End it.jpg

At Landmine Design we seek to reside on the preventative side of human trafficking by replacing vulnerability with opportunity; by providing women the opportunity to earn an income in a dignified fashion and receive an education - some for the first time in their lives. We're working relentlessly to combat the cycle of poverty leading too many into the horrors of human trafficking and boldly proclaiming: 

AWARENESS IS NOT ENOUGH.

Read below for stories of action. 


For pai, HOPE IS ENOUGH.

By Amreitha Jeeva

It was in the midst of an internal question I was wrestling with and trying to answer when I met Pai.

Our day in the MineField Village was almost over and our team was looking to hire another woman to work for LandMine Design. We had interviewed several women who desperately wanted a job and honestly, all of them were "eligible" for the program. This is where my internal struggle came in. The reality is every woman feels eligible for our program because every woman we meet is incredibly vulnerable, terribly poor, and deserves a chance to be successful. My question? How do you know which woman to choose? How can you choose? They all need help so badly, and isn't that what we’re there for?  

Pai waited all day for her interview with me. She carried two things in her hands. One was her daughter and the other was a dirty cloth I could tell used to be white. Her hair was pulled back and her face sad but hopeful.Hopeful, like any of us going into an interview, that she would be chosen for the job. As the questions came and her story unfolded, my heart broke and that internal struggle began showing on my face. She walked over a mile with her daughter in her arms to come to this interview. She lives so far away because the closest thing she has to a home is sharing a small hut with her sister, where she and her daughter sleep on the dirty kitchen floor. They were hungry and hadn't eaten that day. I could tell something was severely wrong.   

 

"How old is your daughter?” I asked.

"She's 4," Pai answered.

"Is she okay?"

"No...  she suffered a brain injury when I was pregnant with her," she said softly.  

Pai and he little girl. 

Pai and he little girl. 

A rainy and muddy day in this small village, where there is no clear road to drive on, was a day 4 years prior that Pai would never forget. She was 6 months pregnant and her family, while riding a moto, was hit by a car. Her husband was severely injured and in a coma for several days. Pai, pregnant and desperately hoping she wouldn't lose her husband had also been injured but this injury was not obvious yet.

Pai began to cry and wiped her tears with the towel she clenched onto.  

"My daughter will never be able to walk. Her injuries in my womb left her paralyzed. My husband recovered but left us when he realized she was not a normal child. My daughter can't eat on her own. I cannot work because she requires nonstop care. I don't have enough money for the medicines she needs. I don't even have enough money for food to feed her..."

Then I began to cry.

The internal struggle was out in the open for all to see as tears fell down my face and this interview quickly turned into a sob fest where by the end of it, all I could do was figure out a way to hire her and provide hope. She and her daughter both needed a turn around, a chance to see what they could do if they were given a chance. A simple opportunity to work and join a community, I knew could change her life. Would she be successful? I don't know, that's what the interview was for before the emotional burdens trumped logic. But the opportunity alone held the power to put hope back into her heart, and maybe that was enough.

So what is the answer to these questions that no longer were internal but showed all over my face? How do we know who to hire? Which story of despair do we give a chance to? After meeting Pai, my answer is - all of them. We figure out a way; with the help of anyone who will help us, we just do it. We don't leave anyone behind. We work hard, we lean into hope, we listen to the stories, and we just figure it out for yet another desperate mother and her baby girl. In this case, I looked at my team and said, "Even though there's only enough funds to hire one, we have to hire two." And that's what we do at Landmine Design. We share the hope we've been given and we don't allow anything to stop us.

Today, Pai still walks over a mile with her daughter in her arms to come to work at LandMine Design, but there is confidence and hope in her stride. She is never late to work. She caught on quickly to the skill of jewelry making and now creates some of our best pieces. She smiles and laughs while making jewelry with her daughter safe by her side. Most of all, she's not alone in her struggle anymore. She's surrounded by a community of women who help and uphold her. She's earning an income for the first time in her life and the trajectory of her life has shifted dramatically.

. A story like this isn't easy to share and yet we believe awareness isn't enough. As I remember Pai's face the day of that interview, I have to say that although awareness may not be enough, hope is. And hope has changed Pai's life.  

Purchasing a piece of jewelry impacts these women significantly. As I mentioned before, we only had enough money for one, but had to hire two...we simply couldn't walk away from her. This is where you came in.

 

Through the Fellowship of 52, we've been able to offer Pai safe employment and education for the first time in her life!

 

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you fellows!


2.25.16

So What?

By Karla Tillapaugh

 

So what?  

As the director for LandMine Design, that question frequently rears its ugly head in the corners of my thinking. It’s a good question even if it yields answers that I may not like very much.  

And so this question has, once again, gnawed at me as we come to the completion of the End It Movement Campaign. For the past several weeks, we have been posting stories about our work in preventing human slavery. We have been so honored to tell the stories, to give a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the running of this program, and to share the joys and sorrows in this work. Thank you for taking the time to read the posts. Truly, thank you.  

If you’re like me, you’ve probably noticed many posts today on social media displaying prominent, large red X’s on the hands of people from all walks of life. Maybe you have one on your hand today. I have one on mine. 

But the question that keeps ringing in my ears is: So What?

What purpose does it serve for us to tell the stories of LandMine Design this past month? What end is achieved by so many people proudly wearing large red X’s on their hands? Don’t get me wrong, I love sharing the amazing stories in our program. I also enjoy telling people why I have a red X on my hand. I love helping to spread the word about human slavery and the collaboration, through End It Movement, to raise awareness about this horrible reality. But, if that’s really all this is, then we have failed. You see, with all my heart, I believe that awareness is NOT enough. It’s a great place to begin, but if that’s the only place it takes you and I, it is indeed NOT enough.  

Awareness is only a small parcel of the effort to see human trafficking in our world end. For this horrific reality to become a thing of the past requires movement, choices, effort, hard work, finances, commitment, and at least ten other things I didn’t list here. It requires that we DO something, not simply be aware.  

So today, as we wrap up the End It Campaign, I am boldly asking you:

What are you DOING to end it? 

If the extent of your participation lies in reading stories and marking a red X on your hand, you have only scratched the surface of a monstrous problem. If our generation wants to see radical shifts in the landscape of human trafficking, we must DO more. We must choose to act and to act with boldness.  

So, what are some ways to be involved? I’m going to list some here, but there are many others as well:  

 

*  PLEDGE -- Support crucial legislation aimed at seeing a measurable 50% reduction in slavery over the next seven years by sending emails to your representatives.  Find easy steps to do so on End It's homepage.  

 

*  SHOP — Choose to purchase products that support and provide options for men, women and children at risk of human trafficking.  Of course, we believe a great place to shop is right here with LandMine Design.  Be a part of preventing slavery by empowering #onemorewoman to be employed from the middle of a MineField.  

 

*  GIVE  — Become an active participant with your gifts to see human slavery prevented. There are many organizations working tirelessly to eradicate human slavery, including LandMine Design. Decide to act yourself. Give! Give generously and give often. The war against this enemy won’t be won by inaction.  

 

I’ll close with a quote that has become a mantra for me in the End It Campaign:  

“Silence in the face of evil is evil itself: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

- Deitrich Bonhoeffer

These truths ignite a fire in me and force me to ask the question of ‘So What?'.  I hope it forces the same in you. I challenge you to join us in MOVING! Being in this battle means that we take chances, make decisions and MOVE. Awareness is not enough. This war requires action from all of us. I hope you’ll enter the war with us as we work tirelessly to see it come to an end in our lifetime. We can’t do it without you.

Your Voice matters - to prove just that, promo code MyVoiceMatters lands you 20% off through Sunday; because it just does. 


2.24.16

The Pain of Loss,        Teaching Us to Win

By Kristie Dunnigan

The women and children of The Minefield Village have my whole heart. They’ve had it since I first stepped foot in the village two years ago. I’ve developed deep love for the people. I’ve learned from them and my heart has been ignited by their strength too many times to note. I’m still human however, and naturally we connect and draw close to some individuals deeply - deeper than we ever anticipate. 

My closeness was in the company of a young girl named Srey Mom. 

Srey Mom, June 2015

Srey Mom, June 2015

 

I met Srey Mom two years ago when she was just 16 years old. She’s the same age as my youngest sister, which I believe lent to the deep affection I possessed immediately. Or maybe it was the dimples; the smile and dimples on this girl could melt the world. Whatever it was, Srey Mom was family in my eyes, one of my greatest gifts in the journey that has been Landmine Design. Truly, one of my greatest. 

Srey Mom was a hard worker. She is one of nine children and lived life with this contentment I still think about to this day. She worked incredibly hard yet had nothing to prove. She faced challenge yet smiled endlessly. I watched her in awe with every day I got to spend by her side. When I’d give lessons, she’d sit so near to me; she’d trace the patterns on my dresses and tickle me any chance she got. She’d whisper “sa-at naa” which translates to “very pretty” as she’d grab my face in love. In too many moments to count, the presence of this girl was nothing but a treasure.  Watching her not only come to understand her own worth, but also teach all the young girls surrounding her theirs, was nothing but a dream come true. 

Srey Mom (right) with one of our young leaders, Volek. June 2015. 

Srey Mom (right) with one of our young leaders, Volek. June 2015. 

 

As perhaps you’ve been anticipating, a dramatic shift happened. It came one day when I received a call from one of our in-country managers sharing with me Srey Mom had left home in the middle of the night. She left with her husband no one knew she had; a young boy from the village she had secretly wed and planned her runaway with. 

My heart shattered into a million pieces. And it shatters all over again writing these words. 

Where was she? Was she safe? Was she coerced into leaving? How will we ever find her? The questions were endless. Fast forward to today, they’re still just as endless. 

We’ve come to learn that Srey Mom and her husband ended up on a banana plantation in Thailand. This meant nothing but uncertainty to me until I was educated further. Leeta, our in country manager, shared with me that they’re undocumented which typically leads to severe abuse. Abuse in the form of no pay, long hours, physical abuse, and in severe cases - death when it comes time to paying the plantation workers. Even now, I realize I’ve convinced myself these things are not true; I’ve convinced myself I’ve fabricated this story somehow and that they’re safe and just earning a living somewhere far away. 

The reality is, that’s not the case. They’re undocumented, and their safety is unknown. And the amount of times I’ve sat and daydreamed about traveling to the plantation to find them is endless. I’ve realized I’ve been coping; I’ve been surviving her absence, but it is a deep wound in my heart and it’s still bleeding. 

So what does this mean for us as a staff at Landmine Design? What do you do when you were running full speed towards one of your favorite success stories, a dream, that becomes a nightmare overnight? Because that’s what this is for my heart, a nightmare. 

The only thing we know how to do is keep fighting. Srey Mom was becoming a leader, a young influencer to whom young girls of the village were turning. Yet, Srey Mom has only ever witnessed the cycle of poverty. Every single one of her older siblings had left the village because there was no opportunity, there was only desperation. Srey Mom wasn’t even aware of the fact that a new story was being written, that with everyday she was becoming a leader and single handedly challenging the very cycle of poverty her family had been living in.  In honesty, they were not living in it, they were merely surviving. 

She didn’t even know. So she ran, she did the only thing she’s ever known. Tears stream down my face as I type these words because truth be told, I don’t have a pretty bow to tie this story up within. I desperately wish I did, but I don’t. 

The last time I saw Srey Mom was the first time I ever slept in The Minefield Village. Myself and about nine young girls all crammed into the medical clinic, laid blankets on the floor, and stayed up until the sun rose. We did our best to teach one another our languages, we sang songs, braided each others hair, and played games under the stars. These girls had never heard of a slumber party before, but that’s exactly what we had under that stars in that village that night; further affirming my belief that us as girls, we’re all just the same - we desire to be captivating, and we desire to love. 

As the sun rose that morning, Srey Mom shook me awake and told me to come with her. She held my hand as we walked outside. There, she just started running and waved for me to follow. I chased after her and we just ran together. We circled around the soccer field laughing endlessly. She shared with me she ran every morning, that as the sun rose, it’s what made her feel alive. 

Sunrise in The Minefield Village, the last time I saw Srey Mom. 

Sunrise in The Minefield Village, the last time I saw Srey Mom. 

 

My prayer is that somewhere in Thailand, there is a young dimple cheeked girl rising with the sun feeling truly alive. My prayer is that we, at Landmine Design, may develop young leaders more quickly to ensure the cycle of poverty is no longer the only horizon young, deserving eyes may see. My prayer is that the baby, we’ve learned Srey Mom is four months pregnant with, may grow up learning what it means to dream.  For this baby's 18 year old mother, Srey Mom, the reality is struggling every day laboring to merely survive. 

Young girls are rolling beads and assembling them into designs for you. They’re working hard, receiving an education, earning an income, and beginning to develop ideas in their minds that their lives could be something more than survival. They’re beginning to see they could be a part of great, pivotal change for a generation. 

Srey Mom's little sister, Wong - working so she may see a new landscape. 

Srey Mom's little sister, Wong - working so she may see a new landscape. 

 

Your purchase matters. Your purchase provides these young girls an income. Your purchase mobilizes them towards a landscape beyond the cycle of poverty - for it’s the only horizon they’ve ever know. 

We’re fighting for a new horizon - one more beautiful than the sunrise on that morning I last saw Srey Mom.


2.23.16

what mother's don't know.

By Janie Thomas

A staggering 47% of Cambodian teenage girls are encouraged into sex trafficking by their mothers. Yes, you read that correctly. 47%. That statistic is like a sucker punch to my gut. When I sat with that number and let the reality sink in a bit, I honestly felt nauseous. It is reality and it’s horrendous. It’s numbers like this that push us. At LandMine Design, we continually strive to make a difference in this number. By building relationships with these mothers and their teenage daughters, LandMine Design has embarked on making that life changing difference. 

Som Kim is a beautiful mother living in The Minefield Village in Cambodia where we work. Her story is one of endless suffering as she strives daily to survive in extreme poverty. Her life is all about trying to provide for her four children in a village with no running water, very little food, dangerous jobs, little access to health care, and a home that is nothing more than a dilapidated grass hut. Her reality is a life of sorrow and fear as she deals with a small son with a rare blood disease and no way to pay the medical bills for him to receive the care he needs to survive. 

Som Kim working at Landmine Design 

Som Kim working at Landmine Design 

This was Som Kim’s desperate story when LandMine Design entered this village 5 years ago. Som Kim was one of our original hires in the LandMine Design program.  She still talks about those dark days of not being able to feed her family with tears in her eyes, and a haunting anguish in her voice. Today Som Kim earns an income. She can feed her family. She is able to get her young son the medical help to treat his rare blood condition. Som Kim now has a light in her eyes that was clouded with pain just a few short years ago. She is a success story, and a testament to the life changes we see happening at LandMine Design.  

Recently we received news that Som Kim was thinking of sending her daughter to Thailand for work. A “recruiter” had visited their Village and talked with Som Kim about “helping” her daughter with a job in Thailand. We were chilled to the bone by this news and what this could mean for their family and especially for their beautiful teenage daughter! To a mother seeking a better life for her daughter, this seems like a good option. As a mother myself, I profoundly understand this deep desire to see my children excel. Because of the access I have to information, I realize this kind of ‘recruiting’ isn’t what it seems and is instead is an opening for slavery.These kinds of situations are exactly how many girls and boys are enslaved, especially in that part of the world.  The lure and promise of money to a family that is uneducated and in need is often the tipping point for mothers to send their daughters into the realm of slavery. It’s so insidious and hard to comprehend. Som Kim had no idea of the evil intentions of this “recruiter” visiting their village. She was completely uneducated in the ways of the evil sex trafficking world. She is just a mother with her children’s best at heart.  

Som Kim's two daughters, the older almost subjected to slavery out of desperation. 

Som Kim's two daughters, the older almost subjected to slavery out of desperation. 

Thankfully we at LandMine Design were able to intervene in this situation and prevent Som Kim from making a terrible mistake. The prevention of situations just like this one is what we’re about at LandMine Design. Each life saved is a victory. Each woman hired is another woman pulled out of desperation, and lifted into a life of hope.  

I hope you’ll join us in this work of preventing situations like Som Kim’s from ever being a reality for the ladies, and their families, in the LandMine Design program. The truth is that your purchases and your gifts are having a direct impact in preventing slavery. We’re so honored to be in this work with you and we’re grateful as you join us in the fight to proclaim - prevention is better than cure. 

Young girls of The Minefield Village - the one's we're relentlessly working towards a new story fo. 

Young girls of The Minefield Village - the one's we're relentlessly working towards a new story fo. 

 

We’re in it to end it, let’s end it together.     


2.22.16

hope is enough.

By Amreitha Jeeva

It was in the midst of an internal question I was wrestling with and trying to answer when I met Pai.

Pai

Pai

Our day in the MineField Village was almost over and our team was looking to hire another woman to work for LandMine Design. We had interviewed several women who desperately wanted a job and honestly, all of them were "eligible" for the program. This is where my internal struggle came in. The reality is every woman feels eligible for our program because every woman we meet is incredibly vulnerable, terribly poor, and deserves a chance to be successful. My question? How do you know which woman to choose? How can you choose? They all need help so badly, and isn't that what we’re there for?  

Pai waited all day for her interview with me. She carried two things in her hands. One was her daughter and the other was a dirty cloth I could tell used to be white. Her hair was pulled back and her face sad but hopeful.Hopeful, like any of us going into an interview, that she would be chosen for the job. As the questions came and her story unfolded, my heart broke and that internal struggle began showing on my face. She walked over a mile with her daughter in her arms to come to this interview. She lives so far away because the closest thing she has to a home is sharing a small hut with her sister, where she and her daughter sleep on the dirty kitchen floor. They were hungry and hadn't eaten that day. I could tell something was severely wrong.   


"How old is your daughter?” I asked.

"She's 4," Pai answered.

"Is she okay?"

"No...  she suffered a brain injury when I was pregnant with her," she said softly.  

Pai and her injured daughter. 

Pai and her injured daughter. 

A rainy and muddy day in this small village, where there is no clear road to drive on, was a day 4 years prior that Pai would never forget. She was 6 months pregnant and her family, while riding a moto, was hit by a car. Her husband was severely injured and in a coma for several days. Pai, pregnant and desperately hoping she wouldn't lose her husband had also been injured but this injury was not obvious yet.

Pai began to cry and wiped her tears with the towel she clenched onto.  

"My daughter will never be able to walk. Her injuries in my womb left her paralyzed. My husband recovered but left us when he realized she was not a normal child. My daughter can't eat on her own. I cannot work because she requires nonstop care. I don't have enough money for the medicines she needs. I don't even have enough money for food to feed her..."

Then I began to cry.

The internal struggle was out in the open for all to see as tears fell down my face and this interview quickly turned into a sob fest where by the end of it, all I could do was figure out a way to hire her and provide hope. She and her daughter both needed a turn around, a chance to see what they could do if they were given a chance. A simple opportunity to work and join a community, I knew could change her life. Would she be successful? I don't know, that's what the interview was for before the emotional burdens trumped logic. But the opportunity alone held the power to put hope back into her heart, and maybe that was enough.

So what is the answer to these questions that no longer were internal but showed all over my face? How do we know who to hire? Which story of despair do we give a chance to? After meeting Pai, my answer is - all of them. We figure out a way; with the help of anyone who will help us, we just do it. We don't leave anyone behind. We work hard, we lean into hope, we listen to the stories, and we just figure it out for yet another desperate mother and her baby girl. In this case, I looked at my team and said, "Even though there's only enough funds to hire one, we have to hire two." And that's what we do at Landmine Design. We share the hope we've been given and we don't allow anything to stop us.

Today, Pai still walks over a mile with her daughter in her arms to come to work at LandMine Design, but there is confidence and hope in her stride. She is never late to work. She caught on quickly to the skill of jewelry making and now creates some of our best pieces. She smiles and laughs while making jewelry with her daughter safe by her side. Most of all, she's not alone in her struggle anymore. She's surrounded by a community of women who help and uphold her. She's earning an income for the first time in her life and the trajectory of her life has shifted dramatically.

Thank you for joining us here at LandMine Design during our End It Movement series of stories. A story like this isn't easy to share and yet we believe awareness isn't enough. As I remember Pai's face the day of that interview, I have to say that although awareness may not be enough, hope is. And hope has changed Pai's life.  

Purchasing a piece of jewelry impacts these women significantly. As I mentioned before, we only had enough money for one, but had to hire two...we simply couldn't walk away from her. This is where you come in.

A couple months back, we introduced The Fellowship of 52. The Fellow is a men's bracelet packaged in a handmade leather wallet, for every 52 sold - one more woman is afforded employment and education for a year in our program. Today, we have sold 45 Fellows; we're just seven away from fully funding Pai. 

The Fellow

The Fellow

Just as the leather wallet, handmade in America, protects her work - your purchase may protect her life. You are bringing hope to stories like Pai. You help us hire not just one more woman, but many women who's lives are changing before our very eyes.  Let us come together, let us bring this story of hope to completion. 

From all of us, thank you for joining in this story; for redeeming lives like the life of Pai and her daughter so they may live and work safely away from the horrors of slavery - without you, this story could not exist. 


2.21.16

beyond the policy

By Karla Tillapaugh

Children of The MineField Village peeking into Landmine Design 

Children of The MineField Village peeking into Landmine Design 

Sometimes the best plans need overhauled. In the beginning of the LandMine Design program, our small team of staff had standards we purposefully considered and then deliberately established. They were principles, if you will, by which we sought to establish a job creation program in the middle of a minefield.  

One such principle related to the women we would employ. To us, the highest priority for employment was easy: we sought to hire mothers who were desperate to feed their families. We hoped to provide a sustainable income so that these dear mothers wouldn’t be forced to leave their families in search of work across the border. We knew of too many who had made that choice and were at risk of the brutalities of human trafficking each time they left the safety of their home and village. Our hearts not only wanted to provide an income, we also wanted to provide a quality education, health and hygiene training, Christian discipleship, and financial budgeting/savings training. Establishing this principle seemed like a no brainer: Hire adult women/mothers in need.  

It’s funny to think about how resolute we were when establishing this principle. At the time, we had no idea how that principle would be one of the first to be broken. Within months of our beginning, young teenage girls began coming to our program. We had (and still have) an open door policy welcoming any woman into the training times.  Samphor was one of them. She would sit with the mothers we had hired and listen to all they were learning. She was sweet and wide-eyed; and she was a sponge, so eager to learn.  Because of her age, she was definitely NOT in our target market of women to hire. Within a few weeks, Samphor felt comfortable enough to share her story. She shared about the dire needs of her family; of being abandoned by her mother; of struggling with health issues that could have taken her life. Learning her story, the other women and our staff would often break down in tears over Samphor. It didn’t take long before the other women asked if we would consider hiring Samphor.   

Samphor at work at Landmine Design

Samphor at work at Landmine Design

It was at that moment that we were faced with a choice. Were we going to stand behind our well-thought out policy only hiring adult women/mothers, or were we willing to consider beyond the policy. Were we willing to notice teen age girls like Samphor? You see, the truth we’ve found at LandMine Design is that things are not always as cut and dry as they seem. Sure, making policies is relatively easy on this side of the ocean.  But, when you sit in a remote village face to face with a teenage girl who has no where to turn, policies feel abstract and removed. How could we tell this sweet teenager that she doesn’t fit our ‘market' for new hires? How could we gaze into her soft brown eyes and explain she’d have to look elsewhere for work to help provide for her hurting family?  And how could we send her off to quit school and find other means for an income in a country where 35% of the prostitutes are under the age of 16 (UNICEF)? Samphor deserved more.  

And that’s where our policy turned upside down and overhauled itself. Today, we hold policies with open hands. That’s not to say we don’t establish well-thought out plans and strategies. But, we realize that we can’t hold them with clinched fists. Sometimes we have to adjust the policies to better meet the needs not completely known when such policies were established. 

With great joy, we employ women living in a MineField. They are both adult moms and teen girls, like Samphor. Today all of our teen employees not only earn an income that literally feed their families; they also are able to continue in school. For these teens, they have the chance to be the first in their families to finish elementary school and hopefully beyond. All the while, they are learning a skill, developing business strategies, and understanding important things like clean water and sanitation.  

For young women like Samphor, overhauling plans has been life giving and we couldn’t be more grateful! 

Young girls of Landmine Design!

Young girls of Landmine Design!


2.18.16

Once An Orphan

By Karla Tillapaugh

Te was one of the very first women hired in the LandMine Design program. A middle-aged mother of three adult children, she was a bit of a pre-madonna in the early days of our program. Te’s emotions would often get the best of her and sometimes found an escape in the stinging words she would speak. A natural leader, she became a predominant figure in the program which gave her a platform from which to relate with little restraint. For Te and the other women, working and living in a minefield in close proximity to each other means privacy is non-existant. The ladies of LandMine Design know pretty intimate details about each other and with that knowledge comes the power to use it against one another.  

Te was no stranger to using knowledge to hurt others during those early days. Her words would often penetrate deep wounds into the hearts of many of our women. However, after months in the LandMine Design program, a shift slowly began to happen in her heart. Not only was Te earning a much needed income by producing pretty jewelry; through the lessons being taught and the examples of our managers and staff, Te was also learning better ways of handling anger, gossip, and relational issues. The process was slow as Te and other women had to be gently confronted about the toxic ways they were relating to each other. Those meetings were (and are) long and sometimes quite tearful; but slowly Te and the other women began learning a new way to relate — a way that included compassion, honesty, honor, forgiveness, and mountains of grace for each other. Watching Te learn to bite her tongue and respond in kindness rather than bitterness was truly beautiful to see.  

During this past year, the things Te has been learning at LandMine Design have seeped into her own family as well. Her relationship with her husband began to experience healing and growth in tender, positive ways. Te also began to really notice others and bring their needs and problems to our attention. She would come to LandMine Design meetings in tears over the desperate needs she saw of other villager's. In all honesty, we couldn’t believe the transformation we were witnessing in her compassion for others. Te was looking beyond herself and realizing she could influence her world for good through her compassion and new ways of relating.  

That compassion grew to a crescendo a few months ago when she was approached by a young mom with a baby from a nearby village. Literally starving and lacking the ability, family support, emotional stability, and resources to care for her baby, this young mom was desperate to find a home where her son could be adopted. By this time, Te had become well known in the area for her compassion and work in helping others. This young mom knew Te could help her find a loving home for her infant son. Brokenhearted over this mom’s plight, Te met with her on several occasions trying to find a solution. During those meetings, Te’s heart softened even more, and so did her husband’s. After many discussions, Te and her husband sensed a calling to step up and be the ones to adopt this new baby boy.   

Te and her new baby boy!

Te and her new baby boy!

It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?  A bitter woman who had already raised her children and lives in a minefield, could experience such deep transformation that her life has become radically changed. One who once used harsh words to erode hearts, has now become one who sees and chooses to respond with compassion rather than toxicity. Don’t get me wrong - Te still has her moments when the old ways surface, but her new way of living is having a radical impact on her life and those in desperate need around her. As for her newly adopted son, the change means a new life.  

From within the border town where human trafficking is completely common, something uncommon and hope-filled is happening. Women, like Te, are prevented from facing the horrors of human trafficking. But it doesn’t stop there. They are also learning a new way of living, relating and loving. This new way is helping to propel the prevention of human slavery from becoming realities in this village. The new way is multiplying itself and helping to prevent people, not even involved in the program, from being forced into human slavery. At LandMine Design, we’re working to prevent human trafficking. At the same time, we are seeing the inward character of many being changed and transformed.  

I hope that encourages you today… it sure encourages me! As I type these words, the necklace hanging around my neck was made by Te. I’m thankful to be a part of Te’s story. I hope you will be encouraged to be a part of Te’s story and the stories of many more women by choosing to buy and wear the beautiful pieces they create. Together, we can be a part of preventing human slavery as well as the transformation happening in a village on the edge of Cambodia.  

Te and her new baby with some of the Landmine Design family!

Te and her new baby with some of the Landmine Design family!


While awareness is the first step, it is not enough. This is not only a story of awareness, it is also a story of action; of working against human slavery together. Choose to take action with us. 

Shop the jewelry that is elevating women from poverty

Donate to Landmine Design 501(c)3

Continue to educate yourself, always. 


2.17.16

The Terrors of Poverty 

By Kristie Dunnigan

There is a woman near to my heart, her name is Chan; she is 33 and a mother to five. While she was pregnant with her fifth, she gently shared she wasn’t sure if her husband knew he had another on the way. Her new baby boy is now 4 months old. He has endured severe illness and been displaced from his home twice. Chan's husband has never stared into this sweet baby’s eyes, he hasn’t returned to his family, and they’re presently living amidst the extreme terrors of poverty. 

Chan, 33 - mother to five. 

Chan, 33 - mother to five. 

 

It was a few months back, I was working here in the US and received a call from Leeta, our Operations Manager in Cambodia. When I answered the phone I heard her weeping; my heart sank in fear. Leeta shared she needed help, wisdom, and prayer. She continued to speak and shared a story of terror. Chan’s brother had returned from Thailand where he was away working. He walked into her home, filled with five small children, and held them all up at knife point. He placed a knife to Chan’s throat and told them to get out. He screamed, he told them their house was now his, and they are to never return. 

Leeta shared a story of terror, one I felt inept to process or speak to. Chan, a young mother of five, was the epitome of desperation as she sat a world away from me homeless and hopeless. I hung my head as tears flooded my eyes. My emotion escalated and I gasped for air. Leeta and I’s common ground was nothing but painful, desperate heartache from two sides of this globe.

We sat together in the deep reality of what it means to combat poverty; of what it means to claim a story of hope amidst a battleground filled with hopelessness.  

As the days passed, Chan and her children settled into the home of a villager who kindly brought them in. Days later, Chan’s brother returned to Thailand and they made their way back to their home; reclaiming the very soul their desperation was pried upon. My heart found rest in knowing they were safe, but wrestled with the reality of desperation. My heart continued to pose the question; what is the longterm solution to such vulnerability? 

For a few weeks, there was peace. Leeta called to share that the women of Landmine Design had requested to use one of their work days to travel to Chan’s home together to visit her family, to clean, and to gather in love. Tears that were once filled with sorrow were for just a moment, filled with joy. To create community, to live selflessly, to build one another up - visions that were once a dream were a beautiful reality in this act. Landmine Design was becoming a family. 

A few weeks later, I received another call. 

On the other line, Leeta shared that Chan’s brother had returned to the village, and highly intoxicated, burnt their home to the ground. Chan and her five small children ran for their very lives. 

Tears of sorrow flooded back. 

Chan's Home

Chan's Home

Vulnerability pried upon. Desperation resulting in homelessness. Feelings of defeat. This is the cycle of poverty. This is the very battle we’re up against. This is what we witness on the front lines. And you know what oftentimes follows suit? Slavery. With no opportunity or places to turn, the industry of human slavery prevails amidst these stories of terror - when mothers are left with no choice but to subject themselves to trafficked borders, to sell their children, or sell themselves as they fight for their every breath. 

Chan’s story is one of heartache, heartache marking her past as we relentlessly claim a new future. Because that’s what we do, we cling to the belief that we can change her life and the lives of her children - even when logic says otherwise. 

Chan and her children are still displaced, living with her mother in law. They possess little to nothing of their own. But you know what’s different? Chan’s countenance. Chan is different - as a mother, leader, and family member of Landmine Design. Chan is actively claiming restoration in her spirit and its multiplying itself through her days. Through a dignified income, feelings of belonging, and the first chance she’s ever had to be educated; her children may be saved. Her worth may become known. Her story may be made new. 

Chan, right before giving birth to her baby boy.

Chan, right before giving birth to her baby boy.

At Landmine Design we rarely operate from a place of logic, we do not claim to know the answers, but we fight relentlessly towards a new story anyways. Chan and her five small children rely on every bead rolled, on every piece of jewelry handmade for you - and slowly but surely, it’s writing a story we’re proud of. Chan’s husband has still never met his new son, he has never witnessed the newfound strength of his wife, and he has never returned. Chan however, is laying the very foundation of a new story altogether. This foundation is one of self worth and opportunity. And what if all the women of Cambodia understood their worth and given opportunity?

At Landmine Design, this is what we fight for. At Landmine Design we see the value of every woman and fight on her behalf - we fight for a story of dignity where there was once vulnerability. We say every woman matters and together, we work relentlessly to change the life of just one more woman, day by day. Our hope is one day we look up and see a sea of women who have come to understand their worth; a sea of women setting out to claim a new story for their nation; a new story for the generation to come. Chan is a personal hero of mine; a woman that has survived the terrors of poverty and shown me what it means to fight. Chan has taught me strength.  

Chan and her sweet baby boy in Landmine Design Headquarters

Chan and her sweet baby boy in Landmine Design Headquarters


2.12.16

Prevention is cure. 

By Amreitha Jeeva

Awareness is not enough... but prevention is.  

Just a little over three years ago when LandMine Design began forming its foundation, its vision and call to action, we realized that in the process of job creation and the empowerment of women we were in a much greater battle.  It is a battle that The End It Movement has helped the world wake up to. Today, 20.9 million people are in slavery, more than ever in history. LandMine Design was formed in the middle of one of the most heavily trafficked areas of the world, Southeast Asia. We became aware that we were a part of something much larger than ourselves. The work we were striving to accomplish was part of a movement; the movement to end slavery.

A young school girl of The Minefield Village, finally witnessing women dream for something beyond mere survival. 

A young school girl of The Minefield Village, finally witnessing women dream for something beyond mere survival. 

As we began employing and educating women, we realized that we were minimizing their risk, vulnerability and opportunity to become victims of slavery. We began asking ourselves, "What if we could keep the horrors of prostitution and slavery from ever becoming an option for women in poverty?"   

And that's when we declared war on the same battle The End It Movement is fighting and joined forces.

Our piece of the puzzle? Prevention. We believe prevention is the cure.  

When 15 year old Volek began working for LandMine Design, she was lost and grasping for something. She had only completed a third grade education. Her demeanor was consumed by sadness; her eyes filled with tears when talking about her life. She was orphaned and living in a hut with her aging and handicapped grandparents who could not work. As a young girl, Volek had to grow up quickly to help provide basic necessities such as food, water, and clothes for her family. Life was very hard on her. She couldn't attend school because she had to work in the fields to earn an income. Working in the fields sometimes meant crossing a border where she could have easily become a victim of human trafficking. Many women working across the border are treated poorly, abused, taken advantage of and paid terrible wages. Worst of all, Volek didn't know what it meant to dream for her future because her future simply meant considering what she would eat the next day. Yet, she was grasping for something of purpose, something beyond mere survival.  

Volek 

Volek 

We wondered what would happen if we gave Volek an opportunity to work at LandMine Design; a place where she could receive an education but also earn an income in the safety of her own home.  

The outcome was shocking, even for us. Volek experienced a complete transformation. By being apart of this program, she met her very first mentor, a strong woman who oversees the holistic portion of care for each of our women. Volek found purpose and confidence in herself through the avenue of rolling paper beads and being surrounded by a community of women who support one another. Something powerful was happening, something of value inside of her, where she began to believe she was worth much more than being a field worker and merely surviving. She became a dreamer.  

Prevention led a young vulnerable girl in the trenches of poverty and the dangers of slavery to become a DREAMER. Today Volek dreams of becoming a teacher and translator. I wonder if this dreamer would even recognize her old self? What a change in her thinking, her heart, and in the depths of her soul.  

Volek and young girls of The MineField Village in Landmine Design Headquarters.

Volek and young girls of The MineField Village in Landmine Design Headquarters.

You see, Volek represents an entire generation. A generation that needs the world to join a movement that will give them a future in which they may thrive.  Because if the millions of young poor and vulnerable teenage girls in the world had the opportunity to be educated, work within safe confines, and know their value BEFORE ever having the opportunity to be snatched up in the terrors of slavery, then a movement toward prevention will have been worth it.  

This month we're saying awareness isn't enough. We must do more. There must be action toward prevention. That's the part of the battle LandMine Design is in, waging war against slavery. We join the movement to end slavery by never giving young vulnerable girls the chance to be enslaved. 

For those of us getting ready to join the movement on February 25th, ready to pull out our red markers and draw an X on our hands - I challenge each of us to go a step further. I challenge us to consider making a purchase that would prevent a generation of Volek's from ever having to face the darkness of slavery. I challenge us to seriously contemplate donating towards the work LandMine Design is doing.  Consider what it means to join us in fighting this battle. It's as simple as following our LandMine Design journey, of sharing who we are and why we exist. It's as simple as gifting a friend with a bracelet that was handmade by Volek; a dreamer and one of our heroes.  It’s a simple as donating to LandMine Design so we may continue hiring more women and expanding the program to reach hundreds of at-risk women and children.

Let's take action as a movement of people ready to do what it takes to see slavery end in our lifetime.



2.10.16

One of the Lucky Few. 

By Kristie Dunnigan

One year ago, I shared a story that was difficult to write; a story that was difficult to admit. I shared with the world of our dear Srey Pich. Srey Pich was one of the first women hired within Landmine Design. Srey Pich was just 17 years old when she went missing one year ago.  

Srey Pich, before she went missing. 

Srey Pich, before she went missing. 

Sharing the reality of her story was difficult. Srey Pich had left the LandMine Design program. She had left her family. She had left the safety of her village, and no one knew where she was. Our hearts crumbled at the thought that she could have been in the throws of a horrific story of human trafficking. I remember, in an effort to find words for the state of my heart, looking up the definition of heartache — 'emotional anguish or grief, typically caused by the loss or absence of someone loved.’ My grief was her absence. For many nights I shook awake, only to sink further into the difficult reality of the work in which we’re involved in - the preventative side of human trafficking. For our staff, its grappling effects were the epitome of leaning in and learning the hard way. Not knowing where she was or if she was safe made the hard way feel cold and void of hope.  

A year later, Srey Pich has made it back to The Minefield Village.

Upon receiving the news, my heart rejoiced. Although we did not know the full story, we had received the report that Srey Pich had made it back to the village and was safe once again. Initial thoughts and visions of reuniting, getting back to work in Landmine Design, and letting her community wrap her in safety flooded my mind.

I just recently made it back to The Minefield Village to visit Srey Pich for the very first time since before she went missing. Before visiting her home, I asked the other women about her; an uncomfortable silence filled the room. I asked questions nervously: well, do you ever see her? is she happy? are you a friend to her? why doesn’t anyone know anything about her? I realized I was growing frustrated, a frustration the women did not deserve targeted their way. I believe my heart was preparing itself; and its sadness had nothing to do with anything they had ever done wrong. It had everything to do with trafficking prevention and the very cycle of poverty we are working tirelessly to fight against.

I walked nervously towards her.  As I approached, I saw a young girl swinging in a tattered hammock under an unstable hut; there was Srey Pich.  Now an 18 year old, she is a mother to one, and a wife to an older man. 

Srey Pich and her new baby in their hut. 

Srey Pich and her new baby in their hut. 

I approached nervously and said her name. It was met with the same bright smile I had thought about through so many sleepless nights. Tears of joy filled my eyes as I bent down to hug her frail figure. I sat beside her as a gentleness flooded the air. In an effort to catch up, I began to ask questions. Srey Pich was timid and I read shame on her face. Her mother began to speak these words through our translator:

"She misses you guys. She talks about you all the time. She’s shy though, and she doesn’t feel like she can go back to her friends. Since she left her life is different now. She will just stay in her hut with her baby now."

Srey Pich's mother. 

Srey Pich's mother. 

I asked about her husband, they shared that he is gone most of the time doing contract work in Thailand. I asked Srey Pich if she liked being a mom, she smiled shyly and said “It’s hard, I don’t want another baby.”

Staff on the ground listening to Srey Pich's mother share. 

Staff on the ground listening to Srey Pich's mother share. 

I grew quiet and tried to turn my face away. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes and my heart shattering. I felt ashamed of my sadness; I should have celebrated her safety, right? I should have rejoiced and celebrated her new family, right? But I wasn’t, I couldn’t. Srey Pich was one of the lucky few to return home safely. Redemption was right before my eyes. But truth be told, I dreamed a vastly different story for Srey Pich.

The fact of the matter is, as a staff we felt the feelings of failure. There we were, with a front row seat to the cycle of poverty - the very cycle that birthed heartache strong enough to start Landmine Design years ago. The very cycle we’ve seen strip women of opportunity, isolate them in fear, and leverage their vulnerability for profit.  

 As Srey Pich swayed in that hammock with her new baby, I thought of the lonely days before her with her husband gone, the isolation she believes is her story, and her fear to return to the community that was once home. Whether she chose it or not, there she was - an impoverished, vulnerable mother with little education living in poverty.

Before she went missing, we were writing a new story together. Today, in sad honesty, it is still one of heartache. My anguish was no longer the unknown but the known; my grief no longer her absence but her presence in the very heart of poverty.

You see, this is the raw reality of leaning in and learning the hard way. We don’t have clear answers for why Srey Pich fell to the cycle of poverty once more. Yet, our hearts have been convicted enough to continue moving forward; to continue leaning into the question of “why?” propelling us towards the solution of how. 

Today, we’ll continue providing dignified work to women of worth. We’ll continue building foundation through education. We’ll raise up leaders for a generation of children deserving a life far beyond the walls of poverty. Srey Pich will most likely not be our first loss, and we’re learning admitting this is okay; because how can one encounter their courage and desire to win without experiencing the feeling of loss?

Srey Pich's sweet baby boy. 

Srey Pich's sweet baby boy. 


2.8.16

A CONTAGION OF HOPE

By Karla Tillapaugh 

That phrase has been ringing in my ears for the past month. It's a phrase our Landmine Design team has coined and used to ponder what we see happening in a little village on the edge of Cambodia. They are words that stand in conflict with each other.  

The word 'contagion' is most commonly used to describe the spreading of a horrible disease, or a harmful idea or practice. Even the spelling of the word is a bit repulsive to me. I want to steer clear of any kind of contagion (I even saw the movie Contagion once…ew). So, it seems kind of ridiculous to associate it so closely to the word hope.  And that word "hope"? It's a pretty word isn't it? Yet it seems severely misplaced sitting in the same space as the loathsome word contagion. It's also strange because it's not just any common hope. The hope we’re describing lies in the middle of a MineField. What?! The word contagion fits into the realm of a minefield, but hope?  Not so much. The two words could be an oxymoron, or a misunderstanding of meanings, or a typo at the very least.

At LandMine Design, we are seeing a different definition for contagion take place.  It is a contagion, or a spreading, of hope. We believe contagions don’t have to always spread evil disease; they can spread something beautiful. 

ei1.jpg

 

This month, we’re telling the stories about working to prevent human slavery in one of the most trafficked places on the globe. The reality is, sharing these stories is important to build awareness. But, they are also important for us to propel action. You see, working actively to prevent human slavery is difficult. I don’t say that to garner sympathy or manipulate support. I say it because our stories don’t always have a pretty bow on top with a happy, shallow ending. Sometimes our stories end in really hard places. Sometimes the contagion overpowers hope and reverts back to spreading evil instead of hope. I usually don’t want to share those stories. I want for you, our customers and supporters, to hear of the amazing things happening, of ways we are winning the battles against slavery, of success stories that prove the work is impacting and creating sustainable results for women/children/families in dire need. I want for you to only hear of the stories that represent the Contagion of Hope we see happening. Those are the stories that are easy to tell. But, sometimes the stories don’t end that way. Sometimes the results are not tied neatly.  Sometimes our work is plain messy. And many times we fail, or at the very least, make impacting mistakes.

 

In honesty, at times the contagion part overwhelms us and stands without hope.  Sometimes, we feel like the contagion is winning and hope is absent or floundering far away. At times, the contagion relates to the decisions we make and we find them to be mistakes that have consequences we never intended. Those are not things we want anyone to know. But if we’re really honest, we must admit the mistakes.  We must take hard looks at the contagion that overshadows and learn from the mis-steps so that we can change and give hope the chance to spread.

So, as we continue to share the stories, we make a promise to you, to not only share of the pretty, completed ones ending in hope; we will share the hard ones as well.  Contagions don’t have to be about disease, they can be about hope. Stories of battling evil contagions and stories that transform the contagion multiplying the beauty of hope. I invite you to join us as we work to see hope arise.  



Sharing stories through February 25th: Shine a Light on Slavery Day