ZOE International Joins Hands with Donors to Combat Child Trafficking Through Church Partnerships

September 29, 2023

Saturday, May 27 – Kurume Shalom Church

At ZOE International, we believe that the Body of Christ brings the solutions to every crisis on Earth. Our work spans various countries, and our invaluable church partnerships are at the heart of it all. Together, we labor to spread the gospel and safeguard the vulnerable from the clutches of child trafficking while tirelessly working toward the restoration of those who have endured its horrors.

Sunday, May 28 – Fukuoka Harvest Church

Recently, the dedicated members of ZOE Japan were graciously welcomed to Machida Central Church’s international service, where they shared ZOE’s mission. Daniel and Hiromi eloquently shed light on the distressing trends of child trafficking and provided a perspective rooted in scripture. They emphasized that God hates slavery and beckons us to champion righteousness and be the unwavering voice for those who have been silenced.

The journey continued with visits to Mustard Seed Christian Church, Kurume Shalom Church, and Fukuoka Harvest Church in Kyushu. We extend our deepest gratitude to New Hope Leeward Hawaii for their unyielding partnership and for introducing our team to other churches in Kyushu. We sincerely hope that the seeds sown during these encounters will ignite like wildfire, fortifying the next generation against the deceitful clutches of traffickers. Together, we forge ahead, unwavering in our commitment to safeguarding the vulnerable and proclaiming the message of hope and liberation.

Empowering Children: Your Contribution Brings ZOE Australia’s Innovative ‘Treehouse Game’ to Life

September 29, 2023

One of ZOE’s primary strategic focus lies in the prevention of human trafficking. The organization is committed to community education, involving the identification of at-risk children, empowering advocates to safeguard their communities, and collaborating to formulate sustainable solutions to eradicate child trafficking.

This year, the dedicated team at ZOE Australia crafted an engaging and interactive prevention tool called

the Treehouse game that educators, social workers, and other professionals dedicated to supporting vulnerable children across Australia can use to teach children how to protect themselves from harm.

Unlike competitive games, the purpose of this game is to facilitate the development of strategies that may aid children in identifying safe individuals and environments, ultimately safeguarding them from harm. Participants are challenged to reach their designated safe haven while also identifying three reliable individuals along the journey.

In safeguarding children who have endured neglect or abuse, we firmly believe that additional strategies are essential to pinpointing trustworthy individuals and secure environments in their lives. As responsible adults, it is our duty to ensure children are shielded from harm and abuse. Equally important is equipping them with the knowledge and skills to recognize, respond to, and report unsafe situations and behavior. It is vital to understand that neglect, abuse, and exploitation are never a child’s fault.

At present, our team is in the initial stages of piloting this innovative prevention tool. The game, along with its accompanying activities and lessons, are currently undergoing thorough trials.

Children’s Hunger Fund Visits ZOE Thailand!

August 13, 2023

Recently, Children’s Hunger Fund Founder and President, Dave Phillips, and a CHF team visited our ZOE team in Thailand! Since 2008, Children’s Hunger Fund (CHF) has closely partnered with ZOE as a chief distributor in Thailand for a food distribution program called Mercy Network. Through this program, ZOE Thailand and CHF partner with local pastors to supply food and resources to vulnerable communities and share the gospel.

ZOE has been blessed to work with CHF throughout the years, and we’ve seen God’s hand of grace moving in our work together. One of our greatest joys is to share God’s abundant overflow with others who are doing His work to feed the hungry and care for the poor.

Thank you Dave Phillips and Children’s Hunger Fund for your continued prayers and support of ZOE International and the work that we’ll continue to do together!

Human Trafficking Survivors are Thriving at our ZOE Home for Youth (ZHY)

August 13, 2023

 

Thank You for Giving the Gifts of Healing and Hope to Our ZOE Youth!

Since its opening in August 2021, ZOE has served youth at our Acton, California home. ZHY is a safe haven for the girls we come alongside and serve, and you are part of their healing journey through your prayers and support! Located on a 50-acre property in North Los Angeles County, ZHY is a state-licensed short-term residential therapeutic program for girls 12-17 years old who are survivors of labor and sex trafficking.
The girls living at ZHY frequently comment about the ZHY staff. One of them shared, “I know that the staff really cares about me.” The ZHY staff could be doing any other job, but they are passionate about these youth and want to see them win.

Recently, ZOE’s Assistant Western USA Regional Director, Ester Yu, shared an update about the youth living at ZHY.

“The population that ZOE serves at ZHY has the highest level of needs for children in the care of the County’s child welfare system,” shared Ester. “Most have experienced the effects of trauma from domestic violence, substance abuse, being sold for sex or labor, sexual, physical, emotional, and verbal abuse, and more.

Since we opened the home in August 2021, we’ve seen encouraging success and restoration with the youth living at ZHY.

Overall, all the youth have improved healthy self-awareness, which has led to an understanding of their strengths, needs, and trauma reminders. Daily youth are learning to love themselves as they receive encouragement and love from the ZOE staff. Additionally, all youth living at the home have increased their capacity to regulate their emotions and develop new coping skills to navigate their trigger reminders successfully. Other youth are working on getting their IDs, driving permits, interviewing for housing after they turn 18 years old, and applying for jobs.

The ZHY staff work every day to show the youth what it means to have healthy relationships. They truly desire the best for themselves and their future.

Please continue to pray for our ZOE staff and the youth we serve at ZHY.

ZOE’s Home for Youth to Expand Its Restoration Services to Provide Mental Health for Youth Living in the Home

August 13, 2023

 

The issue of child trafficking in Los Angeles demands comprehensive, well-informed, compassionate, evidence-based solutions. Multiple experts have reported that youth who need healing from the trauma of being exploited and trafficked requires caring and flexible service providers who will tailor services to meet their individual needs.

The counseling room at ZHY is pictured above. When youth arrive at ZHY, they receive a comprehensive care plan that includes mental health services, if needed.

At ZOE, we’ve found love and flexible support to be absolutely essential to the healing process. The prevalence of child trafficking in our nation is deeply troubling. The harm to vulnerable youth is tragic. Through years of collaborative work in Thailand and the U.S., we’ve learned that children can experience safety, hope, and lasting restoration.

Thank you for supporting ZOE’s New Mental Health Program!

Many youths who are in our care at ZHY have experienced severe forms of trauma and have engaged in harmful activities to numb themselves and cope with their pain and stress. Having a mental health team on-site at ZHY allows timely crisis intervention to reduce the risk of harm.

Want to support ZOE’s Mental Health Program? Click here to donate today!

Get to Know ZOE’s USA West Coast Clinical Director—Lawrence Franklin

August 13, 2023

 

As ZOE’s USA West Coast Clinical Director, I have the privilege of working alongside our team as we care for our youth at our ZOE Home for Youth (ZHY) and through our Advocacy program. I’ve seen firsthand the healing and restoration that happens, and ZOE’s goal is to always reflect the heart of Jesus in everything we do!

Overseeing ZOE’s West Coast program and services with a clinical perspective, I work with our team to cultivate a safe, healthy, and therapeutic environment for the child trafficking survivors in our care. We provide training, clinical consultation, crisis support for staff and youth, therapy (as needed) for the youth, and therapeutic support for our ZOE team.

I work with our team to cultivate a safe, healthy, and therapeutic environment for the child trafficking survivors in ZOE’s care.

Growing up in Inglewood, California, I’m aware of the challenges that youth face in the inner cities. Raised by a loving family and having a close relationship with my father, I evaded a lot of the crime and drugs that my peers fell into. Family means everything to me, and I’m supported by my wife of 13 years and children (ages 5, 8).

As I engage with the youth at the home and listen to their stories, the reality is that many of these girls come from broken homes. Many of them have experienced severe forms of trauma and have engaged in harmful activities to numb themselves and cope with their pain and stress.

ZOE’s Home for Youth (ZHY) in Los Angeles is just one of many homes in the United States that we hope to build for young survivors of human trafficking. Thank you for your continued prayers and financial support to one day make this dream a reality. Thank you for joining us as we walk alongside these young girls in their healing.

Epic 3,000-Mile Race Finish is Second Place to Main Goal: Ending Child Trafficking

July 3, 2023

 

Team ZOE International entered the Race Across America bicycle race on June 17 with thousands of training miles behind them. They expected grueling days, weather challenges and money to be raised toward the goal of rescuing children from human trafficking.

But it’s impossible to prepare for the emotions that churn with every pump of the pedals.

“I’d describe it as a mountaintop experience – definitely next-level emotionally,” said first-time ZOE cyclist Kevin Quinter, who is a detective in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania and works on an anti-trafficking task force in eastern Pennsylvania.

The emotions came in waves as the team rode to a second-place finish in Annapolis, Maryland. On the third day of the seven-day relay ride from Oceanside, California, to Annapolis that concluded last Friday, June 23, rider Jeff Conaway from Littleton, Colorado, crashed on a descent through a remote area of the Rocky Mountains near Trinidad, Colorado.

“When we came around the corner, I thought for sure there’s a 50% chance he was not alive,” said Quinter, who was in the trail van with two other riders.

Conaway broke his collar bone, scapula, and had head injuries, but fortunately he is now recovering from his home in Colorado with an excellent prognosis. But the race had to continue for the other seven riders. Quinter jumped on his bike while Conaway, now awake, was still unstable and the ambulance had not reached them.

Coming off their Rocky Mountain low, the team’s emotions ran high. Each rider had to take on some of the miles that Conaway would have ridden.

“Even though we had Jeff go down in Colorado, it really brought the team even closer together,” said Brad Ortenzi, the team’s general manager and the Eastern USA Regional Director for ZOE.

The purpose of the race kept the team motivated as well. They exceeded their goal of raising $500,000 and are currently at $550,000. In 2019, Team ZOE raised $180,000, and in 2021 they raised $380,000.

“There’s more awareness of child trafficking and ZOE’s efforts to fight it with each year; there’s more of a momentum behind it,” Ortenzi said. “And a large percentage of what we’re doing comes from two counties within Pennsylvania. The race has brought a lot of exposure to ZOE and what we’re doing.”

ZOE (gozoe.org) prevents child trafficking and rescues and restores children out of trafficking in the U.S., Thailand, Mexico, Australia, and Japan. The organization was founded in 2003 by Mike and Carol Hart.

Ortenzi, a retired detective and online child exploitation investigator, is ZOE’s coordinator with task forces in Berks and Lancaster counties. He oversees restorative efforts and other needs for those rescued from trafficking.

Awareness for ZOE grew during the race on social media, which included livestreaming on Facebook. Quinter and his fellow riders were motivated by what they saw happening on social media.

“We had so much buzz on social media about ZOE and what they are doing and success stories and how they’re rescuing kids out of this,” Quinter said. “I knew it would be big, but that was huge. And the number of people who followed us, who were praying for us, who were encouraging us – that was big. It was very emotional.”

The emotions ran so high, and minds ran so busy thinking about the next day, that the four who were not riding and were on the team bus struggled to sleep. They drove ahead to the next spot, sometimes on bumpy roads, to change over 12 hours later.

“I would have never expected to not sleep,” Quinter said. “If we got three hours a night, riders and crew, people were saying, ‘I got two full straight hours,’ and they were excited. That added to some of the emotion, emotional response that we had.

“But it was big, way bigger than us. And just to see God working through it was crazy.”

…….

To schedule an interview with Brad Ortenzi or Kevin Quinter, email Clem Boyd, Director of Public Relations, at clem@infinityconcepts.com or text or call him at (724) 930-4003. For more information about team ZOE, visit ZOERAAM.com and to learn about ZOE International, visit gozoe.org.

Children at ZOE’s Home in Thailand Have Fun Making Handmade Items to Sell as Part of Their Vocational Training

May 2, 2023

Vocational training is crucial to ZOE’s holistic, survivor-centered approach to combat human trafficking. ZOE’s rescued children and at-risk youth accumulate a wide range of vocational skills and training and are taught to set realistic short and long-term goals. For youth survivors living at our ZOE Home, our goal is that they will experience total restoration and learn how to build a future where they are no longer vulnerable.

Recently, the ZOE youth put on a market at ZOE in Thailand to showcase and sell their handmade items as part of their vocational training. Members of our staff, field workers, and other youth were able to buy these handmade creations to support their work which will build confidence to support themselves in the future.

Our ZOE staff shared, “The children were thrilled and excited to have the ZOE staff, volunteers, and guests who visited ZOE support their work.” 

There were many different items for sale, including baked goods, pieces of woodworking, embroidered fabrics, handmade crafts, and more! Thank you for supporting ZOE’s critical restoration efforts in Thailand for our youth! 

*ZOE protects the dignity and identity of children. The faces shown are of or staff and volunteers.

Parents and Caregivers Learn from Human Trafficking Experts About the Tactics Exploiters Use to Lure Children

May 2, 2023

View the informative event here.

In April, ZOE held its first Protecting Kids Online (Navigating Digital Dangers) Educational event at Crossroads Community Church in Valencia, CA. This event was free for parents and caregivers working with children/youth. 

A group of human trafficking experts from the Los Angeles Police Department, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), Los Angeles School Police Department, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and ZOE International shared current trends that they see in their perspective field of work and how to protect kids from cyberbullying, sextortion, and exploitation. 

One parent shared, “It was great to hear such high-caliber people in their field speak about online safety. I have to say I was terrified, encouraged, and infuriated. There was so much important information given, and I learned so much. I hope to see ZOE lead many more events like this in the future. Thank you for what you do to serve children and our community.”

ZOE works to prevent children from being trafficked by offering educational awareness programs to the communities where we operate. If you weren’t able to attend this informative event, you can view the resources by clicking the link below.

View the event resources here.

View the article printed in The Santa Clarita Valley Signal Newspaper.

ZOE Japan Team On a Mission to Bring the Gospel to the Japanese People

May 2, 2023

More than 3 billion people have never heard of Christ worldwide. The first part of ZOE’s mission is to reach as many people living without hope and in darkness with the life-transforming message of Jesus.

ZOE reaches every person by bringing the good news and training followers of Jesus. One of the countries ZOE does evangelistic work in Japan. Considered to be the second largest unreached people group in the world, this means that there are not enough Christians locally for the gospel to spread organically. There is only one church for every 16,700 people, compared to 1 church for every 800 in the USA.

Recently, ZOE Japan had the opportunity to participate in the annual Church Planting Institute conference, where they joined approximately 200 participants who are passionately working to plant more churches, evangelize, and disciple the nation of Japan with creative God-given ideas.

Many people visited the ZOE booth to pick up educational content about child trafficking and learn more about the free online testimony resources at thegoodnews.jp. Our ZOE Japan team speaks at different venues, such as schools, churches, and social clubs, to share the gospel and teach kids and adults about the danger of human trafficking and how to prevent it.

Thank you for your steadfast prayers and for opportunities like this to forge new relationships and share the good news of the gospel in Japan! 

Youth in Vulnerable Communities Learn How to Protect Themselves from Human Trafficking

May 2, 2023

Awareness and education are critical to preventing human trafficking in the countries ZOE works in. That’s why our ZOE Australia team recently partnered with our Thailand teams to educate groups of students at schools within vulnerable communities about human trafficking. Both ZOE teams were able to join forces and put on fast-paced and engaging preventative workshops for students in northern Thailand.

ZOE Co-Founder and CEO Mike Hart shared, “We want to inspire and equip groups of people to end human trafficking together with us by giving them resources to do so. We do this by training community members across the globe to identify human trafficking and empower them to help end it.”

How does ZOE prevent human trafficking and exploitation? ZOE educates every sector of society and identifies and trains vulnerable children and communities about this issue. ZOE also equips local community advocates to provide protection and develops long-term solutions prayerfully.

During these interactive workshops, the ZOE team educated youth about what human trafficking looks like, how to stay safe online, and how to be aware of and respect physical boundaries. 

“The Thailand team did this impactful drama depicting the issue of human trafficking. It was so moving and effective – it stuck with me. I’m grateful to know that through this drama, and various workshops and activities with the students, they are equipped with knowledge about the issue of human trafficking and can feel empowered to reach out to safe people, be alert, and look out for their friends.” -Mareshah, ZOE Australia.

ZOE East Coast Team Participates in Multiple Sting Operations

April 10, 2023

During March, the ZOE East Coast team collaborated in two separate multi-sting operations where local police arrested men suspected of targeting minors for sex. Additionally, through these investigative operations, ZOE advocates had impactful conversations with several women providing trauma-informed care and resources to assist in the operation.

Brad continued, “We count this as success, knowing that day, these girls were not alone, and our advocates were able to pray for, love, and care for them. This is why we do what we do.”

ZOE advocates assess gaps in services with each survivor and provides necessary connections to resources within their community. When possible, ZOE advocates will remain in touch with survivors to build relationships with them and provide ongoing support. ZOE also supports survivors through court cases, trials, and investigations and provides local resources for continued help and services.

Brad added, “We are grateful for our East Coast supporters and fans across the country who have come alongside our teams over the years to bring awareness to human trafficking and provide financial resources for our East Coast team to expand and serve our community.”