GEF: On Enactus

This semester has been a whirlwind of long days in class and even longer nights studying (and procrastinating while watching the Office), and on many occasions I felt as if I could nap for 3 days straight. However, Enactus has been an excellent source of energy and motivation throughout the entirety of this semester.

As the Project Hope Lead, I have had far more responsibility in the organization this year, and have been busy planning for the future of both Enactus and Project Hope. This semester, Enactus has been focusing on recruitment and marketing to the OU student body in order to reach all corners of the campus, and diversify our organization to include representatives from all backgrounds and majors. In doing so, we hope to gain insightful perspectives on each of our three projects.

In past years, Project Hope has partnered with No Boundaries International — a local anti-trafficking non-profit — to aid in the fight to end modern day slavery on both a local and a global level. In the past we have hosted art galas and anti-trafficking conferences to help raise money and awareness on the issue.

However, this semester I chose to steer the project in a different direction. As I continue to learn about the issue of human trafficking in our society, it has become increasingly apparent to me that the problem of human trafficking overlaps with many of societies other problems as well: Gender equality, equal access to education, and affordable health care, just to name a few.

For this reason, Project Hope will be taking more preventative actions to assist in ending human trafficking this year, and in the years to come.

It is no secret that the Oklahoma Public Education system is failing under our current state government official’s leadership; for that reason, Project Hope has chosen to partner with Educators from around the state to host a Facebook live event (and corresponding GoFundMe) to give teachers a state-wide platform to explain the many problems that they are facing due to state budget cuts to education, and to inform Oklahomans on how we can support them as they continue to pour into the lives of our children.

Although this does not appear at first glance to relate directly to modern day slavery, the two issues are far more connected than one would expect. We hope that by raising the standard of education that is provided in this state, we will also shield our youth from the threat of trafficking and enable them to learn more about the issue in a safe and productive environment.

In addition, Project Hope is also in the beginning stages of creating an educational curriculum about the issue of human trafficking that will incorporate perspectives on the issue from various fields. We hope to begin distributing this curriculum in the Fall of 2017.

One Down, Three To Go

Anyone who has been following along with this blog should know by now that I am passionate about ending modern forms of slavery. Regardless, for anyone who is just now tuning in — let me catch you up to speed. I came into my freshman year at OU knowing all of the facts about human trafficking: I could easily tell you how many people were being affected, how victims were initially trafficked, where trafficking typically took place, etc.  Perhaps what I knew the most about was why human trafficking is such a seemingly unstoppable system of violence and injustice. However, the one thing that I didn’t know how to do was join the fight.

Sure, I participated in social media movements like #TheEndItMovement and I bought all of the t-shirts and necklaces that donated proceeds to non-profits dedicated to eradicating slavery. I even became involved in an especially large anti-trafficking organization and planned to intern at their Florida office while in law school. Each of these was a great opportunity for me to become more involved and make global connections in the world of anti-trafficking, but I was still left feeling like I wasn’t making any real, sustainable impact.

During my first two weeks at OU, I tried to find organizations involved with anti-trafficking, but I had no luck and eventually gave up the search. However, about a month later, I happened upon an article about Dr. Kevin Bales (an OU alumni and the founder of Free The Slaves) and a course he taught on modern day slavery at the University of Oklahoma in 2014. After a little bit of searching, I was able to track down his email address and, knowing that I probably wouldn’t get a response, decided to shoot him an email asking about how I could get involved with anti-trafficking at OU. Much to my surprise, he responded within an hour, giving me the contact information for a senior at OU named Lucy Mahaffey.

After I got over my initial shock, I emailed Lucy and we ended up meeting for lunch at Chipotle. After hearing about all of the amazing things that she had done to fight slavery, I immediately knew that I was completely out of my league. Still, when she asked if I would be interested in co-planning Off the Market (a symposium on slavery and what we can do to end it), I was thrilled and agreed immediately. After months of planning, the day of Off the Market finally arrived on March 4th and, despite a broken down car and a miscommunication with one of our speakers, it went off without a hitch! Now, Off the Market is a registered student organization at OU with over 60 students who have expressed interest in joining next year.

Not long after meeting Lucy, I was introduced to the OU organization ENACTUS. I was initially hesitant to join ENACTUS because it is focused primarily on business endeavors and, as an International Studies/Anthropology major, it didn’t really sound like my thing. But, after hearing about ENACTUS’s involvement with No Boundaries International (a local anti-trafficking non-profit organization) I quickly reconsidered and applied to be a member of ENACTUS’s anti-trafficking project: Hope. This year, Project Hope put on an Art Gala called Shining Hope in which 50% of all proceeds were donated to No Boundaries. Since the current Project Hope Lead, Kes, will be studying abroad next year, I decided to apply for the position for next year. After a long process of applications and interviews, I was eventually nominated to fill the position, and I am ecstatic to begin planning for next school year.

I was also recently chosen to be a part of OU’s Global Engagement Fellowship’s Event Planning committee. Although, we have not yet planned very many events for the GEF Community, I am very excited to begin planning more fun things for GEF’s to do during next school year. I am amazed at the many opportunities that I have been presented with, and all that I have been able to achieve this past year, and look forward to continuing my involvement at OU as I furture my education.

To whatever end,
LK