302 – What Did You Do This Summer?

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Dr. Sandie Morgan discusses her summer travels and the new perspectives she gained on human trafficking.

Key Points

  • It’s important to integrate the stand-point theory in our learning, listening, and strategy development in order to help those in the most unique of circumstances.
  • Cultural context plays a large role in understanding where intervention and prevention can be effective.
  • A “quick rescue” does not exist and it is essential that to provide a way out, resources are provided over and over, and not just seen as a one time thing.
  • After care of rescue is key for providing long-term safe environments for survivors.
  • Everyone has a role to play in learning about and improving strategies for intervention and prevention.


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Sandra Morgan 0:00
You are listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast, episode #302: “What Did You Do This Summer?”

Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast here at Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice in Orange County, California. This is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. Today’s episode is a special one. Although a guest won’t be joining us, I have a lot to share with you. This summer, I traveled to four amazing countries, each unique in its own way. During my travels, I began to develop some new perspectives on how I understand what human trafficking looks like. I’ve often said it’s more than one thing, it doesn’t always look the same. But I want to spend a little time and take a deeper dive into the differences, alongside the similarities in those countries and my experience, and right here in my own country, in the United States. I started my summer with a short trip to Dominican Republic, where leaders in the anti-trafficking movement, and especially survivor leaders, those with lived experience were gathered to continue the discussion and develop strategies that will impact our community, collective response to end human trafficking. As I was listening and learning to people with lived experience, I made some significant discoveries. First of all, and this is actually very basic, we’ve all said this, but I don’t think we have been as selective in how we apply this. We have a tendency to use a lot of generalizations, a lot of big statistics, but there is no one size fits all approach to prevention or intervention.

As I talk to my students here at Vanguard, which I’m so happy they’re back on campus, and the idea for telling about my summer as part of a podcast episode came from those conversations. And they want to know, what my take away was. What do we need to do? My take away from that conference, where I listened, I took tons of notes, I asked questions, is that there is so much more that we do not understand and principles are applicable, but need to be specifically designed for unique circumstances. So let me give you an example. I’m working with a student who is studying how to do research in the context of social justice, and especially when we’re talking about the implications for women. Her perspective, and we use the term standpoint theory, is she is a young Latina, and her ideas are filtered through, as she put it, growing up in a machismo culture. Some of the things that I say, that sound logical to me, are not logical for her. How do we begin to integrate a stand point theory approach to how we listen, how we learn, and how we develop strategies, especially for prevention or intervention. My ideas of empowerment for a young student look different when I’m talking to someone from a culture where machismo was the standard for her. I’m sure we have a podcast with somebody talking about machismo if that’s a new word for you. So my take away from Dominican Republic, is I need to listen and learn and begin to frame things from the standpoint of the person’s lived experience. I’m listening from the standpoint of my lived experience. We have a long ways to go to do a better job in prevention. That will take the ability to understand where those points of intervention are, that actually work in that cultural context. I want to learn more about using standpoint theory in listening and developing prevention strategies.

That was a quick trip, but my next trip was to Madrid, Spain and a big shout out to Fiet Gratia, to our hosts there Fiona Bellshaw and especially Ezequiel Escobar. He was on a recent episode, we did an on-site interview with him about legal services. But our students in their country study, were able to learn about government regulations, they were able to ask questions, they had an opportunity to experience outreach with the team at Fiet Gratia. One of the most important things that I saw in the outreach there, was how relational it was. Many times, we go do outreach, and we take flyers, sometimes we take little gifts, we hand out phone numbers. Their approach to outreach was to find out what a victim, or a possible victim, might need. It might look like doing a visit, asking “do you need paperwork? Do you need groceries? Do you need medicine? What are your needs?”and when they express those needs, then finding ways to resource them coming back over and over again. Those relationships then build an opportunity to offer a way out. That strategy is very labor intensive. There is no quick rescue. There’s no “one time I offered this girl a way out, and they took it and now look what she’s doing.” This is months and sometimes years before they get to see the results of their efforts. So the people that we were working with were amazing because of their steadfastness and resilience. Nobody gets into working in anti human trafficking because of the quick and easy way to you get to do it, it’s hard work. Once they were able to help someone leave and be in a safe after care environment, the program was very extensive and that’s where Ezequiel really came in with the legal services and setting up opportunities for others to be part of serving the legal needs of victims. After care levels reflected the differences between emergency services and long term. My favorite after care experience in Spain was going to a home, a long term service home, and one of the regular volunteers who comes to the home, cooks, spends time with the survivors, it was her birthday. So she came and remember, we were in Spain, she came with everything she needed to cook a birthday meal, her birthday meal that she shared with all of the residents and with us. I got to watch how Paella is made in Spain, in a big big pan. I’ve got to find a picture so I can put it on this episode’s show notes, so you can see it. It was amazing. The joy that she had celebrating her birthday by celebrating them, was amazing. We were guests there and food became a part of all of our experiences. Survivors from other countries cooked for us, they wanted to share their culture. And that takes me back to my thinking around prevention and intervention, and how we begin to look at our standpoint, that includes culture and experiences in their home country, as opposed to their experiences in their new country. So it was a marvelous experience working with the team at Fiet Gratia. We were also invited to visit with La Guardia Civil which is the counterpart to Interpol in Spain, and listening to their very targeted human trafficking unit and the work they do with outreach and connecting to the workers that do street outreach and aftercare, and working with law enforcement was an encouraging opportunity. Our Associate Director here, Derek Marsh, was able to have a great conversation with the lead for that unit. And I’m especially encouraged by the connectedness with Spain and other European countries as they track the way that the trafficking happens, especially when we’re talking about foreign nationals being brought into Spain, we saw significant trends from Latin America to Spain that I didn’t expect to see. The last time I had been to Spain, I mostly saw Eastern European and Northern African victims. So things are changing all the time. But one of the funnest things that I experienced with our class, is our students from Vanguard have been using a Fair Trade Fashion Show every year for the last several years, to demonstrate to people the risks of labor trafficking in fast fashion. So you can imagine their excitement when they discovered you can do thrift shopping, just like they do here in Orange County, to interrupt the cycle of fast fashion and waste. They went shopping and they didn’t bring back just souvenirs, they brought back their thrift finds. They were living the lessons they’ve been learning here at Vanguard.

After that I moved on to Greece, where I spent two days with our U.S. Embassy, and you all remember, I lived in Greece for 10 years. I had lots of friends to go and see at the Ministry of Immigration and law enforcement in social services, but I made some new friends that were particularly helpful in seeing the trends that are contributing to prevention and early intervention. I met leaders in the Roma community. Now the Roma community in Greece and across Europe are often marginalized. It was very encouraging to hear about the movement to build more opportunities for higher education and creating education pathways for children and young women to complete high school, to go on to college, to become leaders in government was especially encouraging. But my favorite opportunity in partnering with our U.S. Embassy folks there, was being interviewed by a youth empowerment group. This group was called Migratory Birds. They represented youth from several different countries. I think we had Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Latin America, and Greek youth there. They were asking me questions. They were in charge of this interview, they were in charge of how their organization was reaching out to other youth and bringing them into this community. They have a newspaper, it was quite an honor to be interviewed, and later see my picture with one of the writers, the reporters on social media. They are empowering youth. We sometimes have the idea that empowering youth means that we’re giving them stuff. But actually, empowering youth, from their perspective, was about driving the conversation, building their community, and strengthening relationships that created a pathway forward, and it kept their community safe. Look up Migratory Birds and the United Nations, UNICEF, it is definitely a new approach that I learned about for prevention and intervention in Greece. Also while I was in Greece, I visited Humanitarian Bridges. We’ve worked with them in other study abroad opportunities. While I was there, I interviewed women who had been victims of commercial sexual exploitation of sex trafficking. I also talked to victims of labor trafficking. But the most interesting finding from my interviews, is how the women had taken on a sense of guilt and blame for their own victimization because they were confused about the difference between smuggling and trafficking. So I want to look at that for just a moment, the difference between smuggling and trafficking. So one woman said to me, “Well, I couldn’t go to the police because I had given money to the smuggler to get me safe and it’s against the law. So I broke the law.” But I asked, “So when you arrived here, then were you able to go and be free? Well, no, I have a little girl. I have a little boy. I had to do whatever they told me to do.” This idea of understanding that coercive element of human trafficking, we started having more conversations about that. And as I worked with members of the staff to help figure out how can we do a better job of intervention, by helping clarify the difference between smuggling and trafficking.

After that, I went on to Bolivia. And in Bolivia, I saw more opportunities for witnessing what it looks like to empower youth. This group that we worked with when we were there, Breeze of Hope. I was with a group called Hermano Pablo ministries, and they were giving an award to the organization Breeze of Hope for their work with victims of sexual violence. We know that many of those victims were also victims of human trafficking. Bolivia has the highest rate of sexual violence in Latin America. I’ve worked in other Latin American countries, and I’ve seen Bolivian survivors/victims in those countries, in Argentina, in Ecuador, in Peru. Bolivia is a sending country as well as a country where they have trafficking of their own people. This group, Breeze of Hope, started a movement to break the silence around sexual violence, and they empower youth. I had the exciting opportunity to march in a Break the Silence demonstration. I was absolutely overwhelmed and enthralled when I learned that everything was planned by the young people. And of course, they had adult assistance, they had adult resources, but youth and children were part of the planning, just like the Migratory Birds, youth. Here you have this group that is identified as very marginalized and suddenly, they’re not on the sideline, they’re leading the parade. Not just figuratively, but in person, leading the charge. It was an amazing experience. I was very fortunate to visit the Center for Breeze of Hope, and to see the complex way that they were addressing generational sexual violence. They were working with every part of a family, with grandparents with parents, with siblings, not just the victim. They had amazing psychological services, they had opportunities for restoration and recreation. I got pulled into dancing on the lawn with kids who were just laughing and having such a great time. It was amazing to see children leading the way in breaking generational sexual violence patterns. It was a real honor to be with Breeze of Hope. At the same time, when I was in Bolivia, I was able to spend some time with our U.S. Embassy. We were invited to a university and talked about human trafficking, and how students can become part of the effort to combat human trafficking. I spent time with non-governmental leaders who are struggling to overcome the sexual violence and the issues that have made it difficult to combat human trafficking. I went to visit the Suma Center, where the center is literally in the shadow of buildings with brothels. And they were working in breaking generational cycles. When a woman is able to escape, not escape, “Oh, she was able to walk out the door,” but escape: leave the life. It means that she needs a new community, she needs a vocation, a job, she needs to be able to care for her family, and breaking those generational cycles is about building new cycles. It’s not just about ending one thing, it’s about starting something else.

As I came home with so many ideas and thoughts in my head, I just turned around and had a conference in Chicago with the Parliament of World Religions. It was a very fast trip, one night. The traffic in Chicago, I think it measures up to traffic in Los Angeles, I have to tell you. I spent a lot of time with an Uber driver, and my friend and I were talking and he heard us talking about human trafficking. For the next 30 minutes, our conversation with that Uber driver was one of the best conversations all summer, because he was trying to figure out, as an Uber driver, what is my role? How can I help? What if I see something? I see the signs and you should look for it, but they’re in my car, what do I do? What’s the best way to do something?But he was looking for his place, his role, in this movement to end human trafficking. It reminded me of the illustration I’ve shared many times at conferences, and I know also on this podcast. When I lived in Greece and I went to the Palace at Knossos, in their pantry, which was down steep stairs of a 3000 year old community, where they didn’t have cranes and elevators, they had these big jars, we call them pithari. In that jar that was so big, I could stand up inside of it, they would bring grain, and olives and olive oil. How would they get it down those steps? Because the people were about 100 pounds, five feet tall, and the stairs were steep, and the jars were heavy. Well, they were brilliant, they baked handles all over the pithari, from the bottom to the top, and all the way around. So then no matter where you’re standing on the stairs, you can reach a handle and carry that burden forward. I believe there is a handle for the Uber driver, for the children working in Breeze of Hope, for Migratory Birds, vulnerable youth, for attorneys in Spain, and for students at Vanguard. There are a lot of people who are very different from me. I’m an educator, people give me lots of encouragement, “Keep doing more of this,” but I believe we need more voices, from different perspectives, different continents, different cultures, and different stories. I’m looking forward to a future where we have more understanding of our differences, and how we can develop unique strategies that will stop human trafficking. There are experts with handles on the financial end of things, there are experts in law enforcement, there are experts in the health care field, we need everybody, there’s not a one size fits all. If you take anything away from my answer to “What did you do this summer?”, I want you to start asking questions about some of the things we just take as ‘this is the way it is, it looks like this, I can take my training from Orange County to Bolivia and deliver it there.’ Maybe not. Maybe I need to find out what it really looks like in different places. Find out who’s doing this and how can I partner with them and find my handle on their big jar?All right, my time is up, and I want to challenge you to find out what it looks like in your area that might be different than what it looks like for me, and how you can find your handle to be involved right where you are, in the battle to end human trafficking. Thanks for being with us again, and we will be back in two weeks. Bye everybody.

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