How To Join The Fight Against Human Trafficking (and save my inbox at the same time!)
That is great! I am a sincere believer that everyone can do something. Although the inevitable next question is always, what?
The number one email I have received over the last few years goes like this:
“Hi, My name is (enthusiastic individual). I think I am (called, commissioned, destined) to fight human trafficking. What can I do?”
If you are looking up my blog for the purpose of sending me this kind of email, allow me to help you save my inbox. I will tell you my answer:
— I don’t know what you are supposed to do to fight human trafficking.
No offence to all those well intentioned people who have emailed me, but it is like picking out a stranger who is married, sending them an email asking them how you should find your future spouse and then getting offended when they don’t give you a step-by-step answer. “But (random stranger) you are wearing a wedding ring. You figured it out. You should be able to tell me how to figure it out.”
Just because someone else has found their role in working with a social justice cause, doesn’t mean that we can tell you what you can do. You are unique.
You definitely have something to offer, but like the rest of us, you’re going to have to figure out what that is on your own.
Quick recap, everyone can do something. I am unable to tell you what that something is.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, lets clarify another misconception that occasionally finds its way into my inbox.
What comes to mind when you hear the words “Fight Human Trafficking”?
If that statement conjures images of Liam Neeson kicking butt in a scene from Taken, I may have to disappoint you my friend. Actually, if your thoughts include any guns scenes, epic police raids, karate chopping bad guys, or selling yourself into slavery (all things people have proposed to me), well you are probably not on the right track. (Unless you are Liam Neeson, in which case, nothing in this post applies to you)!
If instead you are picturing a whole lot of non-adrenaline inducing activities, you’re probably getting a bit closer to reality, (unless paperwork gives you an adrenaline rush, in which case, you are a serious asset to the world and I salute you).
While we are on the topic of things being less exciting than you probably expect, here is another tip. If one of the lines in your email asking how you can be involved is something like:
“I want to do more than just give money or raise awareness.”
Allow me to give you another reality check.
Giving money and raising awareness are really, really important things.
Every single program I know of that fights human trafficking runs on donations or grants, (or investments into their social enterprises).
Give. Money. It sets people free. For realzzzz yo.
Find an organisation or group, local or international, that you believe in and start donating to them. (Don’t know which one to give to? THAT is an email I can answer).
Give small amounts on a regular basis.
Give one big amount at the end of the year.
But just give.
Where your treasure is there your heart will be also. When you invest in an organisation, your heart lines up with the work they are doing. You keep tabs on their activities, you pray for them, you celebrate their successes and you tell others about what they are doing.
Wait, what’s that? You give money, and suddenly become a natural advocate to raise awareness without even trying because now you know about the issue and you are invested in seeing the organisation you are supporting succeed? Crazy.
If you aren’t currently giving money or raising awareness, how do you expect to be a part of some of the more difficult aspects of this work?
Here’s an email I love to receive:
“Hi, I would like to give money and raise awareness for human trafficking. My passion is for (specific area of interest or part of the world). Could you recommend a group, organisation, or location I can give towards?”
(That kind of email gets a screen high-five every time!)
So, you are now a money-giving-and-awareness-raising-adrenaline-inducing-administrative-champion…
What else can you do?
Human Trafficking has recently been dubbed a ‘hip-cause’. While I get the point people are trying to make, it is this kind of BS cynicism that is really unhelpful to the victims. Yes the issue is gaining a lot of traction and attention at the moment, but it is like any other social issue. It targets vulnerable individuals; real people who have real problems and who experience pain and need some help to get through it. So let’s be thankful people are sitting up and paying attention, and because this is a real and difficult issue where some of the stories are very traumatic, it is perfectly okay for you to say that giving money and raising awareness is actually enough. Go ahead, be ‘hip’.
But if you are among the ones who feel that this is your calling then let me give you the hint to successfully joining the movement.
Identify your skill, be okay with it, develop it, serve with it.
Maybe you will get a job out of the deal, maybe you won’t. When freedom is your vocation you will find your way. Trust me. If you keep not finding your way, it may help to ask if this is about you or if this is about others.
Here are a few real life examples.
– My friend A. is a social worker who spent several years working with those who are homeless, drug addicted, and prostituted on the streets of her local city. Soon A. started to work part-time at a safe house while going to school, and eventually she became the manager of the safe house. Right now she is with a girl who is testifying against her trafficker. A. is standing with this girl through the trauma, the flash-backs and the terror that testifying has brought out. A. is wiping the tears from this survivors face. She is walking her through the darkest days.
My friend has committed herself to the movement. She is serving, and in her service she is fighting human trafficking. And nobody will ever know.
– T. is our soup chef here in Amsterdam. He didn’t know anything about human trafficking when we approached him and asked him to help us develop a training program for survivors. He liked the idea, and offered to volunteer over the course of several months to help us get started. Eventually T. became more involved and began running our weekly training program for survivors. He is a perfect example of simply offering what you have and seeing it multiply into something beautiful that serves that movement.
– There are many more cases like this; photographers, graphic designers, English teachers, social workers, businessmen, journalists… people willing to lay aside any need for heroics and get into the nitty, gritty reality of simply serving and empowering those who have been exploited.
Finally, to make a difference, listen to the wise counsel of those who have gone before you but don’t be limited by their achievements.
I have battled this fine line since I first began to work in the area of prevention in South Africa in 2008. I can not stress enough how important it is to do research before you start a new initiative so that you are addressing a realistic and practical need, and while researching I highly recommend approaching those who are involved in the area where you want to work and learning from them. Glean from their wisdom.
But it is important to not be limited by what has been done before. +30 million people in slavery today means that there is AMPLE opportunity to make a difference. It is often the simple things that mean the most and we are part of a new world of innovation and entrepreneurship. Just because someone else doesn’t see the vision, or because they have reached a certain plateau, doesn’t mean that your idea is not needed. And if it is your idea, you may be the exact person to develop and execute it.
This is a slightly cheeky post, but it stems from some real thoughts. If you still confused on where to start; then I recommend researching opportunities to volunteer and learn more. Organisations like NFS and others have unpaid internships and fellowships happening through the year. Plus local organisations often need practical help such as sorting through donations or assisting with paperwork.
How are you involved in making a difference? What questions do you have about taking your involvement to another level?