As we open the New Year, we’ve asked our President, Rachel Goble, to share some thoughts with us reflecting on the past year and looking forward. We asked her a few questions and she graciously responded. Please join us in conversation as we continue to hold steadfast in our mission to end the trafficking of children!
JK: Rachel, would you mind sharing some thoughts with us about what turned out to be one important challenge for SOLD in 2015?
RG: When human trafficking was first defined [by the United Nation’s Palermo Protocol] in 2000, the U.N. identified a problem that was not new but instead was growing so rapidly that governments were compelled to acknowledge its presence and they committed themselves to working together to achieve not only a definition, but to begin adopting laws that could protect victims and prosecute perpetrators. Over the last 15 years we have seen the definition expand: from only sex trafficking and labor trafficking to also include other forms of trafficking such as child soldiers, child brides, organ trafficking, and much more. Although we have recognized that trafficking has increased, research on how to effectively combat (and prevent) the problem has not grown comcomitant with the demand. Many organizations are still reacting instead of being proactive, both due to the intensity of the problem as well as the lack of funding going towards research. Today, in the anti-trafficking community, the importance of research is at the forefront of our minds.
In early 2015, The SOLD Project recognized that as one of the few trafficking prevention organizations, we have a responsibility to begin utilizing our data from students, programs, and community to better understand and share with the public what effective prevention of child trafficking and exploitation looks like. This is quite the challenge, considering that we work to prevent what we hope to never see. In other words, our work’s purpose is to ensure that we never know how many of our students would have been exploited had it not been for our programs. You can see, then, how prevention is difficult to quantify. But, we believe that it is possible.
We pulled together some excellent researchers with varied backgrounds and a variety of research expertise as well to help define and measure our efforts. The project, which we estimated to be a six month research project, is still ongoing as we continued to learn from our own programs what other data we should be collecting and questions we should be asking. We are incredibly grateful to End Crowd for funding this project and look forward to sharing its results in 2016.
JK: What do you think was an important achievement for SOLD in the past year?
RG: Our achievements vary from the personal to the organizational (which, of course, cannot be mutually exclusive!). To share just one would be difficult, so instead I’ll share two highlights from the year. First would be seeing our program go full circle by sponsoring a young man who went from being undocumented, poor, and yet full of dreams and intelligence to hiring that same young man to join our team when he graduated with his law degree. He now works with SOLD providing legal advice to our students while focusing on our constituents who do not have citizenship rights.
A second highlight of the year was seeing our dreams of expansion come to fruition. Many years ago our leadership team began to brainstorm what it would look like to expand our Resource Center model, which is a place that provides mentorship, educational opportunities, tutoring, awareness, and much more to our students. As our student population has continued to grow over the years, many of our once ‘young’ students have grown up and gone on to High School and University. Our mission has always been to grow deep and not wide, and we knew that to continue the depth of relationship required in prevention we would need to grow our Resource Centers to be present in the areas our students were attending school. Since higher education is not in the villages, but in the cities, we knew that our second location would need to be in Chiang Rai City. We are thrilled that in 2015 we not only secured a building and hired two new staff for this expansion, but that our end of year fundraising efforts through One Day’s Wages has fully funded the project for 2016.
JK: And what is one big hope you have for 2016?
RG: Our theme for our 2015 recap staff meeting was moving from what we ‘wonder’ to what we ‘know’. This theme allowed us to explore what we wonder to be true about prevention and create a roadmap to move towards knowing what is effective. This was incredibly beneficial as we engaged our staff who are on the ground daily and able to engage in the nuances of prevention for children at risk. In 2016, my hope is that as we begin to ‘know’ instead of ‘wonder’ we will not only collect narratives and data that provide reliable content for the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) or prevention and inspire other organizations to engage in prevention efforts for children at risk around the world.
Thank you so much for your time, Rachel, and for sharing your insights with us!