True Mercy

Human Trafficking Crisis in India

I spent an evening at my local Dining for Women, a global organization of women dedicated to empowering women in the developing world.  I socialized with some delightful, like-minded women and then we watched a video about the human trafficking crisis in India and the inspiring work Her Future Coalition is doing for rescued women and girls.

Prostitution is legal in India but human trafficking is not. Government statistics show that every eight minutes, a child goes missing in India.  A human trafficking report in 2016 by the U.S. State Department wrote that India serves as a source, destination, and transit country for men, women and children victimized by slave labor and sex trafficking. Another study completed in 2018 wrote that the number of victims brought to India from Nepal rose by a staggering 500% between 2013 and 2017.

Why is human trafficking so prevalent in this region? There are a number of factors:

  • Men come to the region to work in the commercial cities, so girls and women are kidnapped from poor families to satisfy the demand for commercial sex.
  • The poorer the family, the greater the chance one of their daughters will be sold, particularly in the Northeastern region of India. Sadly, some families are so desperate they are even willing to sell their own daughters.
  • Believing their children will receive education and jobs, parents are tricked into sending their children to these agents.
  • Girls and women are trafficked for forced marriages because there is a shortage of available females due to female infanticide.
  • An estimated 11.7 million people work for debt labor. When families are short on cash, they sell their sons and daughters to obtain money. Often these children don’t get paid for years.

Unfortunately, many times after girls are rescued, they are rejected by their families and treated as outcasts once they find out they were forced into prostitution.

The situation is bleak but there are people willing to donate time and money to help them.  Organizations in India like Her Future Coalition work hard to rescue these women and girls, providing them shelter and job training so they have the tools to lead lives of independence and freedom. Her Future Coalition works with local agencies to construct shelters for rescued girls, where they are can stay for a long term and be safe and supported.  The shelters provide food, clothing, medical attention, and counseling. Since the majority of those rescued have very little education, Her Future Coalition sponsors educational programs leading to job placement.  The film showed examples of the most popular fields: nursing, jewelry-making, bee-keeping, and accounting. To date, over 700 survivors have benefitted from their educational programs. Human trafficking is a horrendous crime, but there are dedicated individuals working to combat it. The more the better.

Readers interested in finding out more information or donating to the Her Future can go to https://www.herfuturecoalition.org.

Women who want to find out about their local Dining for Women can go to https://diningforwomen.org.

References

Giri, Avinash, (2019, January 3). What’s wrong with India’s Efforts to Check Human Trafficking? [Blog post], Retrieved from https://thediplomat.com/2019/whats-wrong -with-indias-efforts-to-check-human-trafficking/

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Screening of Breaking the Chain– Human Trafficking Documentary

 

Different Forms of Human Trafficking

 

Audiences saw shocking newspaper headlines run across the screen and heard harrowing testimonies during the award-winning documentary Breaking the Chain. Filmmakers Laura E. Swanson and Kirk Mason produced and directed this account of two survivors of human trafficking in Michigan.

One was a young man named Kwami who was one of four children kidnapped from his native Togo by a relative. His kidnapper, Jean-Claude Kodjo Toviave, brought him and the other children to the United States. Kodjo worked as a janitor at the University of Michigan and claimed the four children were his own. He beat them with brooms and threatened them if they did not complete their chores. This continued for five years until Kodjo was finally arrested.  Kwani recounted those years in the documentary.

The other survivor was Debbie, who spoke about her years as a trafficking victim when she was 13 to 18 years old in the Detroit area. Debbie described how she was lured in and what she and other girls had to do to survive during that terrifying time.

The documentary showed Kwami and Debbie today and what they are doing to rebuild their lives. Law enforcement, attorneys, and other experts described the situations they encounter while they hunt down kidnappers and counsel victims.

Filmmakers Swanson and Mason noted that Michigan is ranked number 2 of the human trafficking trade in the United States. The state’s waterways and location near the Canadian border facilitate transporting of people for this heinous crime.

They are making their documentary available for viewing in different parts of the country to educate and raise awareness of human trafficking. Although these crimes remain hidden in the shadows, they occur every day, transcending socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and race.

After the film, James M. Gannon, Sheriff of Morris County, and Susan Panzica, Executive Director of the Justice Network, spoke about what citizens can do to stop the proliferation of human trafficking, which includes labor and sex trafficking:

  • In the food industry, many coffee and chocolate companies use slaves to grow their products. Consumers can help end this practice by looking for the fair trade labels on products before purchasing them.
  • Recognize red flags, such as a young girl receiving gifts from an older boyfriend, displaying behavior changes, or experiencing alienation from family and friends.

Breaking the Chain may have a showing in your area. Check local listings. I can guarantee it is an eye-opener and worth your time. Keep in mind, human trafficking is happening everywhere.

If you see something suspicious, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-3737-888

For more information, log onto www.njhumantrafficking.org

Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy, a thriller that intends to bring awareness to the human trafficking crisis. It is available in print on Amazon and IngramSpark and in digital on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

 

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When Children with Autism Become Adults

 

                                                                               Photo by Nathan Anderson

The Autism Population is increasing and the children are becoming adults. They need work and programs.

In my novel True Mercy, one of the main characters is Adam Hitchens, a young man with autism who does simple, repetitive clerical tasks at a local business. He has a place to go every day and is proud to hold a job. I recently read the article “500,000 Teens with ASD are Headed to Adulthood. Where will They Work?” By Suzanne Garofalo. It appeared in the Houston Chronicle and was reprinted in the disabilityscoop (https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2018/11/16/500000-teens-asd-work/25736/. The article contains many examples of young adults on the autism spectrum who have been able to find satisfying employment and now feel productive and have a sense of purpose. Many employers are realizing it is well worth their while to train and keep these employees, finding many of them to be dedicated and hardworking. Garofalo writes that “Research shows job activities that encourage independence to reduce symptoms and increase daily living skills.” Some businesses even qualify for a tax write-off for participating in programs to employ these individuals. While this is certainly encouraging and a reason to celebrate, Garofalo also points out that “nearly half of 25-year-olds with the disorder have never held a paying job, according to Autism Speaks.” All people by nature need a schedule, a program with activities, or work in order to thrive. Parents are finding that as their special needs children get older, it becomes harder to find programs and resources. Many programs have waiting lists.

It is my hope that more opportunities for this population increase throughout the country. With the rate of autism now 1 in every 59 births in the United States, “It is a population that’s exploding but finds few opportunities.”

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BookBaby Independent Writers Conference

 

Here I am with Tieshena Davis

I am posing with Joanna Penn at Bookbaby

 

I came home from attending the second annual BookBaby Independent Authors Conference in Philadelphia. I met wonderful fellow writers, listened to practical book marketing tips from successful authors and entrepreneurs, and took away many ideas I am anxious to try.  In this post, I would like to share some of the great ideas I learned at the conference.

Eva Lesko Natiello is an author, speaker and book marketing consultant. She wrote and self-published The Memory Box, a bestseller on The New York Times and USA Today. Her website is evanatiello.com. Eva gave the following marketing tips for self-published authors:

  • Fill out your Amazon Author Page completely and link it to your website and blog.
  • Run a discounted price promotion and advertise it widely.
  • Be a guest for a book blogger. To find book bloggers, simply google “(Your genre”) book bloggers”
  • Study the competition. Make a list of all the current books similar to yours in the last three years and find out their book prices, format, and number of pages. How are authors of your genre promoting their books?
  • Show gratitude to readers who have taken the time to review your book.

Tieshena Davis is the CEO and Senior Publisher of the award-winning Purposely Created Publishing Group. She is a speaker and the author of Think Like a Bookpreneur (www.thinklikeabookpreneur.com). Tieshena encouraged authors to begin selling their books with pre-sales, which is a strategy to establish audience interest, connect with fans, and secure advance sales before a book is publicly released.

  • Authors need to meticulously plan during the pre-sales process (6-8 weeks before book is released) to achieve results. Set a goal of how much money you the author would like to make. Remember to calculate all expenses (costs of the printing, transaction, shipping, packaging, etc.), and review the profit margin.
  • Authors need tools to drive sales such as an email notification list, creating a promotion team, alerting social media followers to spread the word, and exploring targeted events where your readers gather.
  • Notify target buyers on an email notification list that the book is available for pre-order.
  • Build an audience connection by sharing quotes, tips, or resources; host weekly virtual events; email teaser content; offer special bulk book packages; and send out snippets of the book.
  • Run ad campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon Author-sponsored ads.
  • Discount and cross promote. An example is if readers pre-order author’s second book, they will get the first book at 50% off.
  • Run weekly contests and giveaways.

Joanna Penn was the keynote speaker of the BookBaby conference. She is an author, international speaker, and entrepreneur. Joanna writes fiction and nonfiction. Thousands of authors go to her website www.TheCreativePenn.com for marketing and promotion. The following are her tips:

  • Change your mindset– don’t think of yourself as a struggling author. Write down positive affirmations and refer to them daily.
  • Authors must focus on the customer. It’s not about you, it’s about the reader. What do they want to pay for? Find the intersection between what you love and what you can sell.
  • Amazon is a search engine for people “who buy stuff.” Use it for research to find out what people are buying.
  • Sell your book in multiple countries in English. Joanna’s books have sold in English in 86 countries through Kobo (a Canadian company that sells e-books, audiobooks, e-readers, and tablet computers).
  • Write three shorter books rather than one 80,000-word book. This works well in fiction.
  • Build multiple streams of income. Most writers make money from other sources like speaking, freelancing, and blogging.
  • Attract an audience that works best with your personality, your book, and your lifestyle. What can you do consistently over the long term?
  • Take action.
  • You get what you focus on. Make the time.
  • Write the best book you can. Don’t rush it!

As one can see, being a successful author involves hard work; there are no shortcuts. Research, computer savvy, and knowledge of various marketing strategies are imperative. Writing the best book you possibly can is simply not enough.  The experts advise doing around twenty minutes of marketing a day along with writing. If one marketing strategy doesn’t work, try another. Don’t give up.

The BookBaby Writers Conference boosted my motivation to market my first novel, True Mercy. It was great meeting so many like-minded people. Rather than being competitive, participants were eager to help fellow authors succeed. Networking opportunities abounded.

Last but not least, I would like to thank my husband Michael for attending the conference with me and supporting my efforts in the book business.

Note: My novel True Mercy is on sale for only 99 cents on Smashwords. Go to https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=True+Mercy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Pittsburgh

It is difficult to think and write about anything other than the shooting in the Pittsburgh synagogue. Whereas only a few years ago, we had to worry about violence from foreign countries, now the main concern is violence committed by our own citizens. The massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue is a tipping point for me personally because I know so many people in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. All over the world, people go to houses of worship on their Sabbath to find peace, inspiration, and community; it is one of the last places one would expect a deranged individual to shoot people. I am certain I won’t be the only one who will be preoccupied with this massacre the next time I attend a house of worship.

Theories abound as to why there is an escalation of violence in the United States.  I have no ready answers or solutions but want to instead eulogize the people that we lost in the shooting.

Cecil and David Rosenthal, aged 59 and 54, were brothers that lived near the synagogue and often helped out during the services and other activities in the building. Both had intellectual disabilities and were described as inseparable. Chris Schopf, vice president of residential supports for ACHIEVA, an agency that provides support for individuals with disabilities in Pennsylvania, said this about the Rosenthal brothers, “Most of all, they were kind, good people with a strong faith and respect for everyone around.”

Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, aged 66, was a doctor. People recalled when others were afraid of treating people with HIV, Dr. Rabinowitz would hold their hands without gloves. Always ready to help others, he ran out immediately when he heard gunshots. Family and patients describe him as loving, kind, and compassionate.

Richard Gottfried, 65, was a dentist and active in the congregation. He worked at the Squirrel Hill Medical Center with his wife, who is also a dentist. They were well-known for taking refugees and immigrants as patients.

Sylvan and Bernice Simon, aged 86 and 84, were married in the Tree of Life synagogue in 1956. They were a close couple who were often seen holding hands. People recalled them as being kind to everyone.

Irwin Younger, 69, was a small business owner and a kids’ baseball coach. He prayed and volunteered regularly at the synagogue. Irwin was always anxious to make newcomers feel welcomed.

Melvin Wax, 88, was a retired accountant. He always arrived early for services and often led the congregation in the prayers.

Rose Mallinger, 97, was active in the Tree of Life synagogue for six decades. She attended services every weekend and people recalled her humor and intelligence. She was warm and loving and never complained about anything.

Daniel Stein, 71, was retired and attended the synagogue every Saturday. A nephew described him as a great guy with a dry sense of humor.

Joyce Feinberg, 75, was a retired research specialist at the University of Pittsburgh.  Her late husband Stephen taught statistics at nearby Carnegie Mellon University. Joyce and her husband would welcome his students into their home.

These eleven people attending synagogue services had no connection with the gunman. As in all these acts of violence, we lose innocent people senselessly.

When will it stop?

Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy, a thriller that covers the issues of autism and the human trafficking crisis. 

Note: From now until November 24th, True Mercy is on sale at Smashwords for only 99 cents! Log onto https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/747954 and enter the coupon code EA37K.

 

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