The following post is part 4 in a blog series following Callie Hawkins, Associate Director for Programs at President Lincoln’s Cottage, in Southeast Asia on an awareness trip inspired by our current special exhibit commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Can You Walk Away?. For more information on our Emancipation 150 activities, Can You Walk Away?, and slavery in the U.S. today, please visit www.lincolncottage.org.
Today brought two real treats. The first was the discovery of a street vendor selling fried chicken, Thailand-style along one of Bangkok’s busiest thoroughfares. No offense to my parents, but it was hands-down the best fried chicken this southern girl has ever eaten. The real treat from today, though, was our visit to the New International School of Thailand (NIST). NIST is a school for students from all over the country with a progressive curriculum centered on service learning and social justice. In fact, much to my surprise, the students’ introduction to historical issues comes in learning about their contemporary manifestations. After meeting with SOS, one of our contacts at the UN told us about this school and a “club” started by a group of students interested in raising awareness about modern slavery in their own backyard. The group of students we met with was excited to meet with our group for a little idea sharing.
This student led group fits right in with the service learning community at NIST. Each week, students are given time called I Choice to which they can specifically devote to the service “community” of their choosing. During I Choice students are encouraged to develop outreach programs, field trips, leadership models, etc. to the issue they are working on. The anti-trafficking group at NIST, one of the newest learning communities at the school, has performed a dramatic theatrical piece on the streets of Cambodia, staged a flash mob to raise general awareness around modern slavery at Bangkok’s busiest shopping mall, organized weekly “play dates” with children at high risk for the sex trade, and raised money to insure that six Burmese children who were formerly trafficked have the opportunity to stay in school. Although they’re a new service group, they have hit the ground running. As one of the teenagers said to me, “We don’t do bake sales. We get our hands dirty.” I was incredibly inspired by this group of teenagers and their desire to turn a big idea into action that will make a difference in their community, nation, and world.
One of their most recent activities was something they called ‘Loco for Cocoa’, a campaign that involved ordering fair trade chocolate from Australia to offer their classmates an alternative for their Valentine’s sweets. When I asked how we might work together, they said “If each person who reads your blog buys fair trade chocolate this Valentine’s Day that would be a start!” So, friends, that’s my call to you today: as you’re shopping for your Valentine, be mindful of the human cost they may have gone into producing that chocolate bar. Show your special someone you really care – go ‘Loco for Cocoa’.
To purchase fair trade chocolate in the Washington, DC area, please visit:
President Lincoln’s Cottage also sells fair trade goods and gifts made by survivors of human trafficking. Stop by the store and shop in person, or visit our online store today: http://shop.lincolncottage.org/NavPage.aspx?navid=1000013.
In February 2012, President Lincoln’s Cottage unveiled Can You Walk Away? Modern Slavery: Human Trafficking in the United States. This special exhibit challenges perceptions of slavery in America today and raises awareness of a growing humanitarian crisis. By posing the question, “Can you walk away?” this exhibit inspires people to engage with the modern abolitionist movement and to see that slavery is an ongoing issue that requires big thinking and direction action, just as it did in Lincoln’s time. First Lady Laura Bush endorsed the exhibit, calling it “an invaluable lens through which the public can view our country’s ongoing struggle with slavery — both in the historical context and in present day trafficking. Exhibits like this are evidence of the way historic places can shape the way we live in the present.” Can You Walk Away? was created in partnership with the Polaris Project, the leading NGO in the United States fighting modern-day slavery. The exhibit is schedule to run through August 2013 in the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center.
Polaris Project is a leading organization in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Named after the North Star “Polaris” that guided people escaping slavery along the Underground Railroad, Polaris Project is transforming the way that individuals and communities respond to human trafficking, in the U.S. and globally. By successfully pushing for stronger federal and state laws, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-373-7888), conducting trainings, and providing vital services to victims of trafficking, Polaris Project creates long-term solutions that move our society closer to a world without slavery. Learn more at www.polarisproject.org.
Students Opposing Slavery is a student run organization that is committed to improving the world by raising awareness for human trafficking, a form of modern day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. For more information visit http://studentsopposingslavery.org/.