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.

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?

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?