Advancing Life helps fund Internet Crimes Against Children Center in Thailand

The Thailand government continues to take steps to meet the standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), relying heavily on funds from non-government agencies (NGOs) like those the Advancing Life Foundation has partnered with. Donations from ASEA associates have recently gone toward renovating and funding a one year lease for a victim rescue center as well as operational expenses for the ICAC center in Thailand.operating the Royal Thai Police Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Center.

This center provides experts with the tools to analyze evidence and build cases against possible perpetrators, and the Advancing Life Foundation is honored to have secured the building’s lease through 2019. ASEA executives & Advancing Life Director KimMarie Larsen personally visited the Royal Thai Police ICAC Center in March to oversee improvements.

In recent discussions with O.U.R., Thai ambassador to the US, Pisan Manawapat lauded the arrangement of an ICAC Center and what he called the “strong partnership between Thailand and the US to end child exploitation.” He believes it brings us much closer to providing a stronger “guarantee that criminals are brought to justice.”

“We are paying for a smaller ICAC center to be opened in Malaysia because they have seen the success of the Thailand ICAC. They have secured the property and are in the process of renovations and finding the appropriate people to run the center,” said KimMarie Larsen, Managing Director of the Advancing Life Foundation.

Advancing Life Foundation sponsors 3 police dogs to aid in the fight against human trafficking

Funds raised by Advancing Life Foundation donors will now be credited to training amazing police dogs in two different states. Police dogs are helping Operation Underground Railroad track down perpetrators of human trafficking and keep them from harming children.

Advancing Life’s favorite dog and sponsee, Banner the dog and his partner, police officer Kathy are already working hard at helping to keep the streets safe in Montgomery, Alabama.

Working with the Montgomery Sheriff’s department, Banner’s placement was funded through our partner O.U.R. who reached out when they needed the funds to complete his training. Advancing Life gladly donated the needed funds and as a result the community impact has been truly remarkable.

Banner recently aided in stopping a criminal who shot at his partner Kathy by chasing the perpetrator down and helping contain them until police backup could apprehend him. On the occasion of another incident, Banner found a child at a dangerous crime scene. Because he was originally trained and used as a service animal prior to his police work, he sat with and comforted the child, effectively keeping them safe until police could get them out of the area.

At the ASEA North American Envision Conference, associates raised and donated over $42,000 to fund the training of 2 more police dogs. One dog will be lovingly named ‘Alf’ as an acronym of Advancing Life Foundation and has been located in Pensacola, Florida to join the police force there.

We are so proud to help aid the fight against human trafficking.

ASEA Employees Gather Donated Food for Those in Need

Nothing evokes the holiday spirit more than a friendly competition, all in the name of serving others. ASEA corporate employees used the holidays as a perfect opportunity to participate in a food drive for local families, through teamwork and creativity.

The challenge was for each employee to bring in as much canned and non-perishable food as possible and then donate it to those in need. In order to serve those that need it the most, ASEA got together for a friendly competition by splitting into department teams.

Once the food was collected over the month of December, the teams then constructed elaborate and creative sculptures from canned goods and non-perishable boxes of food. Some teams chose a Christmas theme, such as an Elf boot or a Christmas tree, while others went with a clever ASEA themed sculpture to show off our famous ASEA molecule hexagon.

The winning teams were proud to display their achievements and partake in a feeling of office-wide joy. The department was able to collect 1,859 pounds of food, over 5,000 items, which was the equivalent of 2 truckloads all thanks to 8 amazing teams.

At the end of the day, ASEA employees were proud to deliver it all to the Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo, who then later distributed it to those in need. At ASEA, we focus on ways we can Have an Impact, Make a Difference and the food drive allowed us to help others in some small way. We are proud to work together as a corporate team to aid our local community.

One Family is Thriving in Pucura, Thanks to the Help of Advancing Life

The difference between a struggling family and a flourishing family is often just a single opportunity. Paula Pavon is one of many enterprising women from the Mestizo community of Pucura working to improve the lives of their families through community initiatives. And with the charitable building of a new vocational school, these women are seeing success in their small businesses.

Years ago, Paula’s husband Fernando started working as a bricklayer to provide for their little family. When construction work was scarce, he also performed small electric jobs. Paula earned extra money for her family doing agricultural work, but the need to be at home to care for her children cut that short.

Life improved for Paula when she formed a group with the women in her community to boost rural tourism. It wasn’t until CHOICE Humanitarian helped them strengthen their rural tourism initiative that the business began to thrive. CHOICE helped the women’s association of Pucura improve its services of accommodation and attention to foreign and national tourists. Now Paula and her companions receive extra income to improve the quality of their family’s lives and the conditions of their homes.

Since then, Paula and Fernando have also been able to obtain a loan from a bank and have rented a store in the center of the parish to run a small bakery. Fernando is looking into ways to manage and improve the family business while Paula continues to strengthen her rural tourism enterprise and they are hopeful that these two small businesses will succeed. Paula can now afford to provide a better education for her children, something that was only a dream a few years ago.

With the decision to build the Ecuador vocational school, Choice Humanitarian and Advancing Life Foundation have contributed to an increase in the number of tourists to the community. This contribution is allowing the women who host the tourists in their homes to earn money, hone their hospitality skills, and provide needed updates to their homes to accommodate future guests.

Greater Opportunity for Education in Ecuador

Months of fundraising and preparation came to fruition last summer when two groups of 50+ volunteers headed to the Intag region of Ecuador with the Advancing Life Foundation and CHOICE Humanitarian.

The Project: getting started on the construction of a vocational school, the Inta-Cara Advancing Life Center.

Although the need for further education in this part of the world is great, many of the local governments were hesitant to trust that this was really happening in their community. This also led to hesitance in putting their budgets toward the building of the school.

But when the first group of expeditioners arrived and began the work. the reality became clear. Government leaders have now pledged their commitment to the project and are directing budget money in 2018 to help further the cause. They have even committed to develope the public road to the school.

There’s an excitement and an energy that surrounds this project. By the time the second group of expeditioners arrived in August, even more communities had pledged commitment to the project.

The scope of people being able to come to the center has expanded. Those who have gone on Ecuador expeditions thus far have described the experience as life-changing; others said it was like coming home. All made unforgettable connections with people, regardless of language barriers, and said they’d do it again.

At our convention in 2017, our goal was to raise $100k, which ASEA pledged to match up to $100k. During the event, associates contributed by purchasing swag, participating in a silent auction, and filling up the donation box, totaling $99,485.45! ASEA matched it at the full $100k bringing the convention total for the Advancing Life Foundation to $199,485.45!

To complete our fundraising goal for the year, we’d like to bring in an additional $100k before next year’s convention in September.

You can donate to the Advancing Life Foundation on our website or in your virtual office. Make it simple—opt to add any amount you choose to your monthly autoship!

Operation Underground Railroad Rescue Mission – Central America.

Thanks to the efforts and hard work of Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), the silent prayers of 10 more hopeless, victimized children have been answered.

On April 6, 2018, a rescue team in Central America successfully executed a secret O.U.R. mission, rescuing 10 helpless victims of sex trafficking. The exact location of the rescue is undisclosed due to security risks and for the privacy of the victims. The rescue team on the ground is still actively pursuing the main trafficker.

Five of the 10 victims were children, and the other five were young adults who had been trafficked since they were children. The youngest girl rescued was 13 years old and came from an all-to-common vulnerable family situation. Her mother had passed away, and her father has substance abuse issues. Another victim rescued was an 18-year-old mother with two children—a three-year-old and an infant—and had been trafficked since she was just 10 years old.

Five of the rescued girls are being admitted “Batman’s Aftercare Services,” a 12-week program that provides business training and other essential services, like micro-loans to start a business. More importantly, it gives those who have been rescued something they never had: a choice. Batman is the undercover agent in the movie “The Abolitionists.”

Since its inception, O.U.R. has worked with dozens of legal entities to execute effective sting operations and rescue missions. By the end of 2016, these initiatives had resulted in the return of 693 underage victims to family and care centers, as well as the arrest of more than 300 traffickers.

“We are happy to celebrate in the victories of this great program but are not blinded by them.” Said KimMarie Larsen, ASEA managing director of events. “There is still so much work that can be done; there are still so many people we can help. This is why we will continue our efforts and do all we can to be a voice for those who do not have one.”

For more information, visit: advancinglife.org

ASEA Advancing Life Foundation: Bringing Hope to Ecuador

For the past year and a half, the ASEA Advancing Life Foundation has partnered with Choice Humanitarian to bring not only a vocational school but also hope for a better future to the Intag region of Ecuador. This lush region is home to a large community of Ecuadorians, 87% of which live at the poverty line and only 40% of which have a high school education, creating a need for stronger economic opportunities in the area.

The vocational center – the Intacara Center – will service an estimated 1,500 families and will teach skills in masonry, carpentry, cooking, tourism and more to those reaching for a better life. When it is complete, the education the school offers will serve as a barrier against the cycles of poverty and abuse prevalent in the area.

The ASEA Advancing Life Foundation made its fourth expedition down to Ecuador in July of this year to continue the construction of the vocational school. This year’s trip included 46 participants and 40 hours of construction time, all of which were dedicated to one dream-fueling project.

The Mission

“Walking down that path leading up to the school on the first day and coming around the corner and seeing this beautiful Intacara Center in front of me, my legs started shaking, my heart was pumping so hard, and I was overcome with pride.” Said Shawn Burke, an ASEA associate who completed his second expedition this year. “I was blown away with the work that had been done and the progress that had been made.”

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This year, the expedition team’s main tasks pertained to constructing the workshop which will be used to teach auto-mechanical skills. The team spent four to five hours a day constructing brick walls, digging drainage trenches, pouring sidewalks, and completing the perimeter fence. Other tasks included preparing roof panels, moving boulders to make way for trenches, and pushing bricks up steep hills. This year’s expedition brought the project to 20% completion.

“These youngsters will be able to benefit greatly from the school that we helped build.” Said Chris Draught, an ASEA employee and expedition participant. “They have so much more potential for a bright future because of the Intacara school.”

The people of the Intag region were also present and actively helping with the construction. Everyone from high school students to mothers with babies on their backs came out to do their part. Their participation in the construction is vital because it helps the community build a bond with the school and realize that the Intacara center will be for everyone seeking education, not just those who are considered privileged.

“I was so motivated to work as hard as I could. The team was small in numbers, but the electricity in the air was immeasurable.” Said Burke. “Everyone put their full heart, sweat, and soul into this project every single day. No one let up and it was so powerful watching and working with some of the most motivated people I have ever worked with.”

Between now and the next Advancing Life Expedition, the interior of the workshop will be completed and the ground will be levelled for the next building. Most importantly, the school will have their first students start in the first half of 2019.

When the land for the school was first purchased, KimMarie Larsen, ASEA managing director of events, and Charles Funke, ASEA CEO, visited the site and met with local officials. Upon meeting them, one official said, “Do you understand, what you are doing for these people? You are allowing them to finally dream.”

The People

This year’s participants ranged in age from 14 to 67 and had countless opportunities to interact with those living in the region, 44% of which depend solely on agriculture.

“One evening, we were able to play soccer with some of the children—they were so excited to have us there.” Said Draught. “They were so happy with just a few possessions and toys. It helped me see that you don’t need to have the latest and greatest to be happy, and it actually gave me the desire to spend more quality time with my own kids.”

Due to the limited number of entertaining activities in the area, the region is currently battling a trend of alcoholism. To combat this and give people something to do, Choice Humanitarian created a band comprised of local community members and hired an instructor to teach them once a week. The band performed for the community for the first time during the team’s expedition—It was immediately apparent the musicians took pride in their work and music. The band has hopes of one day including stringed instruments and becoming a symphony.

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One example of the band’s impact on the community is the story of its trombone player. According to Larsen, “When I was there the two times before last year, [the trombone player] was sitting on the street corner drinking. He was the town drunk. This year, I did not see him once until the night they were performing. He was practicing his instrument, and he was very sober. He was playing and singing. It was exciting to see that in such a short time his life had changed because he now has a purpose. And that is just a sneak peek of what the school is going to do… All of the sudden these people have gone from having no hope and being stuck in this rut of doing their daily routine; but now there is hope.”

The School

The vocational center will include an administrative building, a workshop, a few bungalows, and a cultural building. The Technical University of the North, a non-profit public higher education institution located in the town of Ibarra, recently signed a five-year contract with Choice Humanitarian to provide instructors and administrative employees to the school. Because it is a government sanctioned and certified school, those who attend the Intacara Center will receive an official certification in the vocations offered there. The available vocations will include auto-mechanics, tourism, carpentry, cooking, masonry and more.

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The enthusiasm for this education opportunity is palpable throughout the community. According to Larsen, “I was speaking with one gentleman and I asked him which skills he was going to learn. He said, ‘I’m going to learn all of them.’”

The Advancing Life Foundation will continue to support the school through funding and other avenues even after the school’s construction is complete. Expedition participants have even expressed interest in supporting a scholarship fund for future students. But for now, completing the school’s construction is the number one priority.

“The work we are doing there is real, and the people of those communities are counting on us to fulfill our commitment to this project.” Said Funke. ASEA’s CEO. “The satisfaction of knowing that we are helping to build something that will positively impact the lives of people for generations to come far outweighs any sacrifice required to attend an expedition.”

If you are interested in supporting the Intacara Center construction or attending a future expedition, please visit AdvancingLife.org for more info.

Continue reading “ASEA Advancing Life Foundation: Bringing Hope to Ecuador”

ASEA Employees Assemble Hygiene Kits, Blankets, and Help Out in the Community Garden

Over July 25-27th, ASEA employees participated in an outstanding 175 hours of service. Employees participated in two amazing service projects. First, we assembled adult and child hygiene kits while also tying fleece blankets together that were delivered to people in need in the Provo area and children in the AF hospital.

These hygiene kits will help improve the quality of life of those who cannot purchase even the most basic hygiene supplies, such as toilet paper or soap. And the blankets we tied together will provide comfort to children who are going through traumatic and often life-threatening experiences.

We also had the opportunity to do some gardening at the Provo Community Gardens. The gardening experience will provide local residents with the opportunity to become more self-sufficient by growing their own food.

Both the hygiene kits and the gardening opportunity were organized through Provo Community Action, an organization that provides a variety of services for people in need in Utah County.

At ASEA, we believe that “People matter, regardless of what they can do for us or what role they play.” This service project will directly impact people in the community, showing that our core values are more than words on a page. They are a part of who we are.

California wildfires spark Advancing Life to fund $15k in disaster relief

With the most dangerous and damaging year of California wildfires on record, ASEA associates worldwide joined the effort to help those affected by the disaster in 2018.

According to California fire statistics, a total of 8,527 fires burned an area of 1,893,913 acres which ws the largest amount of burned acreage recorded in a single fire season.

More than 7,100 structures were destroyed, most of them homes and thousands of acres of forests in both Northern and Southern California wiped out towns across California and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents west of Los Angeles.

Advancing Life Foundation stepped up to the plate and donated over $15,000 to help the disaster relief in California, aiding residents who were left without basic necessities.

We are so grateful for all the ASEA associates and staff members who donate to the foundation, allowing us to help out in emergency situations like these at a moment’s notice.