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When I am overwhelmed, I remember the words of Wangari Maathai, environmental and political activist. Maathai tells the story of the hummingbird who, when faced with a massive forest fire, carries small drops of water in its beak to extinguish it. The other animals stand by discouragingly, saying that the fire is too big and can’t be put out. The hummingbird pauses for a moment and says, “I am doing the best I can.” Maathai says, “I will be a hummingbird,” and like her, I too will be a hummingbird. In my fight against human trafficking, I learned that my effort may be small, but it is still important.
Freshman year, when I heard the fact that there are approximately 27 million people enslaved today, I knew I had to do something about it. This led me to join the club Students Against Modern Slavery (SAMS) where I learned about trafficking in the chocolate industry, the sex trafficking of youth, and that modern day slavery exists all around us.
I joined the SAMS leadership team my sophomore year. We made a goal to educate our school community about trafficking and how to combat it. Since then, every other Tuesday I stand in front of the few members who consistently come and present the activity for the day. I work to inspire our members to believe that they have the power to make a difference in the face of human trafficking.
When it came time to choose a topic for my Senior Service Learning Project, I knew I wanted to expand my education about human trafficking to my greater community because many don’t realize it’s happening in their own backyards. Thus, the Hummingbird Project: Human Trafficking, a video portfolio featuring filmed interviews of Bay Area anti-trafficking advocates, was born.
My partner Caroline and I decided that each video would have a theme designed to bring a certain aspect of human trafficking to light. The first video I edited was “What is One Thing Every Person Should Know About Human Trafficking.” After I finished pulling clips from each advocate, rearranging, and adding music, I sat back to review my hard work. As the video began, my heart started pounding in my chest. At its close, I thought to myself, “If I can inspire half of the emotion I created in myself, I’ve got something special.”
Once all of the videos are completed, Caroline and I will be presenting our project to youth ministers at the pre-Catholic Faith Formation Conference. We hope the youth ministers will teach what they learn in our session to their students back home. Additionally, we will also be posting our videos on our website and on YouTube and spreading the links through social media, newsletters, and word of mouth. Our goal is for people to use our videos to enhance human trafficking lessons or watch them individually to learn basic information about trafficking. You can’t fight a problem if people don’t know it exists, so I hope that through my advocacy work I can make more people aware that human trafficking exists today.
This project makes my high school career feel like it’s coming to a full circle. I became aware of human trafficking, educated myself, educated others, and now I’m working to bring awareness to my larger community. But I know this cycle isn’t over. I will continue to fight human trafficking even after I leave my high school. I cannot live with the knowledge that I know human trafficking exists and so many in my community have no idea. I cannot live with the knowledge that people are being manipulated and sold as objects. I will live with the knowledge that I have the power to make a difference. My effort may be small, but it is still important. I too will be a hummingbird.
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