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A Village Without Girls

Written By Don Simmons

Five years ago there were no teenage girls in the village where Five14 does business. All had been sold, trafficked into prostitution by the time they were twelve, to relieve their family’s abject poverty.

Freedom Business Alliance exists to support businesses like Five14 in Nepal so they can do what they do best: work toward a world without human trafficking.

“Five14 was birthed with the goal of addressing these injustices,” Mary Haegeland explained, the first time we discussed her Freedom Business. “People need jobs, especially where the most vulnerable live – in rural villages. This is where the problems begin.”

Constrained by poor infrastructure and severe poverty in the region, Mary started the only business that made sense – an adventure travel company. Following the 2015 earthquake, Five14 helped villages rebuild homes and construct new homestays to accommodate trekkers seeking adventure “off the beaten path.” They also launched two guest houses, a full service restaurant, and a catering company.

Just two years after Five14 trained villagers to host tourists, the villagers declared their region a “No Trafficking Zone” and helped Five14 have traffickers arrested and prosecuted.

MY EYE-OPENING TRIP

I witnessed the transformation face to face on a life-changing adventure to Nepal with my daughters. Christy, 17, quickly became a favorite new friend of a local girl. Their family ran a homestay where we lodged. Her older sister, age 16, was the first teenage girl in this village in many years – a harrowing thought for me as a father of three daughters.

 

 

As a 15-year veteran of impact investing, I am acutely aware of the transformative power of business. Balancing profitability and social transformation is not easy but it is the best way to achieve sustainable impact across multiple bottom lines. Freedom Businesses take this sacrifice even further.

Traditional businesses hire the best and brightest. Freedom Businesses hire the uneducated, and traumatized, usually locating in areas where few businesses dare operate. There are no books for this approach, no well-laid paths, and often the ones God calls have no formal business training…or maybe those with business training “know better” than to say yes to this particularly challenging call.

Either way, these businesses need our support to do their vital work. One of the best sources of support comes from the global network of resources gathered by Freedom Business Alliance.

These businesses need our support to do their vital work. One of the best sources of support comes from the global network of resources gathered by Freedom Business Alliance.”

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Want to help FBA scale the creation of jobs for survivors of human trafficking around the world?

For example, in 2019, through their partnership with Lifeshape, a Chick-Fil-A foundation, FBA brought store operators to Nepal to consult with the Five14 team. Teaching leadership and operational principles developed at Chick-Fil-A, these consultants enabled Five14 to reclaim underutilized space, improve traffic flow, and optimize menu selections at their café.

“Our capacity and through-put nearly doubled.” Mary explained.

“They taught our team core values – to go the extra mile, be honest in all things, and do a job even if it isn’t yours. Nepali people are incredibly hospitable. But the team from Chick- Fil-A taught them to take it to a new level. It’s why our staff loves working here and why we have zero attrition. Our values stand in contrast with local norms.”

Five14 is one of several businesses in Nepal hit hard by shutdowns due to COVID-19. But Mary sees new opportunities emerging.

“We are scouting a new location in town. And we have a vision to employ a new, very vulnerable people group by opening a hotel down south.”

Both FBA and Lifeshape are committed to walking alongside many Freedom Businesses in Nepal. They have committed dozens of consultants and thousands of hours of help in the coming years. And Nepal is not the only region FBA is helping. The Alliance includes over 100 Freedom Businesses similar to Five 14, located in more than 28 countries. They all need resources to overcome the many challenges of building sustainable and transformational businesses which create jobs to put an end to human trafficking.

Today there are over 40 million trapped in modern slavery. And statistics show 80% of those rescued are re-trafficked if they do not have dignified employment.

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