10K for 10 years
By Julia Smith-Brake
Ten years ago, I was working for a small child protection consulting company in Canada, writing policy and (slowly) learning how to apply all my theoretical undergraduate knowledge to the real world. I was also learning how to be married to my husband of 3 months, and we were excitedly saving and planning to leave the next year for our first overseas placement. Where and doing what we were unsure, we just knew we wanted to go!
I applied to every internship under the sun – in Africa, of course, because I had focused most of my International Development Studies on African development – and never heard back. In the midst of knocking, pounding, and kicking on every door, my boss sent me to represent the company at a conference on child trafficking and exploitation. And I met a certain woman named Helen Sworn.
I interviewed Helen for a concept note I was writing for my company and we hit it off. I learned about what Chab Dai was doing in Cambodia, and immediately gained a deep respect for their values and approach. Well, to make a long story short, it turned out Chab Dai needed someone to do exactly what I knew how to do – write Child Protection Policies!! And, very providentially, Chab Dai’s partner, Child Helpline Cambodia, also needed a volunteer, for which my husband was well suited.
When Charlie and I went to Cambodia for the first time in 2008, we were well aware that our experience in the anti-trafficking sector would either tear us down or light a fire that would not easily go out. Ten years on, we are both still very committed to this sector and to Chab Dai. Over the past 10 years, I have held multiple positions with this organization I love so dearly, as a volunteer, paid staff, co-founder of Chab Dai Canada, and now as a board member with Chab Dai International.
What better way to celebrate 10 years than to run my first 10K marathon?! On December 3, I will run the Angkor Wat 10K and I’d like to invite you to donate $10 to Chab Dai for my 10K. As we all know, the fight for human rights is a marathon, not a sprint, and I hope the skills, passion, and knowledge I have gained in the past 10 years will propel me on for the next 10!
To commemorate my 10 years of involvement in this sector, here are 10 things I have learned:
- Human trafficking is not just sex trafficking;
- Human trafficking is not just about movement, but about vulnerability;
- If we want to understand vulnerability, we need to understand injustice, poverty, and discrimination;
- We can cause more hurt if we do not help in thoughtful ways;
- I am not a savior and the solutions are so much bigger than me;
- Survivors of trafficking are not homogenous, they are as diverse as all human beings;
- The anti-trafficking sector needs more than “rescuers,” it needs researchers, social workers, writers, artists, psychologists, fundraisers, community workers, foster parents, business owners, etc.!
- Victims/survivors want to be treated with respect, not pity, and we need to be careful about how, when, and why we tell their stories;
- Trafficking and exploitation are a spectrum, with coercion and choice playing varying and nuanced roles;
- If we want to end human trafficking, we need to fight for all human rights.
If you wish to join me in support of Chab Dai, you may do so by donating here.