Celebrating ten years of Freedom Firm’s Growth
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein.
Anyone who has worked or volunteered for Freedom Firm will tell you that Greg and I are extraordinarily far from perfect. While we have grown Freedom Firm, those in the organization have grown us. Reciprocity. The work here in India has done more breaking and shaping of Greg and me than any university, boot camp or training program could have ever done. While we keep on making new mistakes, I don’t think we make the same ones over and over, Einstein’s definition of insanity. We have learned so much over the last ten years. Fifteen years ago we landed in Mumbai with a big dream, to see girls rescued and restored and their perpetrators brought to justice. Launching FF in 2006 we faced the greatest challenge of our life, creating an organization that was true to its vision, and harnessing a group of diverse people to pull in the same direction, and achieve the same goals. We lost more than a few to their glorious vistas, and more to numbing exhaustion and even more to our fallible leadership.
Yet, looking back I see creative programs and initiatives in every area of our work, all designed to reach, free and grow girls. Some of them worked and some didn’t. I feel so fortunate to be a part of a team of people who are willing to learn from their mistakes. We admit our wrongs and commit to doing better.
We celebrate Freedom Firm’s ten year birthday this month. Perhaps our group DNA is our ability to hone and refine the ways we achieve our vision, to flex with the times, to alter our approach. At the root of our DNA is the one Creator, and our submission to His will.
In 2006 we started an Aftercare home for girls in Ooty. This was our chance to walk closely with the girl 24/ 7 in every area of their lives, work, play, education, health, and relationships. While we invested deeply in the lives of each girl, after 6 years we concluded institutionalization did more harm than good.
We decided the very best way for Freedom Firm to support and develop girls was through the platform of employment. Coaching girls to live independently was crucial for their maturity and the best hope for their future outside of a brothel. We closed the home and transitioned girls into apartments and group hostels, and they took steps toward a normal life.
Now we are at another crossroads in our journey of freeing girls. The shelter homes we partner with have not embraced our philosophy of empowerment. Afraid that girls will make wrong choices as they exercise freedom, many homes opt to keep them in fully contained centers for several years. In an effort to reach as many girls as possible with the employment opportunity of Ruhamah Designs, we looked at the problem and changed stride.
We are now partnering with 4 government homes to offer employment of Ruhamah Designs within the homes. Girls are kept in government homes for up to two years, with few activities or outlets. Now girls can earn and save money while they are waiting to be released. Today we have access to many girls inside the system and offer employment, life skills classes, and a saving scheme.
In the investigation and rescue fieldwork, Freedom Firm staff have continually solved problems and adapted to the ever-changing developments in each attempted operation. Over the years, our team grew in flexibility and ignored geographical state boundaries in their quest to find girls in bondage. This mobility, this life on the road, traveling thousands of miles in a given week, living out of hotels and far from home, this is what marks our team of young men. They push north, south, east, and west following leads, rescuing girls from truck stops, brothels, and village hovels that no one has ever heard of. Our team is light, buoyant, always testing the trafficking winds and setting sail accordingly.
Over our ten years, our legal team has tried multiple strategies in the courts in the cases against brothel keepers. While there have been only nine convictions in almost as many years, a number so small and dense that it could crush the heart of a good lawyer, we continue to file cases. We file other litigation that pressures the police to follow correct procedure, and government officials to stop releasing girls back to their perpetrators. We break the problems into small pieces and try new ways to bring justice to this issue.
Greg and I are proud to be a part of this living, dynamic group of people, all passionate about the same thing- freeing girls from sex-trafficking, inside and out. I love the fact that we are not bogged down in pedantic bureaucracy. I love the fluidity, the lightness of movement, the ability to respond to new information quickly and the determination to change when we fail. We love this crazy, daring, brave and lovely group of people who call themselves Freedom Firm, and we are honored and humbled to be their leaders.