Wow! I have been at Stanford for over seven weeks now and only have two more weeks of class before Thanksgiving. Time flies at this school. Every week without fail I look back and think “where did time go?”
These past two months I have had the opportunity to do so many things to further pursue my passions. Stanford started an initiative last year to really focus on the issue of human trafficking, and the lecture series and research initiative have continued this Fall.
From Dark Networks to Dark Markets: Applying Intelligence Principles to Human Trafficking Networks
This lecture examined human trafficking from a perspective I had never used before. The lecturer, a political scientist, explained how the trafficking network works and how we can use our own form of networking to fight it. As someone who barely knows anything about computer science or coding, I found his discussion on how coding can be used to fight the networks of human trafficking fascinating. Companies like Palintir are starting to use CS to fight crime and the results are incredible.
IJM Benefit Dinner – San Fransisco
Thanks to an incredible family that supports Cardinal Life, my Christian fellowship on campus, a group of us were able to go to this dinner put on by the International Justice Mission. We heard a general overview of the organization from Gary Haugen, the CEO of IJM, and then more specific details on their work from Saju Mathew, the director of operations in South Asia. The stories of the work they do blew me away and reignited my dream to work for them.
Documentary: Opium Brides
Each year the United Nations puts on an international film festival in Palo Alto. This year’s focus was Human Dignity, and I went to go see one of the movies with my roommate. It focused on “opium brides” – young girls in Afghanistan who are sold to repay the debt their parents accumulate when the government slashes their opium crop and they have no way to repay the drug traffickers. The movie was somewhat horrifying because it showed the brutal realities these families face. I had no knowledge of the issue beforehand and am glad I went to see the film.
Panel Discussion about Proposition 35 (the CASE Act) on human trafficking in California
Next I went to this panel discussion on this proposition that will be on the California ballot in November. The proposal is called Californians Against Sexual Exploitation and in the last month there has been a lot of controversy over the consequences it will have once put into place. At this event we got to here both sides of the argument from representatives of the police department, lawters, social workers, and Daphne Phung, the author of the proposition. In all honesty, I still don’t know what I would vote. As a 17 year old though I don’t have to! I think it will pass because so far the people I have talked to who have not read it, and who don’t fully understand the issue, are all going to vote for it because “obviously we’re not in favor of sexual exploitation.” I don’t know how bad the consequences would be. I don’t fully understand the proposition system either – it seems sort of non-professional to me. I’m just going all european and maintaining that the government can probably write laws better than we can!
Religious Perspectives on the Death Penalty
This event included two religious figures, one from a Catholic and one from a Jewish background. They addressed the current debate around the death penalty, then focused on religious reasons to oppose it. I thought the details they gave were fascinating. I had no idea that the majority of evangelical Christians support it, including large church organizations all over the US. Again, my european bias steps in and makes me wonder what on earth people see in the death penalty. In California alone, the government would save one billion dollars over the next 5 years if the death penalty was eliminated. We also discussed arguments against it from a religious perspective such as the story in John 8 of the women caught in adultery. Though according to Jewish law she should have been stoned to death, Jesus offers her forgiveness and tells the crowd that whoever is innocent should throw the first stone. The old testament clearly endorses the death penalty, but we no longer live under OT law but under the grace of Jesus. I believe that only God has the authority to determine whether someone lives or dies and thus the death penalty is unjustifiable.
Health, Human Rights and Why We Should Care
This seminar lasted all day but I only had the chance to go to two lectures: Access to Health in Africa, and The Right to Health in India. Both were extremely informative and discussed individually designed projects that were very inspiring. One grad student discussed his work in South Africa, where he had implemented a program to teach people basic first aid skills. I was especially impressed with the way he measured the program’s lasting success, because that seems to be one of the hardest aspects of human rights work.
Not For Sale’s Global Forum
Last but certainly not least: this past Thursday and Friday I had the chance to volunteer at Not For Sale‘s global forum on human trafficking. It was incredible. The greatest thing in life is to be surrounded by people who share your passion, faith and hope for the future, and I got to experience that for two full days. I came back literally glowing I felt so on fire for God and for working to fight human trafficking and global injustice. I really enjoyed my job – I was stationed at the International Projects station, and my work consisted of talking to everyone who walked by about their involvement in the battle against modern day slavery and convincing people to become partners of the organization. Due to the layout of the conference room, I was right by the main stage and got to hear a lot of the fabulous speakers. The interactive nature of the forum also meant I got to talk to lawyers, non-profit workers and social workers who share my passion for fighting human trafficking. It was so encouraging to hear the work that is currently being done – but also see that there is a real need for the work I want to do.
There were two interactions I had that especially impacted me. I got to speak to the directer of Passion, a Christian conference where college students from all over the world come together to worship and commit to serving God. Next week he’s visiting IJM’s headquarters in South Asia, and he said, “When I tell them that there’s this girl named Nicolle from Vienna, studying at Stanford so that she can come work with them, they are going to be so excited.” Sometimes actually working as a lawyer, directly combatting human trafficking seems so far off. I still have so many years of school, and so many people want to work for IJM that at times I wonder if I will actually ever get a job with them. But when he said that I just thought “Wow. I’m actually going to do this.” The other was a conversation I had with John Richmond, a prosecutor who works with the U.S. Department of Justice to fight human trafficking in America. He loves his job. How many lawyers do you meet like that? He told me that one of the most important things he believes people can do to be effective at fighting for global justice is to get the best education they can. He said that what we need now is not compassion for victims of human trafficking, but educated people who will use their resources to fight for them. This revamped my motivation and reminded me that even though I still have years of school ahead of me, there is a greater purpose for everything I do here.