Closing a Year, Opening (a little more) to the World

This school year has gone by incredibly quickly, and this term finished the year up at a quickened pace.  Perhaps it is the Willamette Valley rain that has refused to let any hint of June sun through, or perhaps it was the event packed Slavery Still Exists week that brought speakers in from around the nation (most of whom are people I admire greatly and love to soak in their presence any waking moment), or perhaps it is just the quickening of time as I-dare I say- age.

Whatever it was- I’ve left this exploration of the nonprofit sector a little wiser, but a lot more aware of my limitations.  A healthy dose of knowledge, packed in with inspirational instructors and guest lecturers, and seasoned by some of the best peers I could’ve asked for, I come away ready to take on the world, but aware that the world can be making change for just one other life.  This class has strengthened my determination to professionally involve myself (either by invitation or pure persistence) with at least one nonprofit before I die.

That journey formally starts as soon as summer starts.  I turn 21 on a plane to Mexico City that then routes to Cairo, Egypt to work as staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Global Urban Treks.  A team of 16 students, including myself and 3 other staff will be teaching English to Sudanese refugees, living in small homestay families.  The country of Sudan has long endured civil war and genocide.  Refugees come to Egypt, most commonly seeking opportunities to travel to Canada, Australia, Britain, or America.  We use our native language to help facilitate their journey- and they greatly impact our lives with their stories.  As staff, I will be assisting students in approaching cultural difference, the racism between Egyptians and Sudanese, and the disparity between our lives and theirs.  With that I am converting this blog into the continued documentation of my journey- and will post in the few times we have access to internet in Cairo, and again when I return.  As I took this adventure last year as a student, I know that the return can be the more difficult than the journey.

With that, I am signing off now as a registered student of the Nonprofit Sector, although I plan to indefinitely be a student to the genre.  I hope my blog continues to be of interest to you, as I blog about Cairo and my passion to fight human trafficking.

A sincere thank you to my audience.

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Confirmed Flight and Sex Trade in USA

I just confirmed a flight to Mexico City for June 15th.  This marks the beginning of my summer job as Staff of a Global Urban Trek to Cairo, Egypt to work with 16 other students, and 3 other staff in serving Sudanese refugees.

On a heavier note:

U.S. citizens account for 25% of sex tourism worldwide, and as much as 80% in Latin America.

The number one destination for Americans seeking sex with a child?

The USA.

—–> Tonight, come to PLC 180 to watch “Playground,” a documentary on the sex trade in the US, starting at 7:00 PM. We’re screening it free of charge, and you can watch the trailer here:

Coming up: Thursday at 7 pm in PLC 180 Doug Justice and Meghan Burkeen from the Portland Vice Detail are coming to speak about Slavery in Oregon.
Doug Justice was recently featured on Dan Rather Reports in the show, “Pornland, Oregon” which has since been in the top 20 downloads on iTunes and one of the most visited Huffington Post articles!

Pass it along!

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Internationally Minded

Similar to many youth, I’ve always been drawn to various corners of the globe.

In tying my passion for the issue of human trafficking to that international draw, I’ve often dreamed of working for International Justice Mission.  But first, a little background.

There are, in my humble opinion, three sides of the battle against human trafficking.

First (or should I say last): Recovery.  This side is incredibly compassionate towards the personal issues human trafficking causes to its victims.  Often taking the form of a shelter, psychological and physical recovery are a part of this process as victims are brought in by (typically) law enforcement as they are found.   Reintegration involves new training in a certain trade- for example, Transitions Global in Cambodia specializes in yoga training.  The girls learn confidence and the meaning of beauty as they grow in yoga-bility and become instructors.  Recovery is accompanied by failure, as there is no 100% accurate system.

Second: Law Enforcement and Prosecution.  Busting out brothels, gathering evidence, and holding trials to prosecute the pimps.  I see this side as much more the badass side (Hollywood, perhaps?).  And on that note, the movie Taken: the teacher I admire most was neighbors with the screenwriter, had shared his personal story of his daughter being trafficked in Thailand and his journey to recover her, and thus- Taken was produced.  It is a gross representation of his story, in fact, it could be considered a completely different story.  But that’s Hollywood.  And on a positive note, it has brought much more interest to the issue.  But back to badass-ery: this side of the battle is challenging.  Prosecution is near impossible as the criminals are well funded and networked, and the victims are severely brainwashed or hooked on a drug that makes them run before the trial occurs.

Third: Curbing the Demand.  This is perhaps the most vague side of human trafficking.  I have yet to begin to understand it.  Even so, I know that within the last month Amazon has initiated an ad campaign (in the dorm laundry room and Facebook) saying, “You used me.  Now sell me.” in reference to textbook buyback season.  Perhaps it’s because I’m in full-swing of a human trafficking campaign, but this is offensive.  It feeds our feelings of entitlement to use and profit off of whatever we want.

Now that we’ve covered the three sides of the battle against human trafficking, where does International Justice Mission (IJM) fit in?  I’ve always wanted to participate in all, but especially the 2nd side of the battle.  IJM takes lawyers overseas, hand picks especially defining human rights (especially human trafficking) cases in other cases, and takes them to the courts.  The goal is that through that one case, IJM can redefine the country’s judicial system’s view of trafficking cases.  Their work is expansive and there appears to be a plethora of job opportunities available.  I am curious to seek out where their funding sources come from, but I believe it to be primarily funded by US citizens and government.  How does this make sense when we have grievous human trafficking crimes occurring in our backyard?

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Human Trafficking Awareness and Advocacy Campaign

Last week, Friday, kicked off the start of Slavery Still Exists 2010.  We welcomed Commissioner MacMillan on campus, the International Social Justice Commissioner of the Salvation Army, and a member of the UN.  Featured on the front page of the Daily Emerald today, it riled up several students on campus and got the start of the third annual Human Trafficking Awareness and Advocacy Campaign.  As a recently a recognized student organization, Slavery Still Exists is a group of students (myself included) who feel passionately about the issue and think Eugene should too.  We’ve titled our campaign just as I’ve titled this post: the Human Trafficking Awareness and Advocacy Campaign.  In reality, it is a title that sounds powerful, but can be very vague in actual meaning.

Awareness is: “having knowledge of” (1), “the state or ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects or sensory patterns.” (2)  Raising awareness ties into the education side of our group’s purpose- we bring speakers and documentaries to campus that have incredible experience in the field of human trafficking and also have the speaking and teaching skills to transfer their knowledge to others.

Advocacy is: “active support of an idea or cause etc.; especially the act of pleading or arguing for something” (3), “the pursuit of influencing outcomes — including public-policy and resource allocation decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions; it may be motivated from moral, ethical or faith principles or simply to protect an asset of interest.” (4)  What outcome to we hope to influence? I have been asked, in essence, this question countless times by reporters and journalism students writing about Slavery Still Exists’s (SSE) events this month.  The average of my response involves the generation we’re targeting and their belief that they can change the world, the collective power and privilege of the university that can truly make a difference, and the hope that their awareness will alter their way of thinking.  This alteration of thought may include how they watch “Pimp My Ride,” if they host a “Pimps and Hoes” party, their perspective on the status of women, possibly future legislation on prostitution and human trafficking, perhaps even for the successful business man alum- a realization of what an off-the-record guy’s night out during business travel may really mean for the women he has the opportunity to solicit.

But is this really enough?  My gut tells me it’s not.  If we really want to change the world we’ve got to do a whole lot more than hope for a change in people’s perspective.  Not only is that impossible to tangibly measure, but it also leaves the aware individual responsible for dealing with his/her awareness individually.  To me this sounds like awareness destined to be shelved and forgotten.  But what else can we do?  We don’t have the financial resources to give much, we don’t always have the time to volunteer much.

In response, my gut says we’ve got to facilitate places for people to engage with what they have.  Form a lobbying branch of the group that seeks signatures to support human trafficking bills, and meets with congressmen and women to talk about the issue.  Form a service branch of the group that builds a positive relationship with Womenspace and seeks grant money to send students abroad to volunteer in shelters.  Form a creative expression branch that encourages people to respond to the issue in art form, hosts displays of the art, and perhaps even organizes a benefit auction of the art pieces.

Is that advocacy?  Action?  yes.

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Research smeesearch, I love research!

As we approach the end of the term, it’s time to start thinking about the looming research paper.  I like the freedom we’re given on selecting a topic; it can be something we’ve talked about in class that you want to go more in depth with or something even outside the class that we’ve not covered yet but pertains to the Nonprofit Sector.  The question that I’ve landed on is:  (drum roll please…) What motivates people to give?  Of course, this is a really broad question, so I am looking to focus it in on how a personal story changes people’s motivation to give.  Paul Solvic has excelent research on the topic, and Nicholas Kristoff’s work writing for the New York Times is an amazing success story.  So it may seem that I already have a conclusion in mind, but I am looking forward to finding other sides to people’s motivations.

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Gotham Saved By Art

There really are no English words for the feelings that arise when thinking/feeling/speaking art.  Much to my disdain, I was surprised yet again to find a subsection of the nonprofit sector that I had no understanding of prior to this class (the first being health care).  I know first hand the restorative properties of practicing (?) art, so it makes sense that the values of art would be undervalued by our culture and thus, need tax exemption and donors to survive in some mediums.  Perhaps I am being a bit pessimistic, but I do feel that that I am becoming jaded to the causes that drive the need for the nonprofit sector.  I feel that it is wrong to require some services to spend 10-20% of their profits working to raise more funds, while other services spend 10-20% of their budget in bonuses to their staff.  Over dramatized?  Perhaps, but drama is crucial for the expression of our lives.

I highly respect individuals who work to pair artistic expression with social work.  Art, like sitting around a table eating a meal together, is incredibly grounding and wing-stretching work/play.  I imagine Gotham, from the story of Batman, starting a community revitalization project based in art classes rather than a single, wealthy, immortalized, white bachelor who returns from his world travels to reclaim and revenge the dynasty that is his family name.  Our view is completely such for Eugene and _______(insert home city/town here)__________.  Our single, wealthy, immortalized, white bachelor is the corporate world and they are handsome in advertising.  I will rescue you from your loneliness after just one Corona.  You will be beautiful when you use me, Cover Girl.  And we fall for it.  We fall for Batman.  He is our hero.  And only him (do we worship).  But… Batman is just one man and perhaps one that creates more issues than he resolves, a Dark Knight.  Stage Left: beautiful, helpless Rachel Dawes- Batman’s girl who ultimately makes his job more difficult (Save love or save the politician?).  Rachel can be likened to the nonprofit sector, undoubtedly.  She knows the system as it appears to the untrained eye, and she knows the system in the back alleys and isn’t afraid to confront it at either place, although she often does so at a risk to her life.  Batman finds this side of her a nuisance, its worrisome, not productive.  We don’t know who really won, Rachel or Batman.  And it was a love that was destined to fail by the circumstances it found itself.  Perhaps it’s just the sun outside working over my brain, but I think this is a great analogy to the nonprofit art sector and the private sector.  Heck, it’s an analogy to all nonprofits and the private sector.  I’ve just got to wonder why Rachel (nonprofits) is always thought of by our culture as the weaker, mortal one.

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Health Care and the Nonprofit Sector

From the posts I read last week from my fellow students, Religion and Nonprofit seemed to be an uneasy mix.  I can relate this week when I take a look at Health Care and Nonprofit.

I understand nonprofits set up to serve special/specific needs groups: veterans, people with disabilities, American Cancer Society, etc.  That makes sense.  A population has a specific need that requires a specific understanding and set of skills, perhaps even a specific team that advocates for their rights.  An organization that does all these things is rightly under the tax-free bracket of not-for-profits.

But entire hospitals?

I’m almost at a loss of words.

Well, let’s take a look and see what we can dig out:  What is the benefit of being a nonprofit hospital?  The tax exemptions.  Perhaps the nonprofit label could improve how you look to the general public: the hospital could be saying, “We’re here to serve your needs, not over charge you for the services you need to survive.”  But at the same time the nonprofit label could look worse to the general public:  the general public could be saying, “How much do they pay their doctors?  Probably less, because nonprofits are generally poorer, so I might not be seeing the best practitioner.  I wonder if their equipment was donated by the competing for-profit hospital after they got an upgrade?”

I’m working myself in circles, and that brings me back to the beginning of my confusion: Why do nonprofit hospitals exist?

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A classroom of thoughts.

Today I took a step out of my bubble of thoughts and checked out the posts of some of my peers in the class.  Wow!  There are some great thinkers out there.  I checked out the posts of Marisa, Lauren, and Ted- to name a memorable few.  I recommend you check out some of the other posts too!  Just click on the button in the upper right and you can find links to each class members’ blog on the class blog.

Check it out!

p.s. A shameless plug:  Slavery Still Exists is coming soon to UO.  Check out their website and then attend!  Or even volunteer!

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Kristoff and Kristoph

I have gained the nickname Kristoph from my friend Ailin this year.  Some how, my first and last name were combined and Kristoph was born.

Interestingly, I highly admire Nicholas Kristoff and his work in journalism to bring about change on issues, not just report on the issues.  He is cited to be one of the first reporters to address the genocide in Darfur and also the issue of human trafficking.  One asked why more reporters don’t deal with trafficking, Kristoff apologetically explains the reporter’s experience with everyday issues.  It isn’t breaking news, it happens every day and therefore we often just overlook it.  Working against this apathy, Kristoff has worked to develop the journalistic approach to the power of a personal story.  His work includes the research of University of Oregon professor Paul Solvic and psychic numbing.  I highly recommend following Kristoff’s column in the New York Times and also reading the book he co-authored with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Their book has turned into a movement that also involves the work of CARE, a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1945 to provide relief to survivors of World War II, and is now one of the world’s largest private international humanitarian organizations that seeks to end poverty by empowering women.

What inspired this post was that after I posted this morning I was catching up on Kristoff’s blog and found a recent post on the Catholic church and it’s two identities.  The first more well known, is an old boys club of matriarchal dominion, limited participation of women, and recent and reoccurring issues with child molestation.   The second is an amazing network of charities and social justice work.  In Egypt, I experienced the latter first hand as I worked in a Catholic church that supported and created the school for Sudanese children and adults to educate themselves to improve their conditions and potentially seek residency in an English-speaking country such as Canada, the US, or Australia.   My host family was hoping to move to Canada as soon as they could.  The schools we volunteered in were often poor, but only necessary because the Egyptian government restricted the Sudanese from enrolling in their public school system.  A classic case of racism, I watched as Egyptians (light tan skinned) would gawk at my (white skinned) walking hand-in-hand with my host mother (dark-black skinned).  It is amazing that we can use something so primary (one chromosome’s worth of information) to create the social structure of race, and then treat people completely different because of it.

Here’s a quote from Kristoff’s article that resonates with what I posted earlier:

In my travels around the world, I encounter two Catholic Churches. One is the rigid all-male Vatican hierarchy that seems out of touch when it bans condoms even among married couples where one partner is H.I.V.-positive. To me at least, this church — obsessed with dogma and rules and distracted from social justice — is a modern echo of the Pharisees whom Jesus criticized.

Yet there’s another Catholic Church as well, one I admire intensely. This is the grass-roots Catholic Church that does far more good in the world than it ever gets credit for. This is the church that supports extraordinary aid organizations like Catholic Relief Services andCaritas, saving lives every day, and that operates superb schools that provide needy children an escalator out of poverty.

This is the church of the nuns and priests in Congo, toiling in obscurity to feed and educate children. This is the church of the Brazilian priest fighting AIDS who told me that if he were pope, he would build a condom factory in the Vatican to save lives.

This is the church of the Maryknoll Sisters in Central America and the Cabrini Sisters in Africa. There’s a stereotype of nuns as stodgy Victorian traditionalists. I learned otherwise while hanging on for my life in a passenger seat as an American nun with a lead foot drove her jeep over ruts and through a creek in Swaziland to visit AIDS orphans. After a number of encounters like that, I’ve come to believe that the very coolest people in the world today may be nuns.

So when you read about the scandals, remember that the Vatican is not the same as the Catholic Church. Ordinary lepers, prostitutes and slum-dwellers may never see a cardinal, but they daily encounter a truly noble Catholic Church in the form of priests, nuns and lay workers toiling to make a difference.

It’s high time for the Vatican to take inspiration from that sublime — even divine — side of the Catholic Church, from those church workers whose magnificence lies not in their vestments, but in their selflessness. They’re enough to make the Virgin Mary smile.

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Is this the kind of fasting I have chosen?

As seems likely in the United States, according to the figures presented in the reading this week that 70 percent of  Americans belong to a religious organization (O’Neill 55), I grew up attending a Christian church with my family and still attend one now.  As I entered college, I found several religious groups, also registered 501(c)3’s, and looked for one that really matched made me tick.  I first attended Campus Crusade, won $50 at the first gathering, but didn’t strike a chord with their goals.  Later I stumbled upon InterVarsity, and was fascinated by their straight forward look at what Jesus taught about in the Bible, and going out and actually doing the same things.  Since, I’ve slept a night homeless in Portland, worked at a domestic violence shelter, feed and hung out with the homeless on a regular basis, and am returning to Cairo, Egypt this summer to teach English to Sudanese refugees.  Through this, I have found a poignant passage in the Bible that has become my mantra.

Isaiah 58

1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the house of Jacob their sins.

2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.

3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.

4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

14 then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

In reading the statistics on giving that O’Neill cited in this chapter on the nonprofit work of religions, and also considering (as was mentioned in class) the ways churches use members’ donations is appalling.  If I could control all church activities in one day, I would sell each church building on instead build relationships with local community organizations and share/rent spaces for church purposes.  In my opinion, church buildings remove the congregation from their community to experience God and that is almost the exact opposite of the life that Jesus lived and that he calls his followers to live.  The simple truth of it is: Jesus was homeless.  He was born in a barn because his mom was fleeing her reputation as a slut because she was pregnant before being married, having citizenship in a town considered the backwash of Israel, which he was later exiled from for what he preached and who he hung out with (prostitutes and traitors to the Jewish culture).  If I think of the stark opposite of this, I imagine the typical Western Christian.  A contrast that I am also guilty for.

So how does this all relate back to the discussion of nonprofits?  Simply, churches are granted the mobility and freedom to be a nonprofit organization and also be separate from state.  This is a huge opportunity for churches to be forefront in social justice and human rights work, and I feel that the average church has fallen short.  I hope that my generation, especially those who I’ve served the homeless beside, will be the catalyst that changes the way churches serve.

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