Freedom A La Cart Helps Human-Trafficking Victims Learn New Skills

What started as a seasonal food cart has blossomed into a successful catering venture that helps victims of human trafficking get their lives back together.

Freedom a la Cart is coming off of its most fruitful year yet, earning $255,768 in gross receipts through Dec. 14. That’s a nearly 43 percent increase over last year.

Paula Haines, executive director of Freedom a la Cart, said that while the organization has social services as its goal, the food is not a second thought. She calls it superior in quality and competitively priced.

“It’s exceptional,” Haines said. “Our goal is to keep (customers) coming back.”

Boxed lunches come in “signature” or “traditional” versions, with sandwiches or wraps as the centerpiece. (Salads also are offered.) They’re rounded out with sides, a salty snack and a sweet treat. Catering services cover everything from breakfast foods and dinner menus to appetizers and “displays,” including charcuterie plates.

Some of the fare is considerably chef-driven, such as the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese, smoked salmon cucumber shooters, braised-pork sandwiches and scratch-made hummus.

Virtually everything is homemade, including relishes, spreads and dressings. Haines said it’s nothing fancy, but “we try to add something a little unexpected to make it special.”

The group operates out of the Van Buren Center, 595 Van Buren Drive, on the West Side. The facility is owned by the Community Shelter Board and managed by the YMCA.

The program began as Doma International, to provide supportive services to providers of human trafficking. Officials added a social enterprise, a food cart, that was rolled out every summer between 2011-14.

The initiative was rebranded, which came with a name change, but the food-related workforce-development component remained.

“The training goes beyond food, although that’s the main ingredient,” Haines said. “It’s more about workforce training and getting them useful skills.”

Chef Jessica Bryant oversees the culinary aspect of the program. Bryant, who trained at the Columbus Culinary Institute at the Bradford School, formerly worked at Pistacia Vera in German Village.

Now a certified health coach, Bryant wanted to move beyond the daily grind to something more personal.

“This isn’t just being a chef; you’re a mentor to the ladies,” she said. “I need to do something that that gives me purpose. It’s beyond perfect. I couldn’t imagine a better place to be.”

To read the full story by Gary Seman Jr. at the Columbus Dispatch: Click Here

A Serious Subject: NICC Hears Presentation On Human Trafficking

Sister Shirley Fineran gives a presentation about human trafficking to Northwest Iowa Community College students on Monday morning. (Martina Baca / Daily Globe
SHELDON, Iowa — As a way to bring awareness of human trafficking to Northwest Iowa Community College, Sister Shirley Fineran visited campus Monday morning to lecture students, community and staff about this fast-growing crime.Norma Azpeitia, bilingual pathways career navigator at NICC, brought the idea of bringing Fineran to campus to the NICC Diversity Committee.

“Sometimes we think that this type of human trafficking only happens in big cities, but small towns are the target because people are more vulnerable,”  Azpeitia said. “There are students that this is the only place they know and they haven’t been out of their hometown, so when they graduate they might look for a job in a big city. So this is something they need to be aware of.”

To read the full story by Martina Baca on The Daily Globe: Click Here

Hiding In Plain Sight: Chicago Neighborhoods Fight Modern Day Slavery

In the grand scheme of things, it was a small victory but for impoverished neighborhoods like Chicago’s Englewood, it was a triumph.

After a protracted and sometimes acrimonious City Council battle in March, a bill to allow city strip clubs to sell liquor on their premises was shelved after its sponsor admitted she wasn’t fully aware of the bill’s contents.

Under current law, there is a ban on strip clubs selling alcohol if those clubs feature nude dancers. The law also states that dancers in these clubs must wear “hot pants” and cover their chests.

Communities like Englewood, which fear a proliferation of strip clubs, are standing up to fight back against abuses they see as threats to their very foundations.

The sponsor of the rejected bill, Alderman Emma Mitts of the 37th Ward, withdrew the ordinance proposal after meeting stiff opposition from community leaders who saw a lifting of the liquor ban as likely to contribute to the growth of sex and human trafficking in the city.

“A drunk man is even worse than guys coming in just to see a strip because it causes more violence against women. I won’t support any of it. It became so heated so quick, they actually pulled back the legislation,” explained Alderman Toni Foulkes of the 16th Ward, and one of the ordinances most vocal opponents.

Human Trafficking
The US State Department has identified three ways to fight the scourge of human trafficking: prosecution, protection and prevention. (Photo: US State Department).

For local leaders like Foulkes, the kerfuffle over liquor licenses in strip clubs is something she considers a matter of communal survival.

To read the full story by Duke Omara on Medill Reports Chicago: Click Here

December Monthly Reflection

Time to Look Back and Ahead

By Sister Jean Schafer, SDS

December 2016 offers us an occasion to look back and see how collaborative efforts within the anti-human-trafficking community have reaped concrete successes.

  • There are more residences and programs dedicated to providing safe havens for women and children coming out of situations of sexual exploitation and providing them healing from physical and psychological abuse.
  • Tech companies are designing tools to help enslaved workers be able to anonymously report on their plight and get help via their cell phones.
  • Consumers and retailers are growing in awareness of the importance of monitoring the supply chains of goods manufactured and brought into the country for sale. The tragedies of collapsed garment factories or of fish caught at the expense of enslaved men on fishing boats far out at sea is less and less tolerated.
  • Children, forced to work in dangerous mineral mines so we can buy new electronic devices every year, are no longer so easily ignored.
  • Parents are demanding that social media companies provide real online safety for their children.
  • Travelers expect hotels to prevent access to porn on their in-room cable channels.
  • Documentaries and fictional films have brought the reality of human trafficking into our vision and consciousness at increasingly meaningful levels.

These important achievements are the results of creative efforts by experts, as well as in response to expectations of concerned citizens.

We ought to feel a real sense of accomplishment and gratitude for these signs of progress, thanks to hard work, perseverance and creativity. Our global community becomes more compassionate as these efforts extend outward toward the vulnerable.


Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” Pope Francis, Laudato Sí On Care for Our Common Home, May 24, 2015, para. 91


December 2016 can equally be an occasion to look ahead to the new year 2017 with resolve to continue our efforts, to invite more people to get involved, and to hold accountable those responsible for exploitation within labor sectors of every sort all over the globe.

  • More needs to be done to help parents find the information they need to protect their kids from tricks of online predation or Internet lures into pornography.
  • More needs to be done to help men realize their responsibility to help end the demand for the sexual exploitation of others.
  • More needs to be done to require businesses to monitor supply chains and discontinue contracts with suppliers who exploit workers.
  • More needs to be done to recognize sporting events as occasions of labor exploitation and sexual exploitation.
  • More needs to be done to see clearly how human trafficking advances when we ignore the interconnections among global climate change, political unrest and war, and the mass migrations of people. Being forced to leave home, culture, and means of a livelihood makes people prey to exploiters, who profit from their vulnerability.


Let us make it our collective resolve that in 2017 we will find groups with which to collaborate for the benefit of our global community, with special attention to lessening the harm and exploitation of the vulnerable.


  • Learn the signs of human trafficking and watch out for the vulnerable people in your local environment.
  • Know how to report situations that do not look right.
  • Stand for respect of women and girls as full human persons, never as objects for manipulation and abuse.
  • Challenge the men in your circle of contacts to speak out against sexual exploitation in all its forms and to stand strongly as advocates for stopping the demand for sexual exploitation of others.

“It’s very easy to side with the perpetrator.
All they ask from us is our silence.”

-Judith Herman, Trauma & Recovery

  • Use your consumer power to purchase goods from businesses that are seriously monitoring their supply chains and contract only with suppliers who pay just wages and offer safe working conditions, whether in the U.S. or abroad. Boycott businesses that ignore supply chain injustices.
  • Pressure the Federal Communication Commission to eliminate all pornography from the airways and entertainment.

Sister Jean Schafer SDS is the Compiler/Editor of the ‘Stop Trafficking’ newsletter and a member of the USCSAHT Board of Directors.