Anyone who has been following along with this blog should know by now that I am passionate about ending modern forms of slavery. Regardless, for anyone who is just now tuning in — let me catch you up to speed. I came into my freshman year at OU knowing all of the facts about human trafficking: I could easily tell you how many people were being affected, how victims were initially trafficked, where trafficking typically took place, etc. Perhaps what I knew the most about was why human trafficking is such a seemingly unstoppable system of violence and injustice. However, the one thing that I didn’t know how to do was join the fight.
Sure, I participated in social media movements like #TheEndItMovement and I bought all of the t-shirts and necklaces that donated proceeds to non-profits dedicated to eradicating slavery. I even became involved in an especially large anti-trafficking organization and planned to intern at their Florida office while in law school. Each of these was a great opportunity for me to become more involved and make global connections in the world of anti-trafficking, but I was still left feeling like I wasn’t making any real, sustainable impact.
During my first two weeks at OU, I tried to find organizations involved with anti-trafficking, but I had no luck and eventually gave up the search. However, about a month later, I happened upon an article about Dr. Kevin Bales (an OU alumni and the founder of Free The Slaves) and a course he taught on modern day slavery at the University of Oklahoma in 2014. After a little bit of searching, I was able to track down his email address and, knowing that I probably wouldn’t get a response, decided to shoot him an email asking about how I could get involved with anti-trafficking at OU. Much to my surprise, he responded within an hour, giving me the contact information for a senior at OU named Lucy Mahaffey.
After I got over my initial shock, I emailed Lucy and we ended up meeting for lunch at Chipotle. After hearing about all of the amazing things that she had done to fight slavery, I immediately knew that I was completely out of my league. Still, when she asked if I would be interested in co-planning Off the Market (a symposium on slavery and what we can do to end it), I was thrilled and agreed immediately. After months of planning, the day of Off the Market finally arrived on March 4th and, despite a broken down car and a miscommunication with one of our speakers, it went off without a hitch! Now, Off the Market is a registered student organization at OU with over 60 students who have expressed interest in joining next year.
Not long after meeting Lucy, I was introduced to the OU organization ENACTUS. I was initially hesitant to join ENACTUS because it is focused primarily on business endeavors and, as an International Studies/Anthropology major, it didn’t really sound like my thing. But, after hearing about ENACTUS’s involvement with No Boundaries International (a local anti-trafficking non-profit organization) I quickly reconsidered and applied to be a member of ENACTUS’s anti-trafficking project: Hope. This year, Project Hope put on an Art Gala called Shining Hope in which 50% of all proceeds were donated to No Boundaries. Since the current Project Hope Lead, Kes, will be studying abroad next year, I decided to apply for the position for next year. After a long process of applications and interviews, I was eventually nominated to fill the position, and I am ecstatic to begin planning for next school year.
I was also recently chosen to be a part of OU’s Global Engagement Fellowship’s Event Planning committee. Although, we have not yet planned very many events for the GEF Community, I am very excited to begin planning more fun things for GEF’s to do during next school year. I am amazed at the many opportunities that I have been presented with, and all that I have been able to achieve this past year, and look forward to continuing my involvement at OU as I furture my education.
To whatever end,