Amber Barron never expected to discover her life's calling when she sat down one evening in April of 2007 to watch a CNN program. She had no idea that the story of a Cambodian woman named Somaly Mam and the increasing epidemic of human trafficking would change her life forever. Because of Somaly's tremendous story, Amber is now the Executive Director of Freedom's Promise, a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing women and children affected by the human trafficking trade and returning them to a hopeful life of freedom.
As a young girl in Topeka, Kansas, she aspired to be a horse trainer on a ranch.
Amber's earliest ambitions were far removed from helping enslaved women and children. As a young girl in Topeka, Kansas, she aspired to be a horse trainer on a ranch. But her desire to serve transformed into an ambition to doing something that would make an impact. Although she didn't know exactly what that position would be, Amber understood her calling would come.
At Kansas State University, she earned her degree in agriculture communication and journalism with a minor in animal sciences. After graduation in 2001, she became involved in the corporate real-estate business with intentions to be a stay-at-home mother. But when Amber learned of Somaly's struggle, she knew it was her life's purpose to help those affected by the unscrupulous and illegal trade of human beings.
Where to Begin?
Amber began to understand her calling as soon as she started to research. She quickly discovered that human trafficking is one of the largest criminal industries in the world-
and that it's "hidden in plain sight." But Amber struggled with where she fit into all of it. And once she figured that out, what was she going to do about it? Was there even enough room for another rehabilitation program?
In order to sift through these overwhelming questions, Amber enlisted the help of Dan Trippie, a local church pastor and current President of Freedom's Promise. Together they began contacting and brainstorming with other individuals and groups involved with rehabilitating human trafficking victims. Through this process, they began to understand what services were already out there and gained feedback on their objectives and vision. With the help of outside encouragement and constructive criticism, Amber and Dan's vision was brought to life.
To End Slavery Once and For All
Since the idea's inception, the organization's development has been on the fast track.
Freedom's Promise received its nonprofit status in June of 2007 and launched its website the last weekend of September 2007 during the "End Slavery" weekend. Amber pinpointed this moment as the "big break"; the website was launched, and it was very clear what work the organization would do. Freedom's Promise would be sustained through donations and the help of volunteers.
Locally, Freedom's Promise works to rehabilitate and assimilate women and children who are casualties of the human trafficking trade. The organization looks to help as soon as the girls are released by providing continuous support and creating a place where they can get back on their feet. It also supports the work of World Relief by providing financial support through fundraising and donations and raising awareness in the community about the issue.
Internationally, Freedom's Promise supports those rescued on a case-by-case basis. Amber also intends to send teams of professionals to these locations to provide training for local groups. The organization will help to properly equip and train local personnel in thorough rehabilitation practices to ensure the victims receive the appropriate and necessary care.
Working for a Cause
Amber continues to work full-time in corporate real-estate, but she now has the added responsibility of Freedom's Promise. She spends her time networking, putting together business plans, developing the website, and generating awareness about the organization and its cause. It is difficult to balance both her real-estate job and Freedom's Promise, and Amber finds herself working long hours most days and prioritizing major tasks throughout the day.
"You have a very idealistic view when you first begin."
As Executive Director, Amber has to take on a number of responsibilities that she didn't foresee back in April. "You have a very idealistic view when you first begin," she says. "Then you are suddenly hit with the overwhelming and intense responsibility of running a non-profit organization." These unforeseen and admittedly intimidating responsibilities included networking and public speaking. "But I have to do it now. There isn't another way to create awareness and effectively do what we've set out to."
While Amber still considers Freedom's Promise to be in the project development phase, it is quite clear that the organization is continuing along its fast track. This December, Amber and Dan were able to make their first donation to two local girls rescued from trafficking situations in Nashville. When the organization became aware of these girls, their immediate needs had already been met. However, both these girls were about to celebrate monumental birthdays, and Freedom's Promise was able to provide a surprise birthday celebration. One of the girls was turning 16, the other 18. In addition to working with local victims, Amber also has a trip planned to Cambodia in March to assess the situation and examine her organization's potential role and influence in the country.
Any advice for future entrepreneurs?
"Understand yourself," Amber explains. "And surround yourself with people who round you out." While Amber considers herself a visionary who always sees the bigger picture, Dan is very action-oriented. She believes this complementary pairing helps to effectively achieve their goals and set new objectives.
"Understand yourself...And surround yourself with people who round you out."
Ultimately, Amber views this journey as a personally spiritual experience–and a humanitarian effort to give freedom and hope back to those from whom it was stolen.