A global pandemic has exposed the deeply entrenched inequities in the structures and systems of our society. People of color are dying at disproportionate rates, lack of access to medical supplies and capacity to care for those that are ill are ongoing concerns, and growing ideological divides between economic freedoms and centering public health and safety has emerged.
Amidst these collective anxieties, I have struggled to find connection and belonging during this time of social distancing and isolation. I am new to both Colorado and the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking, and I have very few ties to the Denver community, Yet, I know I am not alone. So many of us are being called to dig deep into our wells of hope, inspiration, and resiliency. I have had to lean into these challenges while also reflecting on where I can spark and sustain hope. What I continue to come back to in those reflective moments is my passion for working alongside and mentoring emerging human rights and social justice leaders.
Shifting to Support Leaders During Coronavirus
Those passions are what called me to the Leadership and Engagement Manager role at LCHT. I have so much gratitude that during this time I can continue advancing our organization’s commitment to investing in human rights leaders. Beginning next month, we will shift our Leadership Development Program to a fully-remote summer session. We grounded this decision in the health and safety of our staff, interns, and community partners. All colleges and universities we work alongside, and most nationwide, will be fully remote this summer, and we are following their guidelines and restrictions as well.
So many of us are being called to dig deep into our wells of hope, inspiration, and resiliency. I have had to lean into these challenges while also reflecting on where I can spark and sustain hope. What I continue to come back to in those reflective moments is my passion for working alongside and mentoring emerging human rights and social justice leaders.
Across the globe we are being called to adapt, to sit with uncertainty, and to reimagine new ways of connecting. We made a big ask of our summer interns, to work with LCHT in this uncertain time, and collectively forge a new path for the anti-trafficking movement. We are thrilled to have eight interns who have made that commitment. They come from a wide array of academic fields like Urban Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, Political Science and National Security, Pre-Law, and Social Work. Over half of them are participating from out-of-state and all of them are bringing diverse identities, experiences, and career aspirations to this movement.
It is humbling to see this new cohort’s commitment to anti-trafficking work, and I am inspired by their dedication to LCHT’s mission. I am also challenged to ensure their time with us is valuable and rewarding. Amidst this pandemic, I still find moments of incredible hope and joy in exploring best practices and emerging strategies for hosting online and distance learning. Below are a few highlights of the unique adaptations and innovative changes we will implement for a fully remote program:
- Mailing out welcome boxes with LCHT materials and goodies
- Using a diverse a mix of adult learning styles and modalities, including kinesthetic and embodied learning
- Bringing attention to how we create work spaces in remote learning environments and honoring our bodies’ capacity to sit in those spaces for long periods of time with frequent breathing, grounding, stretch breaks
- Creating a collaborative playlist of favorite music and working in dance/body movement breaks during our weekly sessions
- Holding remote ‘drop-in’ office hours for each participant
- Using breakout sessions and interactive participation features in virtual presentations
- Connecting to our out-of-state networks and service-learning spaces for participants to apply learning and plug into their local anti-trafficking communities
- Facilitating ‘live’ team work to mimic in-office dynamics, conversations, and accessibility
Adapting to a Changing Environment, Rooted in our Values
Guided by our values of integrity and transparency, we wanted to share the ways we have adapted our Leadership Development Program to meet the needs of our interns in this uncertain time. We know we can still foster an environment grounded in those values in order to build intentional community and ensure equitable access for each participant. In a time when so many of us are struggling to do social change work in isolation, it is imperative that this summer’s participants still build a network with other aspiring human rights leaders, and a connection to the ongoing anti-trafficking movement.
This summer’s cohort will leave our program with diverse skills including:
- Models for building and sustaining community among people that are not physically in the same city or state
- Increased capacity to navigate virtual learning and project management tools
- Strategies for working towards a collective organizational mission while working independently or in isolation of their teammates
Sparking Hope Through Future Leaders
We hope that our innovation and continued investment in human rights leaders has ignited inspiration and hope in you as well. Hope can live in us and expand to fill the space we are in; it is a reminder of our individual and collective resilience and power. I invite you now to take action in those moments you feel held in hope and inspiration.
There are eight passionate, committed, ambitious leaders driving forward LCHT’s mission this summer. Not only will they advance the anti-trafficking movement in Colorado, they will take the knowledge and skills they glean from their time with us and continue to impact the anti-trafficking and parallel movements they are called to. Please consider supporting their capacity to engage in this work from different places and spaces across the nation, and to build community with one another. We need each other to affect change in this movement, now more than ever. Be a part of sparking hope in the future leaders of this movement that will light our way forward, together.
Ashley Hunt is the Leadership and Engagement Manager with the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking in Denver, Colorado. She has over seven years’ experience facilitating trainings on topics of violence prevention, anti-oppression, and social justice. Ashley believes that investing in future human rights leaders matters because a community of people who are passionate about this issue is a big way we sustain the movement.
This May, the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking is leading Stay at Hope, a special call to sustain anti-trafficking efforts in Colorado. To get involved visit combathumantrafficking.org/hope or text HOPE to 71777