From Aelea: Sunshine in Half Moon Bay

As I am typing this a few of us fellows are sitting in the living room, windows open, and are all busy on our laptops. While all doing various different things, one thing we all have in common is the fact that we are enjoying what is referred to as a “BSD”. BSD, if you didn’t know, stands for Blue Sky Day. It is something that doesn’t happen very often here in Half Moon Bay and when it does, you need to take a few moments out of your day and enjoy it.

Enjoying the day and enjoying what we are doing here are two things that we do, however we don’t do with enough intent and realization behind it…

The weeks are busy and I find myself doing so many things in one day that when it’s time to submit my dashboard on a Sunday afternoon, I find myself surprised at all the things I did. The thought “I did all that this week?” often comes into my mind, thinking whatever the task was, I did it weeks ago. Things are fast paced and always changing and it’s an environment I am adjusting to and beginning to love.

Laughter. As we all sit at our laptops, the random sheep in an unknown yard nearby yard starts to bleat. And not just a regular one, but a long, awkward sound.  We all look at each other and burst out laughing. Wonderful.

Back to being busy. When working with NFS, there’s never a moment where you feel like you are done. I am all too familar with the “I’ve done all my work for the day and I still have a couple hours/all afternoon left to work!” feeling. This is simply incredible for me. My last job left me feeling quite bored and like I had so much left to offer at the end of the day. With the Fellowship, the end of the day comes and I am beat! I feel accomplished in the tasks I completed, excited about the work yet to be done, and satisfied knowing that there is always  more work to be done. We are ending modern-day slavery. Your work never ends at 5pm.

First bottles of REBBL

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had a chance to do some amazing things! REBBL has been launching and we’ve been working at launch parties. The most recent being at the Causes head office in San Francisco. The view from their 21st floor space is the best view I’ve seen in San Francisco and the event left us all pumped about NFS, REBBL and Causes!  The Causes staff are friendly and into the work that NFS and REBBL are doing.

The View from the Causes Office
A Fashion Movement for Change

This past week us lady-fellows went up to San Francisco to a Sustainable Fashion show.  We got all dressed up and headed into the big city. It was a fun experience and I definitely feel at home in San Francisco. The sustainable fashion show featured {r}evolution Apparel who are the makers of the Versalette, and Sew Love Style showing their top and new Tulip Skirt. I felt so trendy being there and seeing a fashion show that is so forward thinking. A couple of the girls really got their networking on and told everyone they could about NFS and exchanged business cards. Myself and another girl just took it all in; the environment, the different people, the venue. We wanted to relish the experience. At the end of the fashion show part of the evening they had the Versalette present for people to try on. I jumped at the chance of trying it on since I want to get one when they are on sale. It was a blast and I will for sure remember it.

Posing with the Versalette

Moments like the fashion show, laughing at the house and enjoying the BSD make it easy to take moments to realize what you are doing, I mean REALLY doing, and appreciate it. It’s easy to take a few steps back and enjoy the atmosphere.

My goal for  this week is to take moments in the middle of the day and while taking a sip of water, waiting for an email to load, or walking to or from work, is to take that brief moment, that moment that could be as easily fleeting as a quick ocean breeze while going for a jog, and acknowledge where I am, what I am doing, and really enjoy it.

When you think about it, we really are working to end modern-day slavery. We’ve been selected from over 30 applicants to come to Half Moon Bay and work with those who are already devoting their life to seeing justice prevail and, for me, to see Love overcome. We are small but are part of the bigger picture. The first part of my day, aside from checking my personal @nfs email account is checking the general email account. While at times, it can seem annoying to be the person that needs to respond to all these random emails, and when you’re tired and it’s been cloudy and cold for a week it can be exhaustive.  However, looking through those emails is one of the biggest sources of inspiration in my day. The emails from people that read along the lines of ‘How can I get involved?’, ‘What can I do to help?”, ‘How can I join the movement to end slavery in our time?’ get me SO pumped! People are encouraged by the work we do. People care.  People want to be involved. People are feelingcalled to be involved. If moments like that can’t make me enjoy what I am doing  here, nothing will. That one of the many reasons I am so happy to be here.

The more people that know slavery exist today, the more people will a stand against it. The more people who gain knowledge of slavery in supply chains and how they are part of it due to their consumerism, the easier it will be for them to make smart choices. The more people out there making informed decisions, the more businesses and companies will change their ways.  The less demand, the less slavery. All of this results in more people like you and me working to change the cycle and lives of those at risk and provide them them with sustainable new future options!

Those moments sipping my water, waiting for an email to load, walking to or from work, those moments will be spent this week full of gratitude to be here, thankfulness for the opportunity, encouragement from the blessings in my life allowing me to be here, and enjoyment, soaking in every moment.

The Choice is Yours.

Three summers ago, while I was working as a tree planter in a remote area of northern British Columbia, I was faced with a choice.  Standing at the top of a precarious cliff on my twentieth birthday, I looked out at a piece of treacherous land that needed to be reforested.  It was raining, which meant the mosquitoes and black flies were temporarily restrained—but it also made the slippery slope as much of a hazard as the field of stinging nettle waiting for me at the bottom.  As I began my steep descent, clinging onto roots and shrubs growing out of the cliff with one hand and grasping my shovel in the other, the words of my foreman rang in my head:  you can choose the attitude you want to have for the day.
Tree Planting 2
It ended up being one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.  The more adverse the day became, the more fun I had with it.  It was that summer I learned that our lives are a series of choices, and our world is a reflection of those choices.  What drives our choices is not wealth, nor education, nor circumstance—but our attitude.  So, three years later, when I found myself the foreman of my own crew of tree planters, I gave them the same speech:  you are in charge of your attitude.

At the start of my fellowship with Not For Sale, I was given the option of either having one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, or one of the hardest.  Over the course of six months, I’ve been pushed outside of my comfort zone, worked with people coming from backgrounds I can’t relate to, and been given responsibilities that I felt too inadequate to handle.  Certainly, there were times when I wasn’t sure whether it would be the best or most difficult experience—but the point is that it was well within my ability to decide which it would be.  And that is a powerful thing to realize.

Along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to learn firsthand how the decisions we make and attitudes we choose will ultimately determine the outcome—some of which I’ll now share:

1. Frustration can overwhelm us, or serve us. || After six months of working with Not For Sale, I’m not sure which I find more exasperating:  the millions of people in our world who are forced to work against their will, or the billions of people who don’t care.  It appalls me that we often get more outraged when our car breaks down or when our favourite sports team loses, than we do about the economic crises of human trafficking and poverty.

Perhaps it’s because of the overuse of statistics to express the severity (like “30 million slaves” or “1.1 billion living on less than $1 a day”) and that we end up removing the human element by perceiving these as “issues” that we must fix.  Or, to be slightly cynical, maybe it’s pure apathy.  Either way, we can let our frustration with the state of our world to be crippling—or it can be a launching point for action.  Our attitude determines whether we feel disempowered by our frustration, or we let “action to be the antidote to our despair” (Joan Baez).

2.  Change starts with you. || If our desire is a world that values community, we must put more value on our neighbours and co-workers; on strangers and those different from us.  If we want peace on a global scale, we need to be slow to anger, quick to listen, and cautious of how we speak to and treat those immediately around us.  If we want justice, we must practice it at every level of our everyday lives.  Confucious said it best:“To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order.  To put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order.  To put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”

3.  The means will be an expression of the end.  ||  On my first day of work at Not For Sale, Keturah—our fellowship director—sent us out on a highly-competitive scavenger hunt around the Half Moon Bay area.  Her final words to us were: “It’s about the journey—not the destination.” It was a message I had to remind myself numerous times during my fellowship experience, when I felt like I had let down my boss or failed at a project I believed in.  Maybe I did not achieve the results I wanted—but did I give up along the way?  Did I compromise my principles?  Was I focused on the collective goal rather than on selfish ambition?

A just and pure process will lead to a just and pure outcome.  Along the way, there will be many stumbling blocks—arrogance, materialism, gossip and slander, laziness, and self-serving intentions.  Falling into these traps on the journey will only taint the destination to which we’ll arrive.

 4.  Words are either medicine or poison.  || Words have the potential to raise people up as much as they can bring people down.  They have the power to inspire or destroy.  As Audrey Hepburn once declared, “It says a great deal more about a person by what he/she says about others, than what others say about him/her.”  In any setting—whether at a third world mission or a thriving NGO in the U.S.—we must choose to speak words that are encouraging, supportive, and life-giving.

5.  How we live our days is how we live our lives.  ||  Our habits comprise our character.  If we turn whining and complaining into a habit, it will consume us over the course of our life.  Instead, we can make it a habit to find joy in the most mundane tasks; humour in the most distressing situations; and strengths for every flaw we see in others.  In the end, it is our attitudes that will make or break a relationship, a church, or even a non-profit organization.

In this world, war and hatred is easier than peace and love.  It is far easier to destroy than to innovate; to be apathetic than to take action.  And it takes much less effort to be miserable than to sustain an irrepressibly positive attitude.  But the choices that we, as individuals, make every day will inevitably lead to the recovery or ruin of our world.  Every day is an opportunity to fight against an injustice; to fight for your principles or happiness or dignity; to fight to create a new alternative for a better world.  The choice is up to you.

To Keturah With Love

The fellowship is quickly coming to a close. And for the last couple weeks, we will be without our director. Her departure came about as somewhat of a shock, and I don’t know how we’ll survive without her! Although I never knew the organization without her, I am sure that it will never be the same. She seemed to be the glue that held so many different parts of Not For Sale together. Her passion and zeal for both life and Not For Sale was contagious. I first met Keturah via Skype for my interview and I remember getting fired up and excited about work just listening to her talk about the organization. The fellowship would not have been the same without Keturah as our director. From start to finish, she was a mentor, a boss, and a friend. I got the experience of working under her on the Communications team, while other fellows worked with other staff.

I can honestly say that I have never worked so hard in my entire life. I have never been so passionate about something in my entire life. And I hope that I will find something that I can continue to put so much effort towards after this fellowship. This passion that I found, I owe partly to Keturah. She never ceased to push us to do all that we could do for the movement. She was a great listener. Whenever we had problems, she put us above herself. And she knew our potential. She knew we could do more than we did. And lastly, she was a friend. She knew herself how hard we worked, since she too took part in the fellowship.

The day when she announced her resignation, I felt like I had just lost my momma. I was at a loss for words. What would we do without our mama bear? Who would attend to us? But, I know now that we’ll be fine without her. We’ve all grown in our separate ways through the fellowship. We’ve become leaders in our different platforms and have accomplished different achievements.

Thank you Keturah for all that you have done for the Not For Sale fellowship. It will never be the same without you. I hope you know that you have made an incredible impact on my life and I’ll never forget you!

Week 20 | Eight Core Beliefs of An Extraordinary Boss

Weeks ago I read an article in Inc.com about the eight characteristics of an extraordinary boss.  Ironically the publication of this article coincided with the news of Not For Sale’s Fellowship Director, Keturah Scott, leaving us to embark on the next stages of her life.  Adventure and new experiences were calling her name, and she and we all at Not For Sale, are very sad to see her go.  These are the eight examples of what K taught me during my time here in the Fellowship, and the memories and experiences I will take home with me as souvenirs.

1.    Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield.

Extraordinary bosses see business as a symbiosis where the most diverse firm is most likely to survive and thrive.

From the beginning of the Fellowship, you’ve advocated about the diversity of Not For Sale’s platforms and programs and how being a horizontal organization is what empowers and makes us unique.  You taught me that to work in a continuously changing, fast paced, and progressive environment, a person has to put on and own many different hats.  You’ve helped me realize which tops to put on, fostered and nurtured each one these talents, and made sure I realized my full potential.

 2.    A company is a community, not a machine.

Extraordinary bosses see their company as a collection of individual hopes and dreams, all connected to a higher purpose.

You’ve helped the Fellows instill that every talent truly does have a role to play in this movement, and you’ve illustrated this to us by taking an event planner, a shopaholic, a scientist, a singer, a tree-planter, and a wannabe ninja, and cultivating six incredible abolitionists.

3.    Management is service, not control.

Extraordinary bosses set a general direction and then commit themselves to obtaining the resources that their employees need to get the job done. They push decision making downward, allowing teams form their own rules and intervening only in emergencies.

I recall Day Three of the Fellowship – the day we received our six-month projects.  We sat down and discussed each, but then drew a blank stare of where to go from there.  You encouraged us that “this is all you.”  WE were to set the direction of where WE wanted these projects to go, how WE wanted to see them grow, and what WE wanted to see them become.  You told us to “be the dog with the bone,” “ruthlessly execute” these projects over the next six months.  You gave us direction but you never told us what had or should be done.  You helped us “dig deeper,” “think bigger,” and even “get up and dance some inspiration out.”

 4.    My employees are my peers, not my children.

Extraordinary bosses treat every employee as if he or she were the most important person in the firm.

You’ve been my boss.  You’ve been my colleague.  You’ve also been my Paramedic.  You’ve always put your baby birds first.

 5.    Motivation comes from vision, not from fear.

Extraordinary bosses inspire people to see a better future and how they’ll be a part of it.  As a result, employees work harder because they believe in the organization’s goals, truly enjoy what they’re doing and (of course) know they’ll share in the rewards.

You’ve ingrained in us that “It’s not about you, it’s about the movement.”  This has helped me realize what I want out of my future – a future motivated by passion.

 6.    Change equals growth, not pain.

Extraordinary bosses see change as an inevitable part of life.

You’ve helped the Fellows jump over the hurdles that were thrown our way – the change of SASD, change of roles and responsibilities, relationships, six-month projects – for all the times that we Fellows were discouraged, you always reassured us that these moves were never negative, and expressed we were always “pivoting” forward.

7.    Technology offers empowerment, not automation.

Extraordinary bosses see technology as a way to free human beings to be creative and to build better relationships.

You’ve encouraged us to learn new things that we never thought we’d learn in a non-profit organization – prezi, GIS, Google Docs and Forms, linguistic analysis…

8.    Work should be fun, not mere toil.

Extraordinary bosses see work as something that should be inherently enjoyable–and believe therefore that the most important job of manager is, as far as possible, to put people in jobs that can and will make them truly happy.

No one can deny you this one.  I’ll never forget first day scavenger hunts, happy hours at BrewCo., BBQs, hiking to far off German beer gartens, BaytoBreaker’s dance sandwiches, “dreamscometrue,” chicken fights, and Battleshots that left some of us a little more wounded than others.  These times in and out of the office have really made my stay here in San Fran, and I wouldn’t have had them without you.

Keturah – your leadership and friendship has helped shaped me as an individual.  You’ve challenged me, pushed me to my limits, laughed, and cried with me, and I couldn’t thank you more for being my boss, and most importantly my friend.  Take care lady, and I’ll be thinking about you.  >hugs<

Being an activist.

A few interesting things have happened this week. First, I watched this clip from European Affairs with Not For Sale’s Amsterdam Director Toos Heemskerg on how sex trafficking is on the rise. I immediately got distressed about all of the hard work we’ve put in over the last few months, all of the great work Not For Sale has done over the past five years, and all of the other work being done to fight slavery over the past decade, only to realize that trafficking is still on the rise. It’s a slap in the face, and it makes me wonder if this is all worth it. I never wanted to be a skeptical or cynical person, but this type of work and these statistics still make me wonder.

Then, I met someone who asked what I did, and while he didn’t respond with the first expected response of ‘well that’s not happening here,’ he did respond with the second expected response of ‘so you’re rescuing the enslaved?’ Trying to explain that that isn’t the answer is sometimes like pulling teeth.

But then I received an e-mail from Not For Sale Massachusetts on the great work they’re doing, with this quote: “Never be discouraged from being an activist because people tell you that you will not succeed. You have already succeeded if you’re out there representing truth or justice or compassion or fairness or love.” -Doris Haddock.

This fellowship has had its emotional ups and downs for everyone. We work hard. We work long hours. We don’t get paid. I continue to be questioned by outsiders and friends alike about why and how that’s possible, and sometimes I don’t feel like I have an answer. I’m still shocked when strangers react with surprise that human trafficking and slavery is a problem today. Why don’t people know? Why aren’t more people doing anything about it? When I’m reminded of the enormity of the situation and the smallness of my outreach I begin questioning everything. How can I possibly make a difference in this movement if I can’t convince this one person that even changing their shopping habits could make a difference? Can I really dedicate the rest of my life to being an activist against human trafficking when I’m constantly questioning these things? It’s at these times I have to remember this quote.

We are successful because we are out here doing what we can do. We are successful, fellows and staff included, because we are giving our time to a cause we truly care about. I think about my friends who have signed up for Free2Play, who are out rocking the NFS baseball cap, and who read the countless articles I post on facebook. I think about the other fellows who have dedicated six months of their lives to work with Not For Sale, and of a recent conversation I had with one of them when she told me that it’s changed her perspective on her future career and couldn’t imagine ever not working for a greater cause.

No one said ending slavery was going to be easy. Being an activist is a lifestyle, and not one that everyone you meet will agree with. But no matter what, this fellowship has changed us and taught us things that we didn’t know about ourselves, what we care about, and our futures. This is confirmed every time someone I meet asks me what I do – in the confidence in which I talk about the facts and how no, we aren’t rescuing girls from brothels, but going upstream to stop the root causes of trafficking in the first place. Many of us don’t know what our next step is, but when I talk to the other fellows or read their blog posts, I realize how much this fellowship has changed us – and I’m so grateful for that.

Trafficking and Technology

Article: Sex Trafficking In California: State And Tech Companies Build Alliances To Combat Crime 

Backpage.com has come under a great deal of scrutiny as of late due to the number of cases of sex trafficking that involved advertisements on the site. Previously, the majority of sex ads were being placed on Craigslist until they were forced to shut down their adult pages for specifically the same reason Backpage is being judged.

At this point it is free and anonymous to post an adult listing on Backpage. Because of this it is very easy for traffickers to advertise their victims. The lead attorney for Backpage combats the calls to shut down the site by claiming the site has a great potential to be a tool against trafficking rather than a tool being exploited by traffickers. This, however, is questionable. Village Voice Media, who runs Backpage, makes upwards of $20 million a year from the adult listings and so they are demonstrating resistance to shutting down the listings.

When considering what actions would be best to take in order to combat trafficking several come to mind:

  • Would shutting down Backpage’s adult listings stop trafficking or would the listings just move to another site? Would the listings move further underground and harder to track?
  • How viable would creating a task force in conjunction with Backpage and law enforcement to combat trafficking by engaging backpage.com as an open-source database

Part of me thinks shutting down any adult/escort listings on backpage.com would be the right step, however, I also believe that Backpage provides a great opportunity. All of the postings are in public space and readily accessible.

Ultimately, I think Backpage cooperating with law enforcement and other agencies in order to combat human trafficking is the right choice, rather than completely eradicating the vulnerable listings themselves. By working with tech companies and law enforcement I hope that Backpage will be useable as a tool to combat trafficking. It is extremely important that any task force assigned to address the multitude of trafficking cases on Backpage and to search through the listings in order to find victims is at peak efficiency and capacity.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of the meeting that takes place this week as part of the new Department of Justice task force on human trafficking in California. The article claims that by the end of the summer, the task force plans to issue a report that will contain best-practice guidelines for law enforcement, tech companies and services providers combating human trafficking locally and online. I do hope that the task force goes beyond guidelines. There needs to be collaboration amongst the tech companies to create an algorithm that will search through Backpage and flag the potential postings involving human trafficking so that law enforcement may then look at those listings and decide if further action is necessary.

There is no easy position to take when discussing human trafficking and technology. On the one hand if you leave the tools for traffickers online they will exploit them to their advantage and even with the right equipment and task force we wouldn’t be able to identify them all. On the other hand, if we take the easy route and simply ban Backpage from allowing adult listings then the advertisements will move to sites that may not be as identifiable and more disparate, making it harder for law enforcement to track.

It’s Not About You…

“The be-all and end-all of life should not be to get rich, but to enrich the world.”– Bertie Charles Forbes

 In sixth grade, I enrolled in a “Career Guidance” course.  The purpose of the class was to begin exploring our options after we graduated from high school.  Our term project required us to choose from a list of jobs that our teacher provided and to research the accompanying educational pre-requisites, potential income, and health care benefits.

As a somewhat idealist twelve-year-old, using such a logical and structured approach to planning my future did not bode well with me.  Alternatively, I compiled lists of more existential benefits to the jobs I aspired to have one day.  But as it turned out, ‘character building’ or ‘ending poverty’ were not the kinds of benefits my teacher had in mind.  I felt disappointed (and, quite frankly, even bored) having to present to my class about dental plans and paid sick leave—things that were only benefiting me, nobody else.

As I grew up, I came to realize my perception of a career was starkly different from the dominant definition.  Generally, careers are considered to be an enumeration of personal and professional accomplishments.  Education is often nothing more than a means; a mandatory pathway to generating a substantial income.  As such, universities tend to be structured to facilitate a direct transition from student life to obtaining a job.

Ultimately, we’re socialized to believe that it’s all about us and our own success. Volunteerism may have a role within one’s career, but it’s generally considered something a person does ‘on the side’ (and often, it’s something we do to make ourselves feel good).  But I prefer to see a career as a lifestyle that includes the accumulation of the activities we engage in that enhance the lives of others.  I refuse to perceive post-secondary education as just being a pre-requisite for earning an income, but choose to see it as a tool that can equip us to serve the world better.

I knew I was in the right place on one of my first days at Not For Sale, when I heard my fellowship director say to someone: “it’s not about you—it’s about the movement.”  I couldn’t have felt more relieved to discover that I was working with someone who could see beyond what they could get out of an experience and were focused on what they could give. 

At the end of our lifetime, the work we chose to engage in, the education we pursued, and the way we spent our time should not have been just about us.  As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “we haven’t started living until we have risen above the narrow confines of our individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

It’s not about getting rich.  It’s about enriching the world.