The Dark Side of Chocolate ... and Everything Else

Today we have the privilege of coming along side Jennafer Ort - who I introduced last week - and journeying with her as she learned about the global human trafficking problem. There are two more posts after today's - so stay tuned!


Jennafer Photo.JPG

Hey there, I’m Jennafer Ort. You’ve probably never heard of me, or – if you have – it was as “Jenna” Young during my 2 years being discipled by Amy Jo in JC’s Village. I’ve been invited to write a 3-part guest series on Amy Jo’s blog. Not because I’m a blogger – I’m not. Not because I’m working with Amy Jo – I’m not. Just because I have something important to share, and it’s too important to limit it to my own sphere of influence. With that, brace yourself. This isn’t a peachy inspirational post. It’s heavy. It’s heart-wrenching – if you let it sink in. But please do because it’s important.

It’s slavery.

If you’re anything like me, your first associations with the word “slavery” might be the Civil War, Africa, William Wilberforce, or some other historical character or time period. You might suppose slavery died with the Emancipation Proclamation of the 1860s. But what if I told you slavery still exists? Then what would you think of? Distant countries? Primitive people groups? Rare horror stories?

Yeah, me too. Until I learned I was wrong.

I first heard about modern-day slavery in my junior year of high school in 2008. At the time, all I knew was the story of a teenage girl giving up chocolate because she learned cocoa was often farmed using slave labor. I was shocked. I admired this girl for giving up chocolate. I considered following her example. And then I promptly forgot about it and moved on with my care-free life. When I heard the same statistic during my sophomore year of college, I was convicted to actually do something by giving up chocolate for a year. I had very little information at the time. And I had absolutely NO IDEA the extent of the slavery problem.

It wasn’t until December of 2015 that I became aware of the vastness of modern-day slavery. Over seven years after I’d first heard slavery still existed, I learned that an estimated 45.8 million people are enslaved across the world.


That’s like the entire populations of Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand combined. That’s a lot of slaves.

And the sad thing is, they’re everywhere. In 2016, the Walk Free Foundation ranked 167 countries from most to least estimated slaves in that country. Sorry, but the United States was not ranked last. It was ranked #72 out of 167, with an estimated 57,700 slaves in the USA.

Granted, it could be more. In fact, compared to the estimated 18 million slaves in India, it’s easy to think we’re doing pretty well. The problem is that many of us in the United States directly support the slave industries of other countries without even knowing it. How do we do this??? Through our purchases.

Chocolate bars, steaming coffee, smart phones, rubber tires, shrimp, fruit, tennis shoes, cheap t-shirts…the list goes on and on. Many of the items we buy or consume every single day have passed through the hands of a slave. It’s not that the companies selling the items are enslaving people. But these companies don’t demand or investigate ethical standards from their suppliers, so they – and we – end up supporting the slavery cycle through our purchases.

Let’s get more personal. Right now – today – there are people around the world working in factories or farms or brothels or fishing boats to support your seemingly harmless lifestyle. To see an estimate of the number of slaves required to support your lifestyle, I challenge you to take this 11-question survey:

When I took the survey on December 24, 2015, my score was 44. Forty-four real people somewhere in the world were working in slavery so I could enjoy my privileged lifestyle as a college student. Something had to change. And it is.

When I took the same survey today, my score was 36.

36 Slaves.png

36 is 36 too many. But it’s nearly a 20% decrease from my first score, so I think I’m onto something. I’d like to share that “something” with you. Please tune in later this week to hear how I’m decreasing my slavery footprint, and how you can decrease yours.

Introducing: Mrs. Jennafer Ort

Mrs. Jennafer Ort

Mrs. Jennafer Ort

Over the next two weeks you'll get to know Jennafer (or Jenna as we called her) Ort - who came to UW-L in the summer of 2013 to attend UW-L's Occupational Therapy program. Jenna is one of the most extroverted and playful students I've ever met - in fact - she taught me a thing or two when it comes to just how awesome play is. The first time I ever hung out with Jenna was because she'd just moved to La Crosse and was looking for a group of Christians to hang out with. The OT program starts in June - but Jenna wasn't going to let that stop her! She sent an e-mail and we met up for fro-yo and next thing I knew - we were study buddies! Jenna has a thoughtful and intentional walk with Christ - and added much to JC's during her time in grad school.

Jenna also taught all of us in JC's about the importance of not just wishing the world were this way or that - but taking personal steps to take a stand for what's right and make it better. First we noticed that Jenna didn't eat chocolate. Not because she didn't like chocolate. Au contraire! She loves it (I mean - who doesn't - right?) Rather - she was intentionally giving up one of her favorite treats because chocolate was associated with human trafficking. This was news to all of us. So as Jenna pursued integrity - we learned too. 

Jenna has since graduated from UW-L, passed the boards, started work as an occupational therapist - and recently - Married Phil Ort (Philabuster!). They now live in Kansas City - but are still sharing insights with us - and now you. So come back next week and read more on what Jenna's learned as she dove into this huge problem that affects us all - and insights she's gained on how we can in fact impact this global problem.