Yolanda Schlabach – Changing the Landscaping of Human Trafficking

IMG_5119

First TEDx Talk, August 2016

Yolanda is one Remarkable Woman. I had the pleasure of interviewing her recently on our Remarkable Unfiltered Conversation Series. I left our conversation with so many questions and wanted to follow-up with her here in case you felt the same way.

Yolanda has been involved as a Human Trafficking Advocate in Delaware since 2012. She married Dan in 1990 and is a mom to three beautiful children. As this issue has been brought to the forefront in Delaware when it had been previously unacknowledged, everyone is asking Yolanda – “Who are you?” In a sense, they are asking, “Where did you come from, what’s your background, and how did you get here?”

Yolanda has a clear calling. She’s on a mission.

How did you get involved with Human Trafficking in Delaware?

In 2012, we formed our 501(C)3, Zoe Ministries, Inc.. Along with my board of directors, I was praying and seeking to determine our direction. Our original thought was to operate a facility for homeless, pregnant women. So, I started calling various state agencies to determine the voids in services and the needs.

Someone within a State agency told me, “We don’t have anything for trafficking victims.” I had no idea what she meant. I thought a trafficked victim was someone who had been hit by a car. She told me about human trafficking and I was dumbfounded and horrified. I started talking to friends, lawyers, social workers, law enforcement and court employees, and the majority responded with, “That doesn’t happen in Delaware” or “There are no stats for that. We just don’t see that in our state.”

I went online to Polaris Project, the national anti-human trafficking organization. Their heat-map displays red dots for suspicious/actual activity. I found the I-95 corridor was covered with so many red dots, I couldn’t even see Delaware! I was confused -I was looking at the Polaris map with indications of heavy human trafficking activity, yet none of us knew about it. There was a definite “disconnect”.

Finally I found one person who worked at Department of Justice– one of the top prosecutors, who agreed with Polaris. He told me, “It happens. ..and unfortunately, we don’t have state legislation to fight human trafficking.”

So, we were covered under federal legislation (TVPA of 2000), but Delaware had no arrests or prosecutions, partially because there was no legislation at the state level. I thought, “If we aren’t prosecuting the perpetrators, then we aren’t identifying or assisting the victims, either.”

What is that like for your family?

I have three kids and an amazingly supportive husband. They all are informed and supportive of my work, but my youngest son, who is only 9 years old, understands elements at only the most basic level–that there are people who make bad, evil choices to hurt others, and that Mom wants to help the victims. Mom is a modern-day abolitionist.

My fifteen year old daughter knows how dangerous people in the world can be, as she has heard my presentations and attended one of my TED talks. I shield her from nothing because she’s the target age. And my 22 year old son is aware of the reality of trafficking and how I spend my days. Even with the common discussions of the topic in our home, we still recognize the goodness in people and that every person is made in God’s image– but we all have freedom to choose. We are not robots. I don’t want to become jaded or skewed in my perception of people, but it can be a challenge in this type of work, dealing with this level of degradation every day.

My husband has been phenomenally supportive. He’s always encouraged me– whether it was my desire to return to school or start this organization. He would always tell me, “Whatever you want to do, I want to be the platform from which you jump. Whatever it takes to meet your dreams, I want to help you launch.”

We’ve been married almost 30 years, and he’s still never sure what’s going to come out of my mouth.  He’s been my organizational security blanket, helping build the foundation of Zoe as I navigated through developing a solid board of directors. He has offered me much entrepreneurial wisdom throughout this journey. He knows business, finances, and has expertise in the areas in which I lack. We make a really effective team.

What Are a Couple Challenges That Have you Overcome in Life that You Don’t Mind Sharing About?

IMG_8593

Second TEDx Talk, November 2017

I had a pretty typical childhood. Although when I was 14, I was diagnosed with cancer and required two separate surgeries. I was not promised a positive outcome. At that age, teens often consider themselves indestructible.  So did I. I did not truly consider how many young people do not have desired outcomes. But- surgeries and annual follow ups were clear, thankfully.

At age 16, I had a car accident that could have killed me. I was hit by a drunk driver, going 75 mph in my Pontiac T1000. My car spun around several times before slamming me into a telephone pole. But by the grace of God, I was spared again. I immediately got out of my car and suffered only minimal injuries. It was truly a miracle.

In 1996, when I delivered my first son, I suffered a severe post-partum hemorrhage. I coded twice: no heart rate or breathing. I woke up in ICU on a ventilator. It was pretty traumatic for me. The surgeons emergently removed my uterus to save my life. I was only 26. I delivered a baby one night and the next morning, woke up to discover that I would never carry another child.

We’ve walked a challenging, roller coaster journey in order to bring our other two children into our family. We adopted our second child, our amazing daughter, when she was three months old (don’t ever let anyone tell you that adoption labor is easier than physical labor!). She is the one God had for us, without a doubt. We needed her as much as she needed us. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for her. Her entry into our family is every bit as miraculous as her brothers’ stories, but I want her to be able to tell her own story one day–and it is hers to share, not mine. So, out respect for her and her birth mother, I will refrain from details. Just know that we had other opportunities to adopt during the three months we were waiting for her to come home, but we declined those other offers. I knew this baby girl was already ours, God-designed and divinely-orchestrated, as a perfect fit for our growing family.

Six years later, we had another incredible journey….this time through IVF, with our son. One of my life-long friends, Rosena, invited us to visit them in their new home in Lancaster, after just having moved from Florida.  Many phone calls were spent, in the recent years, sharing the pain of the sudden infertility we didn’t see in our future, but was now our new reality. She walked through life with me. She was there the night I almost died in childbirth. When went to Lancaster to visit them, and they took us out to dinner. She told me about that night I almost died. She said, “We knew you were going to live. And God impressed upon me that I will carry a baby for you someday…but not to tell you about it until He prompts me.”

It had been 11 years at that point that she kept quiet–that she held onto that promise All I could do was cry. The overwhelming provision that God plans for us is beyond my comprehension.

In my humanity, though, I was a bit gun-shy about getting excited. However, she assured me that she was certain that God impressed on her that she would carry my biological baby. Today, that baby is alive and well, nine years strong, and a gift to both of our families.

Can You Share A Success Story from Zoe Ministries?

IMG_5672

First Statewide Human Trafficking Professional Training Conference, hosted by Zoë Ministries

There was a trafficking victim who was addicted to heroin when I first met her. In every way,  many people would have considered her beyond repair. A team worked closely with her, piece-mealing case management, trauma therapy, housing and education for her. She was able to escape her situation, and is currently working two jobs and is attending college! It’s amazing. To watch the resilience within the human spirit is incredible. She had been brutally abused and exploited by the only person who had ever told her that he loved her. I was blessed to watch her not only survive, but thrive– because she had the right resources, long-term housing and caring, competent professionals trained in trafficking and trauma-informed care.

If she didn’t have housing, she would’ve been vulnerable out on the street, and risked being exploited again. If she was starving, she may have had petty theft on her record because she was desperate to eat and stole food. If she was being trafficked and discovered by untrained law enforcement, she would be cited for prostitution. The cycle continues then as she would be unable to gain employment to support herself because no one wants to hire a former prostitute. It’s the epitome of a vicious cycle.

However, when we are able to provide them with long-term safe housing and trauma-informed resources, we can watch survivors launch from that platform. And they do. However flawed and however bruised – redemption is possible.

I believe God said that He will change the landscaping of human trafficking in Delaware. I want to be a willing participant and my heart is to serve Him in obedience. I always give Him credit for all of the dynamics that occur because I know it’s not me that holds the power to move this state forward in anti-trafficking efforts. In 2012, there was virtually no discussion of this topic, no state legislation, no protocols in our state, and no professional trainings or protocol development. God has changed all of that in the past 7 years. It is exciting to watch and even more exciting to be a part of His big plan! I am very humbled by what He has allowed me to accomplish in this state–and I give Him all glory for it.

People are actually asking, “Who is she? Where did she come from?” I’m just a mom who cared, listened, learned, and decided to do something about it, led by divine directives.

What are some things you do you do to recharge?

FullSizeRender

Target shooting with a compound bow for a change (from the usual .22 Reuger or .38 Smith & Wesson

I need physical outlets, so I work out 3-4 times a week at the gym–and I love to target shoot. It’s a release for me. There is something incredibly therapeutic about unleashing a round of a hundred magazines into a target attached to hay bales from 50 yards. Both of these activities require total and complete focus for different reasons, but it clears my head of anything except what I am focused on in that moment.

I’m also very intentional about taking two “me-cations” a year. I may take a long weekend, four to five days, and go away by myself. Sometimes I just get in the car and start driving to see where I land! Usually my destination is a quaint, quiet town. I’ll grab my favorite wine, watch movies, read, and eat Turkey Hill Ice Cream and just recharge. I love to shop and meet new people wherever I go.

Where do you seek out inspiration?

Honestly, on my knees. My inspiration comes from God, Himself.

What Are a Few of Your Favorite Books or TedTalks?

  • The Key to Success: Grit – everyone can relate to it. It levels the playing field.
  • Any books by Brennan Manning, but especially The Ragamuffin Gospel – we all screw up and God loves us anyway!
  • My Utmost for His Highest and Devotions for a Deeper Life by Oswald Chambers
  • Black, Red, White – Ted Dekker (trilogy)
  • The Shack
  • Redeeming Love

Do You Share Some Remarkable Friendships with Women?

Yes! Many women come to mind.

For example, Rosena, my dear friend, the woman who carried my baby.

Also, I have made some amazing friends through the work that I do. What began as a working relationship in anti-trafficking efforts has blossomed into connections that I cherish. Leslie Brower, Mary McDonough, Rita Landgraf, Kristan Hudson and Patty D’Angelo (now my assistant), and Lauren Arnold are just a few of the women that I have come to love, respect and admire. Their hearts are an amazing blessing to me.

Sharon Stevens is one of the most remarkable women I’ve met. I’ve known her for less than 7 years, but we were kindred spirits immediately. We think alike, talk alike, and enjoy taking trips together. She is the one in my adult life who spoke truth into who I am. She went right to the “heart of the onion”, and didn’t bother peeling back “one layer at a time”. God spoke to her, through her, to me, about who I was, and it changed me. There’s an instant forever bond between us. I look to her for keeping me straight. She can say things to me that no one else can get away with. She takes responsibility for herself. She will always apologize for her part, and not more. And I love that.  We both are able to lay issues on the table, leave them there after sifting through, and then move on. Everyone needs a close friend like Sharon in her life.

I have a very special inner circle of about  6-8 friends to whom I am very close–and so many just outside that, even. The common thread is being real– being transparent. Knowing that we’re broken, but it’s okay, because we are all broken together. There is never condemnation or judgment. We are able to separate who we are from what we have done.

And thank you to my new friend, Jennifer Sacco, for this opportunity to share more about me and the anti-trafficking efforts made in the state of Delaware! You are a remarkable woman with a great heart to encourage.

Have You Outgrown a Friendship? – Remarkable Unfiltered Conversation with Dr. Carleah East

remarkable women youtube channel

dr. east

Dr. Carleah East is one Remarkable Woman. As a Clinical Psychotherapist, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Psychology Professor, Author, Speaker, Wife and Mom, she juggles much every day. After listening to her speak, though, you can see how. Her energy is infectious and her passion for helping others drives her. She created The Sapphire Woman as a way to encompass all of her pursuits and to help women, “reclaim their power, embrace their truth, and design their destiny.”

Dr. East and I could have spoken about people and relationships for hours! Today, we focused on how to handle friendships that we may have outgrown. It’s not an easy thing to acknowledge and hold onto the “power” that each of us can own for ourselves. It’s hard enough figuring out how to break free from the strong messages given to us from society at large. It’s trickier to stop any negative scripts when they are part of our closer network of friends or family. But sometimes it’s necessary when we start changing our perceptions and thought processes for what we want for our own lives. Like Dr. East says, sometimes we may need to “put certain friends on the shelf.”

We also talked through some ideas on how to process those bumps in the roads in friendships. Sometimes it’s not about us or our battle. Sometimes it’s theirs, and we have to lower our expectations for the relationship temporarily and meet them where they are because we care about them. There is no need for hard feelings. But it does take a certain presence and awareness to be proactive in the friendship instead of being sensitive or reactive.

Dr. East is full of great insight and wisdom. She shares much of it in her book, The Hangover, 12 Steps to Emotional Sobriety. Many of us as women are not aware of how we connect ourselves to people and the consequences – good or bad – of that. This book helps women heal from emotional addictions and focus on growing themselves, knowing that they can feel perfectly imperfect all by themselves. They can move towards emotional freedom and greatness.

Her one success tip for us is:

Don’t let others define you for you are your own definition.

Connect with Dr. East

Dr. Carleah East would love to connect with you. You can find her at The Sapphire Woman, on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter at @TheSapphireDiva. She’d love to work with you or your organization as a guest speaker, coach, or counselor.

And remember, “You are great today, just as you are.”

YouTube Video

Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 8.10.19 AM

The Reality of Human Trafficking in the United States – Remarkable Unfiltered Conversation with Yolanda Schlabach

remarkable women youtube channel

SchlabachHeadshot-

This is one of those unfiltered conversations that needs to be taking place all over the country. When people hear of human trafficking, they typically associate it with something that happens internationally or in movies. The hard reality is that it is happening right in our “backyards,” in every state in the US, and we often are just not aware of it.

Yolanda Schlabach is a Remarkable Woman from Delaware, and she is passionate about bringing awareness and reform around this ugly reality. She is the Executive Director of Zoe Ministries, whose vision is that every girl under the age of 18 and from Delaware that is freed from sex trafficking is provided the opportunity for full rehabilitation. She believes that if we educate ourselves and others on what to look for as signs of the presence of human trafficking and offer proper training for law enforcement, we can curb the statistics and bring about reform.

During our unfiltered conversation, Yolanda educated me about some of the statistics around human trafficking in the United States and the difference between prostitution and trafficking. The numbers are staggering. About 300,000 cases were reported last year in the US, and familial trafficking is on the rise. 83% involves US citizens. I was shocked to also learn about the rise of trafficking involving international women and that massage parlor trafficking has become big business.

It’s almost overwhelming to think about, which is why I think these conversations are so important. There are things that we actually can do to help. Yolanda pointed to some great resources where we can learn more about the issues around trafficking. She shared how to report suspicious activity through the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888. And we can always volunteer or donate to organizations like Zoe Ministries that are providing support to victims rescued from the bondage of trafficking.

Connect with Yolanda

You can also listen to her TedTalks, Sex Trafficking in the U.S.: Young Lives, Insane Profit and Life After Trafficking: The Bridge From Trauma to Triumph  and reach out to connect with her if you have any questions or interest in helping her combat this issue in the United States.

YouTube Video

yolanda schlabach

What To Do With Toxic Friendships

Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 9.29.36 AM

2017-12-01 08.05.37

Tammy Bjelland and I instantly connected as friends. We met professionally through our networks, but quickly found that we resonated in so many areas. We both love working with passionate, capable people, stretching our creativity, and making a difference in women’s lives. The more time we spend together, the deeper our connections grows. We especially love collaborating with each other on new ideas and vision for our growing businesses.

Tammy is “that friend” we all talk about having – she is reliable, supportive, caring, and brilliant! You just feel good being around her. You know, just easy. We talk about how chemistry is so important in a relationship with a man. Well, it is just as important with your girlfriends, and our chemistry is off the charts!

Tammy and I could talk for hours about a whole range of topics for women, personally and professionally. In this video, we discuss what to do with toxic friendships. Can we get better at identifying them earlier? And how can we gently bow out once we recognize their toxicity without causing any extra drama?

We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on what has worked for you as well!

Click below to watch our YouTube Video:

Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 9.31.48 AM

Remarkable Conversations Unfiltered – Jennifer Myers – Prison Advocate, Author, Speaker

rc unfiltered

jennifer myers

Jennifer Myers is a Remarkable Woman living in the beachside community of La Jolla, CA. An author and speaker,  prison consultant and advocate, she co-founded a nonprofit to empower girls and women to make positive choices.

Jennifer’s story leaves a huge impression on all her listeners. Early in a dance/choreography career while living in Chicago, she became involved with a marijuana trafficking organization due to a romantic association. In 2003, as one thing lead to another, she found herself arrested for her involvement, and subsequently served 17 months of her three-year sentence in federal prison.

Jennifer described how this experience opened her eyes. She was shocked to meet so many women, mostly mothers, who were locked up for non-violent crimes. She became determined to speak about this experience and make a difference in the prison system. After her release in 2007, Jennifer worked hard to get back on her feet and began a consulting business to help advise women going into prison for the first time. She also wrote a memoir about her journey, published in 2013, titled Trafficking the Good Life.

Today, Jennifer co-runs her nonprofit, R.I.S.E. To Empower, and continues to consult with women going into prison as she empowers girls and women to make positive choices. She has spoken to youth in schools about her experience and, last year, helped produce the first TEDx inside a men’s prison in San Diego. She also recently spoke at TEDxWilmingtonWomen about reducing recidivism by empowering women inside prison before they are released.

Jennifer’s piece of advice to women is: Turn your adversity into a gift! Stay present to the moment, and give yourself the opportunity to follow the threads that are presented to you in life.

Connect With Jennifer

Jennifer would love to hear from you! Connect with her via her website, www.jennifermyers.co.

Click on the image below to watch our Remarkable Conversation Unfiltered:

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 10.56.58 PM

Remarkable Conversations Unfiltered – Madi Still

rc unfiltered

image1Madi Still is a Remarkable Woman  – a self-proclaimed “life changer,” she founded Still PREP’n 24-7 to positively restore and empower people to meet their goals in life, business, and health. She is also a leading wellness coach in health and fitness, sustaining more than a quarter of a million dollars in business per year.

One of the most memorable parts of the interview was when Madi shared the loss of her first child at just two days old. She describes the crippling pain and how she was able to confront it and eventually allow herself to heal. Madi channeled that pain into two newfound passions: health and fitness and inspirational speaking. She said, “When we don’t confront the pain, it cripples us in so many other areas of our lives.”

Today, Madi is happily married, a mom to an eight-year-old son and living outside of Philadelphia, PA. She shares her powerful story and inspires women through trainings and public speaking at local business events, including her first appearance on the TEDx stage. She is also currently writing her first book, an autobiography and guide to being a modern “MomPreneur.”

Madi’s deep desire to impact as many lives as possible is what continues to drive her everyday. Her one piece of advice to women is: Know your truth and share it, because there’s power in vulnerability.

Connect With Madi

Madi would love to hear from you! Connect with her via her website at MadiStill.com.

How to Communicate and Influence Others

Untitled design (60)

“You have a story to tell, and someone needs to hear your story because only you can help that person.” This is an inspiring quote by motivational speaker Les Brown, and it’s something he said to a friend of mine named Ria Story. A motivational speaker herself, Ria is a remarkable woman I interviewed earlier this year for my Remarkable Women podcast.

Ria shared many quotes and nuggets of wisdom with me, but the most memorable involved helping people communicate and influence others. She described the great courage it took to overcome her own fear in sharing her painful past.

By pushing through that, Ria learned she could genuinely help others to share their own stories. She realized that she could be “that” person who started conversations and shared information effectively.

Today, Ria helps people from all walks of life to learn the skills that enable them to gain influence and use it for the most impact. We all have positions of influence, whether it is in our family, workplace, or social circles. Ria is passionate about helping others see and understand the potential they all have inside of them.

One of my favorite parts of our conversation was talking about authenticity. We both agreed that it is most freeing to be honest with others (and ourselves) about our mistakes. She believes that doing so actually helps us build influence and credibility with others.

As Ria says, “We all have weaknesses. We know it. Others know it. The question is, ‘Do they know that we know it?’” There’s strength that comes when we are our authentic selves and don’t cave in to the pressure of conforming to someone else’s ideals.

Another success tip Ria shared is to be intentional about your own personal growth and development. This will help you gain more leadership and influence with other people.

Intrigued? If you want to learn more, I encourage you to connect with Ria on LinkedIn. You can also read her latest book, Leadership Gems for Women, in which she shares 30 precious gems of leadership wisdom on characteristics of very successful women—and insight on how you can develop them yourself.

Risk It

risk it

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” As you may know, I’m a big fan of Mrs. Roosevelt. So many of her sentiments ring true for me, including this one.

Could I have created Remarkable Women without a dream? No. Could I have done it without believing in that dream? Certainly not! Could I have done it without risking failure? No way.

When I was a kid, every day was an adventure. I never knew what was ahead, but I knew I wanted to grab life by the horns. I was so ready to grow up! Can you relate?

When I did grow up, I faced many obstacles – high school, college, the dreaded first break-up, the “dream job” I yearned for, and so on. That’s when I realized that growing up is hard work. With the freedom of being an adult comes risk and responsibility.

Here is my favorite part about real growth, though: There are no limits. Growth is not just about our age; it’s about our character and personality. We get to become better versions of ourselves every year – every day, even. Fortunately, I learned this pretty early on. I learned that growth is good, and the only thing standing in my way was myself!

Though I already had a decade-long career in real estate, I didn’t feel completely fulfilled. I didn’t really know what I was looking for, or what was even out there, because I had just stayed in my comfort zone. I could have let fear guide me, just as I had so many other times in my life. But I decided to get out of my own way and get to the other side of the fear.

So, I took a leap to allow possibility to feed my soul – and it started with something so simple: a casual meeting with a friend whose energy I loved. That one conversation opened my eyes to new possibilities, and it led me to creating a physical space – “a remarkable space” – where I could continue to explore my wants and needs.

Little did I know at the time, that space led me on a journey to creating Remarkable Women and the blog you’re reading right now.

The moral of my story is this: When we get out of our own way, there’s no telling where we can soar. When we embrace risk, every day becomes an adventure!

Remarkable Women Podcast – Lori Saitz

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 11.07.35 AMlori saitzLori Saitz is a Remarkable Woman from Arlington, VA. She is a networking strategy coach and speaker, helping “quiet girls” get past their fear of networking so they can find success in their business lives. As a self-proclaimed, “Quiet Girl” herself, she can relate to the challenges and shares practical ways to overcome them. 

Lori is a very passionate and caring person. I could quickly tell that she truly enjoys helping others. One of the things she cares most about is worldwide literacy and education, having volunteered as a pre-GED teacher, adult literacy tutor and 1st grade story teller in the past. She is fueled by the idea: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” She loves helping others pursue their own journey of “coming alive.”

We spoke a lot about a few of the challenges she has been through as an entrepreneur, particularly with her first business, Zen Rabbit Baking Company. Listen as she shares how hurricanes and fatal car accidents impacted her business and life. I see how it has made her stronger and wiser. She knows that there is “no avoiding obstacles. They are just a part of life, and we have to figure out ways around and through them.”

What she learned from all those challenges is that “you just keep going. It’s not over until you say it’s over. Sometimes you need to pivot. Things won’t always go as you expect and you can still survive even when you’re forced to take a detour…or ten!” I appreciated and resonated with her perspective for sure.

It helps to have a very strong belief in what you’re doing and people around you who support you. She had a network of other entrepreneurs and a mentor who helped keep her going forward. We talked a lot about the importance of the support of friends and colleagues. It’s vital to building anything meaningful and getting through those tough times.

Resources

Lori is a reader and has many great books as resources to share with us:

Mike Dooley’s Infinite Possibilities and Neale Donald Walsh’s Conversations with God are two of her all-time favorites.

She just finished reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

She also recommends:

Connect with Lori

You can find Lori at

Remarkable Inspiration for January 2017

I often receive inspiring videos and articles from my friends and colleagues. They know I’m always on the lookout for positive stories and quotes. I am so grateful for the caring and uplifting women in my life and want to spread the love and inspiration with my network here at Remarkable Women.

housing-project

I honestly had no clue what this video was about originally, but when something like this comes from someone in your life who inspires you and is always positive, you are going to watch that video!

It was very clear to me after watching it, that the connection and space they created to support each other was remarkable. The women in this story made me feel good inside. You just have to watch to see what these remarkable women created!  

I think we can all agree we are faced with obstacles and challenges most days. This video is simple, but a powerful one. What are you holding onto right now?