Monday, June 4, 2012

Breaking the Chains of Bondage through Freedom Stones

Photo courtesy of Freedom Stones.
An estimated 27 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide. * Wayne Hester ’10 (School of Business & Leadership) is working to break these chains of bondage through Freedom Stones International. This innovative organization fights human trafficking through income-generation projects in impoverished countries. Wayne is a founding executive board member and volunteer.

Freedom Stones partners with ministries in Ghana, Thailand and Cambodia to identify high-risk groups and teach them to make and sell handcrafted jewelry. In addition to earning short-term income from jewelry sales, the artisans also receive business and life-skills training.

Photo courtesy of Freedom Stones.
At the end of their training, the artisans obtain a micro-loan, with the help of Freedom Stones, or use their required savings account to start a small business. Wayne says this holistic approach equips individuals to move from dependency on the organization to establishing a sustainable livelihood and ending the cycle of poverty that is a significant factor in human trafficking.
As an executive board member, Wayne serves as an advisor to the organization’s founder and president, a role that continuously draws on skills he learned in his coaching and mentoring classes at Regent.
 “My studies at Regent are a vital part of my contribution to the development of this incredible organization,” Wayne shares. “My classes on all aspects of organizational leadership and organization development have allowed me to improve and use my God-given gifts to be a part of an amazing team that is now developing Freedom Stones into a high-impact organization.”
He has enjoyed seeing the impact of Freedom Stones firsthand during recent trips to Cambodia, including attending a graduation ceremony for artisans who had completed their training and were reintegrating to Cambodian society. Many of the graduates chose to use funds they had saved to pursue additional training in industries they enjoyed. 
“It was amazing to see young people who were once in danger of illegal hard labor or sex trafficking, now looking at the future with confidence, goals and life-skill building blocks for the future,” Wayne recalls. 
Another highlight of his trip was describing to the graduates how his wife gave him a huge kiss when he presented her with one of the necklaces they had made. 
“They were beaming with pride and confidence when they knew they had created something that someone else found beautiful and valuable,” Wayne explains, with a smile. “In that moment I could see they now saw a value not only in the jewelry they created, but in their own lives.”
Volunteering with the organization has had a significant impact on his life as well, he says.
Wayne Hester '10
Photo courtesy of Freedom Stones.
“I have realized we are all broken and in bondage to some degree. As we help others on the journey to freedom in Christ, we too will find healing and freedom.”
Wayne invites you to learn more about Freedom Stones International at
* U.S. State Department