Freedom Summit

Two weekends ago I attended a conference on human trafficking - Freedom Summit - organized by the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking.  I haven't had the mental energy to sit down and fully process everything until now.  I knew going into the conference that it would be eye opening, shocking, and possibly depressing.  I didn't realize I would walk away with a broken heart after learning about the very worst of human conditions - and humanity.

At the conference, I finally started understanding what human trafficking really was - not just a buzzword that the more devoted social justice seekers would throw out occasionally.  the most eye opening thing I learned is that trafficking exists everywhere.  I met a girl at the conference who grew up in the same town as I did, and whose parents sold her for sex throughout her high school and college years (view her story here).  To say that I was blown away when I first heard her story would be an understatement.  I always thought I grew up in just about the safest place I could have.  We never even locked our front door!  I had always thought of trafficking as some far away problem, that while horrendous, definitely would never effect me.  Her story forever changed how I'll see trafficking.

So, I cried for two days straight after the conference.  And then I got angry.  While anger isn't an emotion that will sustain a drive to heal the world, it definitely can be an excellent spark to the fire.  So now, the only logical thing is to do something about it.  But I keep returning to a place of overwhelm.  I feel overwhelmed every time I think about trafficking.  I feel overwhelmed every time I try and think about how I can really make a difference.  It's a huge and mysterious problem - there aren't many numbers or statistics to provide a factual basis on how to tackle this issue.  According to the Polaris Project, "Victims of human trafficking are especially difficult to identify since they often do not self-report and because the crime of trafficking is both clandestine and involves holding victims in situations against their will. "  So where do I even begin?

I promise I'm not trying to make you depressed.  These things are unimaginable, and painful to talk about, but nonetheless must be.   But making a difference is actually easier than I thought it was.  while the conference was education based, they also provided us with many tools that we could use in our daily lives.  Here are three easy ways to change the world just by making simple shifts to our lifestyles:

1.  Free2Work has an awesome free app that allows you to scan products and find out what part labor abuse and trafficking plays in the manufacture of that product.  Download it, and use it to help guide your consumer decisions.
2.  Buy Fair Trade!  It's amazing how much consume power we individually hold.  If we can decrease demand on products that use forced labor, than we will automatically decrease the demand of forced labor.  
3.  Learn to recognize the signs of trafficking, and memorize the National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline: 1-888-3737-888.

I keep going back to Isaiah 1:17 - “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”

Seek justice.  Help the oppressed.  I think we can do that.

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