NFS Fellowship Blog, Week 2, July 24, 2011
Wow—this week has been long and exhausting and full. But good. Going through the Academy again reminded me of why I loved it the first time I did it—the amazing people I met. I’m sure every aspiring abolitionist has felt—at least on one occasion but probably more—alone in this fight. We all know how frustrating it gets to see people’s eyes glaze over when we tell them we’re involved in the anti-trafficking movement. How frustrating it is to hear someone say “how sad” when we tell them about child labor in the chocolate industry, but to never see them change their purchasing habits. How tiring it is to have to explain, over and over again, that yes, slavery does still exist, even here in the United States. So the opportunity to spend a week with a group of people who know about and care about and want to end human trafficking is priceless for an aspiring abolitionist.
I really think the networking aspect was the most valuable aspect of the Academy for me. In saying that, I do not at all mean to detract from the content of the program. All of the speakers that come to the Academy are fantastic, and they really help give participants a more holistic knowledge of human trafficking and of what’s going on in the abolitionist movement as a whole. And the investigator training gives aspiring abolitionists a concrete tool they can use to fight slavery in their backyards, regardless of what kind of education or professional training they have had. But to spend time with a group of passionate, dedicated seekers of justice from different fields, professions, regions, and nationalities is so refreshing and energizing. I really think that my time at the Academy two years ago was one of the major motivating factors that inspired me to continue my work in my university and to apply for the fellowship after I graduated; it was a reminder to me that there is a bigger world outside my experience, where there are people as passionate as I about this cause.
There were several fantastic presentations during the Academy, but there’s one in particular I would like to highlight. On Monday, Minh Dang, a survivor of sex trafficking, came and spoke to us. I won’t go into too much detail about her story here, although if you would like to learn more, she’s featured in an MSNBC documentary called Sex Slaves: Minh’s Story and in the August 2011 issue of Cosmopolitan. Hearing her speak was so convicting and inspiring, despite how disturbing some of her stories were. Her story reminded me of why I’m here and doing this work. It’s easy to get wrapped up in numbers and campaigns, and to get disconnected from the people who are affected by this crime. Minh’s story helped me get back in touch with that human element and remember those for whom I am fighting.
On a lighter, personal note, this week has been exhausting for me on a much more mundane level: I’m the only fellow living in the fellows’ house with a car, meaning I had to make the forty-five minute drive twice a day into and out of the city. I learned to drive in Albuquerque, then moved to Tulsa for college—both legitimate cities, but small ones. The prospect of driving in the city terrified me. You know that scene from The Princess Diaries where Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews are driving up a giant hill, and Anne loses control of the car, and it starts rolling backwards and crashes into a trolley? Yeah, I was visualizing that happening to me, with all the fellows in my car, their lives held in my hands. But it didn’t. I commuted on Bay Area freeways, drove through downtown San Francisco, scaled giant hills of doom, and parallel parked (albeit with coaching). I survived all that city driving intact, even if I did accidentally drive across the Bay Bridge into Oakland on the first day. This is a big accomplishment for me, so I just thought I would share it with you, dear citizens of the Internet.
Thanks for reading! Until next week,