Editor’s note: This is the third part in a series of blog posts written by longtime Free the Slaves supporter Carol Metzker. Carol has been writing about her visit to Punarnawa ashram in India, where girls who have survived slavery heal and rehabilitate. (You can read her earlier articles here and here.) Today, she writes about a donation of a “tiny herd of cows” has given the survivors daily food to eat—in the form of fresh dairy, as well as compost for gardens. Extra dairy is also sold at the nearby market. Small donations make a big difference to our frontline projects. To donate to Free the Slaves, go here.
Because of a tiny herd of cows, a cow shed and a bio-gas system donated to Punarnawa, the ashram has enough dairy products to feed 26-30 residents daily, enough methane (from the bio-gas system’s processing of cow manure) to cook meals, and compost for their gardens. There is also enough extra milk to sell at the market to generate income to pay for the cows’ vet bills and extra feed. In the mornings, the milkman rides his bike to the center, picks up the extra milk and rides off to sell it at the market. Even a worker from the nearby village who helps with the cows, paid in milk, benefits from the project.
How does a bio-gas system work? Cow dung, mixed with water and cow urine, decomposes in an underground digester. Methane rises to the top of the digester and travels through a valved pipe to the kitchen and to a stove. The leftover decomposed mixture—minus methane—leaves the digester and flows into a shallow pit where it can be gathered for use as compost.
There is important news today involving a hero of the anti-slavery movement who has dedicated more than a decade of her life to create Free the Slaves and guide it from its infancy to the thought-leading organization that it is today.
Our co-founder and communications director, Peggy Callahan, has been thinking for some time about stepping down from her full-time staff position so that she could pursue special projects that would benefit the anti-slavery movement and Free the Slaves. Peggy says the time is right to make this transition.
We are forever grateful for Peggy’s unparalleled contributions to the abolition movement. She helped inspire the global media to alert the world that slavery still exists, and created a video library that helps journalists create awareness about slavery worldwide. Through her talents as a gifted filmmaker and her reputation as a trusted journalist, Peggy framed the struggle against slavery in positive, optimistic terms. By humanizing the problem, she helped everyone know that they have a role to play. Her films are a timeless legacy; they reveal one of history’s great crimes and the rebirth of a movement to end it.
Peggy was an award-winning television producer who left TV to go end slavery. (She often jokes that the move says a lot about TV.) She came up with our name and logo, and invented the Freedom Awards. She attracted thousands of people to donate, and hundreds to join the Free the Slaves family as volunteers. (And I’m told that she has forced many of those volunteers into her closet at home during holiday parties to record translation voiceovers for sound bites in her Free the Slaves films!)
A long-time colleague of Peggy, who has worked for three years on the Free the Slaves communications team as the unit’s senior writer-producer and communications specialist, will take over as communications director. Terry FitzPatrick is an award-winning filmmaker and journalist with 30 years of experience on six continents. He has worked with Bill Moyers, MacNeil-Lehrer, National Public Radio, the Discovery Channel and the History Channel. He has also developed communications training projects in more than a dozen countries in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, experience that will help Free the Slaves increase its in-country communications training assistance for our frontline partners in the future.
Please join me in honoring and thanking Peggy and congratulating Terry.
Dear Colleagues and Friends along the Journey –
I had the luxury of swimming in wonderful memories this morning. Memories that are sweet; transcendent even. Memories of hard work and fear and triumph. Memories of being brought to my knees by the sheer grace and majesty in the eyes of the people I met in so many remote villages — usually after being stuck in the mud.
Why is it that fighting slavery seems to always involve being stuck in the mud?
Memories of gratitude because I was lucky enough to hear and share the stories of so many astonishing people around the globe. Memories of the laughter and tears and the pure brilliance of the people I’ve shared this journey with over the past decade-plus.
Not so long ago, we were such tiny groups of crazy people screaming in the dark that it was time to end slavery. Now there are millions of us and we don’t seem so crazy, well most of us at least, though I personally believe sanity is highly overrated
So, thank you.
It’s been a long time since Kevin Bales’ work inspired us all to start Free the Slaves while sitting around a table at Ginny, Kevin and Gabe’s house in Mississippi. The souls around that table inspired me – and inspire me still. The folks at FTS today and the partners around the world continue to inspire.
It’s been a long time since FTS was just a telephone in Jolene Smith’s and Carlos’ one-bedroom apartment. Almost as long since Jolene dreamed-up creating a coalition and got the money to study the merits of her idea, which is called ATEST today.
Somehow, it didn’t take long for Supriya Awasthi to get comfortable enough to explain to me: “Peg-ji, you are a pain in my #$% !’
Along the way – many people joined (or should I say drank the Kool-Aid and devoted themselves to) FTS as staff members, sometimes as staff members who didn’t happen to get paid. Their work was critical. There are many people who work so hard and so smart with and for FTS. They create their unique gifts to the struggle to end slavery.
So as the fight against slavery moves forward, I celebrate you for all you do and will do.
There is a song that only you can sing,
a talent that only you can bring.
Your song and your talent
will make all the difference.
I look forward to seeing what great things come next for FTS, and to creating new projects to help end slavery…and maybe address a few other ills.
Thanks so much for everything. The journey has been fine indeed
Friend of Free the Slaves, artist Ben Swatez will be having an art show this Sunday, February 12 at the Phantom Gallery in Long Beach, CA. Last year, Ben visited our frontline work in the village of Bahari in India. The community there had just recently come out of slavery through Free the Slaves’ Free a Village, Build a Movement initiative. Ben brought art supplies and taught the villagers how to paint. The resulting artworks are breath-taking—you can see some of them here.
Since returning to the U.S., Ben has been developing a body of work based on the paintings by the formerly enslaved villagers. He has created art pieces that combine the villagers’ self portraits with portraits that he paints. You’ll be able to see his work in progress at the art show this weekend.
We’d love to see you there!
Free the Slaves co-founder Kevin Bales was on CNN last Friday. He was interviewed by Richard Quest about the state of slavery in the cocoa industry. Just over 10 years ago, in September 2001, Free the Slaves helped broker the historic Harkin-Engel Protocol.
Otherwise known as the “Cocoa Protocol,” the agreement marked the first time in the 250-year history of the anti-slavery movement that a global industry took responsibility for slavery in its supply chain. Chocolate companies, several NGOs, international labor organizations, Senator Harkin, Representative Engel, and the governments of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire all signed on.
The agreement was inspired by a growing awareness of slavery and other human rights abuses on the cocoa farms of West Africa. Free the Slaves helped shed light on these abuses in the Peabody award-winning documentary, “Slavery: A Global Investigation” which aired in 2001.
In the CNN interview above, Kevin Bales reflects on what has happened in the 10 years since the protocol was signed:
“I was proud to sign it and not least because there is something historic about an entire industry coming together to pool their funds to address the issue of child slavery and adult slavery in cocoa… But I am disappointed. To a large part it’s a resource question. It’s about the fact that while several million dollars a year are moving from the chocolate industry into work on the ground in West Africa, it’s simply not enough to meet the size of the problem… I believe that any time anyone happens to be in slavery, that’s a serious problem.”
Bales added that, while it is important to continue to pressure the chocolate industry to keep their supply chains free of slavery, there are other cocoa-using industries—like cosmetics and food manufacturers—that have not “taken part in dealing with the problem in their source material.”