ACU graduates fighting human trafficking abroadPosted September 06, 2010
Leah Jones-Knippel (’99) began her ACU experience long before her college career officially began. The projects she took part in at a young age while at ACU’s Leadership Camps set her down a path to become a servant leader as a college student and beyond.
Before her senior year at ACU and then again after graduation, Jones-Knippel spent summers abroad with a church planting team in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
“I discovered the problem of sex trafficking in Thailand and determined that my ministry was to help women and children and to stop the injustice against these innocent victims,” says Jones-Knippel.
She continued her work while at Rahab Ministries, an organization that rescues women from prostitution in Bangkok, Thailand, and later with World Concern, an international humanitarian agency fighting human trafficking across Southeast Asia.
It was out of these experiences that Freedom Stones was formed. “I saw missing links that I felt needed to be addressed to help these victims become better integrated and healed,” says Jones-Knippel.
Freedom Stones aims to help victims of human trafficking through:
- Spiritual transformation
- Holistic skills training
- Income generation through the making of jewelry
- Access to micro-loans
“Our heart is to help community-based organizations in countries affected by human trafficking do what they do better – to heal, empower and reintegrate victims back into their communities with the tools that will make them less vulnerable,” says Jones-Knippel.
Kara Ulmer (’98) joined the Freedom Stones staff in Feb. 2010 as the Director of Global Operations and Strategic Development, directly managing operations managers in Ghana and Thailand, and directing the implementation of a new infrastructure in Ghana, Africa.
Ulmer says her time as a student working in the ACU College of Business Administration computer lab allowed her to develop quickly as a professional, and the time she spent studying abroad in England through the ACU Study Abroad program opened her eyes to other cultures.
Prior to joining Freedom Stones, Ulmer worked with Verizon Wireless and was Director of Global Operations Strategic Planning & Performance for Barclays in England, the second largest financial institution in the world.
“I loved the challenge of creating something new, of seeing business change and helping people to discover new ways of thinking,” says Ulmer. “In 2009, I was beginning to think about how I could use my skills for something new, how I could use them to make a difference for those who were disadvantaged.”
“After spending time praying specifically for a call from Leah, she actually called and we reconnected after several years of being out of touch,” says Ulmer. “We discussed the future of Freedom Stones, and I was convinced I needed to be a part of this adventure and solution.”
“The enormity of human trafficking is astounding, with more people enslaved today – 27 million – than at any time in recorded history,” says Ulmer. “Half of these victims are women, and half of them are under age. I have found that God hears the voices of these women and children and that He loves them deeply.”
For more information about Freedom Stones or to purchase the organization's jewelry, visit www.freedomstones.ws. The group will also be at the TOMS “Style Your Sole” event on the ACU campus Sept. 14. For more information about the event, visit the ACU website here.