An Interview with Lucy McCray
As you probably know, Lucy McCray has accepted the position of CEO of The Freedom Story. Though some of you may have already met her, you might not know what an incredible life story she has. We’d love to give you the chance to get to know her better. Here’s an interview with her, so you can find out more about Lucy!
TFS: Hi Lucy, welcome to the blog! Let’s jump right in and get started with where you’re from. Can you tell our community a bit about where you grew up and where you’ve been?
LM: Hi, thanks for having me! I grew up moving a lot – mostly between the US and the UK, although I did spend a bit of time in Malaysia and the UAE when I was very young. When I lived in the US, I lived near DC in Northern Virginia. In the UK, I’ve lived mostly in and around London, and I spent four years studying in Edinburgh, in Scotland. I’ve been living in Thailand for over seven years now, and I continue to love it!
TFS: That’s amazing that you’ve been able to live in and see so many places. What brought you to Thailand, and eventually to TFS?
LM: After I finished my Master’s in International Development, I wanted to get real-world experience working in NGOs internationally. I moved to Chiang Mai and worked there for a few years with International Justice Mission (IJM). I really enjoyed my experience working alongside nationals to address issues in-country, and I loved Thailand. However, I began to wonder if some of the issues we were addressing could be prevented through more holistic work. Around the time my contract with IJM was ending, TFS was hiring for an International Liaison position. I interviewed with Rachel and we connected over our mutual passions for ethical storytelling and supporting national leaders. I joined the team in Chiang Rai about a month later.
TFS: We’re very glad your path lead you to us! Not only did you bring a lot to the table in terms of what you’ve been able to accomplish with our data collection and grant applications, but something others might not realize is just how remarkable it is that you’ve become basically fluent in Thai in a very short amount of time. It all feeds into your strengths as a leader. Can you talk a bit about the transition to the role of CEO?
LM: When Rachel said she was stepping down from the CEO role, I had been with TFS for five years. During that time, I had grown a great deal, and the organization had grown as well. I knew that I had a unique opportunity as someone intimately familiar with our work in Thailand, but with US roots and connections to our supporters in the States. I am so passionate about what we do – I know the students we work alongside, and I care about each of them. I have also had the chance to get to know many of our supporters and advocates in the US and elsewhere, and I love that my new role allows me to bridge the gap and connect the two worlds.
TFS: Your direct experience on the ground provides an opportunity to get to know the situation really intimately. What do you see right now as the most pressing issues for the anti-trafficking field and the wider community to try to face?
LM: COVID has had a huge impact on the anti-trafficking field and on individual vulnerability. We’ll be dealing with the ramifications of the pandemic for a long time, and we are only just starting to understand some of its impacts. In Northern Thailand, for example, we’ve seen new forms of trafficking come up as well as increased economic hardship. I also think working in partnerships will continue to be a challenge for the anti-trafficking community, but it is essential to the future of the movement.
TFS: You’re so right, partnerships are essential. What about for people outside the anti-trafficking community? What do you wish more people knew about trafficking, or vulnerability, or the field in general?
LM: Misinformation and misunderstanding about trafficking have grown a great deal in the last few years. Trafficking is very scary, and I believe that is that fear is what has driven a lot of this misinformation. Trafficking often doesn’t happen the way you see in movies like Taken – people kidnapped off the street. Instead, it more often occurs through putting trust in the wrong person, through being manipulated, through someone taking advantage of a relationship, a person’s lack of experience of the world, a person’s age, or a person’s desperation.
TFS: Yes, the challenges are real. What are you most excited for in the future?
LM: We are in a great spot right now with our team. We have the best and strongest team in Thailand that we’ve ever had. We are seeing huge changes in our students and families – we’re even seeing improvements in metrics that we’ve tracked for a long time. Things like graduation rates. We are also beginning to scale our work through partnerships, something we’ve talked about for a long time but that has only recently become a possibility through some very generous partners. While there are still many old challenges and many new challenges, I am very excited about the future.
TFS: That’s really great, Lucy. And as you know, we’re all about self-care! What do you like to do in your free time? How do you relax?
LM: I love exercising, spending time with my Thai street dog, Luna, reading, and traveling! If anyone has book or travel destination recommendations, I’ll take them!
TFS: Luna is certifiably adorable. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
LM: I am squarely an ambivert. I love people and meaningful conversations, but I also thrive with alone time.
TFS: All right, one final question to wrap it up! What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve ever learned?
LM: Growing up my parents always told me that education was the one thing people could not take away from you. I’ve had the incredible privilege of studying things I enjoy and find interesting, and those things have shaped how I think and have impacted my career. I still believe in the value of education in all forms, and that is why I really love what we do at TFS!
Thank you, Lucy! We’re so excited and grateful to have you at the helm! And thank you to our community, we hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction and opportunity to get to know her!