175 – Study the Issues in Athens, Greece

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Dr. Sandie Morgan and Dave Stachowiak discuss Dr. Morgan’s recent trip to Athens, Greece. She explains what her team did and shares her personal experience, including the high and low points.


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Dave: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode number 175, Study the Issues in Athens, Greece.

Production Credits: [00:00:08] Produced by Innovate Learning, maximizing human potential.

Dave: [00:00:29] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandie: [00:00:35] And my name is Sandie Morgan.

Dave: [00:00:37] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in Ending Human Trafficking. Sandie, one of my favorite things about you is that in addition to being a scholar and being one who has helped us to study these issues so much in depth over the years, as we’ve talked about many times on this podcast, is that you are someone who is also out there doing amazing work on the ground. Multiple times a year you are flying around the world, meeting people all over the place, forming partnerships. And I think this is probably the sixth or seventh or eighth episode we’ve had talking about one of these incredible trips and journeys you’ve been on. And today we’re going to look at what you’ve learned and the value of really engaging young people in some your work. You were just recently back in Athens, Greece and I’m really excited to hear about your adventure this time and what came out of it for both you and also the people you visited.

Sandie: [00:01:42] Well I always loved going back to Athens, and just a big shout out to my friends and colleagues there, because they always make sure that we eat well. You realize Mediterranean cooking is the best way to go. And so big shout out to them. This was our second year to do a partnership with two non-profit NGOs, they’re humanitarian initiative bridges and Salvation Army. And so, the global center literally cosponsored, co-organized a series of conferences while we were there. But I didn’t just go, I took a whole team with me. And I think one of the things that I especially appreciate about being at Vanguard University in an academic setting doing anti-human trafficking work is education has to be an across the generational process. So, bringing students with me instead of going and doing it and then coming back and telling them in the classroom and giving them a quiz, it’s an entirely experiential learning. And the value goes way beyond data that they learn. But it’s transformative in their worldview and in their relationships across borders.

Dave: [00:03:13] I’m so curious. Who are the students that went with you? Like what are their backgrounds and what kind of students do you pull from? And I’m also curious, what do you tell students in advance, like how do you set them up for an experience like this of going across the world and engaging in efforts on ending human trafficking?

Sandie: [00:03:34] You know Dave, every year I try to get better at preparing them for what they’re going to face no matter what country we’re going to. And it never fails to astound me at how shocked they are when we actually get there and see the circumstances. But we do prepare. They have reading things they do before they go. Everybody that goes on a Global Center for Women and Justice trip takes Intro to Women’s Studies so that they understand the issues that are particular to gender discrimination and sexual violence and those kinds of things. And so, they had that kind of preparation. They prepared by studying some of the Live2Free scripts because we use them in some of their prevention strategies. And they prepare by having regular meetings. This trip, because we knew we would be working with refugees, we did some preparation around resiliency because we know that these are folks who have been in a long-term traumatic situation. So, team preparation is great and we try to do some team building exercises but nothing does the job as much as getting on an airplane and going. And on the ground, your team is your backup for everything.

Dave: [00:05:04] You mentioned some of the partner organizations that were part of this. Tell me about those and how did that fit into the outcomes that you were looking for from this experience?

Sandie: [00:05:14] Well, if you recall last year we went and we did a three-day conference and we had about 30 folks that joined us from different NGOs and state agencies, and we also had five representatives from the anti-human trafficking task force in northern Iraq, and a representative from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. And so, there was a lot of response “are you going to do something again next year?” Different people wanted different things so the team, meaning our partners there, decided that we wanted to do four different one-day conferences to be able to kind of respond to everybody’s requests. So, the first conference was a conference designed for nonprofits, NGOs, and state agencies. And I think I mentioned about 30 people last year, 175 people came. And the representation was really across the board, international NGOs as well as local. And our partners, the Salvation Army and Bridges, did a great job of setting the stage, making all of the arrangements. And of course, our kind of secret sauce is Derek Marsh and I co-teach this class. And together we co-presented the law enforcement perspective as well as the victimology and some of the trauma-informed issues that we want to address. So, the conference was very well attended. The interaction was amazing and the after conversations also drew in the other partners. So, we weren’t the only presenters, so it was very well represented from the important sectors in Greece. So, we had representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that endorsed the conference from the UN special rapporteur. We also had a representative, a major from the Athens police training director, and that was an amazing outcome. And so, we invited him back to one of the other days and he came back. So, I was especially excited about how organic the conference was where presenting some people show up, they have ideas, they’re able to become part of the conversation in the room right that moment. So, we invited our new friend from the police department that came, [00:08:08] Spiros Brotsokis, [1.6] to just take over one of the sessions that Derek had been scheduled to do. And he was very happy to do that. And it really built what was happening in that community. So, then we ask him to come back again when we did the health care one-day conference and he did that. Which that’s a really important step towards building really strong and trusted multidisciplinary teams.

Dave: [00:08:39] And it really gets to the essence of partnership that we think about a lot and it is a very key value that’s held dearly for the center and for the work through Vanguard of how do we engage as partners because no one has all the answers. I think the example of a session was planned that Derek and you were going to do, and you stepped aside when there was someone who could do just as good a job if not better locally who’s got the connections and in getting the engagement. And I think that really speaks to the kind of action we all need to think about when we are engaging in partnerships and wanting to grow expertise and trust for all of us.

Sandie: [00:09:24] And it also speaks to the idea that when we go, and I’m not just talking about my team but when we as the West in the U.S. where we really have an amazing track record of fighting human trafficking, we have so many convictions, and the investigation techniques are really well developed, and we’ve got tons of resources for victims. But when we go somewhere, sometimes we just bring our training and our power points and we don’t find out what is already available on the ground. And it was so terrific to see that there were training materials, power points already developed. We could see the strategic planning that was available there.

Dave: [00:10:12] You hit on this a little bit earlier but I think it might be helpful for us to dive into this a little more of why bring students? What is the outcome that you really want? Because there’s a lot of work involved in preparing students for an experience like this. And of course, they see things that are completely outside of their comfort zone. And it’s a very profound experience for them. Long term, maybe even short-term too, what’s the reason for doing it? What do you want to accomplish?

Sandie: [00:10:42] Well, I’ll tell you. My partners there on the ground is like how many students are you bringing. We’ll take five each day and you’ll take five because we brought 10 students. And then the day of the conference it’s like the team is ready to work, they’re unloading the van, they’re setting up. So, you bring your own workforce and then they are at the same time that they’re providing those kinds of services, they’re also absorbing everything. And during the breaks, they’re having conversations, and then we de-brief, I find out more about what people were talking about when they were drinking their coffee and things like that. So, the value is more than just they’re absorbing something new and something to take notes. But there is a give and take. They are working and they’re actually serving and learning at the same time. I learned from them the questions they ask and when they talk about something that somebody said later. That’s really good for us as leaders and we take that then to us debrief post conference with all three of our partners.

Dave: [00:11:53] So in a lot of ways, not only are they getting the experience of this incredible profound change and shift and just looking at the world in a new way. You’re also and we as an organization see that experience through the eyes of 12 people instead of just through the eyes of one person which would be a lot more limited.

Sandie: [00:12:14] That’s right. We have a lot more sensors out there gathering data. And as the week progressed with the conferences, at the same time they were working in the refugee centers and they had all kinds of different experiences taking care of kids. One of the conference days was just for refugee women, who have some very unique issues and so providing child care. And here you are, you speak English and you get kids speaking four or five different languages. What do you do? What a unique experience. And it was absolutely joyous for me to see my students say yeah, I can do that, what do you want me to do? And not just oh we assume the girls are going to do that. The guys jump in and they had a great time, and they were so well-received, and the kids want to practice their English or you know those kinds of things. So that was a place for me to see that my students have a lot of flexibility and willingness to do something outside their comfort zone. Talking about doing something outside their comfort zone. When they got to Salvation Army they were taken down into this basement where there were lots and lots of giant boxes of nappies. Do you know what a nappy is?

Dave: [00:13:42] No.

Sandie: [00:13:43] OK. That’s the British term for a diaper. And they’re all different sizes and you can’t distribute them easily from these big warehouse cartons. And so, there were my students, down in the basement, counting out sets of 10, and labeling them in little plastic bags with what size it was. And I said I wonder how many students I could have recruited by saying come to Greece with me and pack nappies. But by the end of the trip, you know they packed about 40,000 nappies. But they told me you know they thought about these kids. They thought about the fact that it never occurred to them that getting diapers would be such a big issue. And having been part of our volunteer force here in Orange County, diapers are always an issue. Somehow it seems easier day to go and get rice and beans in a food line. But if you’ve got babies, diapers are critical. And I don’t know the last time you and Bonnie had to buy diapers, they are not cheap.

Dave: [00:14:58] They’re not cheap. No, I know it’s a big need. We’ve donated diapers a few times just because it’s such a need, even here in the states of the shelters. And it is a major logistical challenge and issue.

Sandie: [00:15:10] And so what a humbling experience to be asked to pack nappies for these precious babies.

Dave: [00:15:18] Indeed. I was sharing with you when we were talking about the trip, that I had gone into college with the hope and the plan to study abroad and it didn’t happen for reasons that are uninteresting. But I do wonder how my worldview would be different if I had that experience. As you think about the students over the course of their lives, not just this experience this summer, but five years from now 10 years from now 20 years from now. What do you wish for that the experience would bring for their long-term perspective?

Sandie: [00:15:54] Well, I don’t expect them to be able at this point in their undergrad career to make huge generalizations about life and some of the very difficult issues that they saw in the refugee crisis in Greece. But what I do expect is that the sense that what I thought I knew, I didn’t really know. That’s the thing I want them to carry forward. I want them to remember that we don’t always know what we think we know. And what I saw and heard was the surprise and the humility that there were people surviving in unbelievable circumstances that didn’t deserve it. It wasn’t through a poor choice, it wasn’t through anything that they had done themselves. But it was totally circumstances that were beyond their control. And yet this person was an engineer, this guy was a dentist, another woman was a schoolteacher, another woman was an orthopedic surgeon. And one of the things that they began to see really created value is when they asked people their stories, instead of just saying oh we’ve got this for you and we’ve got that for you. They wanted to know where did you come from, and how did you get here, what were you doing, what are you going to do next, what do you want to do with the rest of your life. And then you know that we did the first day of the big 175 NGOs state agency conference and then we did a church conference that was not as well attended as we had anticipated. And so, it was interesting to have conversations with my students who were trying to kind of cheer me up because they could see my disappointment. And I loved the fact that they had empathy for these organizations and the work that they put into something that doesn’t go so well. So, there is a learning curve at every turn in the road. And you don’t have to have an unqualified success to have a learning moment that is valuable.

Dave: [00:18:29] You have written down in the notes for our conversation here, worst moment and best moment.

Sandie: [00:18:36] I did. I wrote the worst moment.

Dave: [00:18:39] What was the worst moment?

Sandie: [00:18:40] I think it was so often a sense of being overwhelmed and I’ll probably cry right now. Talked to so many women who have endured way beyond anything I can imagine. I ended up doing some coaching on assessments and case management and realizing I can’t do anything right this moment. I don’t have a list of people to call like I do locally. I have a list, but it’s pretty short. And not being able to do something and my students had to deal with that sense of powerlessness as well. And we actually, one of the things I told you we did one day for refugee women because there is an awareness that domestic violence, and you can imagine you’re living in really cramped quarters, substandard to what you were expecting maybe a whole family in a room. Kids have to go to school and they don’t speak the language yet. So, there’s a lot of tension. And so, issues with family violence become much more pronounced. And so, they asked me to speak to the women about family violence and what they can do. And I told the organizers I said you know you don’t have a little card, you have this number and that number. But for the most part because of their status, being able to just get up and walk away and go into some kind of a transitional living with aftercare. That kind of independence is not going to be the norm. So how do you build a strategy that supports the family, supports the mother and the children, and works with them? Usually, in this situation, it was a male offender for rehabilitation, while they’re still together. How do you build resiliency into those families? And for the moms, who in many cases suffered from depression, of course. And they would often say to us well I don’t care for myself anymore, I just want to keep my kids safe. So, we started teaching them some principles of resilience, for exercises they could do with their children, knowing that as they do those exercises with their kids it actually then washes back over them. And we could see some positive outcomes over just the two weeks we were there with the handful of the women that we were working with.

Sandie: [00:21:31] At the same time that there were those really awful moments. There were some wonderful, victorious moments. I think my students especially loved working with the women. We had a donor that gave us these amazing nail kits to do beautiful nails really quickly. It was so fun. And my favorite moment in the refugee center was when all of these women were getting their nails done. All of our girls were giving little manicures and laughing and singing and sometimes dancing that started out of that was absolutely priceless. But for me, my best moment was kind of related to when I had that worst moment. Because I had been listening to some pretty horrific stories and then trying to find resources. And a few days later, when things started coming together and I was invited to take these two girls to a shelter and they were pretty nervous because they had no idea what to expect. If you think about it, you know they landed on an island, they lived in a camp container converted to kind of living quarters, and then came to the city, and now they’re living in a basement apartment and there with 10 other people. And now we’re taking them to this aftercare home. And when we got to the house and they saw the room they were going to be living in. And it had two beds, one for each of them, and they’re not sharing with anybody else. And the light in the room because it was daylight it was sunny went immediately into their eyes. And I was like OK I can do all the worst moments if I get a few of these best moments.

Dave: [00:23:35] Wow. I have not been with you on one of these trips yet.

Sandie: [00:23:39] No, Mr. board member we’re going to need to change that.

Dave: [00:23:43] But I would imagine that when you go into these situations, and you’ve been in so many over the years that it’s not about bringing in answers necessarily, although there are those moments I’m sure. But what I hear in the context where you’re saying and sharing this, is that there’s also sometimes just starting to ask questions and to listen.

Sandie: [00:24:10] Absolutely! Asking questions, you know that kind of assessment piece that we do as educators, helps people begin to actually categorize and figure out some of their own solutions and bringing new principles. What my favorite conference day was the healthcare provider training day. And we had representatives from five different hospitals. Athens is in southern Greece and one of the hospitals they flew down from Kavala, which is in the north close to the Turkish border. And at the end of the day, the Kavala hospital said how can you come? How soon can you come and do training here? And seeing how health care providers began to understand their role, it was brand new. And everybody was taking notes and of course now you know Dave, we don’t take notes, we get our phones up and they’re just the same as we are and take a picture of the slide. And so, the idea that the way we do it may not work there. The principles are planted, the seeds are planted, and now they’re working on how to develop their own protocols. So, we planted some seeds and we’re instigators, catalysts for making something new happen.

Dave: [00:25:31] One thing I know that some listening will be thinking about in the context of this conversation is of course many of the partners we have Sandie, and maybe the people that are part of this listening community aren’t necessarily tied to a university where there is a clear path for involving students in something like this. And I know there are people listening who are working with young people and taking them along as part of their efforts and who have interns, who have part-time staff, or people who for whatever reason are very new to this conversation. In the context of what you’ve just experienced in your work with students over the years, what advice do you have for someone who finds himself in that situation and maybe they are mentoring a young person or someone who’s just coming into this space of where to begin?

Sandie: [00:26:15] Well I think the reason we don’t just take students on a trip where they’re going to volunteer, is because we are so committed to the study the issues. So, as you create a space for someone to do practical learning, you also have to provide the other side of learning just the very didactic aspect. And so, we give them reading, and we have some lecture time and providing that context for what they’re experiencing, providing time to debrief so that they have a place to ask their questions. And then sometimes when I don’t have the answer or I don’t have time to give them the answer, giving them, those resources and this podcast is a great resource. Over and over again that became someone asked me a question, and well that’s in podcast number 47 check it out there or whatever. And going back, one of our partners the Salvation Army their director is actually completing the Antihuman Trafficking Certificate right now. And so, it was great to have a couple of face to face time teacher-student opportunities with her as she asked more questions and this became a different level of learning opportunity there too. And seeing how she was implementing what she was learning in the Antihuman Trafficking Certificate was very rewarding, study the issues, that’s the answer.

Dave: [00:27:50] Sandie, it’s just overwhelming when I think of just this trip and all the work you’re doing and with the partners, we’ve been working with. And it’s also for me inspiring to think about that next step. And I hope that if you’re listening you will take Sandie’s suggestion and take that next step. And one of the resources that we have made available to you is the podcast library that’s on the website at endinghumantrafficking.org. We’ve spent a bunch of time in the last year Sandie, really organizing that well of categorizing it and Andrew, who’s just done a brilliant job of really helping make that very accessible. And if you like us are finding that there are things that are helpful in our conversations that come up, I hope you’ll consider using this as a resource. And I’d also invite you to take another first step as well when you hop online to endinghumantrafficking.org I would encourage you to download a copy of Sandie’s e-book, The Five Things You Must Know a Quick Start Guide to Ending Human Trafficking. It’s a guide that’s going to walk you through the five critical things that Sandie has identified that you should know before you join or perhaps as you’re joining the fight against human trafficking. It’s a great place to start for those first conversations as well. You can get access to that guide by visiting endinghumantrafficking.org. That is the best place to go for ongoing access for everything on the site. And if you are someone who’s considering or you’ve been to our Ensure Justice conference before, we have announced the date for 2019. It’s going to be March 1st and 2nd 2019 you can find out a bit more and ensurejustice.com. Sandie, more coming up on that the next few months we’ll have more to share, right?

Sandie: [00:29:43] Absolutely.

Dave: [00:29:44] Have a great day everyone and see you in two weeks for our next session. Take care.


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