Night Light

17 09 2009

This afternoon after work, I walked in the pouring-down rain to volunteer an organization called Night Light International.  Night Light, a ministry which works to combat sex trafficking through prevention and intervention efforts, has operations both in Los Angeles and Atlanta.  Today, I worked with a program called “Infusion,” an after-school Bible club for at-risk kids in south Atlanta.

As I waited in the lobby for the rest of the volunteers to arrive, I chatted with the organization’s director, Courtney.  She gave me an information sheet about the afternoon schedule, and I thought I noticed something about “outdoor recreation.”

“Wait a sec.  This is going to be outside??” I asked.

“Yep,” said Courtney, glancing out the window.  “Pray that the weather clears up quickly!”

Before we left, we gathered in a circle for a mini-orientation.  Among other things, Courtney casually mentioned that the group had twice been held up at gunpoint while in this neighborhood.

What had I gotten myself into?

The afternoon was loud, crazy, chaotic, rambunctious.  Not to mention fun.  Word quickly spread around the neighborhood that we had arrived, and about 20 or 30 kids began showing up.  The crafts were cheesy, the Bible study was probably less than effective … but I could also tell that the kids had come to really expect the group’s presence there and looked forward to playing with their “big kid” friends.

And I met a lot of great other people who were also volunteering.  One guy, upon finding out that I was a violinist, invited Jordan and me to a house church/musical jam next Tuesday night.  Who knows?  We might take him up on the offer.

I haven’t decided whether or not I will return next week, but all things considered, I am glad that I went today!

I am a Modern-Day Abolitionist…

27 08 2009

Or at least, I’m trying to be. Here’s how I got started:

During my first semester of college, I took a life-changing and perspective-transforming class called “Political Science 47H: Ethics, Morality, Individual, Liberty, and the Law.” The class had the best reading list of any I’ve ever taken: Mountains Beyond Mountains, Blink, Life on the Color Line, Hiroshima, and Disposable People. The last book — Disposable People by Kevin Bales — combines facts and statistics with moving stories to paint a picture of modern-day slavery across the globe.

Up until that point, I — like most people, I imagine — thought of slavery as something in the past: a great injustice but one which had disappeared more than a century ago. But reading the book, I thought: “This must end. What can I do?”

The first step, as any anti-slavery site will tell you, is to educate yourself. Read the facts. Learn the statistics. For this issue especially, which all too often exists as an ugly truth hidden behind everyday life, knowledge really is power.

The next step, for me, came when we moved to Atlanta last month. Unfortunately, slavery is not something that happens “over there.” It’s here. It’s a horrendous problem — and it’s all around us. According to Street GRACE, between 200 and 300 young girls are trafficked each month in Georgia alone. The average age of child sexual exploitation appears to be 14, but girls as young as 10 and 11 have been exploited.

So what to do with these facts? I’ve been educating myself, making inquiries about how I can volunteer, and will keep you posted with any opportunities that arise. For starters, here is a brief compilation of resources that I have discovered thus far (I’ll try to add more as I hear of them):

Resources, Facts, Articles, Documentaries:
Disposable People by Kevin Bales
Stolen Childhoods
Hidden in Plain View: The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Girls in Atlanta
Not for Sale
Slavery Map
Safe House: an article from Creative Loafing
National Human Trafficking Resource Center
At the End of Slavery

Organizations (Atlanta):
Innocence Atlanta
Juvenile Justice Fund
Street GRACE
Wellspring Living
Circle of Friends

Organizations (National/International):
Free the Slaves
Anti-Slavery International
International Justice Mission
Not for Sale Campaign
Free 2 Work
Shared Hope International
Stop the Traffik
Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking
Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking: Los Angeles
Children of the Night

Do you twitter?
Innocence Atlanta
Not For Sale
International Justice Mission

What about Facebook?
Street GRACE
Innocence Atlanta
PAST Atlanta
International Justice Mission