Just a little victory post–

WScreen Shot 2015-04-30 at 10.26.49 AMe got tweeted out by Alameda  County’s HEAT Watch!

Go check them out at: http://www.heat-watch.org

Advertisements

Biking for Change

A quick story of advocacy published in the Arizona Daily Sun to light up your afternoon:

Five friends on a mission passed through Flagstaff this past weekend for a cross-country bike trip to raise money to help survivors of human trafficking.

The fundraiser, called Bike4Solution, was created after the football team at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Ill., watched a documentary about the estimated 30 million people worldwide who are currently being bought and sold for labor and sexual exploitation. The team partnered with the Christian humanitarian organization Bright Hope International to raise $14,500 at their football games to rescue five human trafficking survivors in northern India.

But after graduating this spring, former football team members Tommy Kenney, 23, Dan Johnson, 22, Jono Mullins, 22, and Dustin Alewine, 23, decided they wanted to do more. Despite having no cycling experience, they set out June 14 on a more than 2,500-mile bike ride from Deerfield, Ill., to Mission Viejo, Calif., to raise awareness about human trafficking.

Brent Kozel, 22, who was a high school friend of  Johnson, joined the effort as the driver of their follow car. They passed through Flagstaff this past Saturday on their way to Kingman with a goal of arriving at their final destination in California between July 27 and Aug. 1.

Along the way, they hope to raise a total of $50,000 to help Bright Hope’s Safe House program in northern India rescue an additional 16 underage girls trapped in sex slavery and send them through a 12-month restoration program. They are also hoping to raise another $5,000 to cover the cost of the trip.

“At the end of the day, we’re asking men to step up with us,” Alewine said. “It comes down to supply and demand. If there continues to be men who are willing to pay for sex, this issue is going to go on.”

He said it is particularly important to raise awareness about human trafficking in Arizona ahead of Super Bowl XLIX, which will be held Feb. 1, 2015, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. This year, the FBI announced just two days after Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford, N.J., that it had rescued 16 juveniles and arrested more than 45 pimps in a commercial child sex trafficking sting. Some of the pimps claimed they had traveled to New Jersey specifically to prostitute women and children at the Super Bowl.

To learn more about Bike4Solution or to make a donation, visit bike4solution.org.

Michelle McManimon can be reached at mmcmanimon@azdailysun.com or 556-2261.”

 

 

Get Mad!

Diane Scimone and my club, the Students Against Modern Slavery, were recently featured on our school website. Check it out:

 

Get Mad!

By Abigail Heiser ‘14

scimone2“Get mad. Then do something about it,” we were encouraged by Diana Scimone, founder of Born 2 Fly, an organization working to educate the world about child sex trafficking. It wasn’t a difficult feat: our eyes flashed with the images of dirty, scared children, all looking at us with hopeless eyes. These children, these daughters, sons, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, were all victims of human trafficking. And we were outraged.

Students Against Modern Slavery, affectionately referred to as SAMS, invited Ms. Scimone to talk to the junior and senior classes about a horrifying reality they had studied in Peace and Social Justice: human, specifically child, trafficking. Human trafficking, the number two income-generating illegal syndicate, generates 9.5 billion dollars a year. It ruins the lives of 1.2 million children, some as young as five years old, each year, and that staggering number is only getting bigger. Many Americans falsely believe that human trafficking is something exclusive to other countries, to underdeveloped “backwards” societies. In fact, it’s happening on our very doorstep: 100,000 children here in the United States are at risk for being trafficked this very moment. To be sure, the idea that anyone could defile a human life in such a way is not something one easily comes to term with. The only way to halt and reverse these growing statistics, however, is to spread awareness. And that is the goal of Born 2 Fly, an organization that supplies curriculums for teaching awareness in more than 65 countries.

 

scimone

Diane with students and members of the the Human Trafficking Advocacy Group of the San Jose Diocese, including Sister Claudia McTaggart, NDSJ Board member.

Ms. Scimone was not led to action by the numbers: indeed, the numbers did not even enter her perception until she met face-to-face with a horrible breach of humanity. While working as a journalist in India, she caught a glimpse of the cages that child slaves, an average of 11 years young, were kept in during the day, waiting, terrified, for the night. The night during which the child could be sold as many as 20 times for sex. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. That anger you feel pulsing through your veins right now is what fueled Ms. Scimone to act, to fight against the norms perpetuated by the bystanders in society. It was a long and difficult process, but with determination and willpower, she wrote and published a wordless book that teaches children their value, founded Born 2 Fly, and created and tested a curriculum that is now being implemented around the world in the hopes of preventing countless young girls and boys from meeting the fate to which we have lost millions.

The first part of Ms. Scimone’s original request was not the difficult part of the equation. It is essential, however, not to lose sight of that second demand in our outrage – that we act. Whether that is something as ambitious as founding your own awareness group or something as simple as donating at the provided link, every little bit counts. Find your strength, and use it to fight for the powerless.

scimone3

Diane and Izzy Ullmann’14, founder of Notre Dame’s on-campus advocacy group SAMS (Students Against Modern Slavery).

 

A Letter to Zoe Lofgren

November 16, 2013

The Honorable Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren

1401 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, D.C.  20515

 

Dear Congresswoman Lofgren,

My name is Izzy Ullmann. I am a senior at Notre Dame High School and a devoted advocate against human trafficking. I organized an art-as-awareness event downtown San Jose, founded a student advocacy group at my school, and am writing and teaching curriculum to middle schoolers on the issue. A few months ago, I spoke with you about cosponsoring the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act (H.R.2283) and I would like to profusely thank you for your expedient action.

Yet despite the admirable work that is being done to curtail this second most lucrative crime (netting $32 billion annually (according to the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime)), it continues to run rampant through the US and overseas. As Stop Violence Against Women points out, traffickers are finding unlimited ways to exploit human bodies through means such as child marriage, domestic servitude, and organ trafficking. As a nation, we cannot stand by as men, women, and children continue to be treated as disposable commodities.

Thirteen years ago, Congress came together to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), establishing human trafficking as a federal crime, and creating the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) office to combat it. The TVPRA provides for assistance programs and sets a global national standard for addressing the issue. Now the TVPA is up for renewal, and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (H.R. 898) intends to extend the law for at least another two years. It has more specific provisions for the TIP office secretary’s dealings with child marriage as well as a “conscience clause,” which allows grants to be sent to any organization, regardless of religious or moral affiliation. Many of the significant anti-trafficking organizations are based in faith, and this should not be a reason for funding to be withheld.

This bill has the power to save lives, but it cannot seize that power until it is voted on and passed. It has not even gotten to the floor in the House, and I implore you to help it get there. Up to this point, it has been referred to four committees (and subsequent subcommittees). It is now in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations in the Judiciary Committee that you are a part of. I would like to ask you to speak to members of that subcommittee, explain to them the cruciality of this bill, and encourage them to approve it so that it can move back to Committee for approval. Thank you for your support in protecting the oppressed.

 

Sincerely,

Izzy Ullmann

 

The Moments After

The Freedom Exhibit– a Post- Reflection

August 3,  2013  12:00 AM

I am high off of the excitement of advocacy. There is so much power in talking to people about the things that drive me, and having them care. I felt the sparks of awareness flying tonight. I feel as if I have lowered a rope into a pit of ignorance and hoisted some people out of it. I think I may have even flung some of those people from the flat ground of awareness into the realms of action.
.
 Over the last couple months, I have become more and more competent in my abilities to discuss human trafficking with people that share the same passions. I preach to the choir like a pro– I have had many a car conversation, many a dinner table education with my parents. But when I try to talk to people who don’t share my passion, I have felt tongue tied. I haven’t known how to breach the topic, and once I do, I don’t know where to start. Tonight, that changed.
I completely overwhelmed the first woman I talked to. I overloaded her with way too much information about every organization I could describe on our “Learn” table. I could see the stars coating her eyes, the confusion clouding her vision. When she stopped me and asked, “Wait… what is human trafficking?” I knew I had to take a different approach. I had spewed word vomit all over her, and really not brought her any closer to an understanding of human trafficking.
.
That was when I realized that I could use the scene I had created as a presentation tool. My art piece provided me with a catapult to educate, something I had really been lacking. I brought people in, at first one on one, and then as groups and told them this:
.
~ First look at this mattress, this graffiti, these papers. What do you see? What do they make you think about?
Now when people think about human trafficking, their minds immediately jump to sex. People know about brothels, about people being trafficked across borders in other nations to provide sex to customers. But human trafficking is truly a multifaceted issue. This bed could be the bed in a brothel, but it could be inhabited by so many different people.
.
This is the bed of a boy, who is arisen every morning, thrown into a van with six other guys, handed a couple dozen crates of strawberries, and dropped off at a street corner. He is told he has to sell all of the strawberries or be beaten. He goes out, selling strawberries all day. You have seen this boy, sometimes outside Costco, sometimes outside Safeway. You may even have bought strawberries from this boy. In the evening, he is picked up in the van by his pimp. He has not had a lunch break. He has not been able to go to the bathroom. Today, he hasn’t even sold all of his strawberries. In punishment, after handing the money he has made to his pimp,  he is raped. This is the bed he goes back to and cries in.
.
Or this is the bed of a girl whose family is abusive. Her parents are drug abusers or they beat her. Maybe she doesn’t have parents at home at all. She runs away from home, and while walking the streets is picked up by a boy. He takes her in; he gives her gifts. He tells her he loves her. He fills a gap that has been empty; he makes her feel special. She falls in love with him. He calls her his girlfriend. After a little while, though, he tells her she needs to make up her share of the income. He tells her she can’t just sit home all day. So he drops her off on the streets to pick up customers. This is the bed that she brings five, ten, fifteen men a night to, selling her body to make money for her “boyfriend”.
.
Or is this is the bed of a woman who has just immigrated to America from Cambodia. She wants to start a new life in the land of opportunity. She is offered a job at a nail salon, but is told that instead of payment, they will give her a room in the back. She is not allowed to leave the salon unsupervised. The only time she is allowed out of this room, is when she is painting nails. She doesn’t know her rights. She doesn’t know she is entitled to more than this. This is the room that she spends her days and nights in.
.
This bed represents the millions of people stuck in human trafficking today. And splayed across it are diary entries, prayers, poems. On the walls are cries for help, all scribbled across the oppressive graffiti that surrounds the people contained within its walls. These are written pleas for help, because so many of these people do not have the use of their voices to ask for help. They are scared. Women do not want to be arrested for prostitution. Girls are so in love with their pimps, that they do not realize that they are being manipulated. Their emotions are so toyed with, so disjointed that they do not know who to trust or where to turn for affection. Illegal immigrants trafficked in the agricultural industry don’t want to be deported. Legal immigrants do not know their rights. People who have been trafficked into the US do not realize that they have rights to trafficking visas. People are blocked by language barriers, trust barriers, emotional barriers.
.
And it starts so young. The average age of a trafficking victim in the US is 12, but people are weaned into it from even earlier. Children are burdened by emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. They are neglected by their parents. They are not raised with a sense of self- worth or confidence in their abilities. They seek love anywhere they can find it.
.
The system is so skewed. There are more people in slavery now, in 2013, than there were during the entire length of the transatlantic slave trade combined. And back then, slavery was legal. It was in the public eye. It was contested by some, but accepted by most. Now, it is an underground criminal industry. Not just any criminal industry, but a particularly profitable one– the 2nd most profitable criminal industry, netting about $32 billion a year. Once a person sells a gun, that gun is gone. But a person can sell a girl again and again and again and again. A person pimping four girls can make about $600,000 a year. There is a demand for it. It is consumed in mass quantities. With inflation calculated in, a slave back in the 1800s was worth about $30,000. Now, a slave can be bought for $90. Our sense of human worth seems to have plummeted by a long shot. And this is just the beginning of the story. ~
Now, I talked and people listened… really listened. People asked questions… good questions. They started recognizing the signs. People told me about situations that had before not seemed odd, but now seemed like signs of human trafficking. They disclosed information about family, neighbors, friends who had been involved in the issue. They wanted to know how to pinpoint the indicators, how to act, what to look for, and how they could get involved. They wanted to know about the children, about the laws, about the numbers, about the history; I could tell them.  I have done so much research- speaking to people, listening to stories, watching documentaries-  that I was able to truly advocate. I was able to back up my fictional  (yet completely plausible) pieces with hard numbers.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And I was not alone in my advocacy. I was joined by two truly inspiring women. Julia Wood, the girl who had kickstarted the concept of an art exhibit and collected the art pieces, and I worked off of each other with the most collaborative chemistry. People would ask questions, and we were able to teach together, to fill in each others’ gaps in knowledge, and to combine our separate insight into a truly comprehensive understanding of human trafficking. Most notably, I was joined by Regina Evans, a survivor of the Life, who has since channeled her complex emotions into poetry and a one woman play.
BeFunky_with regina.jpg
She shared her story, her passion, her pain, and her love. She lured people into the back room with the bed setup and performed a rhythmic telling of her story… She started with an almost abstract poetic description of a girl being raped, abused, sold on the streets. “She’s somebody’s baby. She’s somebody’s child,” was her haunting refrain. But as her tale escalated, the pronoun turned personal, and the audience was drawn further into her tortured eyes, and her trembling hands. “I’m somebody’s baby,” she whispered, her voice cracking, “I’m somebody’s child.” At the end of her performance, she turned to the numbers, warning of the 300,000 children at risk of trafficking in the US alone. She called people to action. She appealed to them to stand by no longer. As people walked out of that room, the reactions were chilling. Some simply stared ahead in a horrified trance. Some had red eyes, wet with teardrops. Some had hands clasped in fists of anger. I knew that we had changed these people.
.
People don’t know, and quite honestly don’t WANT to know about human trafficking. The information is too hard to handle; the reality too repulsive. It is much easier to distance oneself, than to contemplate the truth. With this event, I strove to awaken people to the world around them, bit by bit, so that more people will join their voices in combatting the crime. And I feel as if we accomplished that goal.