It’s National Volunteer Week and we are so excited to celebrate some of our amazing volunteers as well as let you know about an upcoming opportunity to join our team! The volume of calls and texts to Colorado’s Human Trafficking Hotline has increased in recent years—in fact we saw a 32% increase just last year. It is our dedicated Hotline Advocates who step up and help meet the needs of survivors across the state.
Moved to Action Through Volunteerism
As LCHT’s Hotline and Advocacy Manager, I have the privilege of working professionaly with volunteers. But my journey to appreciate volunteerism goes back much further! Like many people, I participated in obligatory volunteer experiences growing up. I even did some organizing for environmental causes in college. But it was later, after graduation and working for a small nonprofit, that I was able to witness firsthand the power of dedicated volunteers. Seeing people take concrete action simply because they believed in a cause was incredibly inspiring to me.
The rest is history and needless to say I continue to be inspired by our passionate volunteer Hotline Advocates today! The power of volunteers is clear at the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking. This year, our Hotline Advocates have already supported 322 calls and texts from 258 individuals. These interactions connect survivors with resources and information. They process tips and community concerns. And they all require caring, skilled people who are ready to give their time.
So why do people volunteer for a human trafficking hotline in Colorado? We have more than 65 active Hotline Advocates, and their motivations for giving back are as diverse as you would imagine. This National Volunteer Week, I want to share about two of them.
“If I can help just one person, that’s what it’s all about.”
Kristy Oleszek has been volunteering on the Hotline since April 2021. She spent the majority of her professional life working in the energy industry with a period of time in Human Resources. Kristy recently shared with me about what motivates her to continue giving her time:
“All my adult life I have been an avid traveler. Typically, I am a solo traveler and I have visited over 30 countries. I feel incredibly grateful and lucky to have grown up in a safe and loving family and had enough freedom to follow my curiosity. The biggest thing I’ve learned is no matter where you go or what you do, people are people, and we are all connected. I’ve met some amazing people throughout my travels that have been so caring, loving … and helped me out of less-than-ideal situations. I would like to give back and help those that haven’t been so fortunate. If I can help just one person, that’s what it’s all about.”
“Working on the hotline gives me hope for the future!”
Kim Smith is another one of our Hotline Advocates who has been volunteering since November 2020. She is an undergraduate student at Colorado Mesa University studying social work. She also shared with me about what motivates her to continue volunteering:
“Volunteering for LCHT allows me to feel connected to a network of like-minded individuals across the state who are working together towards a greater good. I live on the Western Slope surrounded by rural agricultural communities. Labor trafficking happens here way more than it should and there aren’t adequate resources to help survivors. Working on the hotline gives me hope for the future!”
Return the Gift
It is a privilege to work with people like Kristy and Kim. They work behind the scenes to take calls, respond to texts, and problem solve at all hours of the day and night! To me, these volunteers embody what Robin Wall Kimmerer said when she wrote: “I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.” With so many difficult problems in the world today, volunteers have not lost their joy and hope that things could be different!
I hope you will join me this week in celebrating and thanking volunteers in the community and within organizations you support. I also hope you will consider how you can make a difference right now through volunteering! Giving your time to Colorado’s Human Trafficking Hotline is one way you can have an impact. And the need for new Hotline Advocates is great!
How You Can Show Up and Be Present
For many people who access our Hotline, the Hotline Advocate is the first person who has believed what happened to them or taken the time to listen to their story. That is a powerful reality that Kim commented on:
“It is important to recognize the impact a volunteer can have by providing a safe space for callers. It can feel uncomfortable to be responsible for taking calls from individuals in need of support but the power of listening and being there for another in their time of need is a great way to give back. Sometimes it can be as simple as showing up and being present.”
On that note, I want to invite you to show up and be present at our next training for new volunteer Hotline Advocates. It will take place on May 14th and 15th. You can learn more details and fill out an initial inquiry in just a few minutes. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions!