Article originally published on MeetJustice.org on July 13,2011.
Every bag of potato chips has at least one “swish” chip. It’s the chip that, instead of being perfectly formed in a round shape like all the other chips, somehow got folded back on itself. As a gullible child with four older cousins, I was thrilled to learn from one of them that if you ate it after making a wish, your wish would come true. Ironically, my wish when I ate the swish chip was always to be thinner. Do you think my wish came true?
It did. After a lifestyle change and many difficult hours of excercise and discipline.
If only Jimmeny Cricket’s advice “When you wish upon a star…” were true, the world might look a bit different. The streets would be crowded with beggars riding by on their shining steeds, but it wouldn’t matter to the rest of the world because everyone could skip the commute to work and remain independently wealthy. And Slavery might be a distant memory.
Maybe we can blame whimsical plotlines like those in the movies for our love of the notion that we can will our wishes and hopes into reality. But if you click your heels three times, it won’t change the fact that between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the country every year to endure inhumane working conditions at least and repeated rape, degradation or murder at worst. There’s no magic lamp or fairy godmother to make social change happen. It’s on us. You’re the fairy godmother. You’re the genie. So how do you throw a monkeywrench in a machine like human trafficking?
According to the director of NightLight Atlanta, a grassroots faith-based initiative to reach out to people trapped in commercial sexual exploitation, we all can make a difference in someone’s life: “It’s not just that some people can do the justice thing. We can all do the justice thing, and we all need to use what we’ve been given. People ask, ‘What can I do?’ And I say ‘I don’t know- what can you do? Music? Art? Are you good at administrative duties? Are you a good writer? I don’t know what you do.’ Do what you do, do it well, and do it for this issue.”
In other words, anyone can be a catalyst for change, through virtually any medium.
Educate yourself. Advocacy starts on a personal level- awareness must be followed with education. While the Meet Justice team works hard to regularly provide readers and activists with relevant, current information, there are several other sources one can turn to for more. Polaris Project offers a wealth of information regarding forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation, and the U.S State Department recently announced its release of the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report, which can be read here.
The Mayor’s report of 2005 (Hidden in Plain View), The Georgia Demand Study of 2009 and the Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic all provide information on the sexual exploitation of underage girls, while the Depaul Report, From Victims to Victimizers, reveals the motives and methodology behind traffickers and pimps. The CNN Freedom Project and Change.Org are both sources of news regarding forced labor and sex trafficking, both in the U.S and abroad.
Next, educate others. Make them aware. Human trafficking is an amorphous, nuanced and often confusing issue, and it requires dialogue. Meet Justice Intern Hunter Chapman recently hosted a “Beers and Premieres” party event for a small group of young men who got together to watch a trafficking related movie and discuss it afterwards.
Every February, Street Grace, A Future Not a Past, and Wellspring Living host a Lobby day at the Georgia Capitol to bring attention to the issue.
Next, act. Human trafficking is more than just an issue. It’s a sterile name for the horrific reality that women and men (and boys and girls) like you and I endure each second of every day. Now that you’ve made yourself aware, if you see a potential situation involving commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor, get help.
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888
Georgia Care Connection: 404-602-0068
To find or suggest upcoming events to create social change, keep up with our Events Calendar. Explore our partners’ pages for more chances to volunteers. Change.org offers a unique format for online activism- and while online activism is often snarkily dismissed as “clicktivism”- an easy, useless and self-soothing means to feel like one is making a difference without putting in the effort of on-the-ground work, the recent release of Chinese artist Ai Wewei from prison has been largely credited to an overwhelming response on Change.org. The website was even hacked for its efforts to bring attention to Weiwei’s imprisonment. But it takes more than clicktivism.
Intervene on someone’s behalf. Many programs offer the opportunity to mentor children at the convenience of one’s own schedule: so even the busiest of us can step in and offer leadership, guidance, and friendship to children who might otherwise seek it in dangerous places.
If you like to run and/or cheerlead and offer water, check out the Street Grace Running Team.
If you’d like to mentor a child, check out Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Are you in the medical field? Check out Meet Justice Medical.
Is your heart for children who are trapped in sexually exploitative situations? Check out our Innocence Atlanta campaign to volunteer, donate, or learn more.
Locate groups in your college, high school, church, or community that meet for the express purpose of fighting forced labor or sex trafficking. If none exist- start one.
If time is short, financial contributions to rape crisis centers, youth homeless shelters, awareness organizations, and rehabilitative care centers like Wellspring Living all work to restore victims of forces labor and sex trafficking. Check out our partners and our weekly organization spotlights/interviews to see if you fit into the effort to end human trafficking there, as well.
Finally- fighting human trafficking can be as much about what you don’t do as what you do. Don’t patronize businesses or industries that don’t live up to minimum requirements of transparency and accountability in the chain of production, and let them know you’ll be supporting other companies that do. (Free2Work provides a list of businesses and products and ranks them according to how they fare in terms of fair trade, and Change.org already has letters addressed to some companies that you can sign.) Don’t support businesses that often act as fronts for sex trafficking of women and girls (strip clubs, erotic massage parlors, escort services, and hostess clubs have been identified as fronts for illegal sexual exploitation).
I still pause whenever I encounter the swish chip and occassionally I’ll even make a wish, for old-time’s sake. But wishes don’t grant themselves. Though we can’t wish social injustice away, we can take an active role in combating it.
Is this blog just too stinkin’ long? You can get the jist of it at our Be Aware page.
For more info on volunteering at Meet Justice, head here.
This post was updated July 20, 2011.