Keep the dream alive

Posted August 20

Incredibly, it has now been five years since I left full-time work to pursue 'The Human, Earth Project'. It was five years ago this week that I received my final paycheck. 

At the time, I imagined the project would unfold in a very predictable way. I'd spend six months in Asia, several months editing the footage we collected there, then return to regular work. The reality has turned out very differently. 

'Sisters For Sale' became something so much greater (and so much more time-consuming) than I'd ever imagined. It has grown to include a feature-length documentary, a podcast, and a book. Five years later, not only does it remain the focus of my life, it has also grown to include countless other passionate people from all over the world. 

My constant companion, for most of 'The Human, Earth Project', has been a hefty silver laptop. This is my digital playground where the documentary, and now the book, have first come to life. 

That silver laptop is now very much the worse for wear. There's a hairline crack running diagonally across the screen, and bits of tape which held the DVD drive cover in place, before I tore it off completely - but the laptop itself is still going strong. 

In the corner of the laptop, beside the keyboard, is a small sticker showing Don Quixote tilting at windmills. Quixote, a figure synonymous with madness, reminds me how mad this project all seemed at the beginning... 

... before there were thousands of people from 70+ countries on six continents following and supporting our work... 

... before it appeared on TV, in print, and was featured on major websites all around the world...

... before 100+ people had contributed their time and talents to pushing the project forward...

... before it was seen via TEDx, CNN, or VICE... 

... before we succeeded in bringing the global human trafficking crisis to the attention of millions... 

... before it hit the top positions on the front pages of Reddit and Imgur, became the subject of another documentary by a British production house, and inspired a brilliant novel by an award-winning crime writer... 

... before I'd been approached to write my story by one of the world's five major publishing houses... 

... before I succeeded in finding my kidnapped friends May and Pang in China...

... back when 'The Human, Earth Project' was just me, a laptop, and a burning desire to make this world a better place. 

We've come so far together in the past five years. I want to take a moment to thank you all for being part of this strange and wonderful journey. 

I used to make plans for my life beyond this project. I now make plans around it, because I've come to realise it won't be ending anytime soon. 

I can hardly wait to see where the next five years will take us. 

- Ben 

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Talking 'bout a revolution

Posted July 30

It's a time of great change behind the scenes here at 'The Human, Earth Project', and I'm excited to share some really big news with you today. 

Six months ago, I called for volunteers to help me promote the project. That call was answered by Melissa Adams, Katie Carriero, and Astrid Hofer. 

Since becoming involved with the project, Mel, Katie, and Astrid's contributions have gone far beyond mere promotion: they have become an integral part of the project. 

Mel is building our new website, Katie is involved in research, fundraising, and partnerships, and Astrid is now working with Claire Harris on the 'Sisters For Sale' podcast

One of the exciting things about Mel's new website is an 'Our Team' page, where we're finally able to give the people behind the project the recognition they deserve - not only Mel, Katie, and Astrid, but Claire, Myste, and Yuqing, and everyone else who has been involved with the project. 

Mel did a great job building that page - but when I first saw it, something about it struck me as very wrong. There was a large picture of myself at the top of the page, with smaller images of six women beneath me.

It struck me as the wrong way to structure any organisation, and particularly one with such an emphasis on women's rights. I realised it was time to change - not just the page, but the entire project. 

I don't need or want to run 'The Human, Earth Project' as a traditional hierarchy. I'm working with a group of intelligent, highly capable women who are skilled in many ways that I am not, and there's absolutely no reason for me to be their "boss". 

Yes, I founded 'The Human, Earth Project' and have been at its core since the beginning, but this project is not about my ego. It's about human rights - particularly, women's rights - and I would love to see it led by women. The most important thing for me is not where the project came from, but where it's going. 

It's not a matter of my stepping down: it's a matter of Mel, Katie, and Astrid stepping up, so that they can take more power within the project, and we can all make major decisions together on an equal footing. 

For 5.5 years, 'The Human, Earth Project' has been a tiny, grassroots organisation. This is our first major step towards becoming a larger, more durable organisation, so we can make the biggest possible impact in raising awareness of the global human trafficking crisis. 

The next step will be organising sufficient funding to transition to paid roles, so that we can give this work the time and energy it deserves. It's an exciting time for the project, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this next leg of the journey leads us!

Almost everyone involved with 'The Human, Earth Project' began as a friend or supporter. Many people - including Mel, Katie, and Astrid - first became involved for a specific task, and their roles have grown naturally according to their own talents and passion. 

Jeppe Hildebrandt, for example, came onboard as a film colorist, and became a key figure in the post production of our 'Sisters For Sale' documentary. 

Myste Laquinta is a supporter and contributor who was of immeasureable assistance during previous fundraising campaigns, and will soon be taking an ongoing role with the team.

Yuqing Zhang first assisted with smaller tasks behind the scenes, and went on to single-handedly assemble and organise a team of 16 translators to produce a full Chinese translation of our documentary. 

From humble beginnings, 'The Human, Earth Project' has become something each of us has found our own purpose and meaning in, something we can all be proud of. If you'd like to be part of our growing team, please get in touch - you never know where it might lead you, and what a difference you will make. 

If you have particular skills with promotion, fundraising, or social media, that's wonderful. If you have other talents, or aren't yet sure what you can offer but would love to be part of the team, contact me at

In other news... 

Over the past two months, we've had an amazing team of people translating our 'Sisters For Sale' documentary into the Hmong language, which is now complete. 

I'd like to give a huge thank-you to Kathee Her, Mai Hernandez, Shoua Herr, May Ceceil Lee, Shillbe Lor, Nouchee Dawn Moua, Youa Xiong, Pa Dao Vang, Tria Vang, May Na Vang-Curtis, PaNhia Vue, Youa Xiong, Choua Yang, and See Yang.

There are now seven versions of the film soon to be released - Chinese, English, French, German, Hmong, Spanish and Vietnamese. The Hmong translation is an especially important one, with Hmong people and Hmong culture at the centre of the story, and it will be amazing to be able to share the documentary with Hmong communities around the world. 

Working with our various translation teams over the past ten months has taught me a great deal about translation. It's like painting a picture, or singing a song - anyone can do it, really, but to do it properly takes great care and talent. Translating 'Sisters For Sale' has involved its own particular challenges, with so many of our interviewees speaking English as a second language. 

I'm deeply grateful to all of our translators who have poured so much love into making 'Sisters For Sale' available in their own languages, and especially to our supervising translators - Elisabeth De Sa Barbaro, Astrid Hofer, Laura Rodríguez Jarillo, Tria Vang, and Yuqing Zhang. Thank you so much!

I look forward to sharing our new website, and the Hmong trailer for our documentary, with you soon - stay tuned!

- Ben

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Things left unsaid

Posted June 26

I have some very exciting news for you today - but first, I want to answer the question on everyone's lips. 

In recent months, many of you have been asking what's happening with our feature documentary, 'Sisters For Sale'. Perhaps you saw my blog posts last August and September about fine-tuning the film, correcting the colours, recording the narration, finishing the edit and animations

You've been asking when and where the documentary will be made available. I can't give a concrete answer to those questions, because there isn't one. 

Over the past few years, we've had something like a curse with some of the musicians involved in this project. Two passed away, while a third disappeared without explanation at a crucial time last year. That wasn't something we could have planned for, or avoided. 

The rest of the film was completed on schedule last September, before the music was even begun. Johanna Wilson and my brother Will Randall have been composing the film score since late last year. It is now well underway, and sounds fantastic. 

It's no small job: Joh and Will are composing 39 minutes of beautiful, hopeful, tender, suspenseful, complex, and sinister music for the documentary. It takes time, particularly on top of their professional research and study commitments, and they're doing an amazing job. 

When the score is finished, the final sound mix will be prepared professionally by a team in Los Angeles, whom I'm yet to introduce you to. 

Until now, the plan has been to structure the documentary's release around film festivals. Premiering at major film festivals in various regions can make a world of difference for an independent documentary. 

As we've now run over schedule, however, I'm considering skipping the festivals altogether, so I can show you the finished film as soon as possible. I haven't yet made a final decision. 

If you've supported the film, you will be notified when it's ready. Until then, if you'd like to receive updates, please add your name to our mailing list

By this time, of course, I'd hoped that 'Sisters For Sale' would be out there making a difference in the world. People seem to expect that I'm going mad with anxiety, beating my head against a wall in frustration, breathing down the necks of our composers. 

I'm not. There are plenty of other exciting things happening here to keep us busy. 

Thanks to our amazing translation teams around the world, our documentary has now been (or is being) translated into six languages, besides English: French, German, Hmong, Mandarin, Spanish, and Vietnamese (and there may be more yet to come!).

Katie Carriero has been helping map out partnerships and a tour for the film, while Melissa Adams is developing our new website. Claire Harris and Astrid Hofer are now working together on the forthcoming 'Sisters For Sale' podcast. 

Today, I'd like to share the most exciting thing that's been happening behind the scenes this year. 

I've long been planning to share 'Sisters For Sale' as a book. It's an amazing story, and a complex one, and it simply isn't possible to include everything in the film. There are still plenty of things left unsaid. 

The publishing world works like this. If your story and your writing are good, you can find an agent. If your agent is good, they'll get you a deal with a publisher. If the publisher is good, they'll get your story out to the widest possible audience. 

It's a highly competitive market. Some writers struggle for years to find an agent, much less a publisher. There are pitfalls too, of course - bad contracts, agents who can't find a publisher, publishers who can't get your story on shelves. 

There are five major publishing houses in the world. They don't bother with small, niche stories. They have powerful marketing machines working to promote major titles. I'm sure your shelves are filled with their books: mine are. 

For a long time, I've been collecting notes and ideas to develop 'Sisters For Sale' as a book, and have already written part of the story. I hadn't yet begun the search for an agent. 

This February, I received an unexpected message asking about the book. It wasn't an agent, but a publisher. More specifically: it was a senior publisher at one of the five largest publishing houses in the world. 

She'd heard of our story, and wanted to see my writing. She loves what I've written so far, and we're now discussing the best way to bring 'Sisters For Sale' - the book - to the world. 

Since I was a child, writing has been one of my great passions. For me, to become a published author with one of the world's great publishing houses would literally be a dream come true. 

So, no - I'm not over here going mad with anxiety, or beating my head against a wall; I'm madly scribbling the pages which, before long, I hope you'll enjoy. I'm really excited to see where all this will lead us!

The few authors I have the pleasure of knowing personally have shown no hesitation in offering their guidance and support. I'd like to thank Belinda Bauer, Elijah Wald and particularly the wonderful Sifis Zervoudakis for answering all my questions over the past months, and Michelle Imison for proof-reading my work. 

I'm very pleased to announce that our recent poster competition was won by Myste Laquinta, who has been one of our most amazing supporters over the past few years - congratulations, Myste! 

Of course, there's always more happening behind the scenes here, which I'll be sharing in good time. By this time you might have realised I like to keep an ace or two up my sleeve! 

If you're interested to join our growing team, get in touch - you can contact me at 

Stay tuned!

- Ben

(Don't miss the news on 'Sisters For Sale' - subscribe here!)

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Better together

Posted June 04

I'm very pleased to announce a new partnership between 'The Human, Earth Project' and GoPhilanthropic, a fantastic US-based organisation involved in raising awareness and funds for charitable organisations around the globe. 

This is the first of several partnerships I plan to formalise over the coming months, as we arrange the details of how our forthcoming feature documentary, 'Sisters For Sale', might best be used to support counter-trafficking efforts in Vietnam and around the globe. 

GoPhilanthropic help build communities of social activists, and connect them a network of organisations making a real impact against some of the biggest issues of our time. They'll be assisting us in raising and disbursing funds, and our American supporters will soon be able to make tax-deductible contributions to support our work. 

A part of GoPhilanthropic's work is taking supporters to affected regions, and giving them the opportunity to meet some of the amazing men and women fighting the human trafficking crisis at ground level. 

This September, they'll be in Vietnam and Cambodia, meeting with Blue Dragon Children's Foundation (whose founder, Michael Brosowski, has played such an important role in our own journey), Ethos, and Pacific Links, amongst others. 

(If you're interested, there are still places available - details here!)

For International Women's Day this March, Vietnam's national TV channel VTV ran a three-minute news piece on our work against human trafficking, and our forthcoming feature documentary, 'Sisters For Sale'. 

Thanks to Trịnh Hoàng Đông Nghi, it has now been translated into English, and much of it has been included in our updated media reel (from 2.45 onwards). Thanks, Nghi! 

The entire documentary has now been translated into Vietnamese - as has the trailer, which you can now see here

Recently we've been running a little competition to give away the first-ever print of the 'Sisters For Sale' documentary poster. 

Several people reported having issues accessing our website this weekend, when the competition was due to end, so we'll give you until this Sunday 10th June to get your entries in. 

Over the past five years, I've referenced dozens of songs and albums in the titles of my blog posts. 

Take a look at the list, tell me which musicians you can see referenced, and win the first-ever print of the "mother's love" or "sunset glow" poster (your choice!). 

(For example, the title of this post - "Better together" - is a Jack Johnson song. Put Jack Johnson on your list, and send it over!)

The list is here, and you can contact me at

Happy hunting!

- Ben

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We the people

Posted May 23

I've been quiet lately, but there's been a lot happening behind the scenes here with 'The Human, Earth Project'. 

Poster competition

Last month I announced a little competition to win the first-ever print of either the "mother's love" or "sunset glow" poster design. 

To my surprise, we didn't have a winner - nobody even came close. I'm still going to give away the poster, so I'm going to make it really easy for you. 

Scrolling down through the list of blog posts on our website, I see 39 artists whose songs or albums I've referenced in the blog post titles (including this one!). 

Take a look, and tell me which ones you see. Whoever can tell me the most artist names by Sunday 3rd June will win the first ever print of either the "mother's love" or "sunset glow" poster (your choice!). 

The list is here, and you can contact me at Anyone is eligible to enter, excluding my own blood relatives! 

'Sisters For Sale'

'The Human, Earth Project' continues to grow, and has begun appearing in some unexpected places. (Recently a rather fanciful interpretation of our story was spotted being used as an online English lesson!) 

Our feature documentary, 'Sisters For Sale', is still awaiting its musical score, which is currently being composed in Finland by Will Randall and Johanna Wilson. 

I've been taking advantage of the extra time to fine-tune the film, and prepare it for release in other languages, while chipping away at chapters for the forthcoming 'Sisters For Sale' book. 

Our serialised 'Sisters For Sale' podcast has begun to take concrete form thanks to the hard work and perseverence of the phenomenal Claire Harris, and it sounds fantastic. 

This month, there have been a lot of amazing people involved in the project, and I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the time and energy they've given. 

I'd like to thank Lynne Juarez, Geoffrey Hindmarsh, Dustin Main, Shirley Main, Jimmie Meader, Lynn Rhodes, Susan Randall, Sally Simmel, Karina Thomson, Nancy Traer, and Charlene Tschirhart for their recent feedback on the podcast pilot and the documentary itself. 

Julie Steinbach deserves a special mention for her insightful comments and organisational skills. 

As ever, our core team of Melissa Adams, Katie Carriero, and Astrid Hofer have been wonderful - they'll soon have the recognition they deserve on the brand new website Melissa's building for us! 

I want to give a special thank-you to Katie for her insights and support over these past weeks. 

Chinese translation

Yuqing Zhang has been an absolute superstar, and I can't thank her enough. 

Three months ago, Yuqing requested a copy of the 'Sisters For Sale' script, determined to translate it into her native Chinese. 

Without any further input from me, Yuqing assembled a team including 15 other translators, and coordinated the entire translating and editing process from beginning to end. 

Having been through the same process with our other translation teams, I can appreciate just how much time and energy that can involve. 

As if that wasn't amazing enough, there are some people who have come to this project to help with specific tasks, and whose work has gone far beyond that. Yuqing is one of those people. 

Yuqing, her friend Xiaojie Yin, and my friend Qiuda Guo have been absolutely invaluable in their help on Chinese legal and cultural matters behind the scenes. 

I'd like to extend my deep gratitude towards them and the entire Chinese translation team, including Qixiu Cai, Qianru Cao, Qiren Chen, Yali Chen, Yiting Chen, Yuhao Feng, Tian Huang, Tianyang Jiang, Chang Lu, Yuwei Lu, Chen Lyu, Yi Shan, Yujie Shi, Junao Wang, and Meng Zhang... Thank you all! 

Vietnamese translation

Incredibly, we now also have a Vietnamese translation of 'Sisters For Sale', which was completed in record time by a fantastic team. 

I'd like to thank Đinh Thảo Linh, Đoàn Quỳnh Hương, Hoàng Thị Hương Giang, Huỳnh Ngọc Hoàng Yến, Lê Hồng Hoàng Anh, Phạm Hà My, Phạm Thu Hải Bình, Trần Lê Đà Giang, Trần Phương Ngọc, Trần Thị Phương Thảo, and Trần Thị Thu Hà, with a special thank-you to Lê Bích Vân for rallying her friends to the cause. 

Several of these people are already active in Vietnam's counter-trafficking movement, and all have shown a deep passion for the issue. 

One of these people in particular seemed very deeply affected by the realisation that such things were happening so close to her own home, and that any solution will involve changing not only the law but the culture itself. 

With 'Sisters For Sale' focused on the trafficking crisis between Vietnam and China, I feel that these two translations will be so important in effecting real change in awareness and attitudes around the issue. 

Each of these people has played such an important role in bringing this story to their own country, and I truly admire the passion they've brought to the project. 

The story takes place amongst the Hmong community, and the next translation we'll be working on is Hmong itself. (If you're interested to get involved, let me know!) 

I want to thank you, too, for being a part of 'The Human, Earth Project'. Without you, this would all be for nothing. 

If you'd like to win the first-ever print of one of our 'Sisters For Sale' posters, send me your entry at!

- Ben

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