Growing up in a Korean-American home, I was raised with the dream of becoming a “professional” of some sorts. The Korean community tends to push their offspring to graduate as valedictorians of their high school, go to an Ivy-League university, and of course move unto medical, dental or law school. The TV show Glee’s description of the “Asian F” held true that anything below an A+ is equivalent to an F in the eyes of Asian parents.
My parents transitioned out of the typical Korean outlook on futures for my brother and I. When I told my parents about Not For Sale and modern-day slavery, they were exceptionally supportive. The world of nonprofits, however, was completely unknown territory to my whole family, including myself. When I first got accepted into the fellowship, my parents had millions of questions. “You’re paying to work as an unpaid intern?” “You’re moving across the country to California? “How exactly are you going to be helping these modern-day slaves?” Non-profit organizations were such a mystery to them that my mom didn’t even bother to explain to my grandfathers what it was that I actually did. Other family members asked me where I worked and after my initial response, they had no further questions but, “So, what’re you doing after?” They thought of my fellowship at NFS as merely an experience that would come to an end. And this killed me. I felt like I was holding back this wealth of information and passion about NFS that I just wanted to spew at them. But, they had no desire to learn. Did they know about the one million South Korean women enslaved in brothels? I wonder. And if they did, why did they remain ignorant? Are people more comfortable not knowing about the 30 million slaves in the world? I suppose ignorance is bliss to some.
Last week, I finally had time to fully explain each of Not For Sale’s platforms to my parents and brother. I was so happy to share about each of the international projects, Free2Rock, the Montara Circle, Free2Work, Free2Play, and so on. I was stumbling over my words, because I was so excited… and there was just so much to say.
I asked my Mom what she told people about Not For Sale. She gave me a well-rehearsed speech that was so epic that I wish I had recorded it. (I could tell that she had basically memorized the NFS website and our videos.) “There are over 30 million slaves in the world… Dave went to an Indian restaurant and discovered that slavery is still alive, even in America… My daughter is an abolitionist… NFS creates futures for survivors of human trafficking. Oh, and charity is dead.”
I’m so appreciative for parents who aren’t ignorant and so supportive of the movement. And, of course, I’m also thankful for Not For Sale—this opportunity has been so much more than a six month experience at an international nonprofit. It has literally opened my eyes to a whole new world. It’s ironic that NFS creates futures for survivors of modern-day slavery, because whether they know it or not—they’ve created a new future for me as well.