This week, our co-founder and Executive Director Amanda Finger started a two-month sabbatical! After seventeen years of leadership in anti-trafficking work, we’re so excited that she can make space this summer for reflection and rest. Before heading out, we asked Amanda to share her perspective on sabbaticals, and how this time is supporting her lifelong work on human rights and human trafficking.
You are about to take your first sabbatical after more than a decade and a half of working on human trafficking. Why now?
In many ways, I feel that I have been “running hard” for 17 years, while also undergoing significant life changes. I could not have considered this opportunity even a few years ago, but LCHT’s strong, growing staff gives me the confidence that they will flourish while I’m on leave. If the organization is going to achieve our long term vision, I need time now to take a breath, get back into the fight, and keep steering where we’re going.
I worked with our Board of Directors last year to implement a new sabbatical policy to award our hard-working staff after seven years of service. Given the massive turnover that many sectors – especially the nonprofit sector – are facing from burnout, I think every nonprofit should have this policy in place (plus great PTO options, support for families, and a culture that integrates self-care). For those of us carving out careers in this sector, these types of breaks seem urgently important.
Many people are talking right now about how to sustain work on human rights issues – whether personally or professionally. How does taking a break like a sabbatical support your own journey to be active and involved over the long term?
What a profound time of change. I am revisiting much of the wisdom that has been so influential in sustaining social change movements. This includes leaders who worked on social justice and human rights long before me like Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, and adrienne marie brown. Much of this guidance is the deep work of self-care and rest. For me, that means figuring out how to sit still while the world spins (shout-out to my co-founder, AJ, for that wisdom) so that I might invite in more creativity, reclaim what it means to stay grounded, and ultimately persist. There is so much in this world that is in motion right now – the ongoing global pandemic and our collective grieving process; the continued racial equity work; the divisive political climate that in turn creates divisions for responding to human rights issues.
My days at LCHT are filled with an incredible mix of responsibilities, coupled with a constant focus on exploitation occurring in our communities. To work on human trafficking means that I am working close to the many root causes that can lead someone into such circumstances. This can include poverty, substance use, displacement from natural disasters or conflict, physical or sexual violence, structural inequities, a lack of feeling safe and loved, and a lack of access to basic human rights. My need for rest at this moment comes in part from witnessing systems that fail individuals who are navigating these realities every day.
I’ve come to realize how important it is for leaders to recognize when a break is needed – when we should step back and recharge. I also believe that championing others to lead can build resilience in an organization and even in a movement. Beyond that, the problem of human trafficking is much bigger than one person or one organization! So I’m ready to pause and reflect, to read stories of resiliency and hope, and to have time to simply sit still. It is key to sustaining this work.
What will you be making space for in the next two months and what are you looking forward to the most?
Personally, the opportunity to take eight weeks of protected down time for the purpose of reflection and rejuvenation is invigorating. As part of my process in preparing for this time, I tried to be very thoughtful about what the words “renew and rejuvenate” mean to me. I met with several friends and mentors to understand what they learned during their own sabbaticals or what their hopes were for me. I’ve developed a short list of ways that I see myself most benefitting from these two months:
- Item #1: Family and self. Taking time to consider what my priorities are and how to shift to meet this type of balance.
- Item #2: Create. “Rejuvenation” calls me to “play and make.” I primarily am seeking to play, create, and practice good physical and mental health. I hope I can find some boredom – the ultimate space for creativity.
- Item #3: Explore. I will be changing locations, with the intent to change perspectives. I’ll be traveling on coasts, in rainforests, at the beach, and with family!
I have numerous books and inspirational readings that I may or may not get to. I have high hopes of getting 8 hours of sleep every night. But I think I am most looking forward to not being over-scheduled and taking one day at a time!