Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Helping Victims of Sex Trafficking: The Porch Light and the #ShineALight Challenge

One cause that our family has become keenly aware of, and far more concerning than the loss of our natural ecosystems harboring native plants and animals, is the issue of human trafficking. Before not too long ago, we were not aware how prevalent this issue is, especially in central and southern Florida, which are major hubs for human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking. This is not a problem that occurs in faraway places like Thailand and Guyana, but one that occurs here in the United States. According to HumanTrafficking.org, "It is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked to the U.S. annually."

The Porch Light (click to visit their website) is a ministry founded by the Florida Baptist Children's Homes to provide a safe haven for child victims of domestic sex trafficking here in central Florida. Quoting from their website:

Even at this moment, there is a young girl falling victim to the dark world of sex trade.

A predator is gaining her trust, maybe a “friend” she met online. Every year, there are as many as 300,000 children like her in the U.S. who are at risk of being sexually exploited. Many of these girls are being prostituted and face the threat of rape, STDs and even death. The Porch Light is helping these girls begin a new life. We are also working to prevent more innocent children from becoming victims while predators financially profit.

It’s simple, really. Our light will shine until every young girl who has been victimized by sex trafficking is rescued, restored and set free. Similar to parents who leave the porch light on waiting for their daughter to return, our faith-based program symbolizes the love of Christ – a light that shines so bright and a love and peace that transforms lives.

Now, lives are changing because of The Porch Light. Girls stay in the safe home for 9-12 months, depending on individual and specific needs. The safe home is at an undisclosed location for the protection and security of the victims and is staffed by a director, mental health counselor and female caregivers. Each girl has her own bedroom and bathroom within a residential suite.

In addition to providing necessary care to victims, The Porch Light also includes sex trafficking prevention and advocacy efforts. The Porch Light representatives partner with law enforcement to educate in schools, churches and community groups to prevent more girls from becoming victims of the growing sex trade.

I was made aware of The Porch Light by a post that former FSU (my alma mater) head coach Bobby Bowden had posted to Facebook, asking folks to consider donating to this worthy cause. I had noticed listed on their web site that one of the practical needs of the girls was nicely furnished rooms, including wall decor.

It just so happened that we had a number of our native orchid canvas prints left over from the last show. My wife, Joy, got in touch with Lynn Barna, administrative assistant at the Porch Light, with the intent to donate these canvases. They were more than grateful to receive our gift--it warms my heart to know that my photos might in some small way make a girl's room feel a little more like home as she recovers from the awful abuse of sexual exploitation.

Lynn Barna, Joy, and myself and one of the canvases we are donating to The Porch Light.

Now I would like to challenge you to Shine a Light on the darkness of child sexual exploitation. Follow this link: https://theporchlight.org/shine-a-light-challenge and consider how you can give (even a small gift of $5) to the cause of helping young victims of sexual exploitation in their process of recovery.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Wall Calendars! or Christmas and Other Holiday Gift Ideas Featuring Florida's Orchids - Part 2

Wall calendars are always a great way to share beautiful photographs of Florida's wild orchids with loved ones.  Proceeds go to helping our continued efforts to keep up our educational websites and add additional material, taken from numerous field trips per year to observe and photograph orchids in the wild all over the state of Florida.  This effort is entirely funded from our pockets and from proceeds from merchandise sales and speaker fees when giving presentations at orchid societies, etc.  Our websites are free to use and continue to be a source of education and advocacy for our native orchids.  I regularly receive e-mails from folks who find orchids in the wild and request identification. We also regularly donate photos for use in educational displays, orchid society newsletters, and educational websites.

So far, we have never had any advertising on our blog or website, and that is what we continue to hope to do into the future.

We have four different calendars to choose from this year. Clicking an image below will take you to the on-line store where those calendars are available. Each calendar is $19.99 plus applicable taxes and shipping.

First up, we have our most popular calendar to date, the Florida's Endangered Orchids calendar, featuring 12 photographs of orchids from Florida's endangered orchid list, including the rare, elusive and famous Ghost Orchid.

Next, we have our highly prized "Orchids of Peninsular Florida" calendar, featuring native and naturalized species found growing in the central to southern portions of our state.

Next, we have our original and very popular calendar, updated for 2016 - Florida's Native Orchids, featuring many orchids photographed in northern Florida.

Finally, we have our second ever calendar release, Florida's Wild Orchids, also updated for 2016. This calendar features twelve new photos of orchid species ranging throughout the state, including one naturalized species, the Soldier or Lawn Orchid.

We wish you a joyous Advent season from Florida's Native and Naturalized Orchids.
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