Sisters For Sale

Posted March 03

The search

Scroll down to see the most recent posts, or click here to see the complete list of blog entries. For her protection, all media links with M's name and image have been temporarily removed.

Share on Facebook



Posted February 03

Some of you haven't heard from me in three months, and I apologise. 

A technical glitch has prevented delivery of news via the mailing list. You'll have missed some interviews, my year-end reflection, and my new year's resolution

Today I'll be looking at where 'The Human, Earth Project' stands, where it has come from, and where it's going, for those of you who have been following and supporting the project. 

Behind the scenes

Over the past four years, 'The Human, Earth Project' has been incredibly flexible. 

At times, there have been a dozen or more people working with me on the project. They come with particular skill sets for particular tasks - be it filmmaking, coding, communications, or whatever - and when their work is done, they disappear. 

With the 2016 fundraising campaign behind and a long edit ahead, the project has returned to its original state: just me. For the next four months I'll be immersing myself in vast seas of sound and vision, working alone to complete the rough cut of our feature documentary, 'Sisters For Sale'. 

(Well, that's not quite the whole story: there are a few exciting things happening behind the scenes, but it's too early to share those just yet!)

When the rough cut is finished, I'll be bringing together a team of professionals to help finish the music, sound, colours and animations for the film, which is on schedule for completion in September. 

A year in review

Since the very beginning of 'The Human, Earth Project' four years ago, I've been keeping a close watch on my finances, to minimise expenses and continue my work against human trafficking for as long as possible. 

Last January, I began collecting more detailed information, keeping a close watch not only on how I spent money, but I how I spent my time, so that I can keep making that work as effective as possible. 

This January, for the first time, I had a chance to review my 2016 data. 

For me, 2016 was a year split in half, dominated first by post-production on 'Sisters For Sale' - researching, scripting, editing, creating graphics and animations - then by our overwhelmingly successful fundraising campaign, which involved a huge amount of preparation and promotion. 

My work expenses were lower in 2016 than in any other year, by a significant margin - less than half those of 2014. (2017 is expected to be much more expensive, however, as I purchase additional equipment and software, and bring together a team to complete 'Sisters For Sale'). 

As dull as it might sound, sifting through the data has been of great benefit in helping me to identify where time and money is best spent, and where it is not, to make plans and allocate resources going forwards. 

This blog is one example. While still a useful means of updating existing supporters, writing this blog can be very time-consuming, and has never been a highly effective way of raising awareness of my work. 

Last year I wrote 36 blog posts for this project. At an average of 3.5 hours per post, that's three full working weeks. I'll be blogging less frequently this year, and using my time in more effective ways. 

Reaching millions

The overarching purpose of my work is raising awareness of the global human trafficking crisis. 

Our feature documentary 'Sisters For Sale' will be the key channel for raising awareness - but it is not the only one. Sharing our story via traditional and digital media can also be extremely effective. 

Last year, our story reached the front pages of Imgur (four times) and Reddit (twice). It was shared by major news sources, including VICE

According to Imgur, our story reached six million people via their site alone, in a period of just two months. Our most popular Imgur post continues to rise, currently standing as their 29th most popular post ever, from over a billion posts. 

It's worth taking a moment to recall that 'The Human, Earth Project' started with a single human being and a seemingly impossible idea. It has been kept alive by a little luck, a lot of persistence, and the support of countless individuals around the world. 

Don't ever let them tell you that one person can't make a difference. And, hey - you're one person. 

Going the extra mile

I'm grateful to each and every one of you who have helped keep this dream alive by contributing to my work, and by helping to spread our message. 

I'm overwhelmed by those of you who have gone the extra mile, using your energy and initiative to raise funds on behalf of 'The Human, Earth Project'. 

There's Carola Irvine, who rallied her family and friends in the Netherlands to support our 2014 fundraising campaign;  Suzie Hanlan, who raised money by teaching yoga classes in Alaska; and This Is Water, who ran a one-day yoga event in Malaysia in December. 

And of course, there's Myste Laquinta, whose search for more intelligent uses of social media brought countless thousands to our cause, made her the true heroine of our 2016 fundraising campaign, and embarrassed us all by making it look easy.

My mother Susan reached out to family, friends, and many of her contacts within the Girl Guides, with whom she has volunteered for 20 years. One of her guide leaders, Sammantha Mavin, organised a fundraising trivia night on our behalf with her group. 

Most recently, I've been deeply grateful to Rita Schaad and her band of "Xmas pudding ladies". For two decades, Rita, Margaret Smith, Susan Callister and other members of the former Lambton/Mayfield Girl Guide Support Group have been making and selling Xmas puddings in my hometown in Australia. 

This December, Rita's group used their work to support my own, which was amazing: Thank you!

A story worth telling

I find it beautiful that 'The Human, Earth Project' seems to have reached a point where it has taken on a life of its own, and no longer needs me to guide it through every step. 

All but one of the fundraising efforts mentioned above were undertaken without my knowledge. Articles have begun appearing promoting my work, written by people I've never spoken to, published on sites I've never heard of. 

While ours is a complex story about a complicated issue, and details can be lost or confused in the re-telling, awareness of the core message is spreading. 

It has proven itself as a story that people want to hear, and want to pass on to others - even before the documentary itself has been completed. 

I'm excited to see where the film itself will take us... 

To keep up with all the news on 'Sisters For Sale', subscribe here

Share on Facebook



Posted January 12

Over the past four years, for many people, I've become the human trafficking guy. 

They'll recommend to me the books, films, articles and interviews they find on human trafficking. They'll want to speak about human trafficking when they meet me. 

I've never experienced human trafficking firsthand, and I've never conducted any formal research into the subject - yet I've gone deeper into that world than most people will ever go. 

"Human trafficking" is a neatly clinical term concealing a terrifying world of horror and abuse inflicted upon the most vulnerable members of our societies, and it's a world that few enter willingly. 

As part of my work against human trafficking, I've heard countless stories from victims and survivors. I've read the articles, watched the documentaries, trawled through the statistics. 

It's important work - but it can also be hard, to soak up an endless stream of such horrendous, heartbreaking information. 

It can be hard, knowing that this world exists within our own, knowing just how perverse and pervasive human trafficking is. Knowing that both the traffickers and their victims can be anyone, of any age or gender. 

It can be hard not to feel weighed down by the terrible knowledge of it all, even when life is otherwise going well. It can be hard to see the world the same way, to keep faith and trust in humanity. 

It's a process I've been going through for years now - to take the knowledge I've accumulated and use it as a weapon against human trafficking, without harming myself on the blade. 

To stay positive, to separate these horrors from my immediate reality, to separate the things I can change from those I can't, and to act accordingly. 

Over the past year, the entire Western world seems to have been going through a very similar process. 

Since September 11, we've been riding countless aftershocks of war and terrorism. We've been jolted by environmental catastrophes and economic turmoil. 

For a generation that has never experienced any major depressions or pandemics, nor the brutality of war in our own backyards, it has seemed like turbulent time - yet now the world seems on the brink of something very different. 

The Information Age has become plagued by misinformation. The concepts of freedom and democracy have become meaningless banners. 

Europe seems on the verge of cracking up, with a round of major elections on the horizon. 

The global superpowers of the United States, Russia and China have all violated lesser nations, trampled civil rights, and gotten away clean. This year, all three will be in the hands of powers that are utterly terrifying, with no regard for popular opinion. 

The world seems like a powder keg just waiting for a spark. It no longer seems a question of "if" but "when" - and "what", with new technologies leading us in unfamiliar directions. 

Meanwhile, the state of the planet upon which we depend for survival slips further out of control, and further down our list of short-term priorities. 

Perhaps 2017 will be the year we realise that 2016 wasn't so bad after all. 

In times of fear and uncertainty, it is only human to narrow your field of vision and follow the herd - and herds are notoriously easy to manipulate. 

When the wrong hands are pulling the strings for the wrong reasons, terrible things can happen, and often will. 

It's easy to feel powerless, and overwhelmed by it all. 

It's not easy to keep your balance when the world seems to be spinning out of control. 

It's not easy to pull when everyone else is pushing, to stay quiet when everyone else is screaming, or to speak out when everyone else is silent. 

It's not easy to navigate according your own deeply-held values when everything else seems to be shifting around you. 

Then again, the right thing to do is rarely easy. 

I don't ordinarily make new year's resolutions, but 2017 isn't shaping up to be an ordinary year, so here goes: 

This year, I will breathe deeply, 

I will keep an open mind, 

I will keep smiling,

I will question the sources of information I act upon, 

I will follow my conscience,

and I will not give in to fear. 

...Oh, and this year I'll finish that damn film, too. 

Let's get through this.

To keep up with all the news on 'Sisters For Sale', subscribe here.

Share on Facebook


What a year

Posted December 15

When I first launched 'The Human, Earth Project', I really couldn't imagine what I was getting myself into. 

What was originally planned as a six-month project has evolved into something far larger and much more involved. I'll soon be entering the fifth year of the project, with no end yet in sight. 

These past twelve months have seen some of the most extreme highs and lows of the entire project. 

Just five months ago, I was exhausted and in poor health, and had lost my very reason for beginning this work in the first place. 

For years, I'd struggled in vain to get this project the attention and funding it needed to survive, and seriously considered shutting it down entirely. 

I couldn't have imagined how quickly things would turn around, with our message reaching more than a million people over the last three months, resulting in an incredible outpouring of support. 

Our feature documentary, 'Sisters For Sale', is now fully funded and scheduled for completion in late 2017. 

This has been a major milestone in the development of 'The Human, Earth Project', and I'd like to thank all of you who have been involved - we could never have done it without you. 

Thousands of people from dozens of countries across the globe have now come forward to support our work against human trafficking: it's beautiful to see such an incredibly diverse list of names on our thank-you list

Last week, I was interviewed by Jules Suzdaltsev at VICE, which was fantastic - you can check out his article here

Eli Zubiria also ran a Spanish-language article on Sapa, Hmong women,  and 'The Human, Earth Project' here on her blog, 'Vida De Viajera'. 

Earlier this month, This Is Water and Lululemon Athletica hosted 'This Is Yoga', a well-attended fundraising event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with part of the proceeds being dedicated to our work against human trafficking. 

I hope you all have the chance to enjoy some holiday time with your families. This year, I'll be spending the holidays with my brothers and sister - it's the first time in five years we'll all be together, which is exciting!

I'm looking forward to entering 2017 on a more even keel, and finally getting 'Sisters For Sale' ready to share with the world! 

Subscribe here to receive all the news on 'Sisters For Sale'.

Share on Facebook


Just breathe

Posted December 02

After three very intense months of work on our amazingly successful fundraising campaign, November has been a quieter month spent tying up loose ends and preparing for the long edit of our feature-length documentary, 'Sisters For Sale'. 

Those of you who chose to receive photographic prints from the campaign can expect to receive them in the coming week, if you haven't already. 

Those of you who contributed more than once to the campaign can expect to receive your bonus rewards soon. 

Gift cards

Don't know what to get that special someone?

At the suggestion of one of our supporters, we now have gift cards available for the holiday season, so you can spread the holiday cheer and make a positive difference in the world. 

If you make a contribution of $25 or more in someone else's name this month, both your name and theirs will be credited on our website, and you can receive a gift card with their name as a customised digital file to print.

Contributions can be made here on our website, with details arranged afterwards by email. 

Interviews and articles

After an 18-month break from doing interviews, I recently agreed to a few interviews and articles on my work. 

Dustin Main explores the more technical side of 'Sisters For Sale' on his travel/technology site Too Many Adapters

Matteo Damiani examines the search and attempted rescue of my kidnapped friends on China Underground

An Italian translation of Matteo's interview can be found on CinaOggi

Annelies Vercruysse takes a more personal angle on the Dutch-language travel site Reishonger

Subscribe here to receive all the news on 'Sisters For Sale'.

Share on Facebook