Brian and Season are the founders of Eye Heart World. A local non-profit whose mission is to combat human trafficking throughout the US through awareness, prevention, and aftercare. I first met them last fall as their organization was continuing to develop in the area, and I was immediately inspired by their passion to do all they can to fight the injustice of modern-day slavery that our communities are prevalently facing. I had the great pleasure to sit down with Brian and Season and get to know more about Eye Heart World, what's in store for the organization, and what it's like to work with your spouse. They welcomed us with open arms in their downtown Green Bay office, where all the magic of product orders and outreach planning happens.
K: Can you tell me a little bit about the history of Eye Heart World? How did it begin and why?
B: About 6.5 years ago we first heard about the issue of trafficking at a conference and the speaker was talking about it in reference to what they were doing. It blew us away and we were heartbroken. We started to begin researching more about the issue. We knew we needed to do something so we organized an awareness event. Leading up to it Season and her mom, Denise, bought enough fabric for 30 handbags, putting an orange flower on each bag. We wanted to sell the bags and give the proceeds to an after care program. That night we sold out, and took orders for more. We started to get invited to other groups and churches to speak on the issue, and it just grew from there.
K: What are some of the biggest misconceptions of sex trafficking in Wisconsin?
B: That it doesn't happen here...it does. Or that if she is over 18 or in her 30s and is 'prostituting' herself then it's her choice and she wants to do it. When the reality is she was probably forced as a minor. It's not a choice. No woman says, 'When I get older, I want to service 8-10 men every night'.
K: How is Eye Heart World combating this issue, what are some current projects?
S: The VRB Project (Victim Response Bag). The outreach team distributes bags to the girls that are filled with items like a blanket, t-shirts, underclothing, snack items, a journal, etc.).
B: We once went to drop some bags off at the police station and we were in the lobby waiting for someone to grab the bag when Season noticed one had flip-flops and one had slippers. She contemplated switching out the slippers, for real shoes, but didn't have anything else. Before we left, the office asked if someone would be willing to talk with a girl if she was interested to talk to somebody. We said, 'Of course.' At 12:30 am we got the call that someone wanted to talk and jumped out of bed, and went to the station. When we got there they had already given her a bag, and she was wearing the slippers. These girls have been told to believe nothing is ever free. Most of them have never been given something without an expectation to give something back. Giving these simple gifts can break down the walls and help the girls to trust law enforcement and the outreach team more. Helping them to listen and hear how they can be helped.
S: We also have The Heart Tour which is a one day event geared towards girls most at risk for trafficking (those in foster care, from low income communities, runaways, at risk). We offer big group activities, small group discussions, and food. At the end of the day they receive a cross body bag, a devotional, an orange rose, and a t-shirt. While the purpose is to raise awareness on trafficking, we focus on value and empowerment. You see a change in a lot of the girls that attend when they leave, and it's one of my favorite things that we do.
K: Victim Response Bags seems like a very practical and easy way people can help. How can someone go about doing so and what are other ways anyone can help fight the injustice of sex trafficking:
S: Yes! Items that fill the bag can be dropped off at our office and we can fill them, or we can send a bag with a list for you or your friends to fill! A list of 15 things that people can do can be found when emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
B: Educating yourself on the issue and becoming aware. The more we talk about it, the less socially acceptable it is for men to buy sex.
K: Eye Heart World hosted its first Gala at the Meyer Theater in April, you guys put on a wonderful event and it was very inspiring to see so many members in the community unified for such an important cause. You shared your efforts on working on a safe house and after care program for victims, currently there is no where for victims to go to seek restoration and safety.
B: Thank you. Yes, we are working on raising funds to build a home and have 6 months of operating costs covered.
K: You have an awesome product line that still includes bags and other great practical items. When you made those first 30 bags, is this where you thought you would be and why have you chosen to continue?
S: Haha, no. But as we grow more and seek to know God's heart, this is the cause he asked of us. He fuels us to do it.
B: God's heart for justice and our desire for people to understand that that is who God is. When you surrender to him, He calls you to respond to issues like this.
K: You guys have been married for 8 years, and are expecting a new addition to your family this year. What is it like working with you spouse, and how do you balance your work and family life?
B: Clearly define your boundaries and pay attention to it, and have a routine. We get up, have breakfast and a quiet time, go to the gym, then come into work. We feel better when we have a good morning together. I love seeing Season's heart in action every day. To have the other person to work off of and with.
S: I love seeing Brian fulfilled in loving what he does. He gets to be creative and I love watching when a light-bulb goes off and and idea is implemented.
K: What advice do you have for people wanting to start a small business or non-profit?:
S: Just start with what's in your hands, for today that is enough.
B: Plan time to dream and time to be creative, whatever that means for you. You're not going to be able to accomplish everything, but it will lead into something you're supposed to do. Clearly decide what it is you want to do and who you want to serve, and define how you'll tell the story and how you'll make it sustainable.
To learn more about Eye Heart World and to get involved, visit their website: www.eyeheartworld.com
Thank you, Brian and Season for the wonderful work you and your team is doing!
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline
1 (888) 373-7888
or text the Polaris BeFree Textline