Help Tell the Untold Stories of Human Trafficking

By Wheeler Crimm

 

We all love a good story, right?

 

It's pretty much a normal part of the universal human experience to enjoy being entertained by stories.


It's why we love going to the movies, or why we get caught up in a good book and can't put it down. 

It's why we will sit around a campfire for hours, laughing at the ridiculous tales our relatives tell of times gone by. 

But stories have power beyond simple entertainment.

They have the power to disconnect us from our reality and connect us to another's.

That's the reason we feel so connected with another human as we sit across a cup of coffee from them and listen to them tell the story of their life. 

Stories have the power to encourage, to inspire, to give hope. 

That's why we love things that are "based on a true story." We find strength, meaning, and value in stories.

Stories also have the power to shock. To horrify. 

That's why some of us steer clear of scary movies, but ultimately why we're all addicted to
 Stranger Things. Don't lie. If you're not already there, you should be. You know I'm right.

But beyond entertainment, connection, inspiration, or horror, some stories also have the power to shake us awake. To sober us up. To make us aware of our present surroundings. Even to make us feel guilt, or shame, or anger.

To be frank, some stories you don't really want to hear.  

That's why we turn off the news, hide away from reality, look away from people on the side of the road with cardboard signs, scroll past pleas for prayers on social media, ask people to keep their personal lives to themselves. That's why we tend to avoid people who seem to have heavier stories than ours, whose lives are full of pain and regret, who always have something to complain about. 

Unfortunately, those people are the ones with stories people often turn away from. They are the ones whose voices are never really heard. Their stories are stifled, stuffed away. They are made to be quiet. They are made to feel small. They've been told their stories are "too much." Some have even been told their stories cannot possibly be true.

These are the stories we must be willing to listen to.

These are the stories that need to be rewritten.

I've heard a lot of stories in my twenty-two years. I've sipped at lots of mugs while listening to storytellers of all kinds pour out their tales. Each of them has been just as important and valid and beautiful as the next.

But I spent a whole five months listening to stories like the ones I just described - ones that desperately needed their endings (and beginnings and middles) rewritten. Stories that had been minimized and told to quiet down for years. Stories that were finally breaking through the chains and finding freedom.

These stories rewrote mine.

My time as an intern at Homestead Ministries in Manhattan, Kansas will forever be etched on the tablet of my heart. I heard stories I never asked to hear, stories I never really wanted 
to hear, to be completely transparent.

Who 
wants to have someone in the passenger seat of their car speaking candidly, explicitly even, of the abuse done to them, of the torture they endured? Who wants to know that the woman they are sitting next to on the couch was forced to sell her body for money?

Nobody wants to hear those things. Because we don't want to be awakened to that kind of reality. We don't want to know that those kinds of stories exist. We don't want to live in a world where those things happen, where people really do hurt like hell. 

But I heard these stories. I learned to not just hear them, but to really listen
. To validate.

There is such power in this kind of affirmation.

Even if we can't exactly say, "me, too," there is power in the kind of empathy that isn't afraid. That doesn't shy away from the stories that are toughest on our ears and hearts. That seeks to understand and comfort and just be present in a story most people would turn their ears from.

There is unmeasurable power in looking at the person filling the space across from us and saying, "I hear your story. And I know that it is true."

The power in this kind of hearing, this listening with intention, leads to 
freedom

When stories of this kind go untold, they perpetuate captivity. I've heard it said that there is great power in simply 
telling. Telling of our darkness - our struggle, our anxiety, our fear, our whatever - shines light on it. When another person looks at our struggle and says, "Okay, I hear you. I'm with you. How do we walk forward?" the light of freedom is shone brighter than any of the darkness that's been stifling us. 

But there are people who are still enslaved to their stories. Who
 haven't told, who cannot tell. Millions of people, in fact.

There are nearly twenty-one million victims of human trafficking worldwide, according to the Polaris Project.
Fifty-five percent of those victims are women and girls. Twenty-six percent are children.

They are in bondage - to exploitative humans, yes, but to their untold stories. 

They have been duct taped, bound, beaten, manipulated, deceived, raped, clobbered into silence.

There are so many efforts being made to free them, so many rescuers pursuing them, so many stories of hope being told. 

Unfortunately, there are
 many, many more who are still hidden away.

I am ready to change that. 

Are you with me?

For a long time, I knew about these hidden stories but had no idea how to try and make a dent in them. Advocacy is wonderful, awareness-raising is wonderful, and it all helps. But how to tangibly make a difference in such a massive, all-consuming darkness? I felt helpless. 

One of the most recent ways I am trying to push back the darkness is by patterning with HiddenGenius. They provide an excellent platform by which change makers can connect to create technology that solves problems in our messy world.

We would love to see software created or an application developed that helps identify human trafficking offenders, alerts authorities, brings them to justice, frees victims, and overall, reduces the scale of human trafficking globally. There is currently no such technology that has been successful. Such a development would be invaluable in today's efforts to eradicate this horrific reality.

Would you join with us in being storytellers for those who can't? Would you do your part to help free the enslaved?

Here's what you can do.

We need connections.

Big or small, we are trying to get in touch with organizations who are passionate about this issue, and companies or people who are capable of developing
 excellent technology. If you have connections and/or are an excellent networker, please jump in and let us know!

We need support

In order to support our future tech developer, we need funding. We are being transparent about our need to raise funds because - let's be frank here - we all hate being schmoozed. So yes, we need your money. Think of it as an investment, one with potentially huge payoffs for hundreds of thousands of people. 

We need prayer.

I might have just lost some of you, but I am a firm believer that this issue goes deeper than the reality that we can see. There is a spiritual war being fought (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) and we need to fight it with the right weapons (Ephesians 6:11-17). If you don't do anything else, please please pray.

Check out the challenge here. Follow along for updates and more information.

Thank you so much for making it this far - you are the few and the passionate who are going to make tangible change happen. We are so excited to be on this journey with you.

 

Check out Wheeler's blog here.

 

Dear Jack Davis, HiddenGenius has a mission for you

By Savannah Sherwood

Houston, we have a problem. One of the fundamental questions of humankind is whether or not there is life on other planets.  For NASA to explore the depths of the Red Planet and the rest of the Solar System, it is necessary for technology to be developed that sterilizes new rovers, without damaging any electronics, instruments, or function. NASA recently posted a job vacancy for a planetary protection officer. Warding off aliens (tiny microbes from Space) and protecting other planets from Earth-based bacteria is a task that has intrigued the masses, including 9-year-old Jack Davis.

 

"Dear NASA, My name is Jack Davis and I would like to apply for the planetary protection officer job. I may be nine but I think I would be fit for the job," Jack wrote.

 

James L. Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, sent an immediate letter responding to Jack’s application. “We are always looking for bright future scientists and engineers to help us, so I hope you will study hard and do well in school,” Green wrote. “We hope to see you here at NASA one of these days!”

 

Jack may not have the credentials or pedigree to be employed with NASA just yet. However, in the meantime, he is perfectly qualified to be apart of the solution that helps NASA fight off the alien contamination that is preventing further discovery in space.

 

Dear Jack,

 

HiddenGenius has an excellent mission for you! We are launching a Mars Rover Sterilization Competition. Imagine a space video game, becoming reality. You can be one of the main players! The goal of the competition is to find a new technology that will sterilize the Mars Rover. This technology will change the history of our species, but what is even cooler, is that anyone can help, not just the experts.

 

With the support of your parents, we invite you to be a guest host for this competition. This position is an important one, and we are confident you have what it takes! A young person, who can think like an alien… That alone is an outstanding characteristic that sets you apart from most! Will you help us find life on Mars and beyond?

 

Sincerely,

 

The HiddenGenius Team

support@hiddengenius.com

 

We are calling on all space enthusiasts, engineers, visionaries, innovators, and the rest of humankind to unite and ignite this competition. Let's build the prize purse, shape the goals of the competition, and attract the HiddenGeniuses around the world to compete and deliver a solution!

 

What if the technology developed for this competition could then be used to sterilize other things, such as hospital rooms here on earth? This technology has the potential to find new life on other planets and save lives here on Earth, and we want you to be apart of this mission. Here at HiddenGenius, we are optimists. We are firm believers that anyone can help contribute to the next great innovation. The galaxy is the limit! 

 

"There's a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen..." – Ty Webb

 

Let's get in touch with that force and help NASA find life on Mars! Ready... set... blast off!

Tragedy and Frustration Fuel Efforts of Reducing Medication Errors

By Savannah Sherwood

 

What if the life of someone you love was saved because of a simple app competition sparked by a doctor in California and the advocacy efforts of a mother in Ontario?

 

On the afternoon of March 12, 2016, routine and normalcy lingered through the air as Melissa Sheldrick, wife and mother of two, ran her weekend errands.

 

Her mental to-do list included a stop by the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for her 8-year-old son, Andrew.

 

Diagnosed with a sleep disorder called parasomnia, Andrew began taking a daily dosage of Tryptophan in 2013. Trips to the pharmacy were routine, as his prescription needed to be refilled every two weeks.

 

Once Sheldrick returned home, she placed the medicine in the refrigerator and proceeded to walk further into her typical Saturday afternoon.

 

As the evening began to draw in, Andrew was given his daily dosage of medication before running off to bed.

 

The sun returned to it's resting place, as did the Sheldrick family, nestled in their home near Toronto, Ontario.

 

The following morning, devastation crept into their lives, as their little boy did not wake from his sleep.

 

"His dad went to wake him up and found him dead. The police said he had been gone for several hours," Sheldrick said.

 

Sheldrick Family

 

 

Grief and confusion instantly enveloped the Sheldrick's home. Immediately after the death of their son Andrew, the police opened an investigation.

 

“They took the medication bottle. We thought it was the last possible cause. Maybe it was a congenital heart defect, or maybe Andrew had a brain aneurysm,” Sheldrick said. “It took four and a half months before we found out what had happened.”

 

The coroner's report concluded that the prescription Andrew had taken was not Tryptophan, the sleep medication he was prescribed, but instead was Baclofen.

 

Baclofen is a muscle relaxant used to treat muscle spasms in conditions such as multiple sclerosis. “Andrew had taken three times the lethal amount for an adult. There was no trace of his sleep medication," Sheldrick said.

 

After juxtaposing the pieces together through an investigation, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada discovered that the error occurred within the independent compounding pharmacy.

 

It seems that many things in life have the ability to teeter back and forth between two dichotomies. In a matter of moments, something that is seemingly good can produce something bad, and vice versa.

 

Medicine, a compound used for the mere purpose of bringing healing and treatment to a body can also become the product of pain and sorrow through even the simplest of mistakes.

 

According to ProPublica, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Andrew's story illustrates that this is a widespread, global issue.

 

"You can't eliminate human errors, but there are ways you can minimize them," Sheldrick said.

 

Yes, the alarming statistics are current reality. However, there are people in all corners of the world committed to finding ways to reduce these fatal and devastating errors, including Sheldrick herself.

 

A UCLA physician, Dr. Robert Shpiner, has also grown frustrated after continually observing the occurrence of unintentional and harmful interactions of prescription drugs and supplements. Rather than allowing his frustration to fester from within, he decided to take action against the issue. He has sparked a HiddenGenius technology competition: MedPic Prescription Drug App.

 

The competition is calling for HiddenGeniuses around the world to race to develop and demonstrate a simple app that will reduce drug interaction errors.

 

The application must have the capability of photographing the medical bottle, label, and pill, create a list of current and past medication and supplements, alert for drug interactions, is widely adopted and is easily shareable among patients, family, caregivers, doctors, and pharmacists.

 

Medication errors are a multi-faceted issue. They occur within homes, hospitals, nursing facilities, pharmacies, etc. Whether it is an error due to the packaging, drug administration and dispensing, or negative interaction between two drugs, the consequences can all be harmful and even fatal.

 

This competition cannot reduce all types of errors. However, it can take a measurable bite out of serious drug interaction problems and possibly save someone’s life. Maybe some HiddenGenius out there can code it in their basement?

 

The responsibility of ensuring medication safety does not lie in the hands of one person: we are all responsible. "The more safeguards that we can put in place, the better," Sheldrick said.

 

 

Melissa and Andrew Sheldrick

 

 

A full-time wife, mother, and teacher. A part-time advocate. Sheldrick has navigated a whole tribe of people, spanning the globe, who have joined in her efforts of educating and raising awareness on this issue.

 

“It is the only way that I can do anything in the situation that I obviously have no control over. It is a feeling of being productive," Sheldrick said. "Nothing I do is going to bring my son back, but I feel that if we can save the heartache of one family, then I have done my job."

 

Their little boy who loved to play soccer, Xbox, and swim will always be remembered for the life, energy, and love that he scattered everywhere he went. "Andrew had many friends. He had a persona at school and was known to be the caring little boy looking out for the kids that were struggling," Sheldrick said, as she reflected on the day that turned their world upside down.

 

Dr. Shpiner funneled his experience with patients into sparking the MedPic Prescription Drug App competition.

 

The tragedy that the Sheldrick family has experienced since March 13, 2016, certainly magnifies the importance of safe medication practices- within hospitals, pharmacies, and in homes.

 

"There are so many different features that an app could have that would be beneficial," Sheldrick said.

 

The competition is to serve as a catalyst, speeding up the process of finding this specific technology. There is no time to waste.  

 

“Think about seniors or people that are chronically ill that have to take five or six prescriptions a day. Being able to have those medications organized in the palm of their hands would be great,” Sheldrick said.

 

Trevor McKeeman, founder, and CEO of HiddenGenius is confident that this app would help his 94-year-old grandfather and many other families around the world. "Last year my grandfather had eye surgery, and his med list included a drug that could have been very harmful if we hadn't caught it. An app like this would help multiple family members and doctors keep track of his current and historical medication list, which has been difficult," he said.

 

Action must be taken to ensure that this issue is diminished.

 

We need passionate people, like Dr. Shpiner, to stand up and rally behind this competition by sponsoring and sharing with their community.

 

We need advocates, like Sheldrick, that are committed to seeing systematic change and technological advancements that will save the lives of people across the world.

 

We need you, your powerful voice, to join Dr. Shpiner, the Sheldrick family, and the many others who are determined to find ways to combat the widespread and multi-faceted issue of medication errors.

 

Join the forces at HiddenGenius.com and help support the development of this technology by sponsoring the prize and attracting innovators to tackle the challenge, win the competition, and deliver technology that saves lives.

 

Visit Andrew's Allies Facebook Page to learn more about Sheldrick’s advocacy efforts and ways you too can leverage your voice!

 

If all voices join forces to become one loud voice, systems will be changed, new technology will be developed, and lives will be saved.

 

 Andrew Sheldrick

 

 

How Does a Scrappy Drone Company Influence the Future of the Industry? They Compete.

By Savannah Sherwood

A fight for the future of the drone industry

 

The AC/DC song Back in Black started blaring through the speakers... It was loud, engulfing the convention center and grabbing the attention of hundreds of drone industry leaders, instantly. Days of sessions about drone regulation had just been transformed into what now seemed like the opening of a major sporting event. Engineers, researchers, politicians, and CEO’s crowded around a netted cage to watch a battle. Only this one was with drones.

 

The drones weren’t fighting each other. Instead, they were fighting for the future of the drone industry.  Competitors were there to demonstrate sense and avoid technology. This technology is the last layer of defense helping drones to avoid things like airplanes, people, buildings, etc. We won’t see drone package delivery without it.

 

The UTM convention (initially started by NASA) and hosted by the Air Traffic Control Association, CenterState CEO, Gryphon Sensors, and others asked HiddenGenius to run a preliminary sense and avoid tech competition. Even with a short lead time, teams from around the world were interested.

Each competition leads to a remarkable story

 

Traveling 1,166 miles, Aerotenna, a drone company from Lawrence, KS proved that their drone technology had the capability to avoid a dynamic target in their line o1st place winnersf sight. It was a great surprise to see an unfamiliar company declare the task accomplished, taking home the prize money.  

 

The results of the first HG drone competition added validity to the mission that drives our startup. We believe that the competitions are a great success when
an unknown person or company develops a technology that can shape the future and improve the lives of millions. Our HG community is happy to provide the visibility and support to ensure such success.

 

HG values the relationships built with the winning teams

 

Nearly seven months have passed since HG's first SAA drone competition, so we decided to pay our friends at Aerotenna a visit to learn about their current projects and pursuits.

 

"The HiddenGenius competition has brought a lot of things to our company, both internally and externally," said Zongbo Wang, co-founder, and CEO of Aerotenna.

 

Founded in 2015, Wang had a vision for the company to "define the future of the UAV/drone industry by contributing valuable new technology and ideas to the flying industry." This vision cast in 2015 continues to guide the work of Aerotenna.

 

One of the benefits of a technology competition is recognition and increased support, but it also helps to build a company's morale.

 

"We were able to show and demonstrate, in real life, that our technology can do the job. A lot of people started to ask how they could use and integrate our technology with their applications," Zongbo said.

 ZongboWang

Drone sense and avoid technology is a crucial piece for the industry to move forward. "Drone safety features need to be well-addressed. I am happy that a lot of people have started to pay attention and investigate this technology," Zongbo said.

 

Aerotenna is currently working on several exciting projects. It is their goal to help advance the world of technology not only by developing drone technology but also robotic technology in ground-based vehicles, such as cars. You can learn more about their current projects by following them on Facebook @aerotenna and connecting with them on LinkedIn.

 

HG announces larger SAA competition

 

HG has announced a larger drone sense and avoid competition. This competition will have a much larger prize for tackling the critical challenge of drones sensing and avoiding low flying aircraft. HG is partnering with leading sponsors and is exploring hosting venues. For basic information about supporting the competition as a sponsor or competing in the event visit HiddenGenius.com or email support@hiddengenius.com.