, I am, by most people’s standards, highly qualified to do international aid. But I shouldn’t be.” She once hoped to mentor little brown girls; now she wants them to have mentors who look more like they do.

Our organization is an American one operating in Thailand. One could look at our staff and leadership and conclude that it is run predominantly by little white girls. Clearly, we think we can and should help, right? We should be offended by the position she takes.

Shouldn’t we?

Well, let’s take a closer look first. The author seems to be blaming race, especially with such a provocative title and opening paragraphs, but as one reads further, it becomes clear that what she is really talking about is not necessarily race. It’s partly class, in the global sense of who has access to resources, which is so closely interlinked with race the two can easily be conflated. Mostly, however, it’s attitude. The problem starts with a predisposition to a ‘white savior complex,’ not whiteness itself.

At our organization, The SOLD Project, we have seen examples of voluntourism, the assumption that we in the first world have so much to offer we have a moral imperative to bestow our worldly knowledge and material goods upon our recipients’ open and (better be) grateful hands, and volunteers who honestly care more about their own experience here than what they can offer our students. Truthfully, if you approach developmental aid like a shepherd come to bring order to a wayward and indigent flock, then race is an issue. There is a presumed superiority there, a lack of humility and respect, and one will quickly discover that a little 3-week stint in the tropics where you talk about your experience and tell all the local Thai staff the “right” way to do things or tell the kids, “The world is your oyster! Find what you love and go do it!” is not going to bring change or encourage students to connect with you the way you hoped. You will not leave them feeling inspired. The world, for so long, has been our oyster, not theirs. But times are changing, and every human being has the right to meet the world on his or her own terms.

At The SOLD Project, we believe that it is critical to approach developmental aid as collaborators, as partners, as friends. Our organization is run by Americans and Thais alike, as equals, because we wouldn’t know how best to serve if our Thai staff didn’t have a strong voice. We couldn’t connect to the local communities so well, if our Thai staff weren’t there working along side us. We wouldn’t have the trust or legitimacy we need to really be heard ourselves.

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If one doesn’t read the article carefully, one might come away with the conclusion that maybe whites don’t belong in developmental aid. We don’t think this is true (and I suspect the author doesn’t either, as she still works in aid). I reflect on the community we serve and imagine what it would be like if a few “little white girls” hadn’t come along — the needs are so great armchair theorizing about race becomes moot. When I started with SOLD, some of our kids were in such dire need of love and attention they would crawl into the laps of complete strangers in search of a hug. Are we saviors? No. Plenty of people have the skills and the drive to make change in their community, but there are barriers of various sorts in the way. Our job is simply to help remove those barriers and to occasionally provide a different point of view for them to consider. Some kids come from very loving families and just need a little boost. Others need someone who can tell them they have a right to the privacy of their own bodies. They have a right to basic decency. They need someone who will say this over and over until they begin to believe, and before SOLD, they simply did not have a person like this in their lives.

One of my favorite quotes is from Rev. Desmond Tutu. He said, “Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.” Differences not only define us, they help us grow as humans. If we are going to combat the larger evil, the trafficking of children, we can’t let race become an excuse to not step up to the plate. We need brown people, we need white people, we need women, we need men, we need the young and the old, the religious and the secular. In short, we need each other.