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Arts & Culture

A PATH APPEARS - An INDEPENDENT LENS Special Presentation

Preschool students at the SOPUDEP school in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.
Courtesy of Audrey Hall and Show of Force
Preschool students at the SOPUDEP school in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

Airs Mondays, January 26 - February 9, 2015 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

A PATH APPEARS, from the creative team behind the groundbreaking series HALF THE SKY: TURNING OPPRESSION INTO OPPORTUNITY FOR WOMEN WORLDWIDE, follows authors/reporters Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and celebrity activists Malin Akerman, Mia Farrow, Ronan Farrow, Jennifer Garner, Regina Hall, Ashley Judd, Blake Lively, Eva Longoria and Alfre Woodard to Colombia, Haiti, Kenya and throughout the United States. They explore the roots of gender inequality, the devastating impact of poverty and the ripple effects that follow — including sex trafficking, teen pregnancy, gender-based violence and child slavery. In their travels, they meet with inspiring activists who are creating effective solutions to gender-based oppression, transforming lives and providing a roadmap for sustainable change. Based on the most recent book by Kristof and WuDunn, "A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity," the three-part series premieres as a special presentation of INDEPENDENT LENS.

Film Quote

“These are stories of a new generation of leaders that offer new inspiration to bring about change,” says Sheryl WuDunn. “We want people to understand that there are solutions. There are successes.”

Ashley Judd with a group of girls at the Thistle Stop Café in Nashville.
Courtesy of Audrey Hall
Ashley Judd with a group of girls at the Thistle Stop Café in Nashville.
Savannah and Blake Lively on location for A PATH APPEARS in Boston, Mass.
Courtesy of Audrey Hall
Savannah and Blake Lively on location for A PATH APPEARS in Boston, Mass.
Savannah with her mother, Sara Lovell, at their home outside of Boston, Mass.
Courtesy of Audrey Hall
Savannah with her mother, Sara Lovell, at their home outside of Boston, Mass.
Malin Akerman, actor/activist, being interviewed in Chicago.
Courtesy of Audrey Hall
Malin Akerman, actor/activist, being interviewed in Chicago.
Shelia, sex trafficking survivor and graduate of the Magdalene program, in Nashville.
Courtesy of Audrey Hall
Shelia, sex trafficking survivor and graduate of the Magdalene program, in Nashville.
Jennifer Garner with Nicholas Kristof on location for A PATH APPEARS in West Virginia.
Courtesy of Audrey Hall
Jennifer Garner with Nicholas Kristof on location for A PATH APPEARS in West Virginia.
Preschool students at the SOPUDEP school in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.
Courtesy of Audrey Hall and Show of Force
Preschool students at the SOPUDEP school in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.
Alfre Woodard with a young girl on location for A PATH APPEARS in Haiti.
Courtesy of Audrey Hall
Alfre Woodard with a young girl on location for A PATH APPEARS in Haiti.
Eva Longoria and a child from Juan Felipe Gómez Escobar Foundation in Cartagena, Colombia.
Courtesy of Audrey Hall
Eva Longoria and a child from Juan Felipe Gómez Escobar Foundation in Cartagena, Colombia.

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Quote

“Hope is like a path in the countryside. Originally, there is nothing – but as people walk this way again and again, a path appears.”Lu Xun, Chinese essayist, 1921

Episode One airs Monday, January 26 at 10 p.m. - The Department of Justice estimates that there are 300,000 children at risk of being trafficked into sexual slavery in the U.S. A PATH APPEARS introduces individual survivors of these shocking numbers and illuminates the widespread existence of a crime happening in our own backyards.

In this episode, Ashley Judd and Nicholas Kristof meet Shana Goodwin, whose earliest memories are of sexual abuse by her grandfather. Shana guides them through the streets of Nashville, where she was first sold to a pimp, at the age of 12, by her mother. Through Shana, we meet a pimp waiting for three of his girls to return with “$40, no less,” women active in the sex trade and other women like Shana who, through the intervention of the acclaimed Magdalene program, have managed to leave prostitution and find a new life.

In Boston, Blake Lively joins Kristof to visit the nationally recognized anti-trafficking organization My Life My Choice. One of the founders of the organization, Audrey Morrissey, is a survivor of forced prostitution and drug addiction. After almost 20 years on the street, she now mentors young victims and trains future generations of survivors to become mentors themselves. Morrissey introduces Kristof and Lively to Maria, a mother who fears her missing daughter has fallen prey to a trafficker. The episode captures the devastating moment when Maria sees her 15-year-old daughter being sold online, as well as the relief that follows her daughter’s successful recovery. They also meet young trafficking survivor Savannah, who was stalked by an older man on a “sugar-daddy” website and then sold and held in sexual bondage. Months into her recovery, she is rebuilding her relationship with her mother, whose own history sheds light on the generational nature of trauma and exploitation.

In Chicago, Kristof and Malin Akerman visit Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart as his department coordinates the annual nationwide Day of Johns Arrests, going behind the scenes on sting operations to crack down on the buyers of sex. Approximately 15 percent of American men regularly purchase sex, but few are ever penalized. By focusing on the demand side of the multi-billion dollar trafficking industry — a criminal enterprise on par with guns and second only to drugs — Sheriff Dart and his team are leading the country in reshaping law enforcement’s response to prostitution and trafficking. They are also re-framing a dialogue in which those in prostitution have been penalized and blamed rather than treated as victims.

The episode concludes with a return to Nashville to revisit the Magdalene program’s social business, Thistle Farms, which provides survivors with the full range of services necessary to their healing, as well as essential job skills. Led by Reverend Becca Stevens, the program proves that while the reality is horrifying and the long-term impact on victims can be devastating, there are solutions.

Episode Two airs Monday, February 2 at 10 p.m. - With Nicholas Kristof, Jennifer Garner returns to her native West Virginia to visit families enrolled in Save the Children’s Early Steps program, which introduces books and early learning to children living in poverty, and provides social and emotional support for the mothers. One child benefiting from the program is Johnny Weethee, who was just accepted into pre-K with the help of program coordinator Tonya Bonecutter. Another family in Tonya’s care is that of Lyn Sargent, who lives in a trailer with her husband, two children and eight others. An example of how hard it can be to break the cycle of poverty and sexual and drug abuse, Lyn is now enrolled in school full-time, hoping to provide a better future for her children.

The episode next heads to Haiti, which, even before the devastating 2012 earthquake, was the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Billions of dollars in well-intentioned aid have gone into the country, but demonstrable results have been few and far between. Alfre Woodard joins Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn to meet Rea Dol, founder and leader of SOPUDEP (Society of Providence United for the Economic Development of Pétion-Ville). As a leader in the community, Rea understands that Haiti must rebuild from within, with the efforts and empowerment of the Haitian people.

SOPUDEP offers a variety of economic, social and health services, but its central program is its free school, which is unusual in Haiti. Children whose families cannot afford to care for them commonly live with a host family as their domestic servant, but many do not receive the education they were promised or adequate food and shelter. Physical and sexual abuse is common. Rea has succeeded in convincing many families to allow their domestic servants to attend her school.

Through Rea, Kristof and Woodard meet one such girl, Marilaine, who desperately wants to leave the home where she is beaten and mistreated. Rea enlists the aid of other local activists and the Haitian police to orchestrate a rescue. But while Marilaine’s escape removes her from immediate danger, her options are limited because her mother has 12 children, no food, no transportation, and there is no school for miles. It is the education that Marilaine receives at the SOPUDEP school that provides the most viable, long-term opportunity for her and her classmates to reach their full potential and begin to rebuild their nation. But there is no easy fix.

In Cartagena, Colombia, Kristof, WuDunn and Eva Longoria meet Catalina Escobar, founder and director of the Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar Foundation (“Juanfe”). Following the tragic death of her young son, Catalina, a successful businesswoman, decided to devote her life to the pregnant teens and young mothers in the slums. Juanfe’s model is a “360 degree intervention” that includes health care, intensive therapy, education, family planning, vocational training, an infant center and a medical clinic that has served more than 84,000 low-income residents in the community.

Catalina believes that the cycle must be broken early for young mothers and their babies to have a chance. The pregnant girls who enroll in Juanfe, some as young as 12, have already dropped out of school and have virtually no other opportunities. Demalis, who at 15 was prostituted and became pregnant, is a new applicant. She has returned to Cartagena and hopes that Juanfe will offer a new chance for her and her baby. The success rate for the girls who graduate Juanfe’s two-year program is high, but Catalina does not have room for everyone. Kristof questions whether this kind of intervention reaches enough girls. Though it is clearly changing the lives of many, is there more that can be done? Would prevention and aggressive birth control campaigns serve as better models? These and other questions of viability, scalability and replicability are addressed as Kristof and WuDunn debate which models for change can make the largest global impact.

Episode Three airs February 9 at 10 p.m. - In the United States, domestic violence claims more than three lives a day on average; one in every four women will experience such brutality during her lifetime. Domestic violence creates a climate of distress and terror that impedes the upbringing of children, yet it is still a taboo that is not adequately addressed. In this episode, Nicholas Kristof and Regina Hall visit Atlanta to explore the work of two organizations that combat domestic violence. At the Women’s Resource Center, a shelter, aid and advocacy organization for battered women, they meet Ayonna Johnson, a legal advocate who gives them a first-hand look at how the legal system often works against abused women. Brave survivors share their experiences about the often-difficult reality of leaving a domestic abuser behind.

At Men Stopping Violence, educator Sulaiman Nuriddin works directly with men who have abused their partners to help them change their behavior, and with young boys and the broader public about the roots and cyclical consequences of violence against women. Through these journeys, A PATH APPEARS offers a vital perspective on the work of addressing both the immediate needs of the survivors and the larger mission at hand — creating a cultural shift that will end domestic violence.

In Kenya, actress/activist Mia Farrow and journalist Ronan Farrow join Kristof as they visit Shining Hope, an organization working for change in Kibera, one of the worst slums in the country — and the world. Home to more than a million people, Kibera has no power, running water or public schools, and 15 percent of young girls have been raped or sexually abused before preschool age. Shining Hope is run by the charismatic young activist Kennedy Odede and his American wife, Jessica Posner Odede. Kennedy and Jessica fell in love when she came as a volunteer and together they have created a program that offers a holistic approach to Kibera’s many problems, offering health services, aid with navigating the frustrating legal system and opening the Kibera School for Girls, which aims to provide the area’s most at-risk young girls with a path out of poverty and abuse.

They meet Ida, a four-year-old girl who has been raped — by a 12-year-old boy. They also encounter a young girl named Flavian who is unable to walk and has been raped repeatedly over many years by her grandfather. They join the Shining Hope team to try to get her both medical attention and justice in the courts. While the problems that plague Kibera may seem insurmountable, Shining Hope is making a difference. With Kennedy’s infectious optimism and strong leadership and Jessica’s organizational skills, they are reaching more and more of Kibera’s residents and chipping away at the hopelessness that has for so long afflicted the region.

A PATH APPEARS is on Facebook, and you can follow @APathAppears on Twitter. Past episodes of INDEPENDENT LENS are available for online viewing. INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter.