Where are the signs?

As I landed in Asia after a nearly 24 hour flight from the United States earlier this week I could only think of one thing. Where are the sex signs? I had been invited to travel with a group called The Exodus Road whose mission it is to rescue children from sex trafficking with a major focus centering in Asia.

brothelWhen you arrive at the Las Vegas International Airport it is obvious that no one is hiding the fact that sex sells and Vegas has plenty to offer. Amsterdam is similar. Landing at the airports in major cities in SE Asia in countries like Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, or Vietnam a traveler can be totally unaware of a dark secret sometimes operating in the very hotel they will soon be staying in. They would have a hard time knowing that there is a shiny veneer covering a thriving sex industry. And beyond that veneer is the darkest of all, the trafficking of children for sex.

What is it about these cultures that keep such a secret discrete even in the face of international pressures to address the issue? While the awareness of this crime has entered the world stage through the efforts of NGO’s and government campaigns, sex tourism still stands as a major economic giant. Most of these countries have passed legislation outlawing human trafficking, Myanmar joining them as late as 2005.

According to the International Labor Organization 4 Asian countries depend on the sex industry for 2% to as high as 14% of their economies. UNICEF reports in The State of the Worlds Children 2012, that out of the 2.5 million people trafficked in the world it is estimated that 22 – 50 percent of them are children. Of those trafficked some studies show that most trafficked underage women are used in the sex industry. The UNODC’s report: Global report on trafficking in persons 2012 states that much of that activity happens in SE Asia.

So the question remains if these societies will be able to continue hiding those realities. The world is starting to wake up to the facts. No longer is it only the pedophile who knows about the dark profitable places to seek out a child. Just this past week at a major gathering of college christian students called Passion, 60,000 students pledged to help end human trafficking. Coalitions are being formed all the time and groups are beginning to work together from the aggravating work of finding these victims to prosecuting their handlers. Facades can only mask so long what seems to embarrass a culture of honor.

I remember flying into Beijing for the first time right before the commencement of the 2008 Summer Olympics. The government went to great lengths to position everything from signs, reducing traffic induced smoggy skies, and other details to whitewash anything but the best of the city and surrounding scenery. Returning this last summer though, many of these measures had been removed. The city was still a symbol of power, but a truer Beijing was now visible, even with its least pleasant characteristics.

If these less honorable, and even worse, criminal activities against children become known stories then there will be a reduction in the places for them to hide and carry out the activity. Over the next week, as I travel throughout the region, I will be publishing first hand accounts of the people I meet. Some will be industry workers who have witnessed underage trafficking. Others will be investigators, case managers and aftercare professionals from various coalitions. I hope that their lives begin to paint yet another picture of the greater story being told by many, one that is creating an army of people who will not look the other way, one that finds honor only in dignity for all humans beings. While many people have said wise things in regards to slavery, these words from William Wilberforce’s quote in his address to the British Parliament in 1789 stand hauntingly appropriate for our world today. “Having heard all of this, you may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

A Week With The Exodus Road In Images

Since Wed, Jan 5th I have been reporting from the field along with another blogger in Asia. We have been conducting interviews, visiting brothel areas of major tourist hotspots, and getting a front row seat as The Exodus Road connects with their undercover operatives and coalition partners throughout the region. Here is a slideshow to just give you a preview of the stories I will tell in more detail when they are published. Please let me know if you have any questions about the experience.

Isolation to freedom: my upcoming trip to SE Asia

To be cut off from your family and friends and thrown into complete isolation. Having your only human connection be with those who mistreat, abuse and exploit you for ill gain. There is nothing more dehumanizing than slavery.

girlI have always been passionate about human rights. As a writer, storyteller and artist I could not have scripted how my career would have ever translated into something like this. But it has. Next Wednesday I board a flight headed to Southeast Asia for a week with The Exodus Road. I am one of two writers who are part of a greater network of 67 bloggers telling the stories that come out of SE Asia where The Exodus Road is part of 10 groups working to free women and children, shut down brothels, prosecute those involved and provide the victims successful after care. It is both an intimidating and honorable opportunity to tell the story of these brave individuals as well as the victims that they serve. I can’t think of anything that is more isolating for a person than to be in slavery. When we become isolated we lose connection with our world and the world loses out onundercover all the art one precious life has to offer.

So I plan to tell their stories with everything I have and I invite you to join me. I will be posting primarily on the Huffington Post Impact site daily throughout the trip as part of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. I will add a few more personal posts as stories arise.

redI encourage you to follow along by reading the Huffington posts, viewing my instagram pictures, as well as some planned special content via twitter. Please leave comments and share. These stories need to be told and I can only do that with your help. Your connectedness will help end someone’s isolation and slavery.

Will You Be Missed?: Icarus Deception Book Review

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I have a few authors, some alive and some long gone, that have greatly influenced my life and work. One of them is Seth Godin. While all his books have resonated with me there are a few that have just stopped me in my tracks. Linchpin was one. I think I have given nearly 20 or more copies away to people all over the world . I changed my whole career after reading a sentence in his book Tribes. I refer back to Purple Cow every time I ship something new from a video game to a non-profit fundraising campaign.

So when Godin launched his Kickstarter to publish his latest book, The Icarus Deception, I partly thought “there is no way he could top what he has already written.” I was wrong. Very wrong. As a backer I received Icarus earlier in December.

I was pleasantly surprised by the main theme of the book. Seth outlines a major shift that is happening right now. We are experiencing a time in history where the connection economy is replacing the industrial economy. Connections trump all other influence.  Icarus, describes this new world where artists thrive and those willing to be vulnerable and share, change the world. Truly I could write a long review here but, I would suggest watching the official trailer instead, Brent Underwood shared with me. What you see in it gives you an accurate preview of what you will find within its binding.

As I have given these copies away I have noticed something remarkable. Each recipient has expressed what I can only describe as epiphany. They are photographers, filmmakers, non-profit evangelists, writers and other world changers. Beyond that I am excited to see where those epiphanies take them next.

If you are near Portland, Oregon I also want to invite you to the first Icarus Session Jan 2nd at 2pm. I chose to start my own in the burbs (Newberg, OR) since the Portland one has grown pretty large. You can find the details here on the meetup site.

Are you failing?

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image16068887Over the years of connectedness I have made friends with many entrepreneurs and enjoyed the services and products of their startups, films, gadgets and writings. Some of those startups are now thriving businesses or part of larger companies through buy-outs. Some, did not make it.

Yesterday I was doing some end of the year house cleaning on the blog. One thing I had put off was fixing all the broken links that have inevitably show up after writing for 5 years (by the way here is a great tutorial showing how I did that). What I did not expect was to be reminded of those great ideas that just did not make it. Tools like Forecast or Whrrl had gone by the wayside. There were more but these two seemed to sting the most since they were ones I really enjoyed.

I am glad they tried though. I also know the great folks behind them will not stop trying.

I had a great conversation yesterday with a good friend about failure. A trusted mentor had told him recently that if he was not failing at least a couple times a month his business was just not experimenting, risking or trying hard enough.

So, are you failing?

I look forward to trying your beta app, your cool new Kickstarter gadget or reading that blog you have always wanted to start.

Go ahead and leave a link telling me what you are risking to start. I can’t wait to see them. Better yet add it too my open list I created here.

Oh, and for a bonus, Johnny Leckie wrote a really good post last night on a similar topic. Check it out.

no man is a failure who has friends

Today my daughter and I were walking out of a store . After we greeted the Salvation Army  bell ringers she turned to me and asked me who they were. I explained to her that many people are homeless or in great need. I assured her that it would never happen to us because of our friends and family (at least I pray it never does). But it got me thinking. Right now as the world continues to tremble under an economic climate not seen for decades and terms like fiscal cliff are in headlines everyday, we should consider how deep our friendships go as well as those we are connected to that are in need. It is one reason Clarences  note at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life really stood out to me this year: “Dear George: Remember no man is a failure who has friends. P.S. Thanks for the wings! -Love, Clarence.”

Merry Christmas

I also wanted to share a post I wrote two years ago this night called “Ten minutes ten years from now: The angel Clarence & measuring your influence success”. It still resonates with me today. In fact I go back to remind myself from time to time what I wrote there. Here is an excerpt:

“…….Kelly Craft asked a question last week that begins to answer this question. She asked what I would do if I had ten minutes to check in on things ten years into the future.”

continue reading …..

 

 

 

Where they’ve been, where they are & where they’re going

I have been working on this post in my head since before Thanksgiving.  This time of year as we come together with friends, co-workers and family, the stress of the season can really ramp up emotions. Often we don’t see these people for large gaps of time. We may see them every day. What we (and I fully include myself here) easily do is place an image of what the person used to be like, their values, personality, achievements and passions. Worse yet we hang onto their failures. We rarely allow room for what their life is like in the present or the dreams they are going after.

Instead of me writing more I’d like to try something different. My friend Melinda Lancaster shared a picture that summed up so much of this. It was a rare shot of a tree in three stages of season, all at once. Meldina and I marveled over how it was so symbolic of a person’s walk through life. We are all growing, learning, being pruned, failing and succeeding. In many ways, all at the same time. So, take a moment and think of a few people you will interact with at the next party, meeting or around the dinner table. Try and imagine their life as you observe the new buds, turning leaves, bare branches and even new fruit.

Tree in Seasons by http://www.melindalancaster.com/

by Melinda Lancaster www.melindalancaster.com

Icarus Deception and V for Vulnerable Givaway

It has been a while since I did a book giveaway and you will not want to miss this one. Last spring I backed the higher level of Seth Godin’s Kickstarter project for publishing his latest book The Icarus Deception. You can basically call it his challenge to conventional publishing. He believes that it takes a community to successfully sell a book instead of a slick publishing campaign. Seth delivered a whole slew of rewards this past week and I want to give some of it away.

Giving The Icarus Deception away without a call to action just did not seem right. I don’t have a lot but as Theodore Roosevelt said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

So I thought I would share a bit about a group I am volunteering with as a writer. Two weeks ago I joined the Exodus Road as a storyteller. As part of a fleet of bloggers around the world, I will be telling stories about real life raids, those on the ground and many other interesting reports of what The Exodus Road and partners are doing to rescue women and children from sex slavery in SE Asia.

To do these efforts Exodus has to fund brothel raids. These raids require state of the art technology and support for the brave undercover operatives infiltrating locked brothels to rescue the victims. The raid funds will also pay for investigative work to document and prosecute those committing these crimes.

So here is how the giveaway works.

There will only be one person receiving the whole package that includes two copies of Icarus Deception (one to keep and hopefully one you will gift to someone has art the world needs to see), and one copy of V is for Vulnerable, a picture book written by Seth Godin and Illustrated by Hugh MacLeod.

To be entered into the contest all you have to do these two steps.

1. Share the raid funding site on the twitter using a link on Twitter, Facebook, pinterest or Google Plus. Here is the link http://jhnflry.com/12lXKmP

2. Post a comment here and make sure you leave a link where you shared it above.

(some have reported that Disqus comment system has not allowed them to comment. If that happens please send me a note at john at johnbergquist.com and I will post your entry. Make sure the subject in your email is “pick yourself”)

It is up to you whether you donate or not. But just think. What you and your community gives will free someone from slavery. Wow!

So far Exodus has had 348 teams’ Prosecutions to date, 622 victims saved By teams, 15 undercover operatives and 11 organizations supported. Now that is truly incredible.

Thanks and have fun. The contest will end Monday the 17th at midnight (Pacific Standard Time). I will then randomly pick the winner using a great unbiased third party service.  I will announce the winner on Monday the 17th. Also, I will ship free only to the continental US. If you are beyond that I will require payment to offset the cost.

The Ebb and Flow of Friendship

I used to be an aquatic scientist. The estuary was one of my favorite sites to work. Depending on the season the tide would bring in different species of fish and the fresh water from the river flow would make the place a dynamic meeting place between the ocean and land.

You never knew what you would get as we pulled in our seine nets to sample species. We guessed (based on the salinity, time of year and habitat) what would be around, but it was still a mystery.

Relationships are similar. In the ebb and flow over our lives, from childhood to our adult lives, we encounter new people, some becoming good friends and other just acquaintances. We make close friends when circumstances are favorable. Life has seasons and, often those friendships change as a result.

I used to feel bad when losing touch with a good friend. Recently we moved as a family from a a small town where we had established over fourteen years a strong network of friends. Social tools have helped us stay in contact with many of them, but it has also been important to make new friends where we are now. One difference I have come to realize during this transition is that when pressure is removed, we can just enjoy the ebb and flow of friendship.

We all go through seasons in life. As we grow older our list of friends grows. Something that is important to adopt is a “no pressure” stance. There will be times for collaborations, partnerships and alliances. There will be times that we will be critical in a the success of others. There will be times when we have exactly what is needed to help one another out. This week I saw a great quote from author and lawyer activist Bob Goff: “At some point we all end up standing at the bottom of a well looking up. Good friends make good ropes”

I have been the one in the well and I have been the one with the rope, both multiple times. As we hold our friendships valuable we also hold them loosely allowing each other to navigate life in a way that both allows for a deepening and broadening of our connections. It gives us freedom to create, love and inspire in the ebb and flow of friendship.

 

 

Connection equates to art.

Art requires connection by Hugh MacLeod

When we show up, it happens. When we risk failure and humiliation, it happens. When we pay attention, it happens. Art happens. Hugh MacLeod sent out this recent print in his newsletter. Art requires connection or it dies. Art happens when, as Seth Godin states in his latest book, ” we’re truly alive”.

I witnessed it this week when friends connected a mutual friend to solve a ranching problem involving cattle. For me, I have been flooded with incredible friends coming to my aid and asking me to share some of my own art as try to fund my next stage as an entrepreneur. Becky McCray did it this week when she connected to dozens of her readers who are learning what she and Barry J Moltz offer through their book Small Town Rules.

The gas attendant last night did it when she looked me in the eye and said, “how is your night going”….and actually meant it.

My son is doing it this weekend as he and his Lego League robotics team attempt to qualify for state. I think we can all learn something from the fresh, bold and untarnished spirits of 12 year-olds.

So how will it happen for you today?

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