An Interview with a Kindred Spirit in the fight against modern day slavery15 Jul 2011, by modern day slavery in
A couple of weeks ago, I guest posted on Scoutie Girl. Near the end of the article, I wrote:
“At my core, I am a dreamer. And my current dream is to harness the power of story and use it to fight modern day slavery, earn a living for myself, and teach people from all walks of life how to do the same (and hopefully much more). With my blog as my main platform and words as my tools of choice, I know I have ventured down an exciting rabbit hole.”
Later that day, I got a tweet from Elizabeth Drouillard, a blogger I’d never spoken to before. She’d read my post and said it seemed she was reading something she’d written! We struck up a friendship online. Every day we’d find some new thing we both shared. Last week I asked her if she would let me interview her. She posts a weekly column on her blog about fighting modern day slavery, I am always intrigued by what I find there. Her answers proved to be extremely thought-provoking. And I felt they lined up well with our mission at Made By Survivors. Enjoy!
When did you first find out about human trafficking?
About 9 or 10 years ago. Our church had a social justice group, and Disposable People by Kevin Bales was one of the books we read. It blew my mind. I had no idea there were still slaves in the world, especially in the multiple millions. I remember giving it to my parents, particularly my Dad to read, because it had made such a huge impression on me.
I know you mentioned that you have worked with Women At Risk. Can you tell me a little about the organization, what you do there, and how you got involved with them?
Women At Risk, International ”unites and educates women to create circles of protection and hope around women at risk through culturally sensitive, value-added intervention projects.” They deal with 14 areas of risk, one of which is trafficking. In the past, I’ve worked at their stores, and I also volunteer for parties and events when I can. When Becky, the founder, asked the safehouses how she could be help them, they said “sell our product”. The women were leaving or being rescued, and the safehouses were working to help them. They just needed more product sold to keep going. So Women At Risk began selling jewelry and now carries a number of accessories. We primarily sell through home parties, and also have 3 stores now. American women have really become engaged and taken up the cause against trafficking. They do a great job of passing along the stories of the women and girls to their friends and the parties and awareness has spread greatly. They can also buy the jewelry right at the parties and know that 90% of it is going straight back to that woman and her program. Knowing you are helping in a tangible way is huge.
I initially got involved through my mother. Which is funny, because she didn’t read the book I’d told her about a couple years before. She said “this sounds more like you”. The founder, Becky McDonald and she were friends and my mom became involved on the prayer team. She began to travel with Becky and sell the jewelry while Becky did the speaking. As the organization began to grow, she began speaking too, and needed someone to help with selling the jewelry. I became one of those someones.
A while back, I shared on my blog that I didn’t necessarily see my role in fighting modern day slavery as the superhero – that I felt more called to caring for survivors throughout the rehabilitation process. You commented that in your dreams, you get to be the superhero. I LOVE that – both the idea that we all have different roles and that you embrace the superhero. Would you care to elaborate?
I don’t really know what to say, except that I’ve always wanted to be a superhero. I’ve never really understood the idea that women are princesses waiting to be rescued and men are doing all the superhero work. I’ve never felt that way, and have watched many women in my life, in business, in non-profits, and as more traditional missionaries see a need and set out to change the world by fixing that need. There’s probably some ego in there, but I think it comes from a “fix-it” personality -you want to see visible results. And what’s more visible than rescuing someone from trafficking to freedom? That said, I think the best superheros are the relentless activists who work to change laws, customs, cultures, and beliefs over the long haul so that people don’t need to be rescued or rehabilitated to begin with. On a tangent, this is why all justice work is important and should never compete. Working for clean drinking water and education for all girls will help them not be in a position where they are at risk of trafficking to begin with.
If you were a superhero (and I think perhaps you are), what would your superpower be?
Ha! I’ve never thought of that before. Invisibility, I think. Like Robin Hood, you could sneak in and steal from the tyrants and give to the poor. And rescue the enslaved. But since I don’t have the power of invisibility, I can do the opposite: take what traffickers try to hide and make it very, very visible. At Women At Risk we talk a lot about being a voice for the voiceless. Telling stories for those who can’t tell their own. And now, I would say, making the invisible, visible.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in fighting modern day slavery, but feels overwhelmed when it comes to where to begin?
First, take a deep breath and know you are not alone. I have not met anyone yet who, upon discovering the depth and breadth of trafficking, wasn’t overwhelmed. And second, don’t believe the lie that you can’t do anything. We get overwhelmed and think, “32 billion dollars a year made? 27 million people trafficked? I can’t fix this!” And then a lot of us do nothing. But you can’t stop there. That’s only a half-truth. It’s true that you can’t stop trafficking by yourself. It’s true that you can’t help all 27 million people. But you can’t let that translate into “I can’t do anything”. No one changes the world by themselves. The full truth is “I can’t fix this, but I can help fix some of it.” Then, join up with one of the many great groups fighting trafficking and ask them what they need. Whether it’s $15, 15 minutes to sign a petition, or 15 hours to pull off a charity run, there’s something you can do. You cannot do everything, but you can do something. And it matters. I find that going back to basic truths and remembering that we are supposed to do things in community helps with most things, especially the marathon that is fighting trafficking.
Very, very well said.