The Visionary Life of Von: Liebster Awards

Click here: Liebster Awards. The Life of Von, a truly visionary friend of mine

By Lara/Trace

I say without hesitation, this Aussie adoptee changed my life and my writing. Von is my all-time favorite writer-blogger-adoptee.  I mean this sincerely. I read lots of blogs.  I found her when I was doing research for my memoir.

Von is truly gifted with words and wisdom. Von speaks her truth with clarity and compassion, thus she is an inspiration to me and to many others.  She writes with ferocity as an elder.  I share her writing very often on this blog! Why? She makes me think and re-think!

The point of blogging is to educate and share.  In the past four+ years, Von has made a major mark on adoption reform with her constant concise blogging on the adoptee voice. She also made some people very angry (ferocious actually) – which is the mark of a true visionary.

My blog on American Indian Adoptees and this human trafficking blog and Von’s blog are meant for people who plan to adopt children or did adopt –  and for those who wish to understand that adopting a child comes with a price – and how we adoptees pay it forward since it affects us emotionally, physically and spiritually. Being adopted doesn’t end when you become an adult…

For far too long adoptees were shamed into silence or we felt our voice didn’t matter. That imbalance was not being corrected. Now (with blogging) our words do matter and can change hearts and minds and perhaps laws around the world.

Von is a gift to all adoptees and for the non-adopted who hope to understand the complexities of adoption practices and lifelong, long-term effects on adoptees.

Please take the time and read her blog, follow it and share it.

A treasured postcard from my friend Von in 2010 that depicts her present home
A treasured postcard from my friend Von in 2010 that depicts her present home

Sharing a blogging award with her is an honor..

As I wrote in the preface of Two Worlds,

We gather round the adoptees and listen as they share their story, in their own words, in their own voice. The only way we can change history is to write it ourselves….. and our truth shall finally set us free…

Princess Alayban to face charges of human trafficking

Dear Readers,

The case of Saudi Princess Meshael Alayban, accused of human trafficking in the U.S., has caused a stir throughout the world. But do you know how the story was uncovered?

A few weeks ago, the victim, identified as ‘Jane Doe,’ escaped Alayban’s home where she alleges she was forced to work 16 hours a day, 7 days a week; her passport held by Alayban to prevent escape. Jane Doe then flagged down a bus, explained her situation to another passenger who helped her phone police. When the police went to investigate, they found four other women at the home claiming to be in the same situation1.

Modern slavery is a crime that survives hidden from the view of the public, but occasionally, it’s there, right in front of us. It could happen overtly – a woman escaping a home in which she was trapped or a boy summoning the courage to trust a stranger – or a more subtle scene in an airport where something just doesn’t look right. The bottom line is, at any moment, a person trapped in the nightmare of modern slavery could be trying to get our attention and we all need to be ready to help.

Hours ago, Princess Alayban was supposed to face charges of human trafficking in a California court but didn’t show up. Annoyed, the judge moved her court date.
Send a message of solidarity that we all stand with the passenger on the bus who took action to protect another by ensuring millions of people know how to spot a problem AND what to do.

Are you ready to help?

Already, the media is focused on the case and its possible outcomes. But one person is getting less coverage – the passenger on the bus that connected ‘Jane Doe’ to the help she needed.

Awareness of telltale signs and potential situations of modern slavery is something everyone should have – how amazing would it be if everyone could recognise a potential case of modern slavery, and know what to do to speak up?
Click here to SHARE important tips for how to recognise a potential modern slavery problem with everyone you know on Facebook.

In the last week, Walk Free became a community of 3 million activists. If we all share this image, we have the power to reach hundreds of millions of people in all parts of the world. Imagine all those extra eyes on the job.

This is the generation we’re going to end modern slavery – once and for all.

Thank you in advance for your help,

Debra, Kate, Mich, Jess, Ryan, Amy, Nick and the Walk Free team

1 More information here:,
Walk Free is a movement of people everywhere, fighting to end one of the world’s greatest evils: Modern slavery.

© 2013 | All rights reserved |

Why You Should Say No to Orphanage Tourism

Children queue for lunch at ACODO orphanage in Siem Reap City. (Denise Hruby/The Cambodia Daily)
Children queue for lunch at ACODO orphanage in Siem Reap City. (Denise Hruby/The Cambodia Daily)


At World Travel Mart Responsible Tourism Day, many of the world’s leading travel operators got together to discuss sustainability and impact issues fueled by the travel sector. There were an array of discussions including sessions covering child protection, wildlife tourism, local business development and a heated discussion around volunteer travel.

The sessions on wildlife and child protection were running concurrently, and it was interesting to see that the wildlife protection session had more than double the participants of the session on child protection. Is that because the tourism professionals or tourists themselves care more about animal’s rights? Or is it because most people are unaware of the staggering amount of child rights violations being perpetrated every day by global tourism operators?

I believe the later to be true. While living in Siem Reap, Cambodia, one of the hotbeds of volunteer travel, I watched the growth of child’s rights violations increase, fueled by the good intentions of travelers. During the six years I lived in Cambodia, the number of orphanage tourism offerings, and number of orphanages themselves grew as the number of tourists grew. In fact, according to a recent UNICEF report, three out of every four children in Cambodian “orphanages” have one or more living parents. A well-meaning tourism sector is spawning some horrible orphanages, fueling the separation of children and parents, keeping kids out of school to entertain tourists and aiding corruption by adults who are using these children to profiteer, all in the name of “service.”

A group in Siem Reap, Cambodia, recently released a comprehensive website detailing many of the issues relating to orphanage tourism and the institutionalization of children: They explore the realities I also saw in Cambodia on a day-to-day basis: men with signs saying “visit our orphanage” dragging children through streets of tourist-filled bars, gathering the next day’s emotional pray. The visits are listed as “free orphanage tourism dance shows” or “please volunteer for our children in need,” and once the travelers arrive the experience can be quite scripted:

The cutest young girl runs out grab the hand of the visiting traveler. The foreigners are allowed to walk through the center, even enter young kids rooms, usually unsupervised. A dance show is performed.

In a recent Al Jazeera micro-documentary on the issue, “Cambodia’s Orphanage Business,” explores the orphanage tourism and volunteer travel issues in Cambodia and in the film you can see how easy it is for children to be harmed (the film maker is allowed to walk into an orphanage and remove a few children to play with for a day, like one would check-out a library book). The volunteer travel sector is profiteering from these “pet-an-orphan” type travel opportunities. I questioned the American manager of one of the major volunteer sending companies in Siem Reap, who had approached me to find more English teaching placements for his volunteers in schools and orphanages, asking why he didn’t look for other volunteer opportunities for travelers. His response was “Everyone wants to play with kids. It’s the biggest seller. We need to find more placements for these people since there is so much demand for it.”

Did that “pet-an-orphan” phrasing bother you? It should. I assure you it would bother you even more if you watched it day after day, fueled by the good intentions of travelers who are unaware that they have a double standard about child’s rights. When travelers to Cambodia ask me “Well which orphanage is good that I could visit today,” my answer is “Any orphanage that will let you walk in off the street and subjects children to a revolving door of visiting volunteers is not one you want to support.” This demand for child tourism is the tail wagging the dog, yet these global volunteers traveling from all around the world thinking they are coming to “help” have no idea they are fueling this harm.

I was one of them. I have volunteered and visited orphanages in a number of countries, and I even set up my own volunteer travel company in Cambodia seven years ago. It wasn’t until I stayed around longer and realized the long-term harm many of these volunteer practices were fueling that I began to realize the extent of the problem. I shared what I learned in a recent TEDx talk, “What’s Wrong With Volunteer Travel?” in the hopes of preventing other well-intentioned travelers from making the same mistakes I did.

It’s time the tourism sector and travelers themselves became aware of these issues as, and in order to stop this problem, you too can help by:

1) Spreading the word. Put this article, and a website by Friends International highlighting the fact that “Children are not tourist attractions” on your Facebook, Twitter and blog pages and pass these links on to people you know are traveling in emerging markets where orphanage tourism is prevalent.

2) Write to tour operators and ask them to remove orphanage tours from their offerings and tell them you won’t use their services if they continue to offer orphanage tours.

c) If you are in London at the end of this month, join this debate screening Al Jazeera’s documentary about Cambodian orphanage tourism with a discussion panel including the founder of Projects Abroad, one of the large volunteer sending organizations accused of abusing child rights in this documentary for their poor vetting practices when it comes to volunteer placement partners.

And, if you find yourself in a place where someone is offering you a “free visit to an orphanage” and you want to help, seek out the organizations working to protect child’s rights with a focus on family based care and support them instead. Hopefully, with your help, tourists will stop demanding orphanage tourism and next year’s WTM session on protecting children will be at least as well attended as those protecting the children in the rest of the animal kingdom.

Follow Daniela Papi on Twitter:

Adoptees Shouldn’t Have to Use Facebook to Find Their Birth Parents

The recent “Adoptee Searching Picture Meme” highlights what’s wrong with the American adoption system.

This January, a 21-year-old Utah woman named Jenessa Simons located her birth mother via Facebook by posting a picture of herself holding her adoption information (“Born November 17, 1991…They named me Whitney”). The photo went viral, with more than 160,000 shares, and Simons received an email from her birth mother just two days later. In the three months since, Simons’ success has inspired countless imitators, both birth parents and adoptees, clogging Facebook feeds with similar messages.

These posts have brought questions of adoption and its consequences to the forefront. While adoption is usually lauded as a win-win, some say situations like Simons’ highlight major problems with the institution, problems which cause suffering for birth parents and adoptees alike. Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy, a birth mother who reconnected with her son via MySpace in 2006, sees the recent rash of what she calls the “Adoptee Searching Picture Meme” as a sign that the adoption system is badly broken. Adults like Simons, Corrigan D’Arcy says, should have the legal right to documents revealing their biological backgrounds.

“Imagine a world where adult adoptees could access their birth records like EVERY other American and know the name they were given,” she writes. “Then they wouldn’t have to post pictures of themselves on Facebook holding signs with personal information all over. Then they wouldn’t have to beg for strangers for shares in order to find out who they look like and if cancer runs in their family.”

Read more here:

NOTE: We have our own Facebook page for this:

Coming Out of the Shadows in Union Square

Aura Bogado on March 29, 2013

Francisco Gutierrez speaks at Union Square, March 28, 2013. (Photo: Aura Bogado)

One by one, some twenty people—mostly youth—stood under a canopy of butterflies in front of the George Washington statue in New York’s Union Square yesterday, and came out as undocumented. Despite some rain, their allies in the crowd gathered for the fourth annual Coming Out of the Shadows event, a nationwide, month-long push to create a space for people to share their stories with one another. The event took place as undocumented youth have also taken to the internet this week, generating critical conversations about representation in the media, the arts and activism.

On Tuesday, Angy Rivera, the person behind the first and only advice column for undocumented youth, AskAngy, countered artist Faviana Rodriguez’s popular “Migration is Beautiful” image. On her Tumblr, Rivera stated she wasn’t criticizing Rodriguez’s art in general, but that certain narratives “romanticize immigration,” and that there is nothing beautiful about the circumstances that undocumented people face daily.

On Thursday, the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP), an arm of United We Dream, demanded an apology from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). QUIP’s Jerssay Arredondo says he was invited by HRC to speak at the demonstration in front of the Supreme Court this week to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act—but that his speech was censured when he was told by HRC not to reveal his undocumented status. HRC did not respond to a request for an interview about the matter.

Prerna Lal and Tania Unzueta published a piece in The Huffington Post on Thursday, responding to Frank Sharry’s recent essay in The Washington Post. Sharry, a longtime immigrant rights activist who founded America’s Voice, wrote that the immigrant movement was modeled after the mainstream LGBT movement. Lal and Unzueta, however, point out that Sharry’s essay “marginalizes the work and existence of queer immigrants.” The two provide a detailed outline of the ways in which queer undocumented youth have created spaces in which to come out of the shadows—even when their actions were rejected by mainstream activists and politicians.

Undocumented people spoke one by one yesterday, and each story was unique. Some proudly grabbed the megaphone and spoke out about the liberation they felt identifying as undocumented. Others were more timid, fighting tears and nervousness through their stories of depression and suicidal thoughts, brought on by their undocumented status. All garnered the audience’s unwavering understanding and support.

As the muggy sky began to darken on Union Square, 21-year-old Francisco Gutierrez took to the makeshift stage and shared his story. He explained his frustration and embarrassment upon learning he was undocumented when he realized he had no Social Security number with which to apply for a summer course while attended high school in Brooklyn. With the guidance of his school’s counselor, Gutierrez applied and was accepted at Georgetown, where he’s now a senior and continues to work around immigrant rights. Gutierrez explained that as difficult as it was for him to come out as undocumented some years ago, he also came out as gay to his parents last year. “It is in our collective stories that we can make a difference,” Gutierrez told the cheering crowd.

Sonia Guinansaca, who works with the New York State Youth Leadership Council, coordinated yesterday’s event, part of the nationwide call put forward by the Immigrant Youth Justice League. Guinansaca, 23, says that people like Gutierrez and others are deconstructing narratives created by media makers, artists, activists and politicians who are not undocumented. “We are the ones who are experts,” she explained, “because we are the ones who are going through it.”

Read Nan Hunter’s latest update on marriage equality at the Supreme Court.

Documentary on femicide: it’s a girl

new documentary
new documentary

It’s a Girl Documentary Film

In India, China and many other parts of the world today, girls are killed, aborted and abandoned simply because they are girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls(1) are missing in the world today because of this so-called “gendercide”.

Girls who survive infancy are often subject to neglect, and many grow up to face extreme violence and even death at the hands of their own husbands or other family members.

The war against girls is rooted in centuries-old tradition and sustained by deeply ingrained cultural dynamics which, in combination with government policies, accelerate the elimination of girls.

Shot on location in India and China, It’s a Girl reveals the issue. It asks why this is happening, and why so little is being done to save girls and women.

The film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son. Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice.

It’s a Girl is now available for screening events globally. (Learn more about bringing It’s a Girl to your city!)

UPDATE: It’s a Girl Documentary Inspires Vienna Symposium on Femicide

I first learned of the horrible phenomenon of femicide through data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Small Arms Survey report. We (the Academic Council on the United Nations-Vienna – ACUNS) had decided to do a side event at the UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Commission in April 2012. Our ACUNS team was looking for interesting speakers and possible films to screen for that event, when my wife noticed an article in the Independent (January 16), which mentioned the film “It’s A Girl”. We managed to track down the producer Andrew Brown. Actually, we thought the film was already completed and then entered into a continuing discussion over several months about whether we could screen the film at the UN Office in Vienna. In the end, we recommended that It’s Girl be premiered at the Vienna Human Rights Film Festival, which it was on December 4 to a sold out crowd.

Researchers using Facebook data to determine signs of suicide

By phitran on January 28, 2013 2:00 PM

Facebook is releasing its data to suicide prevention nonprofit,, in hopes of preventing future tragedies. The collaboration resulted from the recent suicide of internet activist, Aaron Schwartz.

About 100 deaths from suicide occur each day in America. Young adults as especially at risk – suicide is the third leading cause of death among those between the ages of 15-24. Likewise, Facebook’s median user age is 22, making the social network a rich source for studies of social behaviors leading up to suicide.

Facebook is not alone in its humanitarian efforts to prevent suicide. Using Google’s search engine to look up information regarding suicide will bring up the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Likewise, Twitter’s public data is available to any researchers wishing to mine information – it’s already being used to track the flu.

Facebook users may not like this latest decision from the social media giant – most users consider Facebook’s privacy policy a major point of contention. Facebook has already asked a federal court to dismiss a $15 billion lawsuit from its users who disapprove of the company’s ubiquitous tracking of activities on other internet sites. Facebook can leverage its powerful role, but it must balance its privacy policy with more transparency if it wishes to continue with its good deeds.

Facebook’s role in suicide prevention might be minor, but if it can potentially save a life will users be so quick to judge? Earlier this year, rapper Freddy E eerily tweeted his final moments prior to taking his own life. As someone who have witnessed a friend on Facebook days prior to a suicide, I can say with certainty that there were major signs of depression – how we use that knowledge should be a public discussion and Facebook is starting with good intentions. This is not the first time Facebook has addressed suicide prevention, and it will not be the last.

#anonymous #nonviolence #OWS


Waging Nonviolence / By Nathan Schneider

Read here:

How ‘Anonymous’ Went From Mischief Makers to a Force That Terrifies Corporations and Governments

Anonymous activists have become terrifying to the powers that be, despite (or perhaps because of) their apparent disorganization and probably in excess of their actual capacity.

…Anonymous operates tactically, along the lines proposed by the French Jesuit thinker Michel de Certeau. “Because it does not have a place, a tactic depends on time—it is always on the watch for opportunities that must be seized ‘on the wing,’” he writes in The Practice of Everyday Life (1980). “Whatever it wins, it does not keep. It must constantly manipulate events in order to turn them into ‘opportunities.’ The weak must continually turn to their own ends forces alien to them.” This approach could easily devolve into unfocused operations that dissipate the group’s collective strength. But acting “on the wing” leverages Anonymous’s fluid structure, giving Anons an advantage, however temporary, over traditional institutions—corporations, states, political parties—that function according to unified plans.

To those donning the Guy Fawkes mask associated with Anonymous, this—and not the commercialized, “transparent” social networking of Facebook—is the promise of the Internet, and it entails trading individualism for collectivism.

Coleman explains the resemblances: One of Occupy Wall Street’s most powerful gestures has been to position its radically democratic decision-making process, represented by the agora of the General Assembly, against the reining corporate kleptocracy. Though this brand of horizontalism has a rich history with many roots, there is a particularly strong resonance in the relationship between the formal structure and the political aspirations of Anonymous. And Anonymous is organized not only around a radical democratic (at times chaotic and anarchic) structure but also around the very concept of anonymity, here constituted as collectivity. The accumulation of too much power—especially in a single point in (virtual) space—and prestige is not only taboo but functionally very difficult. The lasting effect of Anonymous may have as much to do with facilitating alternative practices of sociality—upending the ideological divide between individualism and collectivism—as with attacks on monolithic banks and sleazy security firms.

So, brace yourself. In the meantime, make haste to Coleman’s essay at Triple Canopy.