Viewing entries tagged
Human/Sex Trafficking


Did you know that rape is a FACT OF LIFE for women in Malawi? You can do something...

ZOE is pleased to be partnered with Steve Bowler who lives and works in the country of Malawi.  Steve works with

Fountain of Life, which exists to support women who are sexually assaulted in Malawi.

According to FOL...

Rape is a fact of life for women in Malawi. 50% of women in Malawi are raped. Many rape victims are little girls under the age of 10. In ideal world we can prevent this from ever happening again. But the truth is, ONE OUT OF TWO young little girls will be violated and they need help. Right now just to recover. The only thing worse than being raped is being left alone to cope with trauma. Our mission is to prevent this tragedy from defining the rest of their life. We can not prevent them from being raped. We can save them from facing it alone...

Steve recently sent us some of the stories of the girls and women that have been assaulted and it is absolutely heart breaking.  As a mum of a daughter I can't imagine the pain. 

But here is the good news: ZOE Projects, with the support of generous Canadians, is responding!  This week we will provide FOL with $5500 to help them continue this much needed work...but it is not too late to give! (There is always time to give!) CLICK HERE to support FOL and projects like it. 

For more information, please check out this VIDEO:

Steve Bowler



Did you know you can help sexual assault victims in Malawi?

A recent survey carried out in Malawi by CDC with UNICEF and the Government of Malawi found that 69% of girls and women in Malawi have experienced some form of sexual assault.

Let that sink in.  69%...

Unfortunately the support services available for these victims are very limited.

Our ZOE partner, Steve Bowler works with an organization called Fountain of Life

Steve and Kathy with their 2 daughters

Steve has lived and served with his wife, Kathy in Malawi for many years.

The primary goal of Fountain of Life is to address this gap of services and find ways to help the many, many victimized girls and women begin a healing process that will help them recover and become a survivor.

The Government of Malawi is establishing “One Stop Centres” at all the major hospitals in the country to provide trauma counseling. This model is heavily reliant on organizations like Fountain of Life to provide a counseling program, as well as volunteers.

All of the FOL volunteers are Christians who believe that God is the only one that can truly heal the deepest wounds that come through a rape.   They pray with the clients and let them know they are loved and valued.

We love this project!  

Fountain of Life has asked ZOE to help specifically in the training of volunteer lay counselors.

They need program development, training materials, ongoing support of counselors as well as “Comfort Packages” for the victims.

We can do this!

Donate here.



Women You Should Know - Joy Smith - From Math Teacher to Law Maker

The Manitoba and NW Ontario PAOC Women's Group (led by the amazing Jo-Ann Porterfield) recently hosted Member of Parliament, Joy Smith at their recent Fall Women's Retreat.  We believe that Joy Smith is truly a "woman you should know"!  Ruth Unger attended the retreat and has graciously agreed to share with us her thoughts...

Joy Smith speaking at the retreat

ZOE Guest Contributor: Ruth Unger

MP Joy Smith spent some time with us recently at our Fall WOMEN’s Retreat here in Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario. I came away from that encounter thinking that this is a woman that we need to hear. This is a woman we need to know. Mrs. Smith’s objective for the day was not that of a simple meet and greet. Her goal was not to impress but to educate. I came away feeling more than educated. I was challenged. Perhaps the following thoughts will explain why.

Slavery. Exploitation. Human Trafficking.

Ugly, ugly words. Difficult concepts to consider. Uncomfortable to consider as a possibility here and now, and yet for many it is their reality.

Joy Smith hasn’t always known the devastation of those words. She was introduced to this world by witnessing the impact on her son, a police officer, as he worked to rescue children from predators.

As mother and former teacher, Mrs Smith has committed herself to fight against human trafficking by raising awareness and rescuing victims. In 2004, she became a Member of Parliament, a platform that she has used to not only build more awareness but to see the Criminal Code amended and work towards seeing new laws passed.

How does this happen? How does one woman go from math teacher to law maker?

There is a progression it seems. Awareness and education that at some point becomes more than facts and figures, but faces and names. Outrage turns to action.

The majority of those trafficked in Canada are Canadian born – that means someone from your city, from your town, from your street, is either a victim or a potential victim. Exploitation happens to anybody. Exploitation happens anywhere and everywhere. Statistics presented by Mrs. Smith show human trafficking happens quite literally from coast to coast, Halifax to Vancouver, and everywhere in between.

The average age of entry into the sex trade in North America is 12 to 14 years of age…that means some are older…and some, tragically, are younger…

The facts and figures are easy to dismiss if they remain facts and figures. Mrs Smith became involved in rescuing victims – that gave human trafficking a face. The girl she found shackled to a bed could no longer be a statistic. The girl who couldn’t be reached before she was moved again by her captors could no longer be just a number. The girl now in hiding for her own protection is not a nameless victim. She says these are “all my daughters.”

William Wilberforce, when battling to see slavery abolished, said “You may choose to look the other way…but you may never again say that you did not know.”

So, you know. Now what?

One woman made aware has made a difference. You are also one woman.

As Mrs. Smith reminds us, we serve a God of miracles. We do not battle this out on our own.

Be aware. Ask God what you should do. Do that.

Joy Smith with Leader Jo-Ann Porterfield

Thank you Ruth for this challenge.  I love her words:

You are also one woman.

(Yes, you are.  You may not feel like you have anything special to offer ...but repeatedly in history, God has used ordinary people for extraordinary purposes.)

Be aware.

(What is around you?  When you look at ZOE Projects, what "captures your heart"?)

Ask God what you should do.

(What is He saying?)

Do that.

(Begin with a small step...just one.)



The Truth about Vulnerable Women and Choice

In a recent conversation, I was reminded of all of the choices I have had as a woman living in Canada.  Graduating from high school was a "given" for me almost 30 years ago (30 years ago?!?...really?!?).  After high school, I got to choose the kind of post secondary education that I desired and while it was it challenging to figure out how to pay for it all, it was within my reach.  I chose a pretty amazing husband and I gave birth to three sweet babies comforted by the sights and sounds of machinery that was at the ready in the event of an emergency.  Choice is all I have ever known.

When we consider vulnerable women around the globe, we begin to realize that they often don't have the same luxury of choice.  

I want to give you an example.  Below is a blog post from Annie Dieselberg, CEO of NightLight International in Bangkok, Thailand.  (You can find out more here.)  Nighlight is where our ZOE Partner Krista Couts reaches out to women in the sex trade. 

From Annie's blog...

Last night's outreach was sad. I met a young woman 25 yrs, named Jar. I could tell she was brand new. They called her to dance but she didn't know what to do. She was very uncomfortable. I called her over and found out it was her first day and she was scared. She said she had worked at a factory putting hard drives together but a friend told her she could make a lot of money fast at the bar. Her mother, 45 yrs. is in her last stage of terminal breast cancer. The doctor has given her two weeks to live. Jar has come to work at the bar to pay for the hospital bill and for chemotherapy. I asked her why they were doing chemotherapy if her mom had two weeks. She got teary and said that her mother is the only person she has left and she wants to do all she can. I held her and prayed for her. She held back the tears as best she could. Her mother has lost all her hair and doesn't talk with her much anymore because she is not doing well. I told Jar about NightLight and she was excited and hopeful. She thinks she will work two weeks and see what happens with her mom and then call me. The only way for her to make a lot of money in two weeks is through tips from customers. That's not likely with more girls working and fewer customers around and her being so new and uncomfortable.

I'm praying for a miracle for her mom. 

Can you imagine?  Can you imagine believing that your only option to help your mum pay for her chemotherapy was to enter the sex trade?  

At the heart of it, ZOE Projects wants to give women a better range of choices that lead to autonomy, dignity, health, worth and most importantly...LIFE.

I am going to try something today and I invite you to do it with me.  Today I am going to look at all the choices that I have (both big and small) and I am going to ask God to grow my "heart" for women who don't live in my reality. May God speak!



The Sex Tourist and Righteous Anger

Darcy and I were flying from Manila to Bangkok recently when I saw a familiar scene which never fails to unleash anger within me.  It began when I saw a group of people in front of us who were in line for the airline check-in counter.  There was much laughter as they took their "selfies" and it would seem like a normal group enjoying their much deserved vacation.  Looking closer though, this was not an ordinary group. 

The group consisted of four older men who were clearly not "local".  I apologize in advance for the following description (my anger is going to seep through)...but these men were old, overweight, socially awkward and greasy.  These were the guys that probably couldn't get a date in North America and so headed to Thailand. 

With these guys were two beautiful young Thai women.  While it may look like they were simply "on holiday" together, it is very safe to say that there had been some sort of "transaction" for the women's services.  To put it bluntly, these women were being rented...and unfortunately this scene is played out all the time in Asia.  The services of women are rented for the day, week or even month.  I resisted the urge to corner the men to inform them that the girls weren't really into them.

Though generally not advised, I took my rage to Facebook and posted this: 

Sex tourists make me SO MAD.

There was a very quick response from around the world with people chiming in with their "amens".

I then got a very interesting response from Sandra McIntosh, who is the director of Impact School of Missions in Bangkok. 

Check more out here

Here is what she said:

Sandra McIntosh

Hey Leanne - I hear you. It took me a long time to see past the cocky demeanor and see the man who is so horribly broken that he is a sex tourist. I was so angry for so long, but a friend of mine who is the director of MST Project in Bangkok - reaches out to the men. Check out more here   He opened my eyes to the other side - it is shocking - porn addiction, abuse, broken relationships, loneliness, rejection and a lot more. Eventually (and it took a long time) instead of anger I felt the same sadness for them as I do for the women. Slavery takes all kinds of forms. I hope the Lord raises up godly men everywhere to reach out to the many broken men everywhere.

Wow!  Slavery takes all kinds of forms... While I believe that my righteous anger and desire for justice is an expression of God's heart,  it was a good reminder that it is complicated, very complicated, but God's desire is to bring truth, justice and freedom to ALL, both men and women, no matter what bondage they find themselves in.

This is what drives us at ZOE Projects.  Our current ZOE project partner is Krista Couts.  Krista is a PAOC global worker living in Bangkok. She works with an organization called NightLight International that reaches out to women trapped in the sex industry through regular outreaches in the bars and on the street.  Krista builds relationship with women just like the ones I saw in the Manila airport...and I am glad that Krista is there bringing truth!

Consider supporting Krista through ZOE Projects...because it matters.



"Rescuing Girls is the Easy Part"

Rescuing Girls is the Easy Part...

This provocative line is from the book

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  Nicholas and Sheryl are noted journalists who are leading a passionate call to address the systemic oppression of women world-wide.  Their book, published in 2009 is a must read for any one interested in and passionate about this subject.  The book was followed up with a powerful documentary which you can find here

This line reminded me of my visit to Kolkata, India a couple of years ago...visiting Monique Shaw who is one of our ZOE Partners.  We were visiting women in the brothels, an experience I will never forget as I received the warm hospitality of women a world apart and yet just like me in so many ways.  Monique explained to me that sometimes women who engage with her at Jewels in a Crown (find more here) will leave the sex trade for a time but will be pulled back into it.  There are many reasons for this including stigma, drug dependencies and threats.  It can be very disappointing for Monique and her team.  I often wonder, how do you keep going when it doesn't always "work"? 

Journalists Nicholas and Sheryl have experienced the same disappointments in their work in this area, They found rescuing the girls easy...they just needed to pay cash for them. The real challenge lay in keeping these women free as their newly chosen life was fraught with obstacles. Here are the three lessons that they have learned to keep going.  (p.45)

  • Rescuing girls from brothels is complicated and uncertain.  Indeed, it's sometimes impossible, and that's why it is most productive to focus efforts on prevention and putting brothels out of business
  • Never give up!  Helping people is difficult and unpredictable, and our interventions don't always work, but successes are possible, and these victories are incredibly important.
  • Even when a social problem is so vast as to be insoluable in its entirety, it's still worth mitigating.

Never give up! 

It is still worth mitigating! 

These two phrases remind me of the heart of God.  God is one who never gives up on His creation because of His deep love and the value He places on us all.  He shows us what is important and how to live.  With that in mind, let's read the words of Paul...

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.

Galatians 6:9,10 (The Message)

I couldn't say it any better...Keep going... 




Sexual Playthings OR Full-Fledged Human Beings?

I remember visiting Bangkok for the first time a few years ago and being stunned at how widespread and casual the use and abuse of women and children was.  My husband and I saw young Thai women "holidaying" with white Western men.  In effect, they were being rented for the day, week or though they were simply a commodity. I was blown away and honestly, ignited with anger.  As Nicholas Kristof says in his book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for women Worldwide, “The tide of history is turning women from beasts of burden and sexual playthings into full-fledged human beings.”

What do we believe about women?  Are they simply a commodity or a sexual plaything?  No.  A woman is an image bearer of God with the full rights and dignity that that affords.  ZOE Projects affirms this and raises a banner of justice and freedom for all women around the globe.   

Today we announce our latest ZOE Project:

ZOE Project Partner:

Krista Couts - Krista is a PAOC global worker living in Bangkok, Thailand with her husband Darrick. She works with an organization called NightLight International and is soon welcoming her first baby.

The Problem:

Unfortunately, Bangkok, Thailand is home to a growing international sex industry. The Thai women within this industry usually come from poor rural families. Most are sent to Bangkok by their parents in order to provide for their families. These women feel trapped and hopeless, seeing no options and no future.

Our Solution:

Krista works with NightLight International - NightLight reaches out to women trapped in the sex industry through regular outreaches in the bars and on the street. Through relationship women are offered alternative employment. NightLight focuses on four core areas to help combat the growing sex industry within in Thailand: intervention, prevention, restoration and education. They also assist women trafficked from other countries into Bangkok to work in the sex industry by providing a safe house for these international victims and working to return them home for a fresh start and new beginning.  

What can you do?

You can help support Krista in her work with Nightlight International. Their desire according to Krista is that “these women see their God-given beauty, value, worth, giftings, and talents. We want them to know their past does not have to define their future.”


We couldn’t agree more! Krista needs your support. Give generously to this ministry through ZOE Projects. 


Krista with a young Thai woman



ZOE Projects catches up with Monique Shaw

Monique Shaw

One of our very first ZOE Projects (this past Fall) was with Monique Shaw who reaches out to women in the red light district of Kolkata, India through her ministry Jewels for His Crown.  Recently, Marvelyn Schell (the International Liaison for ZOE Projects) caught up with Monique at the Jesus is Enough conference in Cambridge, Ontario.  You can hear their conversation by clicking on the link below:

Interview with Monique Shaw

It is amazing to be able to partner with these amazing women who are reaching out to women all around the globe!

Get inspired...