A Different Sort of Contest

551197_337037406382696_1891785269_nOnly two more weeks until the Poetry For Their Freedom Contest closes. First prize is $100 and no entry fee.

Submit a poem on human trafficking and victims’ restoration of hope. Raise awareness and promote freedom for the 27 million enslaved around the world and in our own backyard.

Please consider sharing if you know any writers and poets. From some of the cover letters and background stories we’re getting, let me tell you, it confirms that human trafficking is way too alive and well in our country.

Help Fight The World’s Fastest Growing Crime

Are you a poet? A writer? Do you know one?

Human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world. Criminals buy, sell and trade human beings into the commercial sex industry and forced labor. Take up your pen to help combat this horrific form of modern-day slavery. Submit a poem to the Poetry For Their Freedom Contest.

Poetry For Their Freedom

First prize includes $100, a live reading at The A21 Campaign – U.S. East Coast office’s Be Their Freedom annual benefit to be held on Sept. 19th in Charleston, SC. Additionally, the winning poem will be printed in the Be Their Freedom event program and posted on The global A21 Campaign’s Instagram feed.

For submission guidelines and more information, please visit Poetry For Their Freedom at www.poetryfortheirfreedom.com

Please forward to any poet you think would be interested in becoming an active voice for freedom!

Are You Safe?

Photo Courtesy of Thunderchild7

Photo Courtesy of Thunderchild7

When a hurricane hits or a terrorist attacks, how can you find out if your loved ones living in the area are safe?

Cell service could be cut off, as happened in the terrorist event at the Boston Marathon. What options are available?

Here are a couple to consider:

Google Person FinderGoogle Person Finder

This tool is designed to reconnect family and friends in the aftermath of a disaster or humanitarian emergency. It allows individuals to search for the status of specific persons and receive updates on them. This application can be embedded in personal webpages for ease of use and access.

Google’s Crisis Response division developed this tool after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Google Person Finder can mine data from other registries in a common format. After Katrina in 2005, many different websites provided a scattering of missing persons registries, a consolidation problem…now solved. Once the crisis is over, Google deletes the repository, as it has in regard to the Boston Marathon event.

American Red CrossThe American Red Cross: Safe and Well

This web application allows you to register yourself as “Safe and Well”, to ease your loved ones minds, as well as search for those who are missing.

Hope you never have the need to use these, but doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Have you ever been in a near-panic, unable to reach a loved one during a time of epic crisis? How did you finally reach him or her?

Diffusion of Responsibility

 

Photo Courtesy of Watcharakun on freedigitalphotos.net

Photo Courtesy of Watcharakun on freedigitalphotos.net

Since writing my Modern-Day Good Samaritan posts, I’ve been thinking a lot about a phenomenon I learned in psych class called “Diffusion of Responsibility”. It’s a phenomenon where a person is less likely to take responsibility for action or inaction when others are present.

How do you overcome that?

In an emergency situation—say, when someone passes out in public or a woman screams and no one does anything to help—it’s referred to as the “Bystander effect”. It seems, the larger the crowd, the less sense of personal responsibility people feel and the less likely they are to help. The case most infamous is the rape and murder of Kitty Genovese that was witnessed by thirty-some people.

What causes this lockup? It can’t be that all these people are just cold and callous…or brain dead. What could be going through a person’s mind to rationalize doing nothing?

Shock: First off, witnessing someone drop to the sidewalk or suffer a brutal mugging isn’t an everyday occurrence for most of us. (At least I hope not). So, there’s the shock factor of something way out of the ordinary.

Look for guidance: We look around. What does everyone else think of this? If everyone’s acting normal or standing there, not taking any action, then it must be okay, right? You might not understand what’s going on, but someone does. Someone else must be in-the-know. Right?

Lack of Qualifications: Someone else, more experienced in how to handle emergency situations probably did what needed to be done. Or they will. Surely there’s a doctor, nurse, EMT, policeman or military Special Forces in the crowd somewhere.

Fear: We’ve all heard “no good deed goes unpunished.” We could get embroiled in something and get hurt. We’ve watched plenty of TV drama to prove it. Plus, there are a plethora of lawyers making it their lives’ work to try to punch holes in the shield of Good Samaritan laws and sue us for trying to help anyone.

Stranger: Someone who knows the victim will help.

Anonymity is easier. To watch from the crowd or walk away as if nothing’s amiss.

English: CPR training

English: CPR training (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Possible Ways to Overcome This Bystander Tendency?

Purpose: For me, I would think it would start with your worldview. Do you think we’re on this planet to help each other? Or to live for ourselves and simply make sure we keep on breathing? If we determine we’re the kind of people who want to help…well then, maybe we can decide ahead of time that we’d give it our best shot, should such a situation arise.

Recognition: I can’t guarantee how I would react in such an emergency situation. All I know is how I’d WANT to respond. As my mom always says, identifying the problem is a big step. Recognize the situation. Like, “Hey, could this be that bystander effect happening right now? Why nobody’s doing anything? Including me?” Recognize the hurdle so you can jump over it. Moving forward may not come naturally, but if we can consciously recognize a situation for what is, maybe then it will help push us to act.

And helping may not require a lot. It may simply mean making a phone call or taking a photo or leveraging the crowd.

Pinpoint: In this case, it’s not rude to point at someone. If you want to offer assistance and need help, specifically designate someone. Don’t just say, “Someone help me. Someone call 911.” Make eye contact. Point. “You in the ball cap, call 911.”

My husband said that type of pinpointing was part of his lifeguard training in high school. Sad that it took me so long to learn it, too.

What examples do you have of diffusion of responsibility happening? Or its opposite? Maybe you’ve witnessed someone courageously take charge like the folks I wrote about in Uganda? Ever used the Heimlich? Given CPR?

 

Modern-Day Good Samaritan?

Uganda signsIf this had been you, what would you have done?

You’re in rural Uganda, in a convoy of 4 vans, packed with 15 people each, on a 4-hour drive from a remote town to a more remote, dangerous town to offer humanitarian services for the day. You’re traveling over roads of packed clay, pocked with divots deep enough to jar your teeth. You share this one-and-a-half-lane road with walkers, bikers, dogs, pigs and oncoming traffic. Oh, and there’s actually a steer (with the sharpest, biggest horns you’ve ever seen) right outside your window. You pass flipped cars in ditches strewn with trash and fear you understand exactly how they ended up there.

To get to your destination, the van bumps along, down into the Rift Valley. The mountainsides, green with forest, gradually give way to tall savannah grass. You think you see a woman lying in the grass on the side of road among the trash. But the van is traveling about 40 miles/hour through a series of switchbacks, so you’re not completely sure. No one else seems to have noticed. Plus, people on the road are walking right by. Surely, if someone were there, they’d stop.

The van continues on its way. You arrive in the small town of Buliisa on Lake Albert and are immediately overwhelmed by close to 1,500 people needing medical attention (50% of Ugandans don’t have any access to any medical care). More people are crossing Lake Albert in paddleboats from the Democratic Republic of Congo—the border somewhere in the middle of the lake. They’re coming to see you, too

After a long day, you’re on your way back to your bigger remote town. It’s dusk and it’s raining. The van slows at one point. A group of baboons sits in the middle of the road. They only grudgingly move off. There! It really is a person lying in the grass. A woman. Not just a pile of clothes. Several others see her this time, too.

The baboons are very close to her. Waiting.

Lots of people spill out from the vans to take a closer look, all while keeping an eye on the baboons that aren’t known for their friendliness. One of the bus drivers translates what he has been told about the woman by a local passing by. “She’s crazy.”

The woman lies there, unmoving in the grass. She’s wearing lots of layers of clothes although it’s muggy and hot. She appears to be between 20-24 years old. She’s twig-thin, her clothes like tent material. The van drivers shake their heads. No room in the vans. Already packed in like playing cards. Also, the woman might have a contagious disease. Who can tell?

Several people run back to the vans for food bars stashed in backpacks in case the need for a quick energy boost arose during the long day. But the food bars can’t be left beside her. The baboons will be drawn to them. Water is given instead. The woman moves slightly—just enough to accept the water.

The van drivers look around, frowning. Darkness is coming. Nighttime is dangerous here. It’s time to go.

This is based on a true story.  I promise to give you the details and what happened, in my next post. But for now, what would you do in this situation? What do you feel right now?

How to Help Stop Human Trafficking While You Go About Your Day


Pay Attention!

My previous post about the book, Undaunted, garnered questions (and some frustrations) about what a person can do once they are aware of the problem of human trafficking. In addition to signing up for the newsletters of anti-trafficking organizations and liking their Facebook pages, (which can lead you into all kinds of ways to get involved), you can help by simply knowing what to look for. Human trafficking happens right under our noses.

  • Learn to recognize the signs.
  • Pay attention.
    • Notice people.
    • Take a closer look. Human trafficking (sex and labor) can often occur in street prostitution, brothels, strip clubs and massage parlors, but also at truck stops and in domestic service, agriculture, manufacturing, in restaurants and other hospitality and service industries, janitorial services, construction, and health and elder care.
  • Don’t assume they are simply prostitutes of their own free will. Federal law defines the means used, to include not only force, but also fraud and coercion.
    • Many have been beaten and raped until their will to fight is broken. This is still involuntary servitude.
    • Many have received threats that loved ones will be hurt or killed if they don’t comply.
    • Many may display attitudes of disdain if questioned, but this often stems from fear and learned distrust of people’s intentions.
    • Many may not self-identify as victims because they do not know their rights and/or their traffickers have made them think they brought it on themselves, and that nobody cares.
  • Do they possess any identification or travel documentation?
    • Traffickers often take and maintain control of these documents to prevent escape.
  • Do they look underage?
    • Any minor engaged in commercial sex is a victim of human trafficking. Period. Unfortunately, they are often treated as criminals rather than victims.
  • If you work in the travel/tourism/hospitality industry, have you seen him or her more than once?
    • Do you recognize any men or women accompanying them or directing them? Do you recognize their vehicles?
  • Physical signs of trauma or fatigue?
    • Overall health? Bruises? Other injuries?
    • Any tattoos or branding?
      • Some traffickers brand their victims. Note specific markings.
  • Are individuals withdrawn or afraid to speak?
    • Does someone censor or speak for them?
    • Do their answers sound canned and rehearsed?
  • Does their movement seem restricted by another person?
  • Do they know where they are?
    • Victims are often moved so often, they may not know what city or state they are in right now.
  • Do they speak the language?
    • Foreign-born victims may understand only words and phrases associated with sex.

Example Questions For Potential Victims:

  • Is there anything I can do to help you?
  • Do you live here in town? How long?
  • Do you owe your boss money?
  • Does your boss take anything out of your pay?
  • Are you allowed to come and go freely?
  • Are you afraid to stop doing what you’re doing?

**Be extremely cautious if ever approaching a potential victim with these questions…their trafficker may be monitoring them.

IF YOU SUSPECT A CASE OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING:

  1. DO NOT approach or confront a suspected trafficker (for safety as well as judicial case building reasons)
  2. Call your local police. State you suspect a case of human trafficking. Provide as much detail as possible (ex. location, physical descriptions, scenario that played out to cause suspicion, vehicle make, model, plates)
  3. Call the U.S. National Human Trafficking Resource Center 1-888-3737-888

The above, of course, is not a definitive list. But it should get you thinking. Yes?

To learn more, you may want to read the article I was recently fortunate enough to have published in Relevant Magazine on The State of Modern Slavery.

Undaunted

Undaunted“Why didn’t you come sooner?” A young girl once posed this question to Christine Caine—the co-founder of The A21 Campaign, which fights human trafficking. This girl had suffered unspeakable horror as a slave sold for sex many times a day. She’d stared at Christine with despair in her eyes. “Why didn’t you come sooner?”

In her excellent book, Undaunted, Christine Caine says she had an unassailable excuse, but couldn’t bring herself to use it. In truth, she hadn’t come because she simply hadn’t known. But that wasn’t good enough—not in the face of this girl’s urgency, her despair.

Have you ever temporarily lost your child in a crowd? Felt the searing rip of instantaneous fear? However shy your personality, you grip strangers’ arms, begging to know if they’ve seen your child. How can they even consider going about their day when something so absolutely desperate is happening? You’re frantic for a kind and friendly person to find your child and bring them back to you. You pray for the kindness of a stranger.

But what if that is not the type of person your child encounters?

What if your child’s eyes are darting from one unfamiliar face to another for rescue? But that rescue doesn’t come. Can you now blame the girl for asking, “Why didn’t you come sooner?”

“When you’re not lost—when you’re safe—it’s hard to understand the urgency of needing to be found, needing to be rescued.” Christine Caine

With that quote, I think you can already see how Undaunted is a book that hits hard. But it is simultaneously very inspiring. Christine Caine generously shares her own dramatic life story in the hopes it can help ours. She has gone through some really difficult things that could have left her bitter and stagnant…but instead, she has used them to make—not only herself—but others stronger. And she has developed a compassion that has shot past emotion into action.

In Undaunted, Christine talks about why we hold back—how we may want to help others, but common things stop us:

  • We don’t feel empowered
  • We think we lack the courage, the strength, the wisdom, the money, the experience, the education, the organization, the backing.
  • We feel unqualified. We feel daunted.

Personally, I’ve felt all those things, but this book helps remind me how to overcome them.

I’ve written for The A21 Campaign East Coast office for over a year now, but I’ve not met Christine Caine personally. I had the chance in June at our first (soon-to-be annual BE HER FREEDOM gala), but to be honest, it’s not that easy for me to just go up and talk to somebody—especially when that someone is a great and powerful speaker…and doer of so-many-things overwhelming. I guess you could say I was daunted. One time, hearing her speak, my husband leaned over to me and said, “She packs into a 40-minute lecture what it would take someone else an hour and a half to say.”

It’s true. Christine Caine is a slim 5’3” energetic powerhouse. While she travels all over the world, speaking inspirationally to thousands upon thousands, I sit in my office chair, oftentimes staring at my blinking cursor. Although our lives are very different, one of the blessings of her being so open about the difficulties in her own life is that they resonate. Suffering (unfortunately) is a connector for us all.

Like her, I, too, know exactly what it’s like to hear a doctor say, “I’m sorry. I can’t find a heartbeat.” Perhaps, pain is not always so similar in nature, but we have all suffered. We can understand loss. We feel compassion. What we do with it is the main difference. How we handle it is up to us.

Many former human trafficking victims are now huge advocates for the cause. Other activists, like myself, may have no personal tragedy to associate with the cause, but “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” -Benjamin Franklin. Human trafficking is not only a horrific crime; it’s also the fastest growing in the world. The trade of people now outsells the trafficking of arms. If we don’t fight this, it is not a stretch to consider a future where we will know someone who has fallen victim.

Christine has a wonderful prayer in her book, Undaunted. “God, help me not to close my eyes to other people’s horror or ignore injustice. Help me fight the injustices you hate. Help me value people and speak up for those who have been silenced.”

I know I’m quoting her a lot, but hey, she’s got a lot of good stuff to say. Here’s one last: in reference to the rows and rows of posters of the missing. “These photographs should be in beautiful frames on a mantle, or in the pages of a family photo album on a coffee table… They shouldn’t be plastered coldly here, taped across the peeling paint of an airport wall.”

The New Year is a great time to stand up. Don’t you think?

Key2Free Is Coming

October 18th is International Anti-Slavery Day. Yet, wasn’t slavery abolished? Sadly, it has simply twisted into a more shadowy and hidden form—human trafficking. People can be sold over and over again…unlike a drug.

In honor of anti-slavery day, The A21 Campaign is conducting its largest awareness campaign of the year: Key2Free. It’s an initiative to rally individuals, groups and businesses everywhere to join the fight and declare on October 18th that human trafficking is absolutely unacceptable.

People all over the world are coming up with unique (and funny) ways to use their business acumen, talents and creativity to help awaken our world to the fact this horrific crime is going on.

There are LOTS of fun ways to participate. You’re only limited by your imagination.

1. Wear the Key: On October 18, wear a key to symbolize freedom. 
Be prepared to explain what it represents.

2. Share the Key: Spread the word. Share human trafficking links on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Causes. If you host an event, post photos on the Key2Free Facebook page and tweet with the hashtag #KEY2FREE.

3. Raise the Key: Use your creativity and gather friends for a Key2Free event. Party with a purpose.

4. Be the Key: Join the fight and make a difference by becoming an A21 abolitionist. ‘Cause, yes, they are still needed.

Need some more ideas?

  1. Walk in her shoes: organize or participate in a sporting event to promote awareness and/or raise funds
  2. Smarten up your staff: Invite staff and friends for a showing of the documentary Nefarious or the film, Trade
  3. Donate a percentage: donate a percentage of sales proceeds or funds from a specific product/service
  4. Offer future in-kind resources: arrange to become an A21 resource for specific products/services
  5. Poster the city: Make and display Key2Free signs.
  6. Come up with something entirely different. Be creative.

As red and black are The A21 Campaign colors, a local salon (here in Charleston) decided they’re going to offer red and black hair extensions for $15 in the month of October. All profits (after expenses) will be donated to The A21 Campaign.

A local football team has decided to wear red socks along with their black uniform pants every time they take the field this fall.

Doesn’t take much to promote a little awareness. But, could have a huge impact for some 14-year-old girl. Actually, the average age for a victim is 12. Tell me that doesn’t scare you.

Photographer Expands Her Skill Set In A Big Way

Weddings must be fun to photograph—people clinking glasses, wearing fluttery silk, and holding hands. Most people will happily pose for the camera and grin, but plenty of beautiful flowers and candles are conveniently available to soften even the countenance of the grimmest great aunt.

But what about a different sort of assignment—when you’re asked to capture something hidden in the shadows that has nothing to do with a happy event?

One of my fellow A21 Campaigners found herself facing this challenge not long ago. Caroline Howard is a wedding photographer here in Charleston, SC, who recently created a photographic series for The A21 Campaign-East Coast’s: BE HER FREEDOM fundraising/human trafficking awareness event this past June. (She was also in charge of the entire design of the art installation used to portray a victim’s journey from darkness to light, but that I’ll save for a separate post.)

Her evocative series attempts to convey even a small portion of the despair and deep sense of isolation a human trafficking victim may suffer.

I decided to go interview style today.

Me: How difficult was it switching from photographing weddings to images representing the darkness of human trafficking? What kinds of challenges did you face?

Caroline: It was definitely a challenge to switch from shooting weddings to shooting a darker subject, not to mention that everything I knew about journalism was stripped away; I had to create those feelings of darkness, heaviness and oppression.

Me: Do you think this experience helped you grow as a photographer? In what ways?

Caroline: Before this series, I had never shot personal work. If I photographed someone that wasn’t a paying client, there was a work-driven motive behind it, typically to build my portfolio. Even though this was for a specific event, I had never (in almost six years of being in photography) shot something that was putting myself out there, my aesthetic, putting my vision into a medium of art. Shooting this series gave me the affirmation that it’s okay to produce work, produce art, without a motive. Although I’ve transitioned back into wedding mode with the approach of fall wedding season, I’m actually working on another project just because. It’s a nice feeling.

Me: Any particular words of wisdom or advice for other photographers out there who might be interested in volunteering their services for a cause? How to go about it?

Caroline: The biggest thing I’ve realized is to be proactive. There is a surprising amount of people who want to get involved, but we need people with specific ideas—people, and artists, who can step forward and say ‘Not only am I willing and interested in getting involved, but I have some ideas on how I could make it happen. This is an idea I have.’ Because when it comes down to it, organizations and groups are excited and willing to take on talented volunteers such as photographers because it’s something not everyone can do. But they may need some ideas on how best to utilize the talent of a skilled individual.

I am so thankful to Caroline for the interview and for the opportunity to show off her incredibly moving photographs. Please visit her photography website at CarolineRO to see more of Caroline’s amazing work. I’d also like to thank Meryl over at Recovery Thru My Lens for sparking the idea for this post by asking how a photographer might volunteer.

What unexpected opportunities have come your way via volunteering? What are some talents you might offer up? What might you present to a nonprofit?