Cupcakes Can Change The World

Yes, you read the title correctly. Cupcakes can change the world, but that requires two important components, which I will get to later. Today, May 13, 2017, is World Fair Trade Day, a day in which agents for change from around the world join together to promote and mark their commitment to fair trade. This is a topic that we at Free To Run visit periodically, as the power of consumer purchasing has been proven capable of creating change. Socially conscious, or ethical, consumerism is a concept that sees consumers making choices to support positive values, from animal rights, to the environment, to human trafficking. Read more of this post

A Month of Awareness, Advocacy & Action

For many years now, January has been designated by Presidential Proclamation as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. You can read President Obama’s Proclamation for January 2016 here. It is often debated if awareness campaigns actually make a difference, or have a long-lasting impact on the issue or cause (remember the Bring Back Our Girls campaign for the school girls kidnapped by Boko Harem in Nigeria?). I don’t think there is a definitive answer as to whether awareness does any good. There are probably many examples where awareness increased about an issue, but that didn’t result in change. Conversely, for change to occur in the first place, future advocates first have to become aware of an issue.



In regards to Modern Day Slavery, I believe that once people discover that there are an estimated 36 million slaves in the world today, and that slavery takes place in all countries even though it is illegal everywhere, and that slavery is a $150 billion per year industry, making it the fastest growing criminal industry, that the majority of people will want to do something about it. What can you do this month to help raise awareness, advocate or take action in the fight against human trafficking? First, I recommend reading my previous post with the top 10 ways to become a new abolitionist. You can also sign up for our Virtual Race 2 End Slavery, and share the event and the reason you signed up with your family, friends and networks. Finally, and this is mentioned in the top 10 post, read up on the End Modern Slavery Initiative and consider getting involved in your state on behalf of this important legislation.


In order to make a difference in the fight against human trafficking, we need to educate (awareness), speak up on behalf of those living in slavery (advocacy), and get involved with activities that create real change (action).

Top 10 Ways to Become a New Abolitionist

Everybody can contribute to the fight against human trafficking, in some tangible way. Free To Run developed this Top 10 list as a resource that can be used to put your on a path to becoming an abolitionist.

  1. Learn the Facts & Dig Deeper – There are countless resources available on the Internet, but a good starting point would be, and A few recommended books include Girls Like Us, A Crime So Monstrous, and Not For Sale. You will find several documentaries about human trafficking on Netflix and Amazon.
  1. Be the Voice – Speak up about modern day slavery. Tell others about this crime against humanity and recruit others to join the movement. Be the voice for the voiceless.
  1. Shop with a Conscience – Buying Fair Trade helps to ensure that workers in the supply chain are given fair wages and aren’t being exploited. Purchase products made by survivors and at-risk individuals to help sustain organizations and support survivor empowerment (e.g. Nomi Network, Made By Survivors, Destiny Rescue)
  1. Advocate for Change – Tell your elected officials that this is an issue you care about, and why we need stronger laws to fight trafficking domestically and internationally. Research state laws at or Learn about the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act at
  1. Lead Cultural Shifts – Lead by example and reject longstanding cultural beliefs about the limits of an individual based on their gender or their status in society, and instill in others that human beings are not objects nor property. Don’t fuel the demand by supporting industries and businesses that exploit females.
  1. Recognize the Signs – If you suspect slavery or exploitation, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (888-3737-888), or the local tip line coordinated by BE FREE Dayton (530-378-4771).
  1. Volunteer – Research volunteer opportunities with a local organization like BE FREE or Oasis House. BE FREE volunteers regularly deliver posters and flyers to Dayton-area businesses, while Oasis House organizes street outreach activities.
  1. Walk or Run a 5k – The simple act of walking or running can help make a difference. Register for the World Race for Hope 5k, which takes place on New Year’s Day in Troy, Ohio, or sign up for the virtual race and run or walk anywhere, anytime during the month of January.
  1. Plan an Event or Fundraiser – Organize a collection drive for supplies that are used in local outreach activities, host a movie screening at your house, or plan a yoga retreat as a fundraiser to support a specific nonprofit.
  1. Follow Your Passion & Use Your Talents – Everybody has a talent they can use in the fight against trafficking. Do Pro Bono work (attorneys, graphic designers, accountants) for an anti-trafficking nonprofit, write a song, run a marathon, blog, paint a picture, or donate your services to a fundraiser.

Finding Slave-Free Products without a Fair Trade logo

Last month we explored Fair Trade products and why they bring us closer to ending slavery. Certified Fair Trade items are produced in a slave-free, human rights-respecting environment and with an eco-friendly conscious. Does that mean all non-certified products are tainted with labor abuses and environmental degradation? Fortunately, no.

Many companies function under high & tight code of conduct standards that ensure each step of the manufacturing process respects both human rights and the environment. Unless boasting a Free Trade logo, it can be difficult to identify such products on shelves and among aisles. Thankfully, though, organizations are providing consumers with reliable information about companies’ supply chain and whether or not human trafficking is present.

The most well-known and perhaps densely-compiled site is Free2Work, which is a project of Not For Sale. Through self-reported data and public information, Free2Work ranks companies according to the absence of forced and child labor in their supply chains. You can find whose manufacturing practices are a-ok and whose are not in particular industries including Apparel, Coffee, Sports Equipment, Shoes, Chocolate, Electronics, Jewelry and more.
Companies are “graded” in four different categories. For a busy consumer who quickly wants to know which companies have great practices and which do not, a simple scroll through the listings will show each company and its color-coded grade.

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The ratings are based on a company’s performance related to workers’ rights, monitoring, policies and transparency. Each company is given a score card; we can, in detail, compare why it’s a better choice to shop at H&M rather than Forever 21.

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It was through Free2Work that I learned to what extent my sponsor, Brooks, addresses labor rights. I am overwhelmingly proud to represent a company that values workers’ rights – in the supply chain’s every step! To be supported by a brand that offers high-quality products is wonderful. To be supported by a brand that offers high-quality products AND respects its suppliers, workers and environment, now that’s striking gold.

imageBrooks is not the sole running apparel company to score well; Champion, Adidas, Reebok, Nike, and New Balance received B- or better. I hope that instills pride in the entire running community! Major running brands are among those leading the fight against human trafficking.

Explore Free2Work and learn which of your favorite companies are also raising a hand against slavery.  You may be surprised by how many brands are doing good in their industries. Below are links to additional resources related to slave-free brands.

Join the Movement to End It

Friday, February 27 is Shine a Light on Slavery Day, which is part of the campaign by End It Movement to raise awareness of modern slavery around the world. Those who wish to join the movement are encouraged to mark a Red X on their hands, post a picture on their social networks, and tell people why they are joining the movement.


Free To Run Foundation is encouraging its supporters to join this movement. When posting your picture, in addition to using the hash tag #enditmovement, also tag #free2run and our applicable social media profile on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

To show our support for Shine a Light on Slavery Day, we are offering a discount code for our 4th Annual World Race for Hope 5k Columbus. By using the code ENDITCBUS, you can save $5 off any of the registration categories (Adult, Child/Student, Virtual). The code is good through March 1st. To register, go to the registration page.

A Reflection on Slavery

Beatrice Fernando is in a Sri Lankan airport hugging her 3-year-old son goodbye.
She is 23, divorced and is leaving him, for him.

An agency offered housemaid employment opportunities in Lebanon, and as a young single mother, she is desperate to find a way to support herself and her growing son.
She does not know that the flight from her home in Sri Lanka to the agency’s office in Lebanon will lead her into hell.

Her passport is taken away.

Her workdays last 20 hours.

Her dinner is found in trash cans.

The apartment in which she works quickly becomes a prison; she is locked inside, unable to leave.

Her cheeks are slapped. Her head is thrown against a wall. A broom and feet crash into her back.
She endures the hunger, the fatigue, the abuse day

after day

after day

after day,


Hunger, Fatigue, Abuse lead her to the fourth-floor apartment balcony.

She stands on the railing, thinking of the prison she cannot escape, thinking of her son she cannot see, thinking of the freedom she cannot grasp, and jumps.


“Property of Salem” is tattooed on Jennifer Kempton’s groin. This is one of several tattoos found on her body, all of which are disgusting marks designed by dope gang leaders and pimps.

Her childhood was abusive.

Her relationships were destructive.

The abuse and destruction, along with her work in downtown Columbus, Ohio, led her into drug addiction and street prostitution:

Sex trafficking.

Pimp after pimp have marked her as HIS property.

Groin, breast, neck, back.

Belonging to everyone but herself, she looped a noose around her neck.


These two stories tell the frightening tale of modern-day slavery.

Before my partnership with the Free to Run Foundation, I would instantly think “Underground Railroad”, “Dutch West India Company” and “13th Amendment” upon hearing the word slavery; my slavery timeline ended 149 years ago with its abolition in the United States.

I wouldn’t have thought about Jennifer’s spiral into sex trafficking, nor would I have considered Beatrice’s blind step into domestic servitude. But with a few noteworthy links, and Google at my fingertips, I quickly discovered how expansive and complex and alive slavery is. Slavery is just as much a local issue as it is an international one. And slavery takes on many identities, including forced labor, child labor, domestic servitude, sex trafficking and bonded labor.

Beatrice jumped from the apartment’s fourth-floor balcony because she wanted to escape domestic servitude. She did escape, but not by taking her life. She now lives in Massachusetts and provides financial assistance for the education of trafficked women’s children through the Nivasa Foundation.

The noose around Jennifer’s neck broke; she also escaped.

The pimps, the dope gangs, the drugs.

But not the haunting tattoos, until an artist in Lancaster, Ohio transformed her scars into portraits of color and flowers and hope. This change from scar to art inspired Jennifer to found Survivor’s Ink, which is a non-profit that offers full scholarships to survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation to have their branding tattoo’s covered or removed.

Jennifer’s and Beatrice’s stories are two of 28 million. Through awareness and dialogue, we can help write more beautiful endings like these women’s. And through persistence and conscious effort, we can halt every bad beginning from ever being written. Slavery did not end in 1865; it’s time that it finds a place in museums, next to historical artifacts like dinosaurs and carrier pigeons and dial-up internet modems.

What are some of the steps we can take toward eliminating modern slavery? I will share one way I am making a difference in next month’s post.


Make a Difference, Make a Stand

There are many issues and areas of concern in today’s world, and exponentially more causes for each issue. Some people have strong feelings about one particular cause, and focus all of their energy and resources towards that one issue, while others spread their support around. Your support may range from purely financial, to being an advocate and helping spread awareness, to volunteering for the cause.  Whatever your level of support, never lose sight of the fact that one person can truly make a difference.  Read more of this post