JoAnna Adkisson
JoAnna Adkisson
South Africa 2014
My heartbeat is for victims of some of the world's greatest injustices. My Lumos trip will be to Cape Town, South Africa with The A21 Campaign where I will work with local universities to develop programs aimed at curbing the cycle of sex and labor trafficking in the southern regions of Africa. Read More About JoAnna →

From Cape Town to Anywhere

Lion's Head

Cape Town, I will be back! 

I’m back on American soil! After an amazing three months in South Africa, I have made my way back up the African continent, over most of Europe, and straight across the Atlantic ocean to the other side of the world. The reality of yet another transition still has not set in- and neither has the rest!

Since returning back to the states, there has been no less work than while in Cape Town. In fact, I have kept in close relationship with The A21 Campaign and have continued on remotely with several of the projects that I was working on in person. There is conversation about the possibility of returning to work for them in the near future. More about that in blogs to come 🙂

My final week on the ground was spent doing some pretty magnificent things! As I mentioned in my last post, the Adkisson family ventured out of Klamath Falls and made their way to brilliantly beautiful Cape Town. It took two full days to shake off the jetlag and then we were ready to go! We made our way around to Cape Town’s renowned food markets in Hout Bay, Stellenbosch, and Noordhoek Beach. On Sunday, we explored the winelands – taking our van all the way out to Franschhoek or “French Corner”– a quant town nestled back in the heart of the Jankershoek and Franschhoek mountains.

Monday took us back down to Cape Point where there was no lack of entertainment. In my previous visits, we never did see the infamous baboons and other wildlife that people had told us about. This time was different. Near the end of our drive back into Cape Point National Park, we came across some parked cars and not one, but a whole troupe of wild baboons. My brother, being the funny guy he [thinks] he is decided to role down his window just… a…. crack…. Just enough for our primate friend to smell what remains of food we would have even had in the car at the time. Just as Caleb got the window rolled up, our not-so-little friend made his way to the roof of our car. And down the back window [making sure not to miss our windshield wiper], and around for one final yank on my mom’s door handle. Fortunately for my unsuspecting family, I had already been warned about these guys and had locked the car up before hand. A close run in with the baboons makes for a good story though, don’t you think? Our day was topped with a few extra cherries when we saw zebras, ostriches, and penguins on our way out of the park.

Adkisson Family at Cape Point

Adkisson Family at Cape Point

Representing our Oregon Ducks all the way in South Africa

Representing our hometown Oregon Ducks all the way in South Africa

My mom made some friends... They tap danced for her too! ;)

Mom made some friends... They tap danced for her too! 😉

 The rest of the week was spent surfing, hiking, and taking part in the beautiful outdoor thrills that Cape Town has to offer.

A glimpse of the valley behind Silvermine Pass

A glimpse of the valley behind Silvermine Pass

Muizenberg Beach Surfing

Surfing Muizenberg Beach

 I spent that last week of work putting the final touches on the Mxit phone app that I had built while I was there and implemented management guidelines that will be used by the team carrying out the work there on the ground. As mentioned before, this program will allow A21 to get a clearer picture about the nature of trafficking in some of the more rural villages and townships. We also put in the final preparations for the Two Oceans Marathon running team that ran on behalf of The A21 Campaign in the world’s most beautiful marathon on April 18th.

It is crazy to me now how quickly three months went by. I never imagined all that I would learn and all that would be stirred inside of me for the plight of victims of human trafficking. Being in their world, face to face with injustice has left its mark on me. While I wait to determine what my next steps hold, I am busy having conversations with several key role players here in the states. More specifically, we are looking to implement some strategic programming in the state of Oregon and other surrounding states that can be used as a model for programs that I might be taking back to Cape Town here in the not too far off future! No matter where in the world I am, my fight will continue. I hope you will continue to follow along and to join in by emailing with questions, ideas, comments, or concerns at

Thank you for standing for freedom- with me and with those who cannot stand on their own.

Love and cheers,


Days for Freedom

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. – Nelson Mandela

March 21: Human Rights Day

March 21: SA Human Rights Day

Every year on March 21, South Africa commemorates the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre by recognizing this day as Human Rights Day. All across the country, museums and historical sites host programs and events that resurface the rich history of this country and turn the spotlight on the plights of injustice that have been overcome with a breathtaking display of tenacity and courage. This whole experience has really been quite profound as the stories that have taken place on this country’s soil create a remarkable stage for the work of freedom to continue. Slavery, although abolished in theory, has certainly not been abolished in practice. Thus, the call to action for this people and so many others can be found in the echoes of Mandela’s quote above- to use the freedom found under his leadership to “… enhance the freedom of others.”

The A21 Campaign has continued to do just that. Over the past several weeks, we have witnessed some really mind-blowing successes in the counter-trafficking world. Just before I sat down to write this blog, I read an article released in Thailand about the rescue of three Thai girls from a brothel here in South Africa. We know from our close connection with the South African police that this rescue was the result of a partnership between Thai police and our South African police. This type of camaraderie has not been seen or demonstrated before, so new territory has been pioneered with the release of this story!

There is also some “epic” cycling happening with Team A21! For the past seven days, cyclers from around the world have been riding in the Cape Epic- the untamed African MTB Race. Our A21 Teams are riding this 718km of mountain terrain and climbing 14,850m to raise awareness and support for victims of human trafficking. While they ride, the A21 schools team has been presenting our prevention material to students in high schools all along the route. This week alone, we presented to over 750 students about human trafficking, what it looks like here in South Africa, and what they can do to protect themselves. We also had the thrill of introducing The A21 Campaign app that I designed for a smart and feature phone program called Mxit. This program will allow us to not only reach young people in developed areas, but also the demographic that resides in impoverished communities all throughout southern Africa. Really really exciting! 

Team A21 riding The Cape Epic
Team A21 riding The Cape Epic
Prevention presentation at Brackenfell High School
Prevention presentation at Brackenfell High School
The home page of The A21 Campaign's Mxit app
The home page of The A21 Campaign’s Mxit app

Outside of work, I have had some pretty remarkable experiences, as well. We spent human rights day with a very timely and appropriate tour of Robben Island. This is where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners spent a majority of their years in the late 1900’s amidst the revolution to end apartheid in this country. We heard the words of an ex-prisoner and viewed the places in which Mandela drafted documents that would become the fundamental pieces of a new South Africa. We learned of life in the prison then and life on the island today. I left with mental mix of both questions and answers that will have me ruminating for weeks and months ahead.

Table Mountain as viewed from Robben Island
Table Mountain as viewed from Robben Island
A former prisoner of Robben Isand shares his story
A former prisoner of Robben Isand shares his story
Cell 5, B-Section where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life.
Cell 5, B-Section where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life.

The excitement will certainly continue now that my family has arrived in South Africa! After 36 hours, they touched down exactly half-way around the globe from our home in Oregon (literally- Klamath Falls is the farthest point from South Africa both latitudinal and longitudinally- crazy). We have the week mapped out in a document that I have titled “Adkisson Family Takes South Africa” 🙂 There should be no lack of fun here!

The Adkisson family's South Africa survival pack- loaded with biltong, speckled eggs, Milo, Rooibos tea, Nik Naks, Koeksister, BarOne... only some of SA's favorite fares.

The Adkisson family’s South Africa survival pack- loaded with biltong, speckled eggs, Milo, Rooibos tea, Nik Naks, Koeksister, BarOne... only some of SA’s favorite fares.

Cannot wait to check back in with you!

Until next week,



worth: 1. good or important enough to justify (what is specified): advice worth taking; a place worth visiting. 2. having a value of, or equal in value to...

The last two weeks have had their fair share of adventures! As I come to work everyday, I am utterly amazed at what is being done in the fight to end injustice here in South Africa- and what a privilege it is to take part.

Since I last posted, we have presented to several government interfaces including the Western Cape Metro 1 community development workers (CDW), victim assistance workers, and law enforcement officers.  The CDW meeting was held in Khayelitsha, one of the Western Cape’s largest townships. The workers there represent the meeting place of government and civil society for some of the most impoverished communities in the areas surrounding Cape Town. The presentation that we gave them has been vetted by the South African counter trafficking coalition (CTC) and includes information about human trafficking, what it looks like globally and here in South Africa, and how these officials can identify and respond to it in their communities. For the first time, I really felt like I could see and hear the disconnect between cultural traditions and the proper implementation of counter-trafficking legislation coming down the pipeline here in South Africa. One example was embodied in the conversation surrounding ukuthwala- a traditional practice in this region that sometimes takes the form of forced marriage between an older man and an underage girl. Our presentation includes a slide about the first trafficking conviction in the Western Cape of a man who ukuthwalad a 14 year old girl ( What ensued was a heated conversation that opened my eyes to so many of the challenges that we [NGOs, government, civil society] have and will continue to face when advancing the prevention and awareness side of human trafficking.

In addition to the prevention presentations, I have also had the opportunity to take part in direct victim assistance. The A21 Campaign South Africa works alongside the Vice Squad (law enforcement) and HAWKS (South African police service’s organized crime division) to place identified victims of trafficking in protective care and to provide any other assistance, as necessary. This last week I took part in identifying victims of trafficking following a police-led brothel raid here in the Western Cape. Face to face with women my age whose backgrounds have positioned them to be easily exploited and abused, I truly realized that what I have said all along really does prove true in these moments. While the numbers and statistics may seem daunting- and while our work may seem a drop in the bucket when thinking about the enormity of this global injustice- this one woman in front of me is worth every dollar that The Lumos Foundation has so generously fronted for me to be here, she’s worth every extra hour that we spend in office researching for her repatriation, and she’s worth the daily reminder that she is loved in the long road of recovery ahead of her. Out of all the amazing sights I have seen while here in Cape Town, the glimmer of hope that I caught in one of these girls’ eyes was the most beautiful to behold.  Because of the moments that we spent with her, she now knows she has a way out, her young daughter can now be protected from becoming a victim in the years ahead, and both can share the message of freedom with other women in their world. It is so worth it.

A glimpse of how a brothel defines worth.
A glimpse of how a brothel defines worth.
Hand bag contents: what does she think she's worth?
Hand bag contents: what does she think she’s worth?
Freedom: how The A21 Campaign defines worth
Freedom: how The A21 Campaign beholds your worth

I have one more month here in Cape Town. With what has happened thus far, I can only begin to imagine what will unfold in the days ahead. We will be busy doing school presentations this month and continuing with direct victim assistance and government trainings. If you would like to learn more about The A21 Campaign’s prevention work, please let me know and we can get you the information necessary to present at your school, church, business, or social group. I promise you, it’s worth your time and passion.

SO much love from Cape Town. Thank you for your support and prayers!



One Month In

I have been in Cape Town for one month now. My back is pressed against my chair as I look through the pictures that I have taken throughout my four weeks here- exhale! I really am in the most beautiful place in the world. I must admit that I am not the most consistent and fervent photographer. I much prefer to capture the moments in my memory rather than behind a camera lens, but for your sake, I am trying!

This last weekend, I visited Cape Point- the southwestern-most tip of the African continent. My love tank for the outdoors has been full for the entire duration of my trip, with South Africa’s limitless opportunity to hike, bike, run, surf, etc. Ali and I hiked the hills around the Cape of Good Hope and then ventured up to the Cape Point lighthouse. The whole drive down, I was crossing my fingers that we would see one of the infamous baboons that roam this area while Ali was reaching across the middle console to uncross them. Apparently the last time she was in Cape Town, baboons surrounded the cars, confining the team inside until they finally fulfilled their curiosity and left them alone. But I’m stubborn and plan to go back in the weeks ahead and find a baboon…

Cape Point

Cape Point Lighthouse

Cape of Good Hope

On Sunday I connected with a local doctor that runs a free community clinic for people living in the townships and other impoverished areas surrounding Cape Town. Dr. Karen is a native South African who studied pediatrics and obstetrics at the University of Cape Town. She spent several years working in the most marginalized communities in India only returning a few years ago to start a similar program here in Cape Town. I plan to join in her rotations in the weeks ahead as she works with young children with the most basic ailments to rape victims, prostitutes, HIV/AIDS patients, and others. I fully expect this to be one of the most formative experiences that I will have here.

In other news, I am learning to surf with the sharks, taking Krav Maga classes, and reading through the reports from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Love this place 🙂 More to come in my next post!



Exploration and Exploitation

Hermanus, South Africa

Hermanus, South Africa

Since I last posted, I have made my way to Durban, Fish Hoek, and across the Somerset mountains to the small coastal town of Hermanus. I thought residing in Cape Town had given me a sufficient amount of appreciation for the beauty of this land, but exploring the Indian ocean coastline, traveling through South Africa’s mountain towns and vineyards, and seeing the water color change from the West side of the country to the East has left me dumbfounded. What a majestic place this is!

No matter where I go, though, I have been forever “tainted” with eyes that look out for the rampant exploitation of vulnerability that pervades societies all across the world. What I have found is that it truly does not matter the economic, political, or social state of the region- exploitation of people in their weakness is everywhere.  It takes on many forms here in South Africa- domestic workers making just enough to pay for transportation to their work site, refugees prostituting themselves on street corners, laborers packed in the back of trucks owned by someone they are forcefully indebted to.

To my friends in the U.S- I hope that you are awake to the forms exploitation takes around you. Look in nail salons, in fields, truck stops, and cleaning services. Don’t stop there. The person before you is just that– a person, just like you. Introduce yourself and then look behind their eyes. What position have they been put in that would compel them to settle into exploitation whether by force or by choice? Are they in your country illegally? Can they speak your language? Could they have a background of poverty, addiction, or abuse?  Ask questions.

And then search for answers. Whether in the moment or in the days that follow, explore answers for this injustice. I am not naïve to the fact that trafficking is a complex issue full of many anomalies. But I have to believe that there is an answer. I am still learning, but I am beginning to be convinced that the only real way to change the course of history in regards to human trafficking will come when people know who they are and know the value of those around them.  Where vulnerability is not fed on, but where the vulnerable are fed, and educated, and loved. I propose that when the vulnerable have experienced this response to injustice, they will actually join in responding to the cries of others in their shoes. Instead of perpetuating the cycles of poverty, abuse, etc. they will join the cycles of aiding, supporting, educating, and loving the world to unprecedented levels of human development.

As I said, I’m still learning. But I am beginning to think this approach just might work…

While I plan to continue in my explorations of this beautiful landscape over the next few months, I am equally committed to exploring the answers to exploitation. I want to ask questions, I want to keep my eyes open, and I want to put love in humanity to the test as the answer to injustice.

Welcome Home


South African skies

Hello from the airspace above South Africa. It was only a week ago that I was coming into the Cape Town airport on a southbound flight from London. Now I am back in transit headed to the east coast city of Durban. While my intention was to post days ago, it is probably for the best that I am just now revisiting my blog as some truly remarkable things have already begun to take shape.

I want to take a moment to recap the first few days of my journey. Last Tuesday I left the states with a large suitcase, a shared duffle, and a small carry-on in tow. From the moment Ali, my sweet friend and traveling companion, and I stepped up to the American Airlines check-in desk, we were moved with the reality that we are indeed meant to be on this trip. Due to the inclement weather nationwide, flights were being cancelled right and left- our 7:40 p.m. Chicago leg was among these. However, intentional planning got us to the airport early enough to be rebooked on a delayed afternoon flight to Chicago that was now leaving at 6:00 p.m. Bags checked and carry-ons in hand, we breezed through security and landed in Chicago an hour earlier than our original itinerary called for. This unexpected change redeemed what would have been a very tight connection to our London-Heathrow flight.

Eight hours in the air brought us to the other side of the Atlantic. We enjoyed a pleasant breakfast with our new English friend in London-Heathrow. Our Cape Town flight boarded early in the evening. Once airborne, we were introduced to the highly anticipated and celebrated South African wine along with our British Airlines dinner and Man of Steel. For those few moments I reveled in this timely intersection of cultures displayed from my tiny little space on board this Boeing 747, again reminded of the many lessons I expect this trip to unveil.

Let me tell you, South African sunrises are beautiful, especially from the sky! After flying 11 hours down the West coast of the African continent, we were greeted by the early morning sun as we made our descent into Cape Town. From the sky you can see all the things I had heard about- the large coastal mansions, the ships in the harbor, the massive townships, the vineyards, the Great Drakenstein and Stellenbosch Mountain ranges, and the breathtaking sight of Table Mountain at the center of it all.

The only glitch that we faced in our travels happened at baggage claim in CPT. The overhead lockers in our flight from Chicago to London were full before we boarded, leaving us to check our roll aboard carry-ons. Somewhere along the way, our small bags missed their flight. Fortunately for us, our friend and luggage-tracker-extraordinaire Brandon was able to retrieve and hand deliver our bags to us within 24 hours. [[Quick interruption: the world is full of extraordinary people. If you find yourself in Cape Town International Airport, do yourself a favor and loose your baggage so that you can meet this gentleman, he has a lot to offer the world…]]

The oh-so-lovely pair from The A21 Campaign, Johannes and Jo-Dee, greeted us at arrivals. We stuffed our large bags in the “boot” of Johannes’ tiny car (standard here in CT as petrol is outrageously expensive). Our next dilemma was to decide how nicknames would work with three “Jo’s” in the A21 office. I think we have concluded that Johannes will keep “Jo”, Jo-Dee will be called “Jodes” and I will take back my family’s endearing abbreviation as “JB”.  I’ll let you know if anything changes :)

I am staying at a guest lodge in the suburb town of Milnerton. This quaint area sits about 15 minutes north of Cape Town along Lagoon, Sunset, and Bloubergstrand beaches. Within a week, my host family has become like my own. My fiery South African born, Indian bred hostess is among one of the most remarkable women I have had the privilege to meet. She runs this guest lodge and hosts visitors from all over the world, she holds a theology degree, and just started classes in marketing yesterday. She and her Sicilian husband Salvo raised their mixed family of four boys and two girls- a family make-up that ironically resembles the gender counts of my own. If the Italian-Indian influence isn’t telling enough, I will just add that the food in this house is to be envied by all of you reading this post! My goals to come back fit may be re-evaluated by the fact that the authentic fare on my plate every night is near impossible to pass up.


Kite Surfing at [[Sunset]] Beach


Rooftop view from Home

As jetlag would have it, we spent the remainder of Thursday sleeping off our overnight flight. That evening, Ali and I got to know our new friends. The following day we boldly traversed the central business district, waterfront, and Cape Town public transit. The waterfront was a wonderful place to have our first taste of South African’s acclaimed seafood and wine. The next days were spent familiarizing ourselves with the city- from a hike up Table Mountain, to a visit past the township of Kaimundi into the wine country of Stellenbosch, and a sunset dinner on the Western coastline- all the while falling more and more in love with this place.


V & A Waterfront


Stellenbosch Vineyards


Table Mountain Ocean View


Chapman’s Peak

On Monday I started work with The A21 Campaign. I have worked with this agency for about 18 months now and am still so impressed by the work that they do day in and day out. I am so excited to share with you the stories and impact of my friends here in the days ahead. The first morning was spentreading through training material and familiarizing myself with the research that has been done on the scope of trafficking in this part of Africa. Johannes, Jo-Dee, two other volunteers (Roxy and Brittany), and myself then went on a drive through the city to some of the known trafficking “hot spots”. During the day these areas often take the appearance of low-income neighborhoods or quieted social scenes, but at night it often becomes an entirely different picture as forced prostitution, drug trafficking, and other forms of exploitation fill the sights and sounds of the streets we had just driven through. Knowing this drove home the real reason why I am and reminded me that while I may see paradise, there are many who have found themselves in a nightmare.

The remainder of the week was spent doing additional training and preparation for the months ahead. However, today has brought some different scenery. Early this week I was approached by Angie (my Indian hostess… remember?) ,who is also in relationship with The A21 Campaign, and has a vision to see developments made to housing and refuge facilities for those women and children coming out of trauma. With this in mind, she is navigating a potential project to see some donated land developed for this use. Thus, three days and a few hours later, we are on a plane to Durban to discuss this with a friend of Angie’s who may be just the person we need to see this come to fruition. I am so excited to keep you posted!

Let’s touch base this next week, dear friends! See you back in Cape Town!

As a promised closing for my South African/Sicilian house dad… chow :)


The Privilege in Preparation

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Here I sit by the warm fireplace in our log cabin nestled in the pines of the Pacific Northwest. The holidays have come to a close, but the buzz of celebration and anticipation has not yet subsided. While I have so enjoyed my time home with family, I have thought of little else than my coming adventures. After eight months of talking about it, I am now only days away from setting foot on South African soil.

There is privilege in preparation, though.

I have come to find as I prepare for this trip that some of the most rewarding and fruitful discoveries about self and about the adventure ahead lie in the moments of laboring over paperwork, reading up on the South African culture, phoning advisors, and scheduling out the days on site. As a woman with a mind and heart for global change, I realize that it is the diligence in preparation that positions me for worthwhile interaction in the places that I will go. Humbly I admit that I knew very little about what I was getting myself into when I first submitted this grant proposal. However, it is in this place of humility that I have been deeply moved to acknowledge that I now have the privilege of asking questions, seeking out answers, and wholeheartedly pursuing relationships with a culture far different from my own.  My guess is that this is what these journeys are actually about- I will get back to you about it in the months ahead.

My packing list is almost together – summer attire seems a bit strange after my coat-clad run in the 20 degree weather this morning. My trek on Tuesday will take me from Nashville to Chicago, Chicago through London and then on to Cape Town. My sweet friends from The A21 Campaign will be waiting for me on the other side of 36-hours en route to my amazing adventure. The airports will be sure to host some entertaining stories, so be sure to check back soon for a giggle and an update.

Cheers to what’s ahead!