So this semester I am teaching a class called Non Profit Social Welfare Explorations Course. It is a class I have wanted SJA to have for years. It fits in our mission perfectly. Part of our mission is about getting each other to Heaven and serving others.
This class checks all those boxes. When I got the go ahead to have this class this year I was beyond excited and it really has been a blessing to me, especially with the crazy of 2020.
As a human being I have always felt called to “do more.” That may translate to doing more continuing education courses in history or volleyball. It may translate into me getting involved in a fundraising effort to raise money for a friend who may need it or a cause I am invested in. Sometimes, it means, I am left feeling like I could do more than I am currently doing.
Today was one of those days.
Let me say, I love this class. Every single thing about it. It is incredible and the kids who take it, I believe really want to change the world. We have had speakers from child psychologists, to organizations who deal with sex trafficking to women’s organizations, to pediatric cancer organizations, to psychologists to deal with PTSD come and talk to us about their jobs and how they got into the fields they are currently working in.
Bottom line to what I have learned…There is a special place in HEAVEN for social workers. There is a special place in HEAVEN for people who dedicate their lives to non profit.
Then there are people like me. I’m a teacher. Which, a social welfare professor from K-State suggested is basically the same thing as a social worker. In some ways that may be true. I would have loved this class as a student. As I said before, I have always felt the call to “do more” and to try to help people. My whole family is that way…our mom is the most “do more” person I have ever met…so my sister and I come by that trait quite naturally.
My problem is that there are so many great organizations and causes to “do more” for…how do you choose? I am very tied to Pediatric Cancer because of my experiences at St. James and a dear friend whose child was diagnosed with cancer not once, but twice. But every single speaker that comes I find myself compelled to “do more” for them as well. It’s overwhelming at times, but mostly, in a good way.
Our speaker today was from Veronica’s Voice. This organization was founded by a former prostitute who was in the “industry” for 24 years. Her dear friend, Veronica, who she describes was like her sister, was murdered and it compelled Christy, the founder of V.V. to start this organization to help women get out of the commercial sexual exploitation industry. The woman who presented to us today said “to put it in laymen’s terms, this means the buying and selling of human beings.”
This pretty much tells you all you need to know.
But…at the same time, it does not. For example, the average age a person is exploited is between 9-14. Yikes. That’s terrifying.
This organization is amazing. They do many great things. First, they have Magdalene KC which provides housing for 5 women who have been victims of commercial sexual exploitation. It helps these woman recover from the trauma they have experienced, provides counseling, education, addiction therapy and gives them the opportunity to find a new life. The coolest part about this part of their mission…it is completely survivor run. So the women who help organize and run this part of their program have been through the program themselves.
Another thing that they do is what they call Men’s Accountability. They educate men on the reality of sexual exploitation and try to help prevent it. I think we can all agree this is of significant importance.
They also have a program called KC Case which is on the advocacy side of things and focuses on policy and deals with law makers. So for example, they have something they call the Equality Model which states that women who are arrested for sexual exploitation (or prostitution) should be decriminalized. So instead of arresting them, the criminal justice system should turn these women over to organizations like Veronica’s Voice to provide services to these victims rather than having them serve time, get out and allow them to go right back to doing what they were doing before.
The final piece of their mission is what they call Social Enterprise #ajustcause. This is a way to sustain their mission. They have a whole line of products like lip balms, lotions etc that the women of Magdalene KC help to make. The goal is that eventually they can hire these women permanently to run this side of the “business.”
I sat in complete awe as this young woman, a recent graduate of college talked about her experience working with this organization. She was so smart, so grounded in reality, full of really great advice. The kids were spell bound.
When I left class today I was filled with a “do more” attitude. How is it that we live in such a beautiful community in a pretty privileged world and this is happening in our back yards? How. is. that. possible?
So what can we do?
- We can volunteer. Check out veronicasvoice.org and learn more about their events and what you can do to help.
2. Educate yourself on this topic. Below are some links that may help. This site has stats on Kansas specifically, but you can look into other states, currently California has the highest numbers. https://humantraffickinghotline.org/state/kansas
The CDC also has a page full of information on this topic: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/trafficking.html
Finally, Shared Hope International has a lot of really helpful info-graphs and a FAQ’s page that is quite informational. Also they have an advocacy page for people who want to get involved: https://sharedhope.org/the-problem/faqs/
3. Get involved in their Missing Person’s search. This year it will be virtual but they need 100’s of volunteers and it usually leads to the location of 10 or more local youth that have been missing.
4. Come to the virtual “In The World of Survivors” Event. Hear the real life stories of survivors of human exploitation. It costs $20 for a ticket. December 12th. https://www.veronicasvoice.org/inthewordsofsurvivors
While I cannot always do all that I want to do and that is hard for me, I can at least share what I learned. I have been researching information on this topic every free moment I’ve had today and I have to tell you I didn’t like what I found.
I have so much to be grateful for, in particular a family that talked to me about topics like this one and armed me with the knowledge I needed to keep myself safe. Not every kid is so lucky.
Tonight I will go to bed praying for the young women who are being exploited and whose human dignity is being stripped from them without their consent.
I got an education today. I didn’t like what I heard. I am going to try to attend the December 12th event so I can learn more and do more.