buildOn’s students aren’t just engaging in volunteer projects where they serve soup to local homeless individuals or pick up trash. They’re learning about global social issues so they can see the bigger picture that they’re a part of. Often, we combine local outreach with global activism to help spread the word about obstacles faced by the developing nations where we build schools and beyond.
A few weekends ago, students from both buildOn and Girls, Inc., an organization working to empower girls through academic enrichment, skill building, and counseling, came together to discuss human trafficking on a local and global level. We began the day with a look at what CSEC (commercially sexually exploited children) means. Through interactive activities we discussed who these children/teens are, how they get involved, and why they stay involved.
Students told stories of how they have seen this problem in their own communities/schools. We then watched an emotional documentary called Very Young Girls which follows 13 and 14 year old girls from New York as they tell their own stories of how they were seduced, abused, and sold on New York streets by pimps, while being treated as adult criminals by police. The film showed with harsh realism not only how trafficking affects people in NYC, but also in Oakland — one of the major sex trafficking hubs in the US.
After the film, we looked at statistics on human trafficking at the global level and watched a short youtube clip showing the various forms trafficking takes worldwide. To close the day we had each of the students present make a pledge of how they would take action to combat human trafficking in their own lives. Students used the sidewalks of downtown Oakland as their canvas to spread awareness of the reality of human trafficking in today’s world.
Our students understand that service is a statement. By learning about these issues, they discover how the decision to help disadvantaged people everywhere can spread a message of hope. By fighting poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education, they fight atrocities like human trafficking as well.