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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.

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Progress in Ecuador: Another Successful Expedition

Rainstorms welcomed the Advancing Life Foundation’s second group of expedition volunteers as they arrived in Ecuador to continue work on the vocational school.

The group arrived on a Friday and spent Saturday exploring the town of Otavalo with a trip to the Center of the Earth Museum and a craft market.The drizzle continued on Sunday as expeditioners drove through the cloud forest to Pucara to meet their host families. They were welcomed with a beautiful cultural celebration with dancing and a candid explanation of what the vocational school will mean to the community.

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Advancing Life Foundation: Another Step Forward in Ecuador

As progress continues on the Advancing Life Foundation’s vocational school project in Ecuador, hope is emanating from the community for their children and future generations.Locals’ feelings of excitement were evident when CEO Charles Funke and Advancing Life Foundation Chair KimMarie Larsen went to Ecuador in January. There, they met with local government official and looked at the future building site of the vocational school.
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A Culmination of Kindness in December

What was just a small bit of inspiration at the beginning of the year blossomed into a flurry of impact by its end. In January of 2016, ASEA’s Advancing Life Foundation was only 8 months old and sending a group of 35 volunteers off on its first official Advancing Life expedition to the village of La Concepción, Mexico. Future expeditions were already planned and fundraisers were underway, but something was still missing.

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Cheryl Chambers

I love this company ASEA and all it stands for and its Ethos! It just gets better and better how they take the lead, and we support the ASEA’s Advancing Life Foundation efforts. It was such an honor and treat to participate in the Have an Impact, Make a Difference Day. ASEA chose to partner with GRACE, a Grapevine, Texas-based non-profit relief agency which provides food, clothing, financial assistance, and other vital necessities to people who are struggling with a limited income or recent emergency. It felt so good to be part of a team performing the simple act of donating toiletries and building the kits.

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Torsten Sedlmeier

The Mexico Expedition has been a very extraordinary time, seeing people, who are so poor, and yet happy. You could see the “happy eyes” of nearly everyone. The “happy smile”. The “happy heart”. It touched me so much. Living with a minimum of belongings. Satisfied with what you have, and being with family, friends, neighbors. Helping and respecting each other. Happy, and not jealous, with what others achieve and get (new water cistern, oven, etc.) – but even helping each other to get it! Real Ethos! They live the ethos!
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