Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kids With a Calling

Homework.  Soccer Practice. Driver’s Ed. Homework.  Chorus.  Babysitting.  Sleeping in. How about organizing meetings for human rights activism? Meet some young women whose “typical” week might surprise you.

Molly, Erica, and Emilie are school friends who have been learning and working together in the area of human freedom. In fact, their school anti-trafficking group has recently become a teen chapter of ‘Not for Sale’. I have been aware over the past year of their work raising awareness at their school and of their volunteer efforts with Amirah House, and have been curious to hear more of their story.

I asked them each what initially drew them into the work of modern day abolition. 

photo by Dylan Elliott-Hart
Molly explains: “My first real exposure to human trafficking was reading the book Just Courage by Gary Haugen, the founder of InternationalJustice Mission. I was 12 years old at the time, and just beginning to receive exposure to issues of social justice. I remember being shocked at the reality of this injustice and inspired that it was my role as a Christian to do something about it.” She heard about other youth who were becoming activists, particularly a teenage boy  named ZachHunter who was one of the first young abolitionists. “His actions in raising awareness for trafficking were crucial for me as I realized that young people really could take significant action to fight injustice.”

On a mission trip to Liberia Molly learned first hand of the desperation of many women who would sell themselves into prostitution to make money for their children’s school fees. “I was deeply saddened and disturbed by this, especially in light of how easy it would be for Americans to sacrifice the monetary equivalent of an amusement park ticket in order to send a kid to school. I entered my freshman year that fall, and jumped into our school's Institute for Leadership and Social Justice. The next year, I helped start an Anti-Trafficking group, and we've been raising awareness and money.”

Emilie and Erica are two of the key students who have responded to the information shared through the work of the student group, The Freedom Project.  Emilie remembers being drawn in,“I was intrigued by it because according to the data human trafficking is an immense problem,” though she wondered why  most people don't know anything about it. She is willing to face the reality: “In order to stay connected to the cause, I am on several email lists for organizations like Not For Sale and IJM,” and with her friends works to raise other student’s awareness.  I love some practical advice that Emilie shared as an example of living  these values among her peers: “I encourage them to treat the issue seriously and not throw around words like "pimp" and "prostitute" in casual conversations. I tell them this because I found that kids joke around about stuff like that without really thinking about what it means and kids become hardened to the reality of those lifestyles.”                                                                                       
 For Erica, “Being involved in the school's anti-trafficking group allows me to stay connected in a network of other high school students… For me, being connected with other modern-day abolitionists has definitely been a crucial factor in the sustaining of my passion for this issue.”Aside from doing this work together, another key element that sustains their energy and passion is their Christian faith. Each of these eloquent and committed young women mention that following Jesus drew them into the issue. There is a calling, they remind us, “for Christians to be involved in the business of Jesus,” literally setting free the captives, “and then helping them understand how precious they are.”

Teens can be about that business. Aside from raising public awareness, these girls have already volunteered for Amirah house and raise money for justice work. Molly says, “When kids learn about horrible things that happen to other people their age, especially when they discover it happens in their city, all of the sudden it becomes really personal and urgent. Mobilizing American youth to action will, I think, come from a realization that middle and high school age kids are trafficked by the thousands in all major US cities. [Domestic] trafficking is relevant to youth because it is local and they can do something tangible.”
These teenagers inspire me and push me to be looking for younger partners in my own endeavors.
But, perhaps they should not “surprise” us, after all. Let’s not forget to invite youth as partners in learning and serving.  There is a wonderful next generation of kids who are capable of extraordinary things, who are passionate and sincere and can mobilize others to “love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with God.”

On the way together,
Teri E-H

Teri is an adjunct professor. She enjoys her three kids and warm sunny days. She can be reached at elliottt@bc.edu.

                      If you are interested in the Freedom Project mentioned here they can be reached at:     

To learn more about Amirah, or to support our work, please visit www.amirahboston.org.

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