Established in 2008, SoarAge International is the conception of three individuals who believe in building people and communities through cooperative sustainable growth. After witnessing the horrible practice of human trafficking in Nigeria and Ghana, the founders started SoarAge to put a stop to the trade. SoarAge serves to provide human trafficking’s main victims, women and children, with the necessary tools to uplift them from their current financial situation. SoarAge provides impoverished children with food, clothing, and educational scholarships. The organization provides women with paid vocational training through partnerships with small business owners. At the end of the training, the women are provided with small business grants to assist them with opening their own establishment. In one short year, SoarAge has been able to assist 1,000 women and children living in Nigeria and Ghana. During 2009, the organization seeks to increase this number to 3,000. By expanding the organization’s reach, SoarAge International believes that it will be able to have a larger impact on the cessation of human trafficking practices. It is the organization’s hope that through their efforts, the segments of Africa’s communities that face many hardships can regain their independence and a positive outlook on life.
Trafficking in people, especially women and children, for prostitution and forced labor is one of the fastest growing areas of international criminal activity and one that is of increasing concern to the U.S. Administration, Congress, and the international community. Although men are also victimized, the overwhelming majority of those trafficked are women and children. According to official estimates, over 700,000 people are trafficked each year worldwide for forced labor, domestic servitude, or sexual exploitation. An estimated 50,000 persons are trafficked each year to the United States. Trafficking is now considered the third largest source of profits for organized crime, behind only drugs and guns, generating billions of dollars annually.
In Africa, over 50,000 victims are believed to be trafficked annually according to the U.S. Department of State, although the extent of trafficking is not well documented. Like elsewhere, poverty and the low status of women are major contributing factors. In addition, wars and civil strife engulfing countries like Sudan and Rwanda, as well as the indifference of some governments make women and children vulnerable to trafficking. Trafficking in children for labor is a serious problem in Togo and Benin as well as Botswana, Zaire, Somalia, Ethiopia, Zambia, Nigeria, Algeria. Victims are trafficked to Nigeria, Gabon, Ghana, and South Africa. Africans, especially women from Nigeria are trafficked to Western Europe and the Middle East.
Contributing factors to the continuance of human trafficking include:
- The continuing subordination of women in many societies, as reflected in economic, educational, and work opportunity disparities between men and women. Many societies still favor sons and view girls as an economic burden. Desperate families in some of the most impoverished countries sell their daughters to brothels or traffickers for the immediate payoff and to avoid having to pay the dowery to marry off daughters;
- The lack of opportunity and the eagerness for a better life abroad have made many women and girls especially vulnerable to entrapment by traffickers. Privy to this, criminal organizations have grown and established themselves in the lucrative business of international trafficking;
- The high demand, worldwide, for trafficked women and children for sex tourism, sex workers, cheap sweatshop labor, and domestic workers. Traffickers are encouraged by large tax-free profits and continuing income from the same victims at very low risk;
SoarAge International strives to reverse the trafficking trend by preventing it at its core. By assisting women with becoming more self-sufficient through vocational job training, they can prevent these women from becoming easy prey for traffickers. Women will be able to provide for themselves and their families without being vulnerable to trafficking. Furthermore, SoarAge International has found that education, health, and income are interdependent and can serve as the first steps in satisfying the basic needs of life. Congruently, the National Bureau of Economic Research asserts that “richer, better-educated people live longer than poorer, less-educated people”. Education makes it easier to use and benefit from new health information and technologies and income makes life easier more generally, reducing stress and wear and tear. Thus, SoarAge International feels that its three-fold approach to addressing the aforementioned problems—, educational, financial, and professional guidance—is one that will open the doors to a brighter future for its program participants.
Goals and Objectives
The primary goal of SoarAge International is to empower and support African women and children so that they can become self-sufficient. In order to effectively achieve this goal, SoarAge International has identified several objectives:
- Objective: To provide at least 3 orphanages with food and clothing during 2009.
- Objective: To provide at least 15 educational scholarships to children living in Ghana and Nigeria during 2009.
- Objective: To enroll at least 3,000 women in the vocational training program during 2009.
To accomplish the objectives stated in the previous section, SoarAge International will implement the following strategies as decided by the board of directors. During spring 2009, SoarAge International will recruit and train four additional program administrators to operate the organization’s vocational training programs. These individuals will be responsible for locating small businesses that are willing to partner with SoarAge for its vocational training program. They will also select the three orphanages that SoarAge will sponsor during 2009. SoarAge will provide beds, clothing, and food to the selected orphanages. During March 2009, SoarAge will publicize its scholarship program at schools in the target countries. Scholarship recipients will be selected in June 2009 based on need and academic achievement. The scholarship award amount has yet to be determined as it is dependent upon funding.
Skill-oriented Training and Empowerment Program
SoarAge International provides income generation, skill-oriented training based on individual interests. Different skills are taught to women for their empowerment and to assist them with achieving financial stability. This is accomplished through apprenticeships programs that SoarAge creates for program participants through partnerships with local businesses. Thus, these skill/vocational trainings are provided based on market demand and the needs of the community.
The following are the training programs currently available:
- Modern hairstyling
- Food preparation
- Laundry and soap making
After the free skill-oriented training, further assistance is given by providing basic financial assistance for their business set-up or job placements.
SoarAge International will continuously evaluate the success of its programs; thorough documentation will provide a well-rounded assessment of the organization. All requests and walk-ins for the organization’s services and educational programs will be logged and reported. Data will be collected monthly to measure progress toward meeting the stated objectives for the year. SoarAge will also administer a survey in order to determine the level of satisfaction with the services provided. Client and community feedback will all be assessed in this manner. The data collected will also assist in the improvement of the programs and services.
Annually, staff will convene to review the year’s programs, evaluate the success and any pitfalls, and plan for the following year of programs. At this time they will assess the resources, needs, and budget for the programs; evaluate the needs of the participants of the programs as perceived by the personal experiences of program administrators, business owners, feedback from program participants, and input gleaned from other sources; and develop a programming schedule for the upcoming year.
The funders of SoarAge International will receive semi-annual reports during the award year, as will board members, the executive director, and other interested individuals. If objectives for the first year are met, the programs and initiatives will be considered successful. In the long term the organization defines success by a decrease in the number of women and children falling victim to human trafficking in the target countries.
SoarAge International is confident in the continued interest in funding for its programs. In addition to grant monies, the organization will increase the amount of unrestricted funds through fundraising events. SoarAge International is working diligently to obtain in-kind donations as an additional source of revenue. In the upcoming years, the organization plans on obtaining funds through continuation funds from foundations. In the past the organization has operated solely by board membership donations and donations from the general public. The growth rate of such donors is also expected to rise. We plan on funding our organization in this manner for as long as it is necessary.