So far this series has been fun, it’s been inspirational, it’s been informative and it’s made us all feel pretty good about ourselves. This one is the hard one. This is one one that we’ll be inclined to skim through, or not read at all, can I encourage you not to, can I encourage you to read this, share it, comment on it, talk about it. Even do the stuff that’s written here. Because this is the important stuff. I’d love it so much if this were the most popular thirty things. Thank you so much Brandy.
I knew this was going to be hard. I don’t think I fully grasped precisely how hard, or I would have picked a different set of 30. Next time Sarah has a birthday, I’m wrestling through 31 ways to be more awesome. Then again, I think it’s safe to say digging into a few items on this list will up your awesome quotient substantially. So, well, there you go! It’s like I’ve already written my piece for next year.
Spoiler alert, I basically just copied the smart people’s homework. For more information on them, see the references below. I find this list incredibly empowering. From the time I found out that slavery stills existed (almost six years ago), I have struggled with what the crap I could do to help survivors. There is a lot that certain people with specific occupations like law and medicine can do, but what about me? When I first learned about this gruesome truth, I was a single mom struggling to get through college. Even now that I’ve been to college, let’s just say I’m no lawyer. But that’s kind of the point, right? Except for the last four ideas listed, everything here is doable no matter who you are, what your age, or what you do.
My Great Big Dream is to open up a safehouse for survivors. I have had a lot of random past jobs (from group exercise instructor to tile salesperson to Certified Nurse’s Aide) and passions (I’ve pursued acting, make-up artistry, rapping, and so much more). I want to use this strange variety of skills I’ve picked up to help survivors not only survive, but thrive. To learn how to hope and dream. I have a long way to go before I can make this dream a reality, so until then, I’ll content myself to cross one thing off this list at a time.
It’s pretty extensive, but I’m sure I haven’t mentioned everything. Specifically, I’m sure I haven’t mentioned everything that you can do. We all have unique gifts and passions. This list was meant to inspire you. To get your creative juices flowing and figure out what it all looks like in your life.
- Google every bit of information you can on what your state or country has done legislatively and who’s been involved.
- Set up a news aggregator search on Google for your state or country. Search for “human trafficking, slavery, [your state]” etc. If you’re in the US, you can find your state on this map that Polaris Project has created.
- Provide or arrange short term emergency housing (possibly at a church, a motel, or in your own home) for survivors in partnership with local or international welfare agencies.
- In Jacksonville, FL, there is an agency where single women can sign up to foster minor survivors. Check and see if there is such a program in your area.
- Buy products Made By Survivors to enable their livelihoods. Thistle Farms sells toiletry products made by survivors in the US.
- Sponsor a formerly enslaved person to go to school (for more information, check out the MBS website). I had the privilege of meeting some of the kids being sponsored in India a couple of years ago. This is an amazing gift. They are so eager to learn. And education is empowerment.
- Raise awareness to prevent trafficking by giving presentations to youth at inner-city schools, or through foster care agencies. Or work with Shared Hope International to bring a professional trainer to your area.
- Join your local trafficking task force.
- Spread the word about the National Traffficking Hotline, especially in high risk areas or red light districts.
- Contact your local FBI, ICE, Homeland Security and the Police Departments with emails. Explain your experience and desire to help. Let them know what you’ve studied and the conferences you’ve attended (so they know you’re not a vigilante whose good intentions might put a wrench in ongoing investigations).
- Set up fundraising campaign via Indiegogo to raise money for your local NGO (after you’ve done your homework: see #12).
- When looking for an organization to partner with, do your research. Read through their site carefully. See who they partner with. Look at their financials, which will be linked on their site if they solicit donations.
- Make your own art, whether it’s photography or sculpting or painting or whatever like to create, and sell it on Etsy, Give the proceeds, or a portion of the proceeds, to help survivors.
- Pray unceasingly, if that’s your thing. Pray not just that slaves might be rescued and wholly rehabilitated, but that you would stumble across all kinds of serendipitous opportunities to help.
- Start a book club. Polaris Project has created comprehensive lists of books and documentaries about human trafficking.
- Become a leader. When Nobel Peace Prize Winner and author Leymah Gbowee was asked how American women could help those who had experienced the horrors and mass rapes of war in places like Liberia, she answered simply: “More women in power.” This has had a profound effect on me. I’m sure not everyone reading this is a woman, but I feel strongly that everyone who cares about helping survivors of human trafficking has a place at the leadership table.
- Attend a conference or a training event. These are amazing ways to learn more about specific needs, how to help and network with other abolitionists.
- Volunteer. I went on a short volunteer trip with Made By Survivors to Kolkata, India. You can, too.
- Before you shop, do your research. Better World Shopper and Free2Work are great places to start.
- Write. Use your voice and your blog to raise awareness.
- Make some soap! The Soap Project carves the National Hotline Number in bars of soap in hotels all across the US.
- Put together suitcases with clothes and first aid kits for shelters in your area. My best friend is a foster mom and she noticed that when the children would come to her, all of their possessions would be in trash bags. She posted on Facebook asking for suitcase donations. They came in droves!
- Use your gifts and your passions as only you can. Whether it’s art or math or music or business, there is a way to help bring safety and joy and peace to survivors through what only you can do.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper.
- Encourage your employer to eliminate human trafficking through its supply chain. Spearhead this operation. This is something I wish I had done in the past. I quit a job at a restaurant once because I was overwhelmed with the idea that the sheer volume of consumption meant that there were most likely slaves involved in the supply chain. Looking back, being an entrepreneur today and a believer that business can be holy, I wish I had stepped up and made a difference at that job.
- I can’t stress education enough. Learn how to identify potential trafficking situations. Learn who is at risk and how to prevent slavery before it occurs. Specifically, educate yourself on issues regarding poverty and women. The very poor are most often the ones being exploited.
- Students: Join or start a club to raise awareness. Consider doing some of your research papers on topics concerning human trafficking. As a sociology major, I started an anti-genocide coalition and wrote several papers on modern slavery. The education was invaluable.
- Professors: Petition to have human trafficking be included in university curriculum. Publish an article, teach a class, or host a symposium.
- Mental Health and Medical Providers: Offer low-cost or free services to survivors assisted by local or international welfare agencies. Train your staff on how to identify the indicators of human trafficking and assist survivors.
- Attorneys: Offer pro-bono services to survivors or NGOs.
- (Because I didn’t want to end with attorneys) Figure out how you can to get to know survivors and abolitionists in your area. We are all people, full of dreams and flaws and beauty. It’s easy to idealize, to make someone something they’re not. The only way to push past that is get to know them for who they truly are.
- I got almost half of these ideas from two very dear friends, Sarah Symons, who founded Made By Survivors and Jacqueline Zimowski, who is the Executive Director of No Human Trafficking.
When Brandy Walker was in kindergarten, she used to get in trouble for daydreaming. Now she works as a professional daydreamer. She shares the stories on her heart at http://brandyglows.com and is the founding editor of The Bomb Shelter. She preaches weekly at The Church in the Wild And she helps ambitious women dare to dream even bigger with the Shalom Sessions.