BonebergFree the Slaves is proud to announce that Bob is back!

Our former Board Chair Robert Boneberg will assist Free the Slaves in several key areas, including:

  • Legal analysis to support our frontline country offices;
  • Policy advocacy on business supply-chain transparency;
  • Securing support from U.S. law firms for the work of Free the Slaves.

“We appreciate Bob’s enthusiasm and willingness to take on these important tasks,” says Free the Slaves Executive Director Maurice Middleberg.

Bob is an attorney with a long history of public service. Prior to law school, Bob worked as a street gang social worker in Buffalo, NY, and as a senior legislative assistant to the Buffalo Common Council. Recently, Bob has been a litigation partner at Lowenstein Sandler LLP in New York, and he is the former chair of that firm’s pro bono committee.

Bob is a former chair of the New York State Bar Association’s International Law & Practice Section Committee on International Human Rights. He is a vice president of the Cornelia de Lange Syndrome Foundation.

Bob received his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Geneseo, a masters in social work from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and his law degree, magna cum laude, from New York Law School.

3 Remarkable Experts Join FTS Staff

Free the Slaves is excited to welcome three new members to our senior management team. Lori Fitzmaurice, Fatou Toure and Sujata Bijou each bring fresh, insightful perspectives to the organization. We asked each of them to tell us a bit about their background, and the reason they’ve decided to join the fight against trafficking and slavery.

Lori Fitzmaurice | Director of Development

Lori Fitzmaurice“My first encounter with human rights was as a child working with my family in the California movement for farmworker rights in the 70s. Since that time, I have been driven to stand beside those who are not heard. I am honored to be part of Free the Slaves, an organization I long admired and wished to be part of. I believe deeply that our model can end slavery worldwide. Every day, I will do my small part to make that happen by bringing sustainable resources for our programs to flourish.”

Lori began her work in the private sector, working for 11 years as a branch manager and senior director at Charles Schwab & Co., in California and Massachusetts. She then turned to the nonprofit world, working in children’s grief support in New England, and in education and conservation at the San Francisco Zoo. Most recently, Lori was the COO for Girls For A Change, a national nonprofit that provides training and empowerment in social change for middle and high school girls living in low-income neighborhoods. She is a dedicated activist for human rights, especially those of women and girls, and believes slavery can end with community-based solutions.

When asked about a quote that shapes her personal philosophy, Lori said: “Dame Anita Roddick said, ‘If you think you are too small to make an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.’  I find that quote a wonderful reminder of how social change really happens – one person at a time.”

Fatou Toure | Director of Finance and Administration 

Fatou ToureI made up my mind to no longer work for private companies, where there isn’t a balance between work and life. Coming from a developing country, I’ve seen that nonprofit organizations help meet the needs of disadvantaged people, especially in places where local and national governments are corrupted or aren’t paying enough attention. So, Free the Slaves has a noble and rare mission. I am glad to be able to contribute in as many ways as possible.”

Fatou was raised in Senegal, and moved to the U.S. 20 years ago when her mother accepted a job with Sisters Cities International in Memphis, TN. At the time, the sister city for Memphis was Kaolack, which is where Fatou was born. Fatou attended college in Memphis and moved to Washington for graduate studies. She holds a bachelor’s in business administration and an MBA with a concentration in corporate finance. After college, Fatou worked for nonprofit organizations and private companies, where she successfully led and trained finance teams.

When asked about a quote that shapes her personal philosophy, Fatou looked to Confucius: “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential are the keys to unlock the door to personal excellence.”

Sujata Bijou | Director of Monitoring and Evaluation 

Sujata Bijou“I decided to join FTS because of my passion and dedication for social justice, having had personal contact in the past with slaves. The positive culture of Free the Slaves shined through all of its communications with me, and attracted me to the challenge of monitoring and evaluating the success of anti-slavery programs.”

Sujata’s previous positions include research, monitoring and evaluation roles at the International Training and Education Center for Health at the University of Washington; the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University; the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the University of Michigan; and the Haitian Health Foundation. Sujata was a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar. She has a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan and a master’s in public health from Tulane University. Sujata speaks English, French, Gujarati, Haitian Creole, and Malagasy.

When asked about a quote that shapes her personal philosophy, Sujata said: “Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.’”

Lori, Fatou and Sujata are all based in our Washington headquarters.

2013 Supporter Survery Banner Smaller versionYour ongoing support has helped Free the Slaves move people from slavery to freedom around the globe.

I’m hoping that you might volunteer 10 minutes of your time to help us become even more effective.

Your impressions about Free the Slaves are extraordinarily valuable.

Your insights and guidance will help us become a stronger organization.

Please take our 2013 online supporter survey. It’s quick. It’s easy. And it will make a difference.

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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.