Posted on May 04, 2023 by Inka Mathew

Compassion First is an anti trafficking organization that operates primarily in Indonesia, providing long-term, hope-filled solutions for survivors of sex trafficking and exploitation. 

We are excited to feature Compassion First as our Featured Organization indefinitely. 139Made had the pleasure of first featuring this organization in 2015 (read our previous Compassion First blog). Indonesia holds a special place in my heart as it is my home country, and I am so grateful for what this organization is doing over there to fight human trafficking. I had the pleasure to do a written interview with Keren and Emma from Compassion First, and ask them to share with me their impactful work and growth.

Q:  But first, to refresh our memories, could you share with us a little bit about the birth of Compassion First and what was the reason that you chose Indonesia as your location?

A:  Compassion First (CF) began as an anti-trafficking organization in 2008. Our president and founder, Mike Mercer, wanted to go somewhere where there was little to no work being done.

After learning that very little services were available for survivors in Indonesia, we settled on working there.

Field operations began in 2010 with the opening of our first aftercare shelter, named Sarah’s House, in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. To date, Compassion First continues to be one of the only Western organizations providing comprehensive aftercare services in Indonesia nation-wide.

Q:  What are the ways in which Compassion First fights human trafficking in Indonesia?

A:  Compassion First’s three pillars of work are aftercare, prevention, and law enforcement partnership.

Compassion First runs two aftercare shelters in different regions of Indonesia that provide holistic, wraparound aftercare and long-term rehabilitation for survivors. In our program, a precious survivor receives trauma-informed counseling, education, medical care, enrichment activities, a community of friends, and 24-7 security and love from Compassion First staff. We plan to open new aftercare shelters on the island of West Java, Indonesia, in 2022.

In 2012, Compassion First began our cemetery outreach program, which focuses on prevention of trafficking through community development. We opened two community centers to serve a large, impoverished population of women and their children living in a cemetery in East Java. These women are survivors of abuse and sexual exploitation, and their children are extremely vulnerable to trafficking.

Through entrepreneurship programs such as The Yellow Flower Collection, educational scholarships, trafficking awareness sessions, and more, Compassion First is helping to strengthen vulnerable communities and reduce trafficking. In 2020, we were invited into another cemetery community in East Java and has begun supporting education for children and teaching literacy classes for adults.

Compassion First actively partners with law enforcement, providing support to authorities during investigations and to survivors and their families after rescue.

We also assist in prosecution of traffickers by preparing and accompanying a survivor if she is called to testify in court. Additionally, Compassion First’s professional conferences with local law enforcement as well as Indonesian and US authorities have significantly disrupted trafficking patterns between islands in Indonesia.


Q:  The survivors' process of healing and restoration must be very challenging. Could you tell us about the aftercare programs you offer to help them in their journey?

A:  At Compassion First, we believe each girl is resilient, strong, and capable of determining her own future. To that end, we shape our programs to provide individualized care for child survivors of sex trafficking. Within the context of a safe and loving home, our program emphasizes building resilience to overcome trauma. 

We utilize a wrap-around model of care in which each girl is placed at the center of her program. She is mentored by her case coordinator, who provides guidance, wisdom and support.

Together, they set specific goals for her resiliency growth and monitor her progress as she plans for the future.

Counselors and case-coordinators work with residents, families, and communities to provide individualized trauma counseling, support groups, and therapy. A resident receives legal counsel, trial preparation, and accompaniment by a Compassion First staff member on the day of her witness in court.

Residents also receive in-shelter schooling and enrichment classes such as English, music, art, and dance; life-skills program and training; vocational and entrepreneurial support; and spiritual support programs.
She is at the center of her program, but we are walking alongside and cheering her on all the way!

Q:  Could you tell us a recent story of victory from the field, or from the survivors you serve?

A:  Every time there is a choice to choose hope instead of despair, to engage in the hard work of rebuilding inner and outer lives instead of giving up, and to move forward, it is cause for celebration! Everyday victories abound in the shelters, from the small personal victories to larger dreams being realized. Although there are many challenges that come from a resident’s family and environment, the effort, persistence, and loyalty she shows in the process becomes the guide and motivation to achieve her future.

Most recently, we have celebrated several aftercare residents graduating high school and enrolling in college. They are pursuing their dreams of becoming lawyers, doctors, teachers, accountants, and pastors. We are continually inspired by the courage, capacity, and resilience of the survivors in our care!


Q:  How can we help? Could you share with us some of the tangible ways we can support the work of Compassion First in fighting human trafficking?

A:  We love to partner with people, and we believe that this work calls for each person who believes she is worth advocating for to give what they can towards the healing and restoration of survivors from their prayer, time, talents, or treasures.

Our operational work needs basic financial support to make this work possible. The monthly support of our Survivor Sponsors and Prevention Partners provides loving support, rehabilitation, and hope-filled futures. Additionally, you could start a personal fundraiser to benefit Compassion First, become a prayer advocate, donate your time or finances, and share with others about Compassion First on social media and with your community.

We are amazed by the generosity and creativity of each individual who supports us.
Compassion First would not exist without you.


You can also support Compassion First by purchasing 139MADE's shirts and other products, while sharing about the amazing work they are doing to fight human trafficking. 10% of all our sales will be donated to Compassion First. CLICK HERE TO SHOP

For more information on Compassion First, please visit their:
Website:  CompassionFirst.org
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