Joshua’s fight for freedom

July 27, 2020 in Story

The COVID-19 pandemic put Joshua* at risk of being exploited again, but your support intervened and helped him fight for freedom.

Joshua freedom that lasts

When he was a boy, Joshua was a victim of sexual abuse, robbed of the joy and freedom of an uncomplicated childhood. A few years later, his mother died, leaving Joshua an orphan. Forced to rely on the generosity and kindness of his extended family, Joshua often felt like a burden and desperately wanted to get a good job so he could earn his keep.

A few years ago, Joshua started with 10ThousandWindows. His counselor and caseworker helped him process the trauma he experienced as a child, and think through his dreams and goals for the future. Recently, Joshua finished high school and was just beginning to search for jobs when the pandemic hit.

Joshua’s Job Search Halted by COVID-19

In the Philippines, the lockdown was strict, severe, and instituted nearly overnight. People, particularly exploited and vulnerable people, had no time to prepare or stock up on needed essentials. Government aid and support were slow to roll out, leaving survivors like Joshua with few options.

“COVID had a big impact on me and my family,” he says.

“COVID had a big impact on me and my family.”

Joshua moved in with his uncle, grateful for a roof over his head, access to food, and a safe base from which he could begin his job search. But he quickly felt like a burden. It was obvious his uncle was less than thrilled to have another person around, another mouth to feed. “I opted to eat one meal a day so that other people in our household could eat,” he says.

He knew he needed a good job, but finding employment was easier said than done. Businesses were shuttered. The economy was in a tailspin. In desperation, Joshua considered taking risky, illegal work, putting his safety and well-being in jeopardy.

The Evil Cycle of Exploitation

It was a critical time for Joshua because modern slavery is a vicious cycle: a victim of exploitation becomes a survivor, only to become a victim once again. In the wake of a global crisis like COVID-19, young men like Joshua, desperate to buy food and support their families, face increased vulnerability to trafficking and exploitation.

But with the support of our partners and donors, 10ThousandWindows intervened, helping Joshua avoid exploitation again.

“With the aid I received, I felt like I could help provide for our needs,” he says. “We could eat three times a day. I believe this will help us get through the pandemic until I can find a job.”

During the lockdown, Joshua’s counselor called him regularly (and still does) to support him emotionally.

“I felt supported,” he says. “You did not turn your back on me. I am grateful for that. This brings joy to my heart and the reason not to give up because they did not give up on me. I am thankful for my counselor and the support I receive when looking for a job.”

“You did not turn your back on me. I am grateful for that.”

Now, as the lockdown eases, Joshua is beginning his job search again, continuing his fight for freedom. “I am persistent in my job search,” he says. “I am hopeful that I will land a job that will help me stand on my own.”

I am hopeful that I will land a job that will help me stand on my own.

Fighting for Freedom that Lasts

With the support of his counselor, Joshua is applying and interviewing for jobs, and following up on good leads. It is just a matter of time until Joshua finds work that will keep him safe and free forever.

“What is amazing about Joshua is his tenacity and spirit,” says his counselor, Luz. “He believes that as long as he doesn’t stop looking, he can find a good job, even in the most challenging time economically.”

Your partnership with 10ThousandWindows helps us fight for freedom for survivors like Joshua, serving them every step of the way. Together, we can confront exploitation at its root by helping Joshua and other survivors of modern slavery get real, sustainable jobs, empowering freedom that lasts.


*To respect survivor privacy, all names and identifying details have been changed.

You Spread Hope In a Pandemic

June 25, 2020 in Story

Your generosity to our COVID-19 Crisis response has spread hope in a pandemic.

For the first time in her life, Maryel* secured a good job in November 2019. She had suffered exploitation, and it had taken her years of support from 10ThousandWindows to overcome trauma, gain workplace skills, and find employment. Maryel was finally in a good place. With her regular paychecks, she could care for her children, pay her bills, and put food on the table. 

Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. 

Maryel’s city in the Philippines was thrust into strict quarantine and she was laid off from her job. She used her last paycheck to stock up on food but knew it wouldn’t last long. With no job, no income, and no prospects of finding work in the near future, Maryel’s situation was desperate. 

The impact of Coronavirus on vulnerable people has been severe, but the power of your generosity cannot be understated. You have helped mitigate the intensity of the pandemic for survivors like Maryel. With your support, Maryel and hundreds of other victims of exploitation were able to survive the dark hours of the COVID-19 crisis with dignity.  

Because you showed up for survivors, we were able to initiate our COVID-19 Crisis Response within weeks of the pandemic rearing its ugly head. The emergency cash transfers and virtual counseling sessions have been a crucial lifeline for Maryel and other survivors during the quarantine. 

“The cash aid helped me buy food like rice and meat for my family,” Maryel says. “Before, I could only feed my children porridge. But after receiving the money, I could prepare meals for my children.” 

Your generosity has made a difference. You have been a beacon of light in a dark time and spread hope during a pandemic. And together, we can help Maryel and other survivors like her get good jobs in the months to come, so they can live safe, free, and hopeful lives once again.

*name changed to protect survivor privacy

You helped empower and protect those vulnerable to trafficking: Ana’s story

February 26, 2020 in Story

Ana* was at risk and vulnerable to trafficking. But before she could take a job that was “too good to be true”, she was introduced to 10ThousandWindows.

Like many women in the Philippines, Ana married young and was forced to leave high school early to help support her family. But she found herself struggling to find work that would pay the bills. 

Because the Philippine job market is limited for people who lack a high school education, Ana found it impossible to find a good job. Her only options were low-paid, low-skilled, and potentially exploitative work. 

Ana was at risk and vulnerable to trafficking. But before she could take a job that was “too good to be true”, Ana was introduced to 10ThousandWindows. 

“I never imagined that there are people who would want to help me knowing how bad my previous experiences were,” she says. 

Because of the support of 10ThousandWindows donors, Ana was able to earn her high school diploma. She says the hands-on support of 10ThousandWindows counselors, social workers, and tutors made the difference for her. 

“What I liked the most was the close monitoring,” she says. “Despite the heavy traffic in Cebu, 10ThousandWindows staff took their time to visit me at home. I appreciated the non-stop support. The tutoring sessions helped me feel more confident when taking my exam.”

Right after graduating from high school, Ana was hired at a local IT company. As she showed up to work every day and received her paychecks, Ana saw that she could successfully achieve her goals. 

Today, Ana works at a shop in a local mall and no longer requires assistance from 10ThousandWindows. She is determined to remain financially independent.

“I’m ready to work hard for myself, for my future, for my family,” she says.

Ana is now in a position to save up money to take her next big step – whether that’s pursuing a college education, starting a business, or doing something else entirely. No matter Ana’s next step, though, it will be free of exploitation, and that was made possible by our donors and partners.

*Name changed to protect survivor privacy


Written by Mike Strauss | Photo by Jacob Maentz

Jonna is on the frontlines restoring the lives of human trafficking survivors

February 26, 2020 in Story

Meet Jonna who is restoring the lives of human trafficking survivors on the frontlines.

Jonna is restoring human trafficking survivors

Jonna is the Country Director for 10ThousandWindows Philippines

Q: What motivates you and keeps you going every day working with survivors of human trafficking and exploitation?

Jonna: Our clients express a concrete need for our services. That ‘need’ motivates me, when you know that what 10ThousandWindows does for the most vulnerable, is addressing critical needs survivors have expressed. They need this. It’s important for them. Progress also motivates me. I’m encouraged when I see clients take concrete action steps towards the life they dream for themselves. The milestones survivors achieve, be that completing high school, finding work, or getting promoted at work, all these cancel out the day-to-day challenges because you know they are experiencing better lives.

“I’m encouraged when I see clients take concrete action steps towards the life they dream for themselves.”

Q: Why is this work so important and needed in Cebu?

Jonna: We started operations in Metro Cebu because there weren’t effective economic programs to support survivors of violence and abuse as they transition and reintegrate back to their communities. We serve the most vulnerable populations. The need for our services are explicitly expressed by non-profit organizations who work with the same clientele, by the government, and by the clients themselves. I remember one survivor who said “10ThousandWindows is my only hope”. This statement holds true for most of the people we work with.

“We serve the most vulnerable populations.”

Q: What is your hope for the survivors 10ThousandWindows serves?

Jonna: My hope is for these women to experience dignity. My hope is they will be able to stand up for themselves. That they will live the lives they dream of. That they will be truly free and independent. That they will pursue their goals. That they will wake up each day not having to worry about the food that they’ll eat; and that they will think that they are as deserving as everybody else to experience a better future.

“My hope is for these women to experience dignity… That they will be truly free and independent.”

Meet other 10ThousandWindows staff in the United States and the Philippines who are restoring the lives of victims of modern slavery.




Your gifts helped Valerie break the cycle of exploitation

February 25, 2020 in Story

When Valerie arrived in Malaysia for her new job, she quickly learned the employer had lied. But through the generosity of 10ThousandWindows supporters, Valerie escaped human trafficking, found a good job, and broke the cycle of exploitation. 

Raised by her grandmother and aunt, Valerie* delayed her dream of going to college to help provide for her family. In high school, she was a talented musician who often sang in malls to earn money. When a friend’s sister mentioned a job opening for a bar singer in Malaysia, she saw the perfect opportunity to provide for her family while also following her dreams.

When she arrived in Malaysia, though, Valerie quickly discovered the bar owner had lied about the job.

“We were singers, but there weren’t any audiences,” she says. “I was with other women who wore revealing clothes, and when customers would come into the bar, they would select a singer to join them at their table. We were forced to provide them with ‘extra services’.”

We were singers, but there weren’t any audiences. When customers would come into the bar… we were forced to provide them with ‘extra services’.

Day in and day out, this was Valerie’s reality. The exploitation lasted for months. Every day, Valerie’s hope grew dimmer.

But in a stroke of luck one night at the bar, Valerie met a patron who wanted to help her escape and who secured her safe passage to the Philippines.

Like many victims of human trafficking, Valerie urgently needed work after returning home. Before her situation became dire, she was introduced to 10ThousandWindows and took job-readiness training. With the support of her counselor, Valerie upgraded her schooling and technical skills, and found a good job at a local IT company.

“I feel blessed that 10ThousandWindows helped me find a job. My life is better than before. I’m already making regular payments on my own house where my family can live. I’m very independent now – I can stand on my own, and I can provide for my child.”

Through the generosity of our supporters in 2019, 80 victims of modern slavery and exploitation secured safe, well-paid jobs with reputable employers. Each of these survivors is now well on their way to economic freedom. For women like Valerie, this means a stable living situation, the ability to provide for her child, and the end of exploitation.

*Name changed to protect survivor privacy


Written by Mike Strauss | Photos by Jacob Maentz

Meet Janice – Staff Q and A

November 19, 2019 in Story

Meet Janice! Get to know our staff who are restoring lives on the frontlines in the Philippines.

Janice is Deputy Director of 10ThousandWindows in the Philippines

Q: What motivates you in your work?
A: I am motivated knowing that the impact of our work in every survivor’s life can affect future generations. Their children and grandchildren have hope in telling a different story, living a life that is not haunted by fear and trauma.

Q: How do you help restore the lives of victims of modern slavery?
A: I help restore survivors by genuinely listening to them and treating them with dignity. During the early years of my work, I had the privilege of directly providing client services like soft-skills training and connecting survivors to scholarships and job referrals. Now, as part of the Leadership Team, I ensure client voice is taken into account when we make program decisions, and that staff are equipped to respond to client needs.

Q: What about your work has been the most fulfilling?
A: The most fulfilling part of my work is seeing our clients achieve a level of economic empowerment like having a stable job and thriving in their chosen careers. One of our former clients is now the Work Immersion Program Coordinator and I supervise her. She graduated cum laude with a 10ThousandWindows scholarship and is now a registered social worker. I am so proud of what she has accomplished and how passionate and professional she is in her work.

Meet the rest of the 10ThousandWindows team.

Once a victim of abuse, Natalie now uses her story to help others

November 19, 2019 in Story

As a child, Natalie was a victim of abuse. Today, she harnesses the power of her own story to help others who have suffered from human trafficking, violence, and exploitation as a social worker with 10ThousandWindows.

Natalie (not her real name) is the newest staff member to join 10ThousandWindows in the Philippines. After many years of being supported by 10ThousandWindows as a client in our education program, she now works directly with survivors as a social worker.

Natalie grew up in Manila, which is one of the biggest cities in the world and the sprawling, traffic-choked capital of the Philippines. Like millions of others in the country, Natalie’s family was desperately poor and struggled to survive.

Instead of her family being a source of calm and safety, Natalie’s mother became violent and abusive, and Natalie fled from home, seeking refuge in a local shelter.

But not long after she arrived at the shelter, Natalie faced an impossible situation. She couldn’t stay at the shelter forever, but she had nowhere else to go.

“Because my mother was the abuser, I couldn’t go home,” she says. “I was worried about who would pay my bills. There were times where I didn’t think I’d be able to surpass the hardships in my life.”

And so, like many other young Filipinos, Natalie chose to migrate within the Philippines to find work. She moved to Cebu, the second-largest city in the Philippines, and was introduced to 10ThousandWindows through a local NGO partner.

Because of her history of abuse and extreme vulnerability, Natalie was accepted into the 10ThousandWindows 12-week Skills Training and Empowerment Program. Her dream was to attend college and get a good job.

With the support of 10ThousandWindows, Natalie passed her college entrance examinations and was granted a scholarship to study at a university. She graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work in 2015.

“Now I am a licensed social worker,” Natalie says. “10ThousandWindows helped me achieve my dream, helped me stay on track, kept me from being on the street.”

Natalie says her college degree has redirected her life and made a difference for her family.

“Now, I can support myself without any help from any NGO,” she says. “I can pay my bills and take care of myself. I am also helping my brother to finish high school, and I am planning to help him finish college.”

This fall, Natalie’s 10ThousandWindows career counselor suggested she apply for a social worker position with the organization. She jumped at the chance and was hired in October.

Natalie working at her desk in the 10ThousandWindows Philippines office.


As Natalie shares about the young women she serves at 10ThousandWindows, a solitary tear catches the corner of her eye, and her voice fills with emotion. She knows firsthand the challenges of overcoming abuse and forging a hopeful future.

“There were times before where I didn’t think I’d be able to surpass those hardships,” Natalie says. “But I’ve passed a milestone.

Every day at work, Natalie harnesses the power of her own experience to support and encourage other victims of violence and exploitation.

“I am in touch with survivors, directly connecting with them,” she says. “We aren’t just working. We are helping individuals who are in need. It’s really fulfilling being part of a client’s life – part of their journey to fulfill their dreams. When I see clients take one step at a time, when they are happy, it’s fulfilling.”

Natalie is thankful to be part of 10ThousandWindows.

“I used to be a client, now I’m part of the team,” she says. “It’s not just a job or a salary, it’s really working with clients and seeing their lives change. I can’t imagine my life without 10ThousandWindows.”

With your help, we’re giving more victims of modern slavery the skills, education and access to good jobs they need to stay free forever. Thank you! 

You can help even more survivors like Natalie on their pathway to freedom. Become a Pathway Partner today.

How One Survivor Rebuilt Her Life After Tragedy: Kristine’s Story

August 15, 2019 in Story

Kristine* was just a few weeks away from finishing high school when she was sexually assaulted by a close family member.

As the world spun around her, Kristine felt shaken to the core. Her life was shattered.

Fearing further abuse, Kristine left home and sought refuge in a local women’s shelter. As questions about her future rolled through her mind, she felt hopeless.

What if she couldn’t heal from the trauma of the assault? Would that hold her back from getting a good job? Without a career, how would she ever be able to support her younger sister’s schooling and her mom’s medical bills?

A Glimmer of Hope

Kristine felt a glimmer of hope when a social worker introduced her to 10ThousandWindows.

“Little did I know that decision would open a lot of opportunities for me.”

Like all 10ThousandWindows survivors, Kristine started in the workplace skills program and worked with her Career Counselor to craft a plan for her future. Her counselor saw her aptitude for learning and her dream of gaining a college education and suggested she take college entrance exams.

Kristine thought about it and decided to go for it. She wanted to be trained to support other women who faced challenges just like she had.

“I realized that I have an innate passion for helping other people,” she said.

When Kristine received the results of her entrance exam, she was thrilled to see she had passed and was accepted into a social work program at her local university.

The Start of a New Life

Kristine’s first year of college was challenging, but the skills she learned at 10ThousandWindows helped her navigate a new learning environment.

“I applied the time management insights I learned from the soft-skills training on how to go about my exams,” she said.

Over the next four years as she pursued her college degree, Kristine often drew on the support of 10ThousandWindows staff and the workplace skills she learned.

It paid off.

In May this year, Kristine graduated at the top of her class with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work.

During the years it took her to gain her degree, one moment stands out for Kristine with particular poignancy. One day during her social work practicum earlier this year, Kristine drafted client case studies and remembered vividly the time not so long ago where she had been the client talking about the future with her own social worker. Then, she found it impossible to believe her life could turn out differently.

“All these people who supported me throughout my journey gave me strength. It helped me to cope with my struggles and persevere in college,” she said.

Now, Kristine intends to pass the board exam for social workers and work for a non-profit organization.

“This is not the end, but just the beginning of my new life. I am happy and thankful for all the people who have helped me reach this point, my 10ThousandWindows family. Without a scholarship from 10ThousandWindows, I cannot imagine what my life would have become.”


Kristine is one of seven 10ThousandWindows survivors to graduate from college so far in 2019. Nineteen other survivors have graduated from high school this year.

*Pseudonym to protect survivor privacy