Which Way

I am sitting in the darkened kitchen of the apartment in which I am staying, the glow from the laptop screen bathing my fingers in ghoulish light.  The occasional bark of a dog, rumble of distant train, trickling of water in the loo, squawk of a crow, chant of prayers from a temple, and grinding hum of the refrigerator break up the silence like rain drops break the surface of a pond.  It is Christmas, I think.  Can’t be sure.  My experiences here are leaving me feeling in a constant state of “which way is up?”

My brain seems to be wrestling with reconciling things at once familiar and surprisingly missed (honking horns; multitudes of people and vehicles; intense aromas of spice and smoke) with things new and forgotten (the staying arrangement; traveling with someone; the difficulty in getting simple things done in a country where I don’t speak the language and which moves at a pace that is decidely not mine).

I have started and deleted I don’t know how many blog posts.  Each time I try to write what is going on, there is an explosion of tangents and background that vie for the position of main story.  This time is no different.  The clog that has gripped me from the beginning of this trip remains as the sun creeps through the darkened streets and into the darkened kitchen.  Illumination will come to the world, but shadows still choke my brain.





First Class

After the slowest tuk-tuk drive in history, we arrived at Save Our Sisters at 10:30 this morning for our first class.  I am still trying to process everything, which, those of you who know me, know can take awhile.

The first thing I can say about our first class is that there were 17 participants: 14 girls and 3 staff members.  Of the 14 girls, six of them received training during the April trip, and these young ladies all remembered me, they all got hugs, and they all started showing me almost immediately all the techniques they had learned all these months ago.  As they performed air knee strikes, and air hammer fists, I was completely and unexpectedly overwhelmed with emotions:  joy at seeing these ladies again; joy at seeing how great they are doing under the care of Save Our Sisters;  happiness at their barely contained excitement for the class; happiness at their retention of the techniques; awed by their energy and enthusiasm.  The program manager Jyoti told me later that the girls had been ready since 8:30, a full hour before class was even to begin!  And then I felt doubly bad that we were late : (.

Late as we were, we jumped right into things.  Sajji and I showed them how to make fists, visiting each girl and making sure she had her fingers curled and the thumb in the correct spot.  We took them through some slow punching, and then gradually increased the speed.  We then stepped in front of each girl and had them punch us in the stomach.  As before, many of them could not believe what we were asking them to do to us, but with some encouragement, they started to hit.  And hit they did.  One young lady was incredibly hesitant, looking at my stomach and moving her hand in that direction but then stopping short of hitting me.  She would then look around to her companions as if to say, “I can’t do this.  I’m going to hurt her if I do this.”  But I persisted, and finally, she cranked her arm back, winding up, and BAM! she hit me so hard it took her off her feet.  But I was still there.  So she wound up again and hit me again and again, her faced grimaced in concentration, her whole body releasing into every punch.  This girl needed to hit something.  Sajji and I both have sore stomachs decorated with an array of tiny knuckle bruises, but the girls have a sense of power and release that is without price.

Adventures in Planes and Golf Carts – Traveling to Mumbai

Ah, the internet.  What a wonderful invention.  And how wonderful that I have access to it so soon in the trip!

So here is a photo of pre-leaving Illinois:  all that stuff had to go into three bags.  Note: GTP mascot Maxx trying to look inconspicuous amongst the packing things…

129_1498  129_1499  129_1500

And all that stuff did fit into those three bags:


Both of our flights were delayed.  In Chicago, we left the gate 40 minutes late because of weather systems on the east coast.  We originally had 50 minutes to make our connecting flight.  Do the math – we were left with less than 10 minutes to make a 20 minute trek across Newark’s airport.  Thankfully, United Airlines recognized this and had one of those golf cart-like escort thingees waiting for connecting passengers.  Unfortunately, that cart filled up…and left  Sajji and I at the gate waiting doubtfully for another golf cart escort.  Well, the cart escort arrived lacking the one thing we really needed at that point as minutes melted away from us like snowflakes on a hot skillet: urgency.  The driver of the escort seemed not to want to take us — delaying us further by actually asking other passengers in the area if they needed help getting to baggage claim – not on the way to our gate, which, at this point, was holding the plane for us.  So after getting some verbal direction from me, the driver finally takes off for the waiting plane.  Now, it gets funny.   The cart’s horn is broken.  Not to worry: our otherwise unconcerned driver is resourceful and takes to — <wait for it> — quietly verbally cheeping at people.  With a cacophony of whispered ‘beep-beep’s that have no effect, we slowly weave in and out of startled people to make our way to…another gate to pick up traveler who is needing to get to yet another totally separate gate. We stop at various points in our journey: for the driver to retrieve a pen he has dropped; for the driver to scold other people on a passing cart; to deliver Passenger X to his gate.  Finally, Gate C138 looms before us, and Sajji and I cross the deserted gate area to board.  The plane and everyone on it have been waiting at this point for 30 minutes.  We scurry down the gangway into the unwelcoming glances of annoyed flight attendants and even more annoyed passengers.  Thank heavens we know self defense…

Once on the plane, and it quickly becomes clear: someone has oversold my seat.  More waiting for the flight attendants to sort things out.  A seat is found for me.  Room for my carry-on is found.  I take my seat, buckle my seat belt, and…nothing.  The same system that delayed our flight arriving from Chicago has backed up everything at this point, and is keeping everything on the ground.  An hour and a half later, we pull from the gate and the pilot cheerfully informs the angry mob, uh, I mean, passengers that we are 20th in line for departure.  Can he get a ‘woo-and-hoo’?  The plane stutters for another 30 minutes, inching ever forward into inky black night.  And then Flight 48 with service from Newark to Mumbai is first in line.  I hardly notice as the jet accelerates and dips off the end of the runway to catapult into the skies.   The first few minutes of the 16 hour flight have begun, and our adventure awaits.

Argentine Mom Rescues Hundreds of Sex Slaves

President Cristina Fernandez, right, applauds as Susana Trimarco, left, lifts a human rights prize given by the president during a rally to mark the 29th anniversary of the return to democracy in Argentina, on the eve of the Human Rights Day, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012. Trimarco is known for her crusade to find her daughter, Maria de los Angeles "Marita" Veron, who disappeared in 2002, and who is believed to had been kidnapped by human traffickers. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

This is an amazing story of courage and bravery of one woman making a difference.  It also shows the role that corrupt law enforcement and corrupt  judiciary play in sex trafficking, which in many countries is tantamount to putting the fox in charge of the hen house.  Read and learn.

By EMILY SCHMALL | Associated Press

LA PLATA, Argentina (AP) — Susana Trimarco was a housewife who fussed over her family and paid scant attention to the news until her daughter left for a doctor’s appointment and never came back.

After getting little help from police, Trimarco launched her own investigation into a tip that the 23-year-old was abducted and forced into sex slavery. Soon, Trimarco was visiting brothels seeking clues about her daughter and the search took an additional goal: rescuing sex slaves and helping them start new lives.

What began as a one-woman campaign a decade ago developed into a movement and Trimarco today is a hero to hundreds of women she’s rescued from Argentine prostitution rings. She’s been honored with the “Women of Courage” award by the U.S. State Department and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on Nov. 28. Sunday night, President Cristina Fernandez gave her a human rights award before hundreds of thousands of people in the Plaza de Mayo.

But years of exploring the decadent criminal underground haven’t led Trimarco to her daughter, Maria de los Angeles “Marita” Veron, who was 23 in 2002 when she disappeared from their hometown in provincial Tucuman, leaving behind her own 3-year-old daughter Micaela.

“I live for this,” the 58-year-old Trimarco told The Associated Press of her ongoing quest. “I have no other life, and the truth is, it is a very sad, very grim life that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”

Her painful journey has now reached a milestone.

Publicity over Trimarco’s efforts prompted Argentine authorities to make a high-profile example of her daughter’s case by putting 13 people on trial for allegedly kidnapping Veron and holding her as a sex slave in a family-run operation of illegal brothels. Prostitution is not illegal in Argentina, but the exploitation of women for sex is.

A verdict is expected Tuesday after a nearly yearlong trial.

The seven men and six women have pleaded innocent and their lawyers have said there’s no physical proof supporting the charges against them. The alleged ringleaders denied knowing Veron and said that women who work in their brothels do so willingly. Prosecutors have asked for up to 25 years imprisonment for those convicted.

Trimarco was the primary witness during the trial, testifying for six straight days about her search for her daughter.

The road to trial was a long one.

Frustrated by seeming indifference to her daughter’s disappearance, Trimarco began her own probe and found a taxi driver who told of delivering Veron to a brothel where she was beaten and forced into prostitution. The driver is among the defendants.

With her husband and granddaughter in tow, Trimarco disguised herself as a recruiter of prostitutes and entered brothel after brothel searching for clues. She soon found herself immersed in the dangerous and grim world of organized crime, gathering evidence against police, politicians and gangsters.

“For the first time, I really understood what was happening to my daughter,” she said. “I was with my husband and with Micaela, asleep in the backseat of the car because she was still very small and I had no one to leave her with.”

The very first woman Trimarco rescued taught her to be strong, she said.

“It stuck with me forever: She told me not to let them see me cry, because these shameless people who had my daughter would laugh at me, and at my pain,” Trimarco said. “Since then I don’t cry anymore. I’ve made myself strong, and when I feel that a tear might drop, I remember these words and I keep my composure.”

Micaela, now 13, has been by her grandmother’s side throughout, contributing to publicity campaigns against human trafficking and keeping her mother’s memory alive.

More than 150 witnesses testified in the trial, including a dozen former sex slaves who described brutal conditions in the brothels.

Veron may have been kidnapped twice, with the complicity of the very authorities who should have protected her, according to Julio Fernandez, who now runs a Tucuman police department devoted to investigating human trafficking. He testified that witnesses reported seeing Veron at a bus station three days after she initially disappeared, and that a police officer from La Rioja, Domingo Pascual Andrada, delivered her to a brothel there. Andrada, now among the defendants, denied knowing any of the other defendants, let alone Veron.

Other Tucuman police testified that when they sought permission in 2002 to search La Rioja brothels, a judge made them wait for hours, enabling Veron’s captors to move her. That version was supported by a woman who had been a prostitute at the brothel: She testified that Veron was moved just before police arrived. The judge, Daniel Moreno, is not on trial. He denied delaying the raid or having anything to do with the defendants.

Some of the former prostitutes said they had seen Veron drugged and haggard. One testified Veron felt trapped and missed her daughter. Another said she spotted Veron with dyed-blonde hair and an infant boy she was forced to conceive in a rape by a ringleader. A third thought Veron had been sold to a brothel in Spain — a lead reported to Interpol.

Trimarco’s campaign to find her daughter led the State Department to provide seed money for a foundation in Veron’s name. To date, it has rescued more than 900 women and girls from sex trafficking. The foundation also provides housing, medical and psychological aid, and it helps victims sue former captors.

Argentina outlawed human trafficking in 2008, thanks in large part to the foundation’s work. A new force dedicated to combating human trafficking has liberated nearly 3,000 more victims in two years, said Security Minister Nilda Garre, who wrote a newspaper commentary saying the trial’s verdict should set an example.

Whatever the verdict, Trimarco’s lawyer, Carlos Garmendia, says the case has already made a difference.

“Human trafficking was an invisible problem until the Marita (Veron) case,” Garmendia said. “The case has put it on the national agenda.”

But Trimarco wants more. “I had hoped they would break down and say what they’d done with Marita,” she said.

“I feel here in my breast that she is alive and I’m not going to stop until I find her,” Trimarco said. “If she’s no longer in this world, I want her body.”

For Holiday Shopping This Year, Consider Purchasing With a Purpose

Looking forward to spending hours and hours searching for perfect gifts while getting bumped and mauled at the mall?  Or maybe you prefer singing, “Oh-what-fun-it-is-to-drive endlessly around parking lots looking for a place to park…argh…argh…argh…”  Consider an alternative, and infinitely more comfortable way to look for gifts AND do something wonderful for a young woman or girl who has been rescued.  The following are a few web stores that offer merchandise made by, and benefiting, rescued women and girls:

– WAR International (www.warchestboutique.com/).  I came across this organization at the Red Run in August.  They were selling beautiful jewelry at the run, but their online store also carries apparel and gifts for the home.  Check ’em out:


– Umoja Women (http://www.umojawomen.net/?page_id=12).  Featured in the ‘Half the Sky’ documentary, Umoja is a women’s center in Africa.  They make beautiful beaded items:


– Empowerment Store (http://www.empowermentstore.org/).  This store is run by the Somaly Mam organization, another ‘Half the Sky’ alum.  Lovely jewelry and scarves:


And here are several others from the Polaris Project’s website.  I’m looking forward to perusing these.  Ho ho ho!

Riji Green

RIJI Green practices responsible business stewardship by valuing both people and planet. We partner with non-profit organizations and businesses that train and hire survivors of human trafficking and those at risk of being trafficked. Riji Green provides access to market opportunities for their products and donates a portion of the profits back to organizations that combat human trafficking.


Shoe Revolt

ShoeRevolt.com is like no other online shoe boutique you have visited before; we are a family, a league of shoe styling girlfriends fighting together for one goal. The goal is simple, to kick sex trafficking to the curb with every shoe purchase.


Sapa Sapa

All proceeds are donated to help human trafficking victims in Cambodia.


Stop Traffick Fashion

Each purchase from Stop Traffick Fashion directly helps the survivors and organizations rescuing and providing rehabilitation to survivors. Men, women, and children who have been rescued from their captors make nearly all of their accessories. Shopping at Stop Traffick Fashion provides income for these workers as they strive for a free and healthy life. In addition to the direct impact, a portion of all sales revenue will be donated back to their partner organizations who rescue victims and provide rehabilitation and training.



NightLight Design sells jewelry made by survivors of trafficking in Thailand, providing an economic alternative for women who previously had no hope of freedom from their circumstances. When you purchase NightLight products you are securing the freedom of women who have been exploited or were at risk of exploitation in the bars of Bangkok, Thailand.


S.E.T boutique

S.E.T. Boutique sells products made by trafficking survivors as well as a variety of other fair trade and ethical goods. The purpose of SET Boutique is to promote alternative shopping options that will end modern day slavery and exploitation.


Stop the Traffik

The Good Chocolate guide lists chocolate by region which has been certified to have been made without labor trafficking.


Operation Ransom

Help women and girls in Nepal escape the horrors of the sex trade by making a purchase today. Bags, Beanies, Gloves, Scarves, Handbags, and Cashmere Sweaters are among the beautifully crafted products made by the women this aid organization has saved. When you buy from Ransom Wear you are donating to a charity that plays a vital role in the rescue and restoration of women who desperately need your help


International Sanctuary

The concept of Purchase with Purpose is that consumers should have the opportunity to use their money in a powerful way. Purchasing a product from iSanctuary provides a foundation for survivors futures.  Proceeds offer rescued girls vocational training, education, and monetary savings upon their transition from the aftercare home. Jewelry pieces are handmade by survivors of human trafficking. Retail locations are available in California, Texas and Kansas.



GoodWeave is the new name for the certification program and organization formerly known as RugMark. The GoodWeave label, publicly introduced in September 2009, is your best assurance that only adult artisans—not children—made your beautiful rug.



“To make one half of the human race consume its energies in the functions of housekeeper, wife and mother is a monstrous waste of the most precious material God ever made.”

Ten years before Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, abolitionist and reformer Theodore Parker wrote these words:  “To make one half of the human race consume its energies in the functions of housekeeper, wife and mother is a monstrous waste of the most precious material God ever made.”

I have to admit:  When I first read these words, I wondered, “What the heck is wrong with being a wife and mother, two of the hardest jobs in the world?”  But then I re-read the sentence, and it struck me that the first two words are really the crux of his statement – ‘to make.’  I love that a pasty old white guy from 159 years ago recognized even then the lack of choice for women and the importance of women and sum it all up in one sentence.  Brilliant.

Parker authored many works, and many of his works have been attributed to influencing generation after generation of abolitionists, from Abraham Lincoln (whose Gettysburg Address turns 149 today), to Martin Luther King, Jr. And where are we, as a Nation, as a World, and as human beings, today, decades and centuries and scores of years after the eloquent words of these men?

In less than four weeks, Green Tara Project will once again be in India, endeavoring to make a difference.  And I’ll have the amazing principles of my heritage to take with me.  In particular, I can borrow Lincoln’s words, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain,” and put them in the context of human trafficking, so that they may read: “It is for me, the living, the able, the educated, the lucky to use the gifts granted to me by Fate or the Grace of God to resolve that the plight of all women and girls, boys and men, who suffer and die as slaves shall not be in vain.”

Today is the 149th anniversary of Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address.  His words speak as freshly and clearly today as they did back then.  Take some time to absorb the 270 words he spoke that day that resonate to current global struggles.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”



Crippled Nepalese Victim of Human Trafficking Back to Her Feet

As someone who has had both of her ACLs replaced, stories about joints speak to me.  Add a human trafficking element, and stories scream at me.  Add mention of the very hospital I had my ACL replacement surgeries (shameless promotion of Northwestern Memorial Hospital), and stories sing an operatic aria to me.  The following story sings such an aria.  First reported by the Chicago Tribune this past September (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-21/news/ct-met-healing-journey-20120921_1_katmandu-return-home-joints; see below for copy of full article), a young trafficking victim is given a second chance by a Chicago-based organization called Operation Walk Chicago (http://www.operationwalkchicago.com/aboutus.php).  It is a story about trafficking with one of those rare things: a happy ending.  Something Green Tara Project is shooting to make not so rare.

Walk-off victories

Local team repairing joints for free helps abused, crippled Nepalese victim of human trafficking back to her feet; case shines a light on plight of slaves worldwide

September 21, 2012|By Bonnie Miller Rubin, Chicago Tribune reporter
At age 18 and with the blessing of her family, Sajina Tamang left her home in Nepal to work as a housekeeper in Lebanon. Finding work abroad was her ticket to self-sufficiency, one of the few career paths open to a rural girl in one of the world’s most impoverished countries.  But instead of a haven, Tamang found horror. Her employer beat her, abusing her for two years, officials said. Eventually she was thrown from a fifth-floor balcony, suffering multiple injuries and left for dead. Aid workers found her and helped her return home, but pelvic and hip fractures left her in constant anguish, requiring that she be carried almost everywhere. Her chances of a job, marriage or productive life were virtually nil.Then, her luck turned. The delicate features and sweet demeanor that made her a target of human traffickers also brought her to the attention of Operation Walk Chicago, a team of health care professionals who travel to developing countries performing free joint replacements — routine operations here, but medical miracles in destitute corners of the globe.

Tamang’s injuries were too complex for the Chicago surgeons to attempt in Nepal. Still, they couldn’t turn their backs. “Maybe it was because she was a young woman and I have a daughter,” said Dr. Victoria Brander, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “All I could think of was, ‘We’ve got to do something. If not me, who?'”

That is how the now 23-year-old found herself on a plane, traveling from Katmandu to Delhi to New York to Chicago. She underwent pelvic and hip reconstruction surgery at Northwestern in July, followed by intense therapy at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, learning how to reuse joints and muscles long stiffened by idleness and pain. She’s scheduled to return home to Nepal next month.

Her odyssey offers a glimpse into the sordid world of human exploitation, but also into a deep reservoir of human kindness that rarely makes headlines. After that first meeting in November 2010, it took another 18 months and a collaboration of some 40 doctors, nurses, physical therapists, volunteers and donors to fulfill the singular goal of restoring both Tamang’s mobility and dignity.  “I always had hope,” she said, through an interpreter. “But I also knew that I was poor and couldn’t afford help. I couldn’t have ever imagined something like Operation Walk.”

Poverty and slavery

Tamang’s quality of life could be salvaged — but not in Nepal, which has a per capita income of less than $500 and ranks among the world’s poorest countries. The intractable poverty is also why human trafficking has flourished, according to a 2012 State Department report. Girls like her — young, slight, demure — command a particularly high price, especially in India and the Middle East.

It didn’t take long for Tamang to realize that the job wasn’t what was promised. When she refused to comply with her employer’s demands, it only further enraged him.  “They wouldn’t pay my salary and I had no money,” she said. “They would beat me … they wanted to kill me.”  After being thrown from the balcony, she was found by Amnesty International workers, who got her to a hospital, where she remained unconscious for five days, Tamang said. Doctors tended to her injuries and she eventually found her way back home in 2008 but was unable to walk for a year, she said.

What happened to Tamang is sadly predictable, experts said. About 30 percent of the Nepalese population must leave the country to find work, allowing slave traffickers to pose as legitimate labor recruiters, according to Karen Stauss of  Free the Slaves, an international nonprofit that helps captives gain freedom. “It’s about sending financial support back to your family,” she explained. “That’s the sacrifice.”  The lack of schooling and economic opportunity and the low status of women are the global forces that fuel slavery numbers today, which are estimated at 27 million worldwide, Stauss said. Eradicating this global scourge means educating people on the risks of migration and creating more jobs at home.

Tamang  suffered overwhelming pain and injuries, which left one leg 3 inches shorter than the other. The emotional wounds were evident in her reluctance to talk in detail about her time in Lebanon. “My advice to young girls is to never leave their families,” she said.  Some neighbors even cautioned her about going to Chicago, lest she be victimized twice. “People warned me that there could be adverse consequences. … But the doctors in Nepal told me to go … and I trusted them.”

Difficult choices

Brander and Dr. S. David Stulberg, an orthopedic surgeon, see patients at a plush office on Lake Shore Drive.  But for about 10 days every year, the co-directors of Operation Walk Chicago willingly throw themselves into the most primitive conditions, performing free surgery along with educating local health care workers in advanced surgical and rehabilitation techniques.  The Chicago team has fixed knees and hips in China, Ecuador and India and, in 2011, in Humboldt Park, restoring the gift of mobility to disadvantaged Chicagoans. But the limitations during previous trips were nothing compared with those in Nepal, where threadbare resources force patients to improvise to get around. It’s not uncommon to observe amputees relying on old skateboards or tree branches as wheelchairs and crutches.  “Once you see these things, you can’t unsee them,” Brander said. “The seed has been planted.”

Operation Walk was founded in 1994 by Dr. Lawrence Dorr, a Los Angeles surgeon. There are now 11 chapters nationwide, including in Chicago. Typically it takes about $200,000 to fund a mission, with each organization soliciting its own donations of cash and equipment. Destinations are selected based on several criteria, including whether a country has sufficient clinicians willing to provide follow-up treatment and officials with enough clout to circumvent the bureaucrats demanding bribes before releasing tons of medical supplies shipped in advance.  Electricity often is erratic, water contaminated and air conditioning nonexistent. Two patients frequently occupy a single bed, while their families sleep on the floor, allowing them to feed and care for their loved ones, Brander said.

Despite all the stumbling blocks, the organization has plenty of volunteers, who often pay their own expenses and use vacation days for the privilege of putting in 14-hour shifts. “It’s a test of how good you are, the sharpness of your skills, your stamina, everything,” Brander said. “It’s a chance to get back to some basic medicine. Even the most jaded surgeon is moved.”

Dr. Lalit Puri was part of the Nepal mission, his first. Being part of the team — which performed 35 joint replacements — was a transformative experience, the orthopedic surgeon said. “I knew right away that this was going to be a part of my life and my career.”

In many developing countries, the disabled are outcasts, often relegated to a life of begging. It’s another reason that so many Nepalese traveled for days to be seen; why tears, hugs and gifts of almonds or fruit were daily offerings from grateful locals, the doctors said.  Still, no matter how hard the physicians floored the accelerator — the usual 45-minute Chicago office visit was reduced to a two-minute assessment overseas — the patients never stopped coming.  “Sometimes that means making difficult choices,” said Brander, closing her eyes. “Do you save the 20-year-old or the 70-year-old? You have to decide.”

Surgery and recovery

About 18 months after that first examination in Katmandu,  Team Sajina, as they called themselves, was poised for her arrival in Chicago this summer. Transportation, visas and housing details had all been ironed out. Operating room time was reserved and an elite roster of physicians had been assembled. Even members of Chicago’s Nepalese community — about 10,000 strong, concentrated in the Uptown and Rogers Park neighborhoods — were alerted. On the morning of July 18, team members walked over to Worcester House, an apartment building near the hospital, to retrieve the skittish patient. With the curtain about to go up on this carefully calibrated ballet, Tamang was having second thoughts. Perhaps the surgery could be postponed?

“Think about having an operation, which is already scary,” Brander said. “Then add that you’re far from home, in a strange city, where you don’t know the language or have any family. It’s understandable.”  The usual one-hour surgery stretched into 31/2 hours, much of it devoted to repairing work done by doctors in Lebanon, who used screws and bolts to hold her shattered pelvis together.  When she arrived at Northwestern, the initial X-rays looked like someone had emptied a toolbox into her midsection. While the Lebanese physicians did their best, they lacked the expertise to tackle such a complicated procedure, explained Puri, comparing Tamang’s injuries to a shattered urn.

“When her pelvis was put back together, some of the pieces were missing,” said the surgeon, who later handed the patient a fistful of hardware as a souvenir.  Three days later, Tamang moved across the street to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where she spent two weeks learning to walk again with daily sessions of physical and occupational therapy. She’s still grappling with the challenges — both to the body and the spirit — of an arduous road to recovery, but if all goes according to plan, she’ll return to Nepal early next month.

“Stand tall, push through it, can you take a quicker step?” said physical therapist Nicole Williams, watching her patient on the treadmill. “How’s your pain? Two more minutes, then we’ll take a break.”

Tamang  grimaced, but kept going.


Operation Walk Chicago is a not-for-profit volunteer medical group that provides free hip and knee replacements for impoverished patients. To learn more or make a donation, go to operationwalkchicago.com or contact Jane Scanlon, Operation Walk Chicago administrative director, at 312-475-5613.


You Can Still View “Half the Sky” Documentary Until October 9


For any of you who might have missed this amazing series, it is still available for viewing online at PBS’ website.  Episode 1 can be seen here: http://video.pbs.org/video/2283557115 and Episode 2 is here: http://video.pbs.org/video/2283558278.  One of the wonderful things I love about PBS is that they also have behind-the-scenes footage that provides insight into how the documentary was made, the challenges the cast and crew faced.  So check that out, too.



ABA and Anti-Trafficking

I came across recent news that the American Bar Association (ABA) is joining the anti-trafficking fight.  Firstly, the ABA has formed a task force on trafficking.  Second, it has elected an interim president, Laurel Bellows, who is a strong advocate against trafficking.  She recently spoke at the ABA’s National Convention held in Chicago in August.  Below is the full posting of what transpired at this convention in terms of  anti-trafficking.  Be sure to check out the links to numerous videos that were taken during the conference.

August 3, 2012

ABA President-Elect Vows to Help End Human Trafficking

From l to r: sdfsdfgsdfsf

From l to r: U.S. Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Cook County (Ill.) State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and ABA President-Elect Laurel Bellows

American Bar Association President-Elect Laurel Bellows expressed confidence that the association would do its part to eliminate one of the fastest-growing crimes in the country.

“We are going to take the expertise of the ABA and end human trafficking in the U.S.,” she said. “But the ABA is not going to do it alone.”

Bellows was one of five speakers at a panel sponsored by the ABA Section of International Law titled, “Human Trafficking: Modern-Day Slavery on a Global Scale.”

Video: Incoming ABA President Sets Sights on Ending Human Trafficking

Bellows, who has announced that human trafficking is a presidential initiative in the upcoming year, discussed how the ABA would partner with other organizations to tackle the issue. The programs already underway include the development of a uniform human trafficking law for states to adopt and business conduct standards for companies to use to eliminate slave labor from their supply chains. The ABA Task Force on Human Trafficking will also help train first responders to identify victims and promote pro bono work by lawyers to handle human trafficking cases. An awareness campaign is planned as well, something all five of the speakers agreed is necessary.

“Most people think of human trafficking as an international issue…but it happens here,” said Anita Alvarez, the Cook County (Ill.) State’s Attorney. “The people that are being trafficked are all local, not foreign-born.”

Video: Human Trafficking is Happening in Our Own Backyards

University of Washington Law School Professor Anita Ramasastry

University of Washington Law School Professor Anita Ramasastry

“This is a crime that will happen anywhere and everywhere,” added U.S. Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, senior adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

According to the United Nations, human trafficking involves the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through use of force, coercion or other means for the purpose of exploiting them. The U.N. says it is the third-largest criminal industry in the world.

However, the panelists discussed how the term “human trafficking” is not entirely accurate. Many victims have never been moved, and some are not involved in prostitution. They are forced to work in factories, homes and other places without pay.

“You can call it whatever you want to, but at the end of the day, it’s slavery,” CdeBaca said.

Video: U.S. Ambassador Urges Lawyers to Lead the Fight Against Human Trafficking

In the U.S., laws to prevent trafficking are inconsistent among the states. Forty-two have some criminal laws on the books, but only 10 states have a “complete package” including criminal prosecution, civil remedies and victim services, according to Anita Ramasastry, a law professor at the University of Washington. Ramasastry is also a vice-chair of the Uniform Law Commission’s Human Trafficking Drafting Committee, which is trying to develop a singular law on the issue that all states can adopt.

Video: Law Professor Calls for Uniformity to Nationwide Patchwork of Trafficking Laws

Illinois is one state with a more comprehensive approach. Alvarez calls the program “victim-centered, not victim-built.” One of the first steps involved changing the mindset of law enforcement that prostitutes are victims, not criminals. By decriminalizing juvenile prostitution, for example, victims are not pressured to testify, and they receive much-needed social services such as counseling. Another tool allows prosecutors to use wiretaps. Finally, those who solicit sex face increased fines and penalties—even their cars can be impounded. Alvarez says Cook County has charged 56 defendants under the law passed just two years ago.

Fomer LexisNexis GC Kenneth Thompson II

Fomer LexisNexis General Counsel Kenneth Thompson II

Lawyers need to be aware of the risk to the companies they represent, CdeBaca added. Not only can illicit activity harm the reputation of the brand, he said, citing recent cases involving companies like Nike and Wal-Mart, but it also raises liability issues, especially as it relates to forced labor.

Serving as moderator for the discussion was Kenneth  Thompson II , general counsel of Reed Elsevier, the parent company of LexisNexis.  Thompson cautioned corporate lawyers about liability issues. “We need increased focus on the fact that this is a developing area of concern for business, from a reputational standpoint and a pure liability standpoint,”  he said. Thompson explained that LexisNexis has made Combating Human Trafficking a key component of its Rule of Law Initiative. Its efforts aim to raise global awareness to help eradicate industry demand and encourage further pro bono efforts to end human   trafficking.

Video: Former LexisNexis GC to Corporate Lawyers: We Should Be Doing the Right Thing

A critical component to awareness of human trafficking has to be the survivors themselves, argued Karen Stauss, director of programs for Free the Slaves, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C.

“The greatest experts on this issue are the survivors,” she said. “They are starting their own organizations, and they are the most effective trainers.”

Video: International Anti-Human Trafficking Advocate Insists U.S. has Resources to End Modern-Day Slavery

Portions of the award-winning documentary “Not My Life” were shown during the program.

GTP Fun at the Red Run

Last Saturday, 530 people turned out for a fantastic event: The Red Run.  It was a beautiful morning for a little jaunt through Algonquin as onlookers and volunteers cheered us on.  Kudos to Kristen Guerrieri and Cortina Nystad for organizing such a wonderful event.  It was an honor and pleasure to participate!

Here are some pics:


GTP’s mascot, Niki, came in first for best looking dog.

GTP runners (from left):  Mary, Andy, and Maddie Cote, Belle Staurowsky, Shannon Achacki, and Bill Hanson.  Thanks!  And congrats to Maddie who won her age division!

More supporters (from left):  (um, Bill again), Sandy Ebel, Dianne Raebel, and Emily Ebel.  Congrats to Dianne who ran her 5k personal best after moving all day the day before!  Woo-hoo!

Not pictured are GTP board members, Jeff and Jenn Cunningham.  Jenn, not having run for quote “awhile”, ran the whole way – congrats!

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