Today is International Human Rights Day and we are taking time to celebrate our Fall 2021 Leadership Development Program interns. We are sad to see some of them move on from the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking this week, but we know they will all continue to use their skills and apply their passion for human rights wherever they go next!
This group of six also represents the power of what’s possible when we come together for causes we care about—something we’ve been sharing all month during Together Again. We recently reached out a few of them to learn more about their interests in human rights work and how they perceive human trafficking differently after their time with LCHT. Here is some of what they shared:
When did human rights become important for you and what are some of the ways you’ve shown up for human rights issues in your life?
Natcha: When I moved to the United States for college, I started noticing disparities that are present in my home country each time I visited. I still have a lot to learn about human rights and I am currently thinking critically about how I can best serve others with the opportunities I have.
Since the beginning of my internship at LCHT I knew that I was in the right place to figure that out. I started out with an interest in being involved with research at LCHT but was given the opportunity to serve on the Hotline. It has been such a valuable experience for me so far to be able to connect with survivors directly.
Lorelei: Growing up in rural Ohio, I was eager to learn about and explore the bigger world around me. I majored in Spanish and International Studies in college, and after graduating began to work with primarily Spanish-speaking families who moved to the Midwest to work in the fields on local farms. Getting to know people exposed the vulnerable position many of them were in, due to limited financial resources, language barriers, and for some, immigration status or living in migrant camps.
The world out there is full of beauty, but also a lot of difficulty, and I’ve learned about both by listening to others’ experiences. I continued to work and volunteer with several nonprofits seeking to support people in overcoming barriers to meet their basic needs and goals. This internship with LCHT has expanded my insight into how injustices endemic in our society set the stage for the human rights violation of human trafficking.
Is it important to view human trafficking as a human rights issue? Why?
Ella: Human trafficking is a human rights issue–and one that is so intersectional and complex. It’s important to see human trafficking as a human rights issue to keep the focus on the survivor and their needs and their story. When we focus on criminality, prosecution, saviorism etc. rather than the survivor who is being stripped of their rights, we point fingers at a person rather than a problem. We ignore all the social determinants of human trafficking, all the broken systems we are operating in that are actively traumatizing people, we ignore the human and focus on the trafficking.
Brenda: Human trafficking is fundamentally a human rights issue for the destructive ramifications that are produced when trafficking occurs in the lives of others. At the core of human trafficking there is a choice that was removed from the victim, in which consent was not granted and personal property, intimacies, and actions were stolen from the victim. Trafficking is a human rights issue for the criminal intent against other humans and necessary protections required in upholding justice against such wrongdoing.
How has your time here at the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking shaped your view of human rights work and human trafficking particularly?
Ella: My time with LCHT has taught me to see all the angles of an issue. It has taught me to think critically about policies and their unintended consequences, about how we need to center survivors and close service gaps. LCHT has taught me of the complexity of Human Trafficking and how we need to be really thoughtful, collaborative, and trauma-informed in our approach to the issue.
Brenda: The privilege of having the opportunity to learn and grow from leadership here at LCHT has been insightful and character building. LCHT has provided a defined framework in which to address human trafficking, laid the foundation, and encouraged continued growth through collaboration, education, and leadership. A deeper contextualization of the nature of human trafficking as a human rights issue has been imparted on all of us in the LDP program.
Being in this work can often feel isolating. Why do you feel it is important to do this work in collaboration and community? How have you seen that at LCHT?
Natcha: LCHT has shown me what true partnership means. Human rights work can only move forward through collaboration and trusting relationships. I have learned that there is room for love, self-care, support, and trust even when you are working to combat such a terrible crime.
Lorelei: It is essential to make connections with others working in this and intersecting fields, to work together to better meet survivors’ needs, and to serve as support for each other. LCHT makes clear the necessity of survivor-informed practices, as well as of inviting the perspectives of people engaging with survivors from various roles, in fields from law enforcement to service providers. Each individual’s values and experiences give insight to how current systems are working, so that we may better support survivors to move through systems as they are as well as identify proposals for improvement.
LCHT partners with organizations throughout Colorado and maintains relationships with individuals from many different professional and personal backgrounds. As one of a growing number of participants in the Leadership Development Program, I know LCHT will still be available as a resource when I depart, and I will carry with me my knowledge and experience gained here.
From left to right at Together Again Live: Lorelei, LCHT Program Coordinator Lauren Holsombeck, Natcha, Ella, and Brenda. (Not pictured: Shaunice and Magdalena)
What’s next for you? How do you see yourself making an impact on human rights issues moving forward?
Brenda: With excited anticipation I aspire to graduate with an MPH in early 2022, and will continue to strive to identify an entry-level position with a global health program where I am welcomed to dedicate my time and newly obtained education and experiences in partnership. Through education and experiences granted in nursing, public health, and now through LCHT, I will carry with me and apply a human rights lens to view program development, service delivery, and community advocacy through. Placing the individual at the forefront of action, and working towards equity of all will be a central focus, inspiring perseverance in work.
Ella: I will continue to volunteer as an advocate on LCHT’s hotline and am also pursuing other internships that share the value of social justice as a core tenet. I am currently a Master’s candidate at University of Denver’s International Disaster Psychology: Global Mental Health & Trauma program and am planning on working both as a clinician and program evaluator locally and globally. I will continue to be an advocate for survivors of human rights violations and hopefully can bring the same intentionality, dedication, and humility that LCHT harbors to that work.
Lorelei: I am currently working towards a Master of Social Work, with a focus on leadership and management. This is a time of learning and developing skills, and of maintaining a perspective of openness to all things, including the unanticipated! After graduation, I hope to apply my degree to work at the organizational or policy level.
Natcha: I can’t see myself moving away from advocating for or contributing to human rights work just yet. This work is so important to all of us with the shared human experience and I would personally feel a sense of unfulfillment for not pursuing it. As a social work student and immigrant I hope to bring perspectives that come along with those identities into the work that I do.