Freedom is filled with restrictions that come in the form of discrimination, shame, and uneducation. Unfortunately, the line between victim and survivor is thin. Freedom is so much more than release. Freedom only starts there, but the road afterward is long and uncertain. When you think of freedom you might think of open spaces, broken shackles, fresh air, out-stretched legs, breaking out of oppression; coming out on the other side alive. These are things we can all agree on. But freedom is a two-sided coin. Freedom not only means freedom from something, but the freedom to DO something. This idea can get lost when it comes to Human trafficking survivors.
I always thought I understood what the end goal was for people advocating against human trafficking. To rescue someone from their situation. For so long, I thought it was a man or woman walking away from bondage with their face pointed toward the sun. It’s easy to end the story there. Recently, I realized freedom is much more than this.
Freedom, for human trafficking survivors, is the ability to wake up in the morning and not feel shame when they look at themselves in the mirror, but instead see a person who is ready to emerge confidently into the workforce. Freedom is having someone look at them and know they are capable and worthy of more than $90 (which is the average price of a slave in today’s economy according to statistics.) But sadly, for many survivors of Human trafficking, this isn’t the freedom they find. The freedom they walk into isn’t as inviting, understanding, or willing to accept them. This cycle is created and exploitation can begin to feel familiar, which can make it easy to find one’s self back in a position of slavery.
With all of this being considered, we need to be diligent in understanding the walk a person starts after they escape exploitation. Many people don’t know where they fit in this scenario. For most, donations are the way they support victims of abuse. Self-esteem, confidence, and mental health, aren’t necessarily attributes that can be addressed with monetary value. They have to be instilled in a person and that takes time and commitment.
This is where companies like AnnieCannons fit into the puzzle and equip people like you and me with the ability to bridge the gap. AnnieCannons is a San Francisco based company “devoted to innovation through collaboration, especially collaboration with the underappreciated.” The company was named after Annie Jump Cannon. Annie worked at the Harvard Observatory alongside a group of 20 women in the early 1900’s. Most of these women’s names are unknown, even though they categorized stars, discovered their elemental composition, and came up with ways to measure the distance between galaxies. A thesis originating from this powerhouse of women can be found in most astronomy textbooks to this day as a core base for certain astronomy ideologies. Much like Annie Cannon and the twenty women devoted to this study of space, human trafficking victims are often forgotten.
The unique approach AnnieCannon takes to aiding human trafficking survivors has a significant impact on the lives of many because of the long term and lasting employment opportunities it provides. The company’s ability to train and create income opportunities simultaneously is something that sets them apart in a very proactive way. Anniecannon reports that while there are many other organization increasing awareness of human trafficking, less than half of residential programs also aid in job placement for victims. Programs that do, usually place victims in a job with crippling wages which makes it almost impossible for a survivor to have long term economic success or grow in their field. This sadly is part of the dangerous cycle which more often than not leads a person down a road of exploitation for a second time or something else, like substance abuse.
AnnieCannon realizes that a vital part in breaking the cycle of human trafficking starts with aiding victims of abuse with something they can be proud of- something that no one can ever take away from them- skill. According to the organization, “Economic power is the key to breaking the cycle of exploitation among vulnerable communities. At AnnieCannons, we transform survivors of human trafficking into software professionals through a holistic program that trains and equips survivors to independently support themselves and their families.”
How YOU can help:
- Outsource your data, testing, and development work to graduates of the program.
- If you have training in this field to review code, give guest lectures or mentor current students.
- Donations are also appreciated as AnnieCannons is working hard toward their goal to be 100% self-funded by 2021.
Freedom is not black and white. The finish line is not always on the other side of the door and the many moving parts require people like you and me to get involved. Don’t back away from the challenge to find new ways to extend healthy living and reconciliation to people everywhere. Join the movement to end human trafficking.
Visit AnnieCannons.com to learn more!
Thanks for reading and learning with me!
- Sara Porter