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FTS article is the cover story of the March 2013 Monthly Developments magazine

One of our goals at FTS is to “mainstream” anti-slavery work. That means getting field workers for charities and development institutions, such as USAID and the United Nations, to recognize slavery when they see it, and take appropriate action.

A recent article by FTS Associate Programs Director Ginny Baumann helps to do just that.

Her how-to piece, the cover story in the March 2013 edition of Monthly Developments magazine, answers vital questions that can help mobilize development workers into anti-slavery activists. The magazine is read by development and humanitarian aid professionals throughout the world.

She notes that there are both moral and practical reasons to take a stand against modern-day slavery.

“Removing slavery from a community allows other interventions to more fully take root,” Ginny tells aid workers in her article. “If your project focuses on education, microenterprise development, women’s empowerment, health care, migration – you name it – a greater number of individuals will benefit if their community is free from slavery.”

FTS Associate Programs Director Ginny Baumann

FTS Associate Programs Director Ginny Baumann

Ginny’s article lists steps that development professionals can take when they witness slavery.

Just as important, she provides cautions for things not to do, things that could actually endanger slaves rather than helping them toward sustainable freedom.

“If development agencies do not equip their staff on slavery, there is a risk that in some places they can become part of the problem,” she concludes. “Their resources can be used to reinforce existing patterns of control and exclusion.”

Ginny says that eliminating that risk is time and money well spent.

Ginny’s full article is now available online by creating a free online user account with the group Interaction, and looking for the March edition of their Monthly Developments magazine.

Our thanks to Interaction for helping to spread the word!

120x90It’s a three-peat! America’s premiere charity evaluation organization has given its highest designation to Free the Slaves for the third straight year.

The four-star rating indicates that Free the Slaves “adheres to good governance and other best practices,” says Charity Navigator President and CEO Ken Berger, “and consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way.”

Only 10 percent of organizations rated by Charity Navigator receive the “exceptional” score for three consecutive years. This indicates that Free the Slaves “outperforms most other charities in America,” Berger says. It demonstrates to the public that Free the Slaves “is worthy of their trust,” Berger says.

Free the Slaves earned this rating because of our efficient spending practices. We spend 85 percent of every dollar on programs and services. You can review our complete financial disclosure forms on our website donation page.

mm 0044 off centerAs National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month draws to a close, we’re excited to share some important organizational news. We have selected a new Executive Director for Free the Slaves. His name is Maurice Middleberg.

Maurice brings remarkable skills and experience to guide Free the Slaves. He has worked in the field of international development and social justice for 30 years, with experience on projects in 50 countries for CARE, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), The Futures Group, IntraHealth International, and others.

He has a 15-year record in senior and executive positions, including extensive relationships with international development institutions and the United Nations. He’s an accomplished writer and public speaker, and an effective fundraiser.

“Maurice’s background is precisely what Free the Slaves needs as we focus our organization on projects that prove to the world that ending slavery is possible,” says Acting Executive Director Jane Covey. “His experience with groups outside the anti-slavery movement, as well as with international development institutions, will be a great asset as Free the Slaves moves toward our strategic objective of persuading other organizations to include an anti-slavery component in their own international development work.”

Maurice says his decision to join Free the Slaves is both “personal and professional.”

“Fighting injustice has always been important to me, and modern-day slavery is one of the most serious injustices of our time,” Maurice says. “As well, my grandfather survived forced labor in Auschwitz in World War Two — and my wife is actually a descendant of the Lovejoy family, the outspoken American abolitionists from the 1800s. So, I am honored as someone whose family has been touched by slavery in the past to be in a position where I can work to eradicate slavery in the future.”

Maurice currently serves as the Vice President for Global Policy at IntraHealth International, a Washington, D.C. based nonprofit that enables health workers to better serve communities in need around the world. He begins as Free the Slaves Executive Director on February 4th. He succeeds Indika Samarawickreme, who left in 2012. Jane Covey, who has been serving as Acting Executive Director, will return to her role as Free the Slaves Board Chair.

Please join us in welcoming Maurice. And, watch this space! He’ll be blogging about his insights into the modern abolition movement.

Jason Mraz at Freedom Rocks

Jason Mraz at FTS Freedom Rocks concert 2010 | Amy Graves photo for FTS

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jason Mraz will headline a free outdoor concert in Myanmar this weekend to raise awareness about modern-day slavery and trafficking.

His performance at the base of the Shwedagon pagoda in People’s Square in Yangon is believed to be the first international concert of its kind in Myanmar, according to the Associated Press (AP).

He tells the AP that he has three goals: “educate, empower, engage.”

Jason has been a global ambassador for the modern abolition movement ever since he accompanied Free the Slaves frontline activists in Ghana on a child-slavery rescue mission.

His tearful account of meeting child slavery survivors was captured in the FTS video “The Journey of the Freedom Song.”

“I thought this (slavery) was something that was abolished when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation,” Jason recently told the AP. “But all it did is become hidden from our view. So I signed on, lent my voice, lent my music to the cause.”

Jason performed the “Freedom Song” at the 2010 FTS Freedom Awards in Los Angeles, backed up by energetic singers from the Agape Youth Choir.

Jason hosted a major anti-slavery concert in the Philippines last year, and now he is bringing his unique spirit of optimism to Myanmar, listed by the U.S. State Department as a Tier 3 country in the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report, meaning it is one of the world worst hotspots for slavery.

“I’m going there with an enormous amount of gratitude and respect, and I hope we can actually make a difference,” Jason told the AP. “I hope it’s also a testament to the songs. I’ve always wanted my songs to be about healing and self-empowerment.”

Sunday’s Myanmar concert is being organized by MTV, and it will be broadcast internationally next year. It’s funded by the Australian Government’s Agency for International Development (AusAID), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Walk Free, a global movement to end modern-day slavery; and produced in partnership with the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the United Nations Inter-Agency Project Against Human Trafficking (UNIAP) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

FTS co-founder Kevin Bales is in Myanmar now for the show. Watch the FTS blog for his notes on how things went!

Crisis Unfolding in Congo

It isn’t on America’s front pages, but there’s a dangerous situation unfolding at this moment in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Rebel troops have captured the regional capital of Goma – a city of roughly one million people and the regional base of operations for most international development organizations in eastern DRC, including Free the Slaves.

Free the Slaves expresses its solidarity with the people of Goma and of the DRC as a whole, in the light of the recent combat and subsequent takeover of Goma by M23, the rebel group, and the apparent abandonment of the town by the national army.

FTS calls on all parties to ensure that no crimes are committed against civilians.

Combat in the DRC since 1996 has been characterized by appalling abuses against civilians, including murder, sexual violence, forced labor and looting of goods that Congolese families need to survive.  Any members of armed groups or the Congolese army that are found committing such abuses must be brought to justice, without exception.

FTS also calls for the protection of human rights workers by MONUSCO, the United Nations peacekeeping and stabilization force, which has a major base in Goma.

DR Congo straddles the equator in the heart of Africa.

FTS has been engaged in efforts to bring an end to modern forms of slavery in rural communities of eastern DRC since 2009. We remain in close contact with our staff and partners. While they are secure as of the latest report, the current level of instability provides no guarantee for their security, and also prevents our crucial programs from moving forward.

FTS calls for an early end to the current hostilities through peaceful negotiation rather than through further violence that inevitably would result in further abuses against civilians.

What can you do? Please consider contacting your members of Congress to let them know that you are closely following the situation in the DRC, and insist that the U.S. government engage constructively with the government of DRC, Rwanda and other neighboring governments, as well as other major donor governments, to resolve the underlying problems causing violence.

You can find contact information for your senators here and your House representative here.

For more details: New York Times, Al Jazeera, CNN, Reuters, BBC, AFP.

The situation must be treated as urgent.