I'm traveling to Southeast Asia.

When I received the email earlier this year inviting me to join a small group traveling to Southeast Asia to learn about human trafficking, I did what any sane person would do: I slammed my laptop shut and pretended I didn't read what I had just read.

Surely there had been a mistake. 

After all, I'm not the type of person that goes on these trips. I have no personal connection to Asia, but I also don't exactly need to be shocked out of my American complacency - I grew up in the Caribbean, and while I'm sure the problem of human trafficking is very different in Southeast Asia than it is in the Americas (or is it?), I lived uncomfortably close enough to it. Most of us know how big of a problem, how tragic, how hopeless and heartbreaking in scope it is. What can a small group do in the face of such a big problem?

And then there was the obvious, nagging question: Why me?

The first step was to learn more about the organization inviting me, The Exodus Road

Image courtesy of The exodus road

Image courtesy of The exodus road

Here is what The Exodus Road Believes:

  • slavery will not thrive on our watch,
  • justice is in the hands of the ordinary,
  • each victim is worth fighting for and honoring,
  • collaboration is key to effectiveness,
  • nationals are the greatest assets in their own communities,
  • that finding and freeing slaves demands both courage and resources,
  • civil society can make an impact on modern slavery,
  • in the great value of prevention and after care initiatives,
  • big-picture strategy and organizational transparency are key, and
  • our communications should honestly bring donors to the front lines.

I got on Skype to talk with Laura Parker, who founded The Exodus Road with her husband Matt. Laura was open and realistic about the work that they do. She put me at ease by answering my questions simply and honestly. We talked about the ambitious scope of the work and the small size of their organization. About the fact that human trafficking happens right here in the USA, and what they are doing about it. Of course, we talked about Southeast Asia: The beauty of the cultures within, the unique challenges faced there, what they've learned as they empower nationals to work within the systems they live in. 

So, why me? 

Like you, I'm busy. I have small children, work, and no time to waste; I wasn't thinking about modern day slavery when that email popped up in my inbox. I wasn't sure what good traveling halfway around the world to witness this would do if I had seen some of it first hand growing up. It took me a long time to say yes.

I still don't know the full story behind why I was invited, but I know why I accepted. I have a voice now - and I have been given the opportunity to use this voice to share the stories of a few men, women and children who don't have the freedom to do so. It's as simple as that. I hope you will join us as we learn about human trafficking.

I still don't know what we'll witness when I get to Asia. But I will share it with you.

You can follow our group at this link and via the hashtags #theexodusroad and #TERstorytellers

My word for 2016

This is the fifth year in a row that I've chosen a word for the year - I can't believe that I've stuck with it for so long, but it definitely helps me much more than a crazy list of resolutions.  I'm all for resolutions, IN THEORY, but in practice I just make convoluted plans that are just made to be broken. 

So instead I choose one word to focus on. Here are my words so far:

2012: More

2013: Simplify

2014: Me

2015: Real

My word for 2016 came to me quite easily - it's "delight."

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delight

noun  de·light  \di-ˈlīt, dē-\

Simple Definition of delight

: a strong feeling of happiness : great pleasure or satisfaction

: something that makes you very happy : something that gives you great pleasure or satisfaction

Full Definition of delight

1:  a high degree of gratification :  joy; also :  extreme satisfaction

2:  something that gives great pleasure 

3:  archaic :  the power of affording pleasure

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Isn't it great? I'm quite in love with it. Here's to a 2016 full of delights for all of us. 


2015

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It's hard to sum up 2015 - in some ways it was hard, and it others it was great - but honestly, what year isn't? 

In honor of 2015, I thought I'd share some highlights:  

  • I somehow, magically, managed to keep a diary. Not on here (obviously) but on my phone. I used an app, and I forced myself to save a photo or write a line or something to commemorate the day. And I did it every day. Turns out that convenience makes it more likely for me to do things. Huh. 
  • I love my work. I love the people I work with. I remembered that I'm actually good at it and that feels so damn good. I'm sorry this is braggy, but after metaphorically dimming my light jumping back in intellectually was refreshing, bruised egos be damned. I wish I was good at saving the world, but we each exercise our talents where we can. I can't fix you, but I can help you want things you don't need in ways you don't know you need them. 
  • I managed to hate the snow and ice even more than I ever thought was possible. I've managed to impress myself because I did not think it could be done, but I did it. Last winter in Boston nearly killed me.
  • Last year's word was Real. And 2015 was definitely real. This was such a good thing. I'm definitely choosing a 2016 word, just not today. Today I'll just chill and let 2015 go out gently. 

I hope you had a wonderful year - with all the messiness and love and good and bad that life entails.