When I started working in the anti-trafficking field at twenty-two, I was convinced of two things. The first was morally obvious: that the $150 billion industry of modern slavery needed to be brought down. My second conviction was a little more misguided: that the only way to contribute to ending this lucrative, rapidly-growing global criminal enterprise was with a full-time commitment.
Driven by activist ideals and a martyr’s complex, I began my self-appointed mission to end slavery by working around the clock as an unpaid intern with a grassroots non-profit in the San Francisco Bay area and eventually as an anti-trafficking program manager in rural Cambodia. I aggressively believed I’d only make a difference through uninterrupted self-sacrifice.
And within two years, I burned out.
During my humbling season of recovery, I gradually realized how my narrow and, well, elitist approach to human trafficking was way off. We need committed frontline workers (particularly those who practice boundaries), but this work cannot be left to non-profits alone.
Human trafficking is deeply complex. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Rather, human trafficking is a symptom of a greater problem: the breakdown of community. Broken and abusive homes, fragmented communities, and dysfunctional systems all help create the conditions for exploitation to thrive. If we want to comprehensively address slavery, then we need to acknowledge the compounding issues of poverty, racism, homeless, abuse, inequality, addiction, gangs, and war, to name a few.
You can’t end slavery without responding to the refugee crisis and providing adequate support to immigrants. You can’t “fix” human trafficking without fixing the broken foster care system and improvingglobal supply chain transparency. You can’t end exploitation if there are still people in our communities who have less political or economic power because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation.
And that’s a tall order—which is why we need people from all sectors to make even small but sustained contributions.
This is an excerpt from an article that originally appeared in RELEVANT Magazine. To read the full article, go here>>