IJM Advocacy Summit

On Tuesday, I spent my day walking Capitol Hill in the blazing sun and three and a half inch heels. I spent my day sitting in government offices, smiling, and telling staff members of my state’s representatives why they should care about international trafficking in persons. I spent my day quoting statistics like “in four years, International Justice Mission (IJM) saw a 79% decrease in minor girls being sold in Cebu City, Philippines” and “an estimated 30 million people are kept in slavery – more than any other time in history.” But more than anything, I spent my day using my voice and my skills to make a change, and for that opportunity I am incredibly grateful.

Not only do I take my own pictures, but I do my own stunts.

Not only do I take my own pictures, but I do my own stunts.

What I was attending was International Justice Mission’s annual Advocacy Summit. IJM is a non-governmental organization dedicated to stopping violence, especially against the poor who are most vulnerable; the Summit was a two day event that trains individuals to lobby and then organizes meetings with their state representatives so they can advocate for those in modern day slavery. This modern day slavery is the trafficking of persons for either sex slavery or forced labor, and sadly it effects children – almost 2 million children, a heartbreaking statistic. For this reason, over 300 people gathered in Washington, DC and took the time to educate themselves and others on the problem at hand and how they could get involved. It was inspiring to me to see everyone together, from a total of 45 states, working for the same reason – to protect the dignity of their fellow man. I learned so much in such a short time, but more than anything I learned that you have to fight for what you believe in. I want to share a little of what I learned with you, so that you, too, will make a stand for what’s right.

Experience not required – but passion is. 

If this was a job application, it really would read “no experience necessary but the apathetic need not apply.” Why? Experience can be gained and skills can be taught; passion is something you either have or you don’t have – and without it you’re just a tourist to the Senate and House buildings. I know that sounds harsh, but I assure you that it’s true. You go into a meeting, share important information and ask for support, and you walk away not knowing if you’ve won that support or if the information will even really make it to your representative. There is no guarantee that you’ll even know how much of an impact you’ve made. Sometimes it feels like you’ve accomplished nothing – but you have (see next point). Without passion, there’s nothing to keep you going.

Even the littlest victory is a victory. 

Many people, even some of the passionate I referred to, can get burnt out trying to do a good deed when the results aren’t as grand as they expected. We all want to change the world, and we can look around and see the impact that others are making and wonder, “Am I even making any progress?” To this, I must answer with a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit: “Little by little, one travels far.” Or, if you’d like, think back to the biblical account of a poor widow who only put two coins in the treasury – Jesus said she gave the greatest of all because it was what she had (Mark 12:41-43). The thing to remember is that the little things are what matter, because each little thing adds up and becomes something great. Never be down on yourself because you think you aren’t doing enough – strive to do all that you can and you can be sure that your efforts are not in vain.

lone WV summit

I was the only WV summit-goer, but my IJM Staff member Jaclyn and I kicked butt and took names anyway!

I encourage anyone who is passionate about injustice to stand up and let your voice be heard. Whether through efforts organized by NGOs like IJM or others – or on your own writing letters, calling representatives, and reaching out to the people around you to educate and inspire – get involved and work towards the goals you believe in. If no one ever speaks up, the truth remains unheard. Change only comes about as a result of people who put their hearts on the line and used their talents, skills, and blessings. I could say so much more, but I will just finish with a quote from Robert Kennedy: “Each time a person stands for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, they send a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” ♥

If you want to know more about the current situation regarding international trafficking in persons (and what you can do to help!), you can contact me or check out IJM’s Freedom Commons, the UN’s Trafficking In Persons report, and the State Office on Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP) annual report
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