FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg is interviewed for the film Stand With Me.

What do you get when you combine the world-class photography of Lisa Kristine, the innovative frontline anti-slavery projects of Free the Slaves, and a vivacious 9-year-old California girl who has decided she wants to help end child slavery?

You get a powerful feature-length documentary to spread the message that slavery still exists but can be overcome.

The film is called “#standwithme.” It chronicles how artistry and activism can build bridges to freedom for millions trapped in slavery around the world. The film is currently being shot by Portland, Oregon-based Stillmotion, and it’s expected to be released in 2014.

It will tell the story of Lisa Kristine’s heart-stopping photographs of slavery hotspots where Free the Slaves works. (Purchase Lisa’s prints and book here – proceeds benefit Free the Slaves.)

A California family saw Lisa’s slavery photos in her gallery – and decided to snap into action. Vivienne Harr raised thousands of dollars for the anti-slavery movement by selling lemonade. Her family has started bottling the recipe and selling it online and in small grocery stores.  Free the Slaves is one of several organizations that will benefit from Make A Stand Lemon-Aid sales.

The Stillmotion team was in Washington this week to film an extended interview with our executive director, Maurice Middleberg. They’ll be heading to the frontlines of slavery soon to photograph how the Free the Slaves model helps people break free and stay free.

Stay tuned – we’ll keep you posted when the film is ready!

Gold mine in Obuasi, Ghana

Children sift ore by hand to extract gold in Ghana

Boys as young as 12 are working with dangerous chemicals to extract gold dust from ore. Girls as young as 10 are prostituted in mining camps and are pushed into relationships with older men.

These deeply moving stories of children losing their childhoods and freedom to violence, hard labor, prostitution, and sexual abuse are some of the key findings of recent FTS research on child slavery in Ghana’s gold mining regions.

The investigation was part of our 18-month Child Rights in Mining Project. Free the Slaves and our on-the-ground partners in Ghana, Participatory Development Associates and Social Support Foundation, conducted qualitative research into modern forms of slavery, including child sex trafficking and the related and overlapping problem of hazardous child labor.

Researchers aimed to document the dynamics of exploitation and abuse of children in Obuasi, Ghana, where informal small-scale and artisanal gold mining occurs. Ghanaian human rights groups have been concerned for many years about the enslavement and exploitation of children linked with so-called “galamsey” mining sites, which are sites where unlicensed informal mining takes place, but very little research has been carried out in this area.

Read the research report summary here.

Key Recommendations:

  • Build the capacity of state institutions responsible for child protection.
  • Provide adequate resources to state institutions, such as the Department of Social Welfare.
  • Enable community groups within the mining areas to develop community action plans through which local residents identify steps that can be taken to address sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
  • Form active and well-trained child protection groups in each community to help identify local risks to children and act to protect them.
  • Clarify procedures for reporting cases of sexual abuse and exploitation.
  • Ensure the effective enforcement of criminal laws against child slavery, sex trafficking and sexual abuse, worst forms of child labor and other forms of child exploitation.
  • Disseminate regular messages to local residents about children’s rights, child slavery and sex trafficking, hazardous child labor, child labor slavery and sexual violence.

These recommendations are intended to guide local facilitators as they assist community groups in demanding adequate child protection responses from government. They provide a reference point for community advocacy with local officials to demand that they meet their obligations to curtail sex trafficking, child labor slavery, hazardous child labor and other forms of child exploitation in Ghana’s informal mining communities.

As a result of the research, FTS and its partners produced a series of three booklets to educate community members. The stories in these booklets focus on three themes that emerged from the research: the importance of good parenting, the dangers of child labor, and the existence and root causes of sexual violence against children.

The booklets have been used with more than 350 participants in 25 learning groups led by trained community facilitators. The groups met weekly or bi-weekly to discuss the illustrated stories and how to take up ways to reduce sexual violence and child labor and protect children.


One of the illustrated booklets tells the story of a boy who is forced to drop out of school and work in a mine.

An evaluation of the pilot project was recently concluded. It showed profound results in successfully shifting community attitudes about the rights and protection of children, resulting in the removal of children from situations of slavery and hazardous labor. A detailed report of the pilot project will be released soon.

Read more about FTS work in Ghana here.

Ending Slavery book Finnish translation coverThere are many words around the world for slaves and slavery. In Finland, the word is orjat. And it’s on the cover of the FTS book Ending Slavery, which is now available in Finnish.

In Ending Slavery, FTS Co-founder Kevin Bales outlines what’s needed to eradicate slavery once and for all – with concrete steps to be taken by faith communities, corporations, governments, foundations, international institutions and anyone who wants to end one of history’s greatest abuses of human rights.

“Read Kevin Bales’ practical and inspiring book, and you will discover how our world can be free at last,” says South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

Now, people in Finland can do just that.

“Finland is a small country, but it is world leader in peace-making, social policy, and successfully caring for its citizens. With focus and energy, it could become the first truly slave-free country and show the rest of us how to really end slavery,” Kevin says.

Research for Ending Slavery was based largely on FTS field projects and advocacy initiatives around the world. As author, Kevin won the 2011 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order from the University of Louisville.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton held up his copy of Ending Slavery at the Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York, telling audience members that the book is an invaluable blueprint for ending slavery.

“It is a problem we can solve, and here’s how to do it,” Clinton said.

To get the Finnish edition, click here. For English, click here. To check out other FTS books, click here.

fts lock logo no nameThere is great news to share with you today. I am pleased to announce that three remarkable individuals will be joining Free the Slaves. Two have been elected to our board of directors, Gary Gold-Moritz and Gregory Haile. The third, Mark Allen Trozzi, will assist the board as an advisor.

Gary Gold-Moritz has been the chief operating officer at the organization Public Justice since October 2010. Previously, he was COO at the Children’s Law Center in Washington. After graduating law school at the University of California, Berkeley, Gary studied environmental law and sustainable development in India, practiced corporate law at O’Melveny & Myers, served as general counsel for small technology companies and owned and operated a home repair business. Gary was the first COO at the Children’s Law Center, and oversaw significant growth, implemented strategic planning, and ensured smooth operations. At Public Justice, where he is also the first COO, Gary oversees all finance and administration operations along with the communications and development departments, and works closely with the group’s executive director.

Gregory A. Haile is the general counsel and vice president for public policy and government affairs for Broward College in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He was educated at the Columbia University School of Law, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and served as Editor-in-Chief of the National Black Law Journal; and Arizona State University, where he graduated magna cum laude and was selected as the most outstanding undergraduate in his college. Gregory joined Broward College in 2011 after working at several law firms including, most recently, Berger Singerman. He oversees broad-ranging legal issues relating to tax, immigration, employment, labor, copyright, real estate, construction and tenure. Further, he oversees all local, statewide, and federal government affairs, including advocating before local, state and congressional leaders to enhance their understanding of higher education issues. Gregory spends significant time serving the community-at-large.

Mark Allen Trozzi is an independent management consultant based in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. He provides project management support and analysis for a wide range of for-profit and nonprofit organizations, as well as filling-in as chief operating officer or chief financial officer when needed. Mark has served in executive positions at Engender Health, Spree.com, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Amnesty International USA, and The Sherwin-Williams Co., among others. He earned a Masters of Science in Management from the Sloan School at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mark will advise FTS as a member of our board’s finance and audit committee.

This month’s additions to the board come as we bid a grateful farewell to long-term board member Franka Jordan. She has served two terms, the maximum allowed. Franka helped usher FTS through an intensive period of transition and growth. Her expertise in organizational development has been a key to the success of our organization. On behalf of the Free the Slaves staff and board, I’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Franka for her extraordinary dedication and service. She will continue to help FTS as volunteer advisor to the board’s programs committee.

12 Years a Slave book coverIf you haven’t heard about the story of Solomon Northup, you will hear about it soon.

It’s about to become a major motion picture featuring Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard, Paul Giamatti and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

If you’re not the movie-going type, you can experience Northup’s spellbinding story on audio book, performed by actor and humanitarian Louis Gossett Jr.

Free the Slaves will receive 20 percent of the proceeds if you enter FREETHESLAVES into the promo code window when downloading the audio book from Downpour.com.

Originally published in 1853, Northup’s autobiography was an immediate bombshell in the national debate over slavery leading up to the Civil War.

He was born free, but was kidnapped and sold into slavery.

solomon northup tightHe toiled in bondage for a dozen years before his rescue.

Northup’s true story validated Harriett Beecher Stowe’s fictional account of Southern slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which had significantly changed public opinion in favor of abolition.

Frederick Douglass said this about Twelve Years a Slave: “Its truth is far greater than fiction.”

The audio book is receiving praise as well.

“Gossett infuses the words with a quiet, seething power,” says AudioFile Magazine.

Twelve Years a Slave was lost to history by the early 20th century, when it could not be located by libraries, stores or catalogues. Then a 12-year-old avid reader in central Louisiana ‐ the future Sue Eakin, Ph.D. ‐ reached upon the library shelf of a planation home and discovered a dusty copy of the book. Eakin went on to write her master’s thesis about Solomon Northup’s story, and after decades of research, produced the first authenticated edition of the book in 1968.