Summar Ghias, IOFA Program Development Intern
As a travel journalist, I had once enjoyed writing abridged tourist-friendly blurbs on the latest vacation hot spots. This type of surface examination had still managed to cater to the anthropologist in me; my research would most often unintentionally shed light on the many social and cultural nuances that are inherent to distinct locales and the societies that make them up. Three years out of college, and I knew it wasn’t enough. I thought back to the narrative journalism class that had led me to Andrea, a Guatemalan refugee who had been granted asylum, but who had endured horrific circumstances while being smuggled into the United States.
Her story was a powerful look at the ways in which violence can uproot the lives of families across the world. But what struck me most was the sexual violence her peers had gone through as a form of “entry” into the country by coyotes in the trade – something Andrea had avoided by handing over the only money she had brought with her. I decided my time as a magazine journalist was limited. I would actively pursue avenues to helping young women and girls, not simply write about the places in which they lived. Now a year into my graduate education at the Social Service Administration at University of Chicago, I find myself committed to doing just that.
As a participant in Heartland International’s summer exchange program for emerging grassroots leaders, I helped create joint projects with local participants in Nicaragua and Belize, initiating dialogue on human trafficking and assessing gaps in social services particular to each country. It is with this experience that I’m committed to helping eradicate human trafficking from the world’s vocabulary at large. I’m thrilled to be a program development intern at the International Organization for Adolescents, where I’ll be working with local and national anti-trafficking efforts in collaboration with the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force team and on outreach and awareness raising on the subject. Let the journey begin!