By Nelli Agbulos, guest blogger.
Nothing in my life has ever been properly planned.
I first became interested in anti-trafficking initiatives in my senior year of high school, when I wrote my first MLA research paper on street prostitution. The research I conducted on that paper led me to discover the connections and differences between street prostitution and human trafficking, particularly how prostitutes who became trafficked were unjustly treated by the law. I was saddened by what I had read, but also fired up to do something to help. From then on, in my spare time, I read reports on human trafficking from non-profit organizations and government agencies. I didn’t realize what I was doing would eventually become a major part of my life.
First year of university arrived and I’m caught in the excitement of frosh week and all things freshmen related. For one of my political science classes, I did a semester project on how street prostitution and sex trafficking were connected in Germany. Germany was the most random country I could have picked, and one that caused the most difficulty in researching information. I remember spending more hours on that semester project than my other school work. But that experience taught me to exhibit patience while researching, to think creatively in terms of problem solving, and to always go the extra mile. After all, human trafficking is a multi-faceted problem that doesn’t have the traditional “one size fits all” solution. It’s an issue that needs to come to light so it can be properly discussed and advocated for, particularly in terms of the gender construction placed upon by society. Since female sex trafficking is the most advocated type of human trafficking, it’s easy to forget about the 5% of male sex trafficking victims who are affected but rarely regarded.
The process for my involvement with anti-trafficking initiatives came about gradually, and it was the most unexpected thing that ever happened to me. I went through this serious phase thinking I was going to university as an art major, but a random (but life-changing) moment made me want to double major in Political Science and Women’s Gender Studies. This past spring semester, I collaborated with my school’s Community Center of Action and Research on a “Take Action! To End Human Trafficking” petition post card event for the International Justice Mission – and that started with a random tweet I sent them. I also conducted my first flyering event where I posted flyers around school in some of the common and unconventional places you could think of. I wouldn’t have done the flyering event if it wasn’t part of the final project for one of my classes, but still – this was again something that had happened by chance.
There were moments where I almost lost faith in what I was doing and even questioned why I was doing these things. When I volunteered at the “Take Action! To End Human Trafficking” petition event, I had a guy walk up to me and say “I really don’t care. Human trafficking doesn’t affect me at all.” I launched into an explanation of why it did matter, but he walked away from me without even letting me finish. Besides that being a completely rude gesture, this guy infuriated me to the point that in a weird way, he motivated me even more to stay involved in what I believed in. I have to thank that guy for his thoughtless comment since it served as a reminder to me as to why I choose to advocate for anti-trafficking initiatives – to fight injustice and to empower survivors to become involved in their fight for freedom.
I wasn’t joking when I said nothing in my life has ever been properly planned. I didn’t even introduce myself at the beginning of this post. The name’s Nelli, and I’m a blogger at The Anti-Trafficking Independence Project. Anti-trafficking initiatives set my heart on my fire and fuel my desire to work in the non-profit world and fight for justice. I have no idea how I’m going to make it there, but I’ll find a way. I just need to stay calm and keep faith. I also think of this quote from one of my favorite high school teachers whenever I get discouraged:
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11