Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Business of Freedom

I have studied the issue(s) of Human Trafficking for the last two years, raised $12,000.00 this past year, funded a mini- documentary, traveled to Cambodia and Tunisia and yet I feel like I am just scraping the tip of the iceberg. 
I am working my way through Kevin Bales' book, "Ending Slavery" and he talks about our need to consult with a panel of experts on how to abolish slavery. The problem is that there is no panel of experts. 
Hope is not lost, Bales points out that this issue is only a $32 billion industry. That may seem like a lot to the "average Joe the plumber" but, in the grand scheme of global funds, it is a drop in the bucket. Ultimately, this is not a lot of money and this issue can be resolved in our lifetime. 
In all the studying that I have done I have found one common denominator. This movement... takes money! It takes 5 bucks here, 10 bucks there. It takes corporate sponsors, government grants; youth group car washes, etc. You get the picture. 
The number one phrase that I heard while I was in Cambodia was, "depending on funding." I heard it to the point that I became nauseous. Hearing this bothered me on several different levels. First, because I see these non-bureaucratic groups who have streamlined what they do and they are accomplishing tremendous things. They could do so much more if they had more funds. Then I come back to the States and I see presentations by different "funding organizations" and it is almost Taboo to ask for money. I see these people talk about the issue, get people to the point of emotionalism, and then they don't close the deal. They just leave it open-ended and tell people that they can practice "open source activism." Open source activism is just another way of saying that, "we don't really have a way to use you right now, so go try to find something to do to contribute to the cause." The sentiment that everyone can get involved is great but the sense of non-direction combined with the paralysis of such enormous issue leaves most feeling completely helpless. Here is an idea... rather than spending $3.80 on your large caramel coffee everyday why don't you invest that into the life of a child? (3.80 X 5 days a week X 4 weeks a month X 12 months a year = $912) $912.00 X 1,000 people = $912,000.00
I use the above equation to illustrate that if a lot of us do a little, we can make a huge difference. I also say this because while we are pondering whether or not to give up our sugar and caffeine fix, there are girls who have been rescued from the slave trade and want with all their heart to go to English school for the year and can't because they don't have $600.  There are girls who are waiting to be rescued but the groups that are doing the intervention don't have any place to put them, because the groups who run the safe homes don't have enough funds to duplicate the incredible job that they are doing. At this point I am just talking about the girls and how slavery has affected them... Every group that I talked to in Cambodia said with a sigh of frustration, "and we haven't even begun to address the issue with the boys."  
While all this is going on, well-wishers are telling For Their Rescue and other organizations that essentially, we want to do more than just send money. I love that people want to help, but if the groups that are in the trenches can't afford to pay themselves what makes people think that there is going to be a vacant spot for them to work in? These groups need money! It takes money to buy ink cartridges, to buy paper, computers, toilet paper, petrol, food, hygiene items, etc, etc, etc..... 
I don't mean to be crass about this subject and trivialize it by turning it into dollars and cents. I haven't been back from Cambodia for two weeks and I already miss the country deeply. I miss the people and the girls that I met. I also look forward to the people I will meet in Africa, Haiti, India, Europe, South and Central America. BUT.... The cold hard fact is this.... there are cruel, twisted men and women out there that are in the BUSINESS of Slavery. If we ever hope to abolish slavery, we need to be in the BUSINESS of Freedom!  

1 comment:

Transitions Global said...

Seth, thanks for tackling a very basic, but central issue for those of us on the ground. "Depending on funding" is the on-going struggle of organizations working with survivors, which are usually overlooked for more flashy, well marketed anti-trafficking organizations. The way forward is to look more closely at where dollars are being spent. We hope that FTR continues to inspire the ethical operation of funding organization by blazing the way.

Best, James Pond, Executive Director, Transitions Global