As an English major, I have always been fascinated with words. With the weight they carry. With the influence they have. Time and time again, in my Duke experience, I have seen how the language I use has the power to help or hurt.
The department I work with at A21, Supporter Engagement, spends a lot of time carefully crafting and thinking about the content that gets sent out to supporters. After all, we are an international NGO operating in 12 countries, partnering with people and organizations all over the world. We want our correspondence with supporters and potential supporters to be clear, simple and effective. There have been numerous times my supervisor has asked me to draft an email or letter to be sent out to supporters. Each time, we meet and make what feels like a lot of changes. I was discouraged initially but I have grown to understand how invaluable the language we use is. We want to accurately represent our organization, not adding nor subtracting anything from the work we do. We want to empower survivors of human trafficking, not victims. We want to operate within the mindset of hope, not hopelessness. We want to speak about helping restore individuals, not rescuing people who often are the ones who bravely escape their traffickers themselves. We have to understand how “human trafficking” is legally defined differently in different places. We have supporters and partners, not donors. They are more than just their monetary donations to us. They are the lifeblood of our organization and our friends in the fight to abolish slavery everywhere, forever. Additionally, we are up against organized crime; human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world generating more than $150 billion USD every year. Thus, we want a smart, powerful and unified presence. Our language matters and it matters in a big way.
It is such a special time to be at A21. We spent the first month of our summer celebrating their 10-year anniversary, launching their 10-year film and discussing the dreams and visions we all have for the next 10 years. I got to help with transcribing our film so that it could be translated into different languages—it was so cool to see the final product in Dutch, German, and Greek, just to name a few. A21 has had so much growth in the past 10 years and has come alongside numerous human trafficking survivors in their journeys of healing, restoration and independence. We have started working in new countries in 2018, including Spain and Cambodia. Just this month, our team entered into a collaboration with the Mexican government and other local NGOs, as well as the Anti-Human Trafficking Hotline there in the hopes of reaching hundreds of thousands who are at-risk of exploitation and bring a strong opposition against traffickers. Every day I walk into the office, I can feel the energy and movement each person brings. Yet I know A21 wants the next 10 years to be even better because there are still 40 million slaves in the world today. There is much work to be done.
Follow this link if you want to watch the 10-Year Film!