COMPASSION FIRST, ACTION SECOND.
COMPASSION FIRST exists to oppose the oppression of commercial sexual exploitation. But they don't wish to simply eradicate this crime. While being a part of a worldwide movement working to end modern-day slavery, they believe that we must also care for its survivors. Compassion First provides holistic aftercare for trafficking survivors, partnered law enforcement training, safe pathways for survivors through the court system, and financial collaboration for rescues of trafficked persons. They are specifically committed to serving in countries that do not already have a strong, western non-governmental organization (NGO) presence in the area of anti-trafficking work, such as Indonesia.
We love the fact that Compassion First is doing great work in Indonesia, which is also a country in which sex trafficking runs rampant within its societies. We interviewed Bickey Lloyd, the Director of Development of Compassion First on a short Q&A about their story, work, and mission.
Q: Could you tell us how what sparked the birth of Compassion First, and a little bit of your history?
A: Compassion First (CF) began as an anti-trafficking organization in 2008. Born out of disaster relief work under president and founder Mike Mercer, Compassion First opened an aftercare home for sexually trafficked children in Indonesia after learning that very little services were available for survivors there. To date, CF continues to be one of the only Western organizations providing comprehensive aftercare services nation-wide.
In 2010, field operations began with the opening of an aftercare shelter in North Sulawesi, Indonesia named Sarah’s House. CF fosters relationships with local law enforcement and governmental and non-governmental organizations within the region in order to improve the entire anti-trafficking operation. These vital partnerships provide for collaborative efforts surrounding investigations and rescues and lends to the success of CF’s legal advocacy, care, and family reintegration programs.
In 2012, CF expanded its charter to serve a large population of adult women and their children living in a 17-acre cemetery in Surabaya, Indonesia called the Yellow Flower. These women are survivors of abuse, sexual exploitation and trafficking, disability, widowhood and other life tragedies. Their children are at risk. Since 2013, the operation has rapidly grown into a full-time work helping these precious families find new opportunities through microloans, educational scholarships, and spiritual growth. In 2015, CF opened a small building in the middle of Yellow Flower, named Ruth’s House, to serve as a community center for the women and children of the area.
In 2014, CF began taking steps toward a long-held dream of aftercare work for survivors in the U.S. This dream has culminated in partnerships with local authoritative organizations such as Salvation Army and Sexual Assault Resource Center to provide a holistic and cooperative system of services for adult survivors of sex trafficking in the Portland metropolitan area. We look forward to exciting growth in this field over the next year.
Q: From your experience, what would you say is the toughest challenge in the process of helping and caring for these survivors?
A: The toughest challenge is everything—getting a survivor to think about her future, engaging her in a way that helps her discover her dreams, talents, and gifting, providing professional clinical care in a country that attaches negative connotations toward therapy and counseling, providing enough support and preparation as she's just about to take the stand and testify against her trafficker, or sitting at the police station at 2:00 AM in the morning advocating for a female doctor (instead of the male doctor they provided) to perform a forensic exam.
Sometimes the biggest challenge for the day is just getting a girl up out of bed, encouraging her to brush her teeth, asking her to do her homework. These are all examples of tough challenges survivors face everyday—and everyday Compassion First is committed to seeing them through.
Q: Could you share with us some of the immediate needs for Compassion First?
A: Immediate needs include prayer, time, talents, and the treasures of those who believe she is worth advocating for. We are constantly looking to partner with people who believe that this work calls for mercy, compassion, love, wisdom, and the full guidance of God. In addition, our operational work needs basic financial support to make this work possible, the contribution of donated items for basic necessities such as educational curriculum, computers, art supplies/crafts, generators for the shelter, etc. The needs of those in our care range from eye glasses to educational scholarships.
Q: How can the every day person help you in what you're doing? What advice would you give for someone who wanted to really make a difference?
A: How can people help? People can get to know Compassion First, our work, our operations—our story. We realize that we have been called to this work and that it is a privilege and honor to serve in our role as advocates, care providers, and friends of those in need. We need people who see it the way we do—that this "work" requires a love that never grows weary of being loving. We also need individuals like you to be OUR advocate. Invite us to come share, coordinate a fundraising event, give, and pray.
Please choose to posture yourself in a manner of learning and listening to those who work with survivors/victims on an everyday basis—professional direct care service providers working in your community. These people can tell you what the immediate needs are and give you guidance in understanding how you (with your time, talents and treasures) can serve survivors without unintentionally causing more harm.
We appreciate Bickey for taking the time to do this written interview with 139Made.
Another way to support Compassion First is to purchase our shirts and spread the word about them! 10% of our sales from now until February 12, 2016, will be donated to this wonderful organization. You can click here to shop our collection.