Welcome to the Coffee & podcast, where specialty coffee means so much more. We are on a quest to cultivate freedom for victims of human trafficking, all while drinking wicked awesome coffee. I'm your host, Philip Klayman. I'm one of the co-founders of Three Tree Coffee. We are a specialty coffee roaster in Statesboro, Georgia, and we're very excited to have Karen Lambie on the show today. Want to let y'all know before we get started, that on these coffee and type episodes where we interview guests, we do talk about more sensitive material because we're talking about human trafficking. And so if that's something that you're not comfortable listening to or you're not in a position to listen to right now, we just encourage viewer discretion. Alright, so I'm excited to have Dr. Karen Lambie on the show today. She is an ambassador of Hope, a trained ambassador of Hope for Shared Hope International among many, many other things. So I'm very excited to have Karen on the show today. Karen, how are you doing?
I'm doing great, and thank you so much for allowing me to be here today.
Absolutely. Well, I'm really excited to have you on the show. I first met you a few years back and I've already learned so much from you, so I'm excited for you to be here to teach me more and to teach our viewers more as well.
Well, thank you very much.
Absolutely. Now before we dive in, we do have some coffee in front of us. This is a coffee podcast and we like Wicked awesome coffee, and so we would love to hear what you think about it today, or do you enjoy it? What are you thinking?
I think it's absolutely delicious. I have enjoyed all of your coffees that I have tried, and the thing that I like the most is the fact that I know that I'm drinking coffee that was not made by slave labor.
Wow. Yeah. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate the kind words. Thank you. Yeah. Well, and today we're drinking our Honduras coffee. It comes from a region in Honduras called the Coupon Region, and it's a process called the Black Honey Process. We'll have future episodes about processing methods, so stay tuned if you want to learn more about that. But yeah, we're enjoying it this morning, some really fun tasting notes and excited to have some conversation over a cup of coffee. So let's just go and get started. If you could just share with us a little bit about what is Shared Hope International? Tell us more about that organization.
Shared Hope International was started in 1998 by Linda Smith, who was at that time Congresswoman for Washington State. And she had visited Mumbai India and was very shocked at what she saw in the maybe so-called Red District area where the brothels are. She saw women and children who were being forced into prostitution and she wanted to do something about it. So she came back to the United States and she started shared Hope International. And the mission of Shared Hope is simply to, I say simply, it's not such a simple thing to do, but their mission is to eradicate the heinous crime, most specifically of child sex trafficking. Wow.
Yeah. Well, I love the audacity to just say, let's eradicate it. Right. Of course, it's a big problem and it needs lots of solutions and it's not going to come fast. But I also love that there are organizations that are that bold and saying, no, the goal is to completely get rid of it. This does not belong anywhere in our societies.
Yes. Wow, very neat. So now tell me a little bit more about yourself and your background. How did you first get involved with Shared Hope? How did you even get into anti-trafficking work? Tell me a little bit more about your background.
Well, I was a teacher for 32 years and before I retired, I knew that I didn't want to just sit at home and basically not do much. I knew that I wanted to give back to society, to my community in some way, and I've always been interested in social justice issues and particularly those involving women and children. And so I didn't exactly know what I wanted to do, but I was on the internet one day and I came across a site for the safety of women and children. And one of the issues that they had that you could click on and read more about was on human trafficking. And I knew what human trafficking was, but I started reading and I was very shocked at what I was finding out. I did not realize that human trafficking was such a huge problem right here in our own country.
And I thought, well, I can't sit here and do nothing. I've got to do something. What can I do? And so I started putting together a presentation and before I knew it, I had presented to a group of foster parents right here in Bullock County because foster children are at high risk for human trafficking. And then a couple of years after that, I found Shared Hope International and I got involved with them and found out how to become an ambassador of Hope. And my husband Tom is also an ambassador of Hope, and we are also members of Savannah working against human trafficking or SWAT for short, S W A H T. So that's kind of basically how it all started.
Yeah, love it. And so you seem to use education a lot in your role with Shared Open International, which I think is really neat because you were an educator for so many years,
This is maybe a skill that already came naturally to you or you'd already trained yourself to educate well enough for some time. And I think it's also really neat how it was through education that you even learned about this problem. And I think that really speaks to the power and the importance of education and mobilization because if you had never even learned this information or been educated about it by some of your research or hearing it from others, you never would've joined the fight yourself. It's the same for me. I had heard about it here and there. I knew it was a problem, but I didn't know the extent of the problem. And for me, it was a face-to-face interaction that really suddenly flipped something in my heart to say, this is not okay. And so you primarily use education with Shared Hope? Correct. And what does that look like on a day-to-day basis?
Well, I am also on social media, and so I try to post things about human trafficking so that my friends and family who are also on, well, primarily Facebook, so that they can continue to learn as I continue to learn. And so then I am often involved with being invited for a speaking event. And I have spoken throughout the state of Georgia. I have also spoken in Florida, South Carolina, Ohio, and Arkansas. And I never know when I'm going to be invited to speak, but I usually am ready to go. Just let me know when and where.
I have never been trained to rescue victims of human trafficking, nor would I ever try. You need to be trained how to do that. So please, if you've not been trained, please do not try to go in and rescue somebody that you either know is a victim or you think is a victim. Also, I am not a therapist or a counselor, so I do not work specifically with rescue survivors. However, I have met many of them. So my strength, I feel, is going out into the public and speaking to people, reaching as many people as I can to pass on the knowledge that I have gained over the years by studying this severe violation of human rights.
Absolutely. Wow. So how did you know that this was your role? Was there a moment when it kind of clicked for you because you kind of labeled some things that you don't do, some things you do participate in, and I think we're the same way. If you try to interject yourself into an area where you don't have the skill training or expertise, you can frequently cause more harm than
Help. Exactly. Exactly.
So how did you know that this was your spot?
Well, the best way that I can describe it is I felt that after I started doing research that it was a calling, and you can say from God, but it was a calling for me and I felt like I have to do something about this, and so I'm going to take what I know how to do, which is I can't stand up in front of people and speak and use that to the best of my ability to reach as many people as I can.
Wow, that's awesome. And so what I hear you saying is it's not, I know there's a problem, so how can I get involved, but here's what I'm good at, so how do I get involved in that way? Right. I'm going to bring the expertise I already have the skills I already have, the experience you already have in teaching and education, and I am going to get involved. I'm going to apply this because I already have the training in that.
Yes, absolutely. And since I first started getting involved and since my very first presentation, I have come up with several other presentations they all have to do with human trafficking, but perhaps a different aspect of it. So I'm prepared to speak to whatever the person who is inviting me to speak whatever they would like for me to, what issues they would like for me to speak to.
Absolutely. Very neat. How long would you say it took you to build that skill? I'm sure that didn't happen from day one or once again, maybe this is really just a natural gifting for you, but I wonder about other people who'd maybe want to get involved. I imagine you were nervous the first time you were speaking, maybe not. And did you maybe have one thing that you would speak on, but then you added more over time? Or how did that go down in terms of you learning how to be able to cater the message to different audiences at different times?
Yes. I first started with the sex trafficking of Georgia's children because since I am involved with Shared Hope and their focus mainly is on children, and when I say children, I mean anyone under the age of 18. So that primarily was my focus. And then the more I continued to learn, because I've continued all of these years to do research, I have added presentations just like on grooming strategies that traffickers often use to lure victims in. A lot of people think that victims are literally kidnapped off of the street, and sometimes that does happen, but most of the time, traffickers will befriend the targeted victim
So it doesn't feel as extreme. It may feels more casual, welcoming, comfortable.
And so oftentimes it turns into more of a what you might call a girlfriend or a boyfriend experience, and this is the trafficker pretending to really care about the targeted victim and love them. And so that often is the way that they lure these and these vulnerable people, these vulnerable children. And that's another presentation I do. First, I make it very clear with whatever presentation I'm doing that anybody, any child can become a victim. But there are special, there are certain populations that are at very high risk for trafficking. So I have a presentation just on high risk populations, one just on foster children. My husband and I were foster parents for Bullock County DFCS for 14 years. And so I've spoken to a lot of foster parent small conferences. And I also every year for about the eight past eight years spoken at our state conference that takes place at Jekyll Island. But then, like I said, I have different presentations for different populations of people. I have a presentation for medical personnel, I have a presentation for teachers or school personnel. I have a presentation for youth. So I have all kinds of different presentations. Yeah,
That's amazing. And what I'm kind of hearing out of this is two things. One, anyone can get involved. I mean, if you have presentation for medical educators, youth parents, it seems like there's a role that anyone can play,
Right? Yes, exactly. And also, I have a presentation for people who work in airports, people who like flight attendants because flight attendants and teachers, medical personnel, guidance counselors, all of these people, the people in the hotel industry, the hospitality industry, all of these people may not realize that they are on the front lines. So they have to learn what signs they can look for specifically depending on what their particular job is.
Absolutely. That's amazing. And so you were an educator and you saw the need for education, so you dove in and we're hearing about medical hotel youth, and I think that the challenge and the encouragement is to anyone listening to this is what are you already involved in? What are you already good at? And trafficking may be happening and is probably happening somewhere in that industry or in that arena. You most likely have a role that you can play in the very skillset or industry you're already in, which is, I would say, an encouraging message. It doesn't have to be you becoming someone you're not. It can be you using the skill sets you have
Something else I love from your story is just this component of education and using education. I just think it's really amazing that you're continuing to learn even as you teach. That's something that you mentioned, right? Yes. And I've experienced that in the anti-trafficking movement. I've experienced that in business. I've experienced that in parenting. I think that's a pretty normal life lesson, is that just because you start getting involved and start teaching or educating, you're never not a learner. You're always still learning about these issues as you go. And if anything, for me, I learn more the more involved I get in a lot of these things. And I imagine maybe the same for you.
Yes. When I first started, if I had quit with those first pieces of information that I put together in a presentation, then I wouldn't be doing as much as I am today to raise the awareness that needs to be raised. So yes, continuing education is absolutely important for all of us. Yeah,
Absolutely. Well, let's talk fostering for a minute. So you mentioned that you were a foster parent for quite some time. Yes. And I actually learned this from you years ago. I'll go ahead and share this real quick, that there is quite a link between neglected foster children and human trafficking victims. Yes, absolutely. It seems to be a connection and a correlation there. And I looked up a statistic earlier that the National Foster Youth Institute estimates that about 60% of child sex trafficking victims have been within foster care. And there was a couple of different statistics, but they all seem to revolve right around that 60%. Talk to us more about your experience in foster care and why you think that's so important for ending human trafficking.
Foster parents, anybody, and this doesn't just apply to foster children, but anyone who is working with foster children, they need to be aware of the reasons, the factors that make this population at such high risk for trafficking. And some of those risk factors are a lot of these children have already been abused, a lot have been abused sexually. And anytime a child is sexually abused, that puts them at greater risk. A lot of times these, it's sort of like it's normalized to these children, and sometimes the message that they receive from their abuser or abusers is, this is all you're good for.
You're not good for anything else and nobody's ever going to want you for anything else. So that can be a factor. Also, with a lot of foster children, they come from impoverished backgrounds. Anytime you have a child living in poverty, it is very easy to lure them into what sounds like maybe a lot of money, a lot of money, a more exciting lifestyle, a nice house. And a lot of issues that these children have is very low self-esteem because they have been neglected, many of them, a lot of them have never really received the love and the care that any child needs.
And so here all of a sudden, here's this person in their life who is paying attention to them, who is probably giving them gifts, maybe taking them out to lunch, just telling them how beautiful or handsome they are. Because one thing we need to remember is this can also happen to boys. It doesn't just happen to girls and women, it happens to our boys. And so along the way, it becomes almost like a brainwashing situation or what we call trauma bonding. And so these children will, if this boyfriend or girlfriend comes to this child and they say, I'm in a terrible financial bind right now. I need to get some money fast. And I know that you know that I'd love you so much, and I would never ask you to do anything that you wouldn't want to do, but I really need this money and I have a friend end.
If you'll just have sex with this person one time, we'll get a lot of money. And what often happens is that victim may be video recorded or may have pictures taken of them with this encounter, with this friend, and they're threatened with the release of the video. They're shown the video and told, if you don't start doing what I want you to do, what I tell you to do, we're going to show this to your parents, to your school, to your youth group at church, to your friends at school. And so it's like they're kind of locked in at that point. They feel
And so it's just a lot of manipulation. I mean, this veil and this mirage of care and love, when really it's a lot of just manipulation, exploitation to try and get them to a point of no return, which is heartbreaking. Heartbreaking,
Yes. Force fraud and coercion are the things that we need to look for in trafficking. And so once this victim has complied, then a lot of the time, that's when we see the force start. And another thing that traffickers will do with their victims, if they're not already addicted to a drug, they will get them addicted to a drug.
Why is that?
A couple of reasons. One, if you have somebody on a drug, they're easier to control. Secondly, you can hold that drug over that victim's head and say, if you don't come back with a thousand dollars tonight or whatever, you don't get this drug and addiction, if you've ever dealt with it, is a very powerful thing. And so they use addiction. They use drugs. They also use threats. If you tell anybody what is happening to you, remember, I know where you live. I know where your family lives. And if it's a woman or girl who has children, they will threaten to go after their children. They will threaten to go after their maybe younger siblings if they have siblings. And the victim themselves are often threatened with force and gang rapes and things like that.
As I'm hearing this, I'm a father. I have children, and it continues to enlighten me and reveal to me that I need to be making sure I'm teaching my children well, first and foremost, if we're parents, we need to make sure that we're creating a loving environment for our children.
So that they're not seeking it other places. Right. Absolutely. We should be loving our children and not for the sake of getting something out of them, but just for the sake of that they're beautiful and they're deserving of life. And so creating that sort of culture in our home where they feel loved and cared for and don't need it elsewhere. And then also training our children as they get older, making sure they're aware of some of these things because kids are very vulnerable and they're not experienced in the world to know that there may be some people who may appear to be friends and do something nice, but then it's all for bad intentions. That's true. And even education within the home is just an important way to be very a part of this
Important. And another thing that I tell parents and well, guardians, foster parents, anybody who has a child living in their own home, whether it's their biological child or not, is that they can have this child in their home going to school and they can still be a victim of trafficking, and the parent or guardian may never be aware of it. Now, they may know something is wrong, maybe because of behavioral changes that they have seen in the child or changes in grades. Maybe their grades have dropped a little bit. Maybe they have lost interest in extracurricular things that they used to hobbies and clubs and things like that. They've lost interest. Maybe they have a new set of friends, maybe they come home with wearing jewelry or something that you've never seen before. So there are signs to look for, but people are very shocked when they find out that a child can actually be living at home and still be a victim of sex trafficking.
And these are the signs to be looking out for parents. Yes.
Let's talk more about specifically your foster journey. I know quite a few people who are in the foster, they foster children and their hearts are incredible. And yet it seems like a very tough realm to get involved. And I've heard before just the saying that the fostering system is just such a broken system, not in terms of that it's not good to foster, but that it's, there's just a lot of hurdles to overcome to even get involved in the fostering situation. What was your experience fostering? What was your experience in that?
Well, over the years, we had some very difficult children to deal with, and we did have a lot of infants. And so you're just getting them a lot of times just right out of the hospital. So I feel that with some of the babies that we had, hopefully, I pray that we made a huge difference in the way that their lives began by giving them the love and attention that babies need. But if you get these older children who may have been passed around from foster home to foster home, some of them come to you with very difficult behaviors. And also one of the things about foster children is they are notorious for running away if they're old enough to do that. And traffickers are on the lookout for runaways. And one instance of a trafficker who was incarcerated but allowed himself to be interviewed, told the interviewer that he can talk to a girl for about three minutes and have her eating out of his hand. These traffickers are very savvy and they can pick up like that on the needs of these children. And we have talked about some of those needs that we often see in foster children. And one of the cases that we had was a very, very young teen and her infant son. And what finally came out about her story is that her stepfather was actually selling her for drug money.
And this is something that shocks a lot of people, but we do see it. It's called familial sex trafficking. And it is when a one's family member, it can be apparent, it can be a grandparent, an aunt, uncle, brother, sister, who are actually selling a member of their family to get drugs or to get extra money for whatever, or to keep a roof over their head to pay utility bills to get food. And at this point, I won't mention any names, but I have been told by a person who sees this in Bullock County, our county right here where we're sitting, that familial sex trafficking goes on in our county all the time. And it's estimated that about, I believe the number is 39% of the traffickers out there are actually family members.
Wow, wow, wow. That's hard to wrap your head around any of this. It is, right. It's hard to wrap your head around when you're thinking about your own family selling you trafficking.
It is hard discussions to have, but they're important discussions to have because they're happening, whether we know it or not. And they're happening closer than we'd like to admit.
True. We talk about it or not. That's true. And so it's important that we're learning about these things. It's even as hard as it is, we need to be learning from these things and learning how to do something about it. And it sounds like fostering is a very difficult path. And I've heard from others that it's a very difficult path. And yet all the more important that we do have people getting involved in that way. Just looking at the statistics and hearing some of your stories.
And sadly, I will mention this very, very sadly, and tragically, we have had some foster parents who have actually trafficked their foster children. So somehow, I mean, when you're becoming a foster parent and you're taking all of the classes that you're supposed you have to take, your life becomes an open book. But still, some of these people are getting through. And one of the problems with the foster care, the child welfare system, is that we have a lot of turnover with our workers, our employees. And so we need people who will stay in these positions,
In these social work sort of positions with pfas and things like
That. But in so many cases, they're so overwhelmed with the number of cases they have and little pay for what they're doing because we need more eyes on foster parents and what is going on in foster homes.
And so even another way for people to get involved, and it doesn't sound like any of these paths are easy. I don't think any way you can splice it. I don't think there's any role that you can say, oh, that's the easiest role. So I'll jump into that one. Every role has its challenges, and yet people need to step up and they're in their way and their skillset and take their next step to be involved.
And if I can just mention one more thing about the child welfare system, we do have something called CASA and CASA's, C A SS A stands for court appointed Special Advocate. So every foster child is supposed to have their own casa, and these people are advocates for the foster children themselves. And in a lot of instances, sadly, we have foster children out there, a lot of them that don't have this advocacy.
Yep, absolutely. Here's my next question for you, because, and this isn't the first time I've experienced this, right? This problem can seem so overwhelming. I mean, it's almost like the more you learn, the more discouraging it is. But at the same time, I know you have stories of success as well. I've seen stories of great stories of success and victory and people coming out of these things, but the task can seem so daunting. What keeps you motivated? What keeps you encouraged that this actually can be eradicated and ended?
I personally don't know that we will ever be able to end human trafficking. There are many different forms of human trafficking, and it's a global problem. But what keeps me very motivated to do when I'm doing is the children. And I have to keep telling myself, I may not down the road, I may not know how many lives I may have affected it in a positive way, how many children, young adults or other adults that maybe I have somehow steered in the right direction to save them from this heinous crime. But knowing that all of my time, all of my effort, all of the money, and all of the miles, and my husband has become my chauffeur, now that he's retired, all of the miles that we put into this is worth it. And I have said, for as long as I have a breath in my body, I will continue to speak out against human trafficking in order to help as many people as possible.
So it's just the hope and even the expectation that it's the hope. Even if one person experiences freedom from this, yes, it was worth all of it.
It was worth all of it. Absolutely.
Yep. That's amazing. That's incredibly encouraging. And to know what motivates you and to know what keeps you going, and I love your heart in that. Thank you. Even if it's just one, would that be worth it? Yes. And I think it's to say yes, but then to live it and to walk it out day in and day out as you are, I think is just incredibly honorable. And so just appreciate your involvement in this.
Well, thank you so much, and I appreciate what you're doing. Yeah,
Absolutely. So I got one more question then I think we're going to kind of round this interview out. Sure. Tell us a little bit more about what the training to become an ambassador of hope for Shared Up International. What did that training look like
For you? Yes. If anybody is interested in becoming an Ambassador of Hope, I think if I'm not misremembering, I think you have to be at least 16 years old. And I think if you are 16, I think you have to have parent permission. But I think if you're 18 or over, you don't have to have parental permission. But if you go to shared hope.org, you will see an area that you can click on about becoming an ambassador of Hope. What you need to do, unless things have changed since I became one myself, which has been a few years back, you need one letter of recommendation. You need three references, names, addresses, and phone numbers, and you have to take online training. I don't recall the number of modules there are, but there are several modules that you take on different aspects of human trafficking. You are also given quizzes. You have to make a certain score on the quizzes in order to become an ambassador of hope. And it is a volunteer position. You do not get paid for what you're doing, which I mean, that's not my motivation at all. I don't care that I'm not getting paid.
And then as an ambassador, you can certainly do what I do, and Tom often comes with me to the conferences, and sometimes he even speaks. You can speak to audiences, you can have an informal gathering in your own home with your friends and family and explain all of this to them and tell people, take this information back to your friends and family. And so just being able to talk to people about it.
Yeah, absolutely. And so maybe the type of people for those who are listening, if you're someone who is maybe good at networking or enjoys networking, if you are an educator or enjoy educating or teaching, it doesn't always have to be in a public speaking component, but even in a smaller context, you mentioned in your own home, right? Yes. If something that you're skilled at and something that you are good at, what a great opportunity to continue to get involved is to look up Shared Hope International and become an Ambassador of Hope, trained Ambassador of Hope yourself.
Yes. Yes. Wow. Absolutely.
Amazing. Well, Karen, thank you so much for coming on the show today. It has been an absolute joy to have you, and it's been good just to learn more from you. Once again. Over the years, I've just learned so much from you. Even today I've been learning more, and so I appreciate the education that you're doing, and just thank you so much. And for all of our listeners out there, just thank you so much for listening in and helping us c, cultivate freedom. Thank
You for coming. Thank you, Philip, very much. Yep. Thank you. Thank you for the
Coffee. Absolutely. Cheers.