Tuesday, September 27, 2011

527 Counter Trafficking Seminar

Last weekend, I successfully organized and held my 527 Counter Trafficking Seminar in downtown Kharkiv. I worked with my friend Natalia who works for the Kharkiv Red Cross office and as the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program Eastern Ukraine Alumni Coordinator to make this seminar happen. I had almost forgotten how much I love organizing events, this was my first seminar that I've run since I worked with the Georgia Tech Women's Leadership Conference over a year ago. Completing projects like these are what really make me feel like I'm having an impact and making a difference in peoples' lives here as a Peace Corps Volunteer :)
Natalia and I by the Red Cross banner.
What is 527, you may be asking? 527 is the Counter-trafficking and Migrant Advice Hotline developed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Mission in Ukraine. The hotline is advertised in all counter-trafficking information campaigns as a helpline providing advice and assistance to victims of trafficking or risk groups. Additionally, it is advertised in information campaigns targeting potential migrants as a helpline which provides information on the current realities and dangers facing Ukrainian migrants abroad, including human trafficking and the consequences of irregular entry and stay in foreign countries. By calling the hotline, Ukrainians can:
  • Be provided with information about how to travel, work, and study abroad safely and legally
  • Find out if the foreign employer offering work is a legitimate and legal source of employment
  • Know what legal, medical, psychological, and professional reintegration help is available to victims of trafficking through IOM and IOM Partner Organizations in Ukraine
 We had 17 participants attend our seminar, all with a very high level of English and therefore we were able to teach this entire seminar in English! 8 other Peace Corps Volunteers from Kharkiv Oblast were able to come and help teach, which was awesome. This made it a great networking opportunity for everyone who attended the seminar - we were able to meet active Ukrainian university students and English teachers, and they were able to meet and get to know us. 
Everyone at the end of the seminar, with our posters advertising 527.
The Ukrainian participants.
The Peace Corps Volunteers.
 We taught a basic overview of human trafficking and included some specific statistics related to the situation in Ukraine. The goal of this seminar was to increase awareness of human trafficking and educate our participants on how to protect themselves from becoming victims of human traffickers. As an icebreaker, we did a blindfolded trust run, where volunteers were asked to run in between two parallel lines of people. Afterwards, we talked about trust and why trust is important in life. We discussed how 57% of traffickers are women, because people are more likely to trust women rather then men.

Natalia running down the hallway.
Next, we asked the participants to guess whether a statement about human trafficking was true or false. They were asked to move to the right side of the room if they thought the statement was true, and to the left if they thought it was false. It was interesting to see both sides defend their views, especially when some of the statments contained statistics that were surprising to the participants. For example, one statement was that "Ukraine is a country of origin and transit – not destination – for trafficking in human beings." This statement is FALSE, because Ukraine is all 3: a country of origin, transit, and destination.
Everyone debating one of the true/false statements.
 We gave a general overview of the Who, What, Where, and How of human trafficking using the powerpoint slides provided by the Gender and Development Working Group of Peace Corps Ukraine. This covered where people are recruited by traffickers, how people may find job opportunities that are not legitimate, what jobs they are offered, who is most at-risk to be trafficked and how victims may escape. The participants were surprised to learn that many people become victims of trafficking when their own family or friends lead them to find opportunities that are not legitimate job or travel offers.
After the overview, the participants were asked to identify the different steps in the human trafficking process.
It was inspiring to see how our presentation impacted the participants - they were able to realize that human trafficking does not only involve women who want to become models and end up being trafficked into the sex industry - absolutely anyone who is interested in traveling or working abroad is also at risk for becoming trafficked. Many of them began to ask questions about how to tell if a job opportunity is legitimate or not, so we explained that there are different factors that contribute to a victim's helplessness (such as having their passport and official documents confiscated by the trafficker). We covered some tips on how to check if a company is legitimate and how to make sure that a job contract is real. To summarize the information covered in the seminar, we divided the participants into smaller groups and provided them with different tasks related to human trafficking. 

The participants then presented their posters to the class. The first group presented an overview of the human trafficking process. The second group brainstormed on how human trafficking can be fought on a personal, community and national level. The third group came up with reasons why people potentially become victims of human trafficking and why women seem to be more at risk than men.

Group 1.
Group 2.

Group 3.
 The last part of our seminar was the action component. To do this, we asked the participants to write information advertising the 527 hotline and about human trafficking on posters. We filmed a short public service announcement using these posters.. you can view our PSA on YouTube here! I apologize about the volume, the microphone on my little Canon PowerShot was clearly not meant for filming videos on busy streets. But we had fun filming the PSA and I hope that you enjoy it. Our video clips from Kharkiv will be submitted to the Gender and Development Working Group of Peace Corps Ukraine and they will compile a PSA with clips from everyone's 527 seminars from all over Ukraine to send to CNN later this fall!

Ed overseeing the poster-making.
Everyone and their posters (sorry its so far away, I wanted to show the scope of the Metalist stadium).
Everyone on the steps of the Sportivna Metro entrance.
We wrapped up the seminar by handing out certificates to all of the participants and giving them the resources to hold such trainings of their own on flash drives. I wish we had time to watch the MTV "Exit" video about human trafficking, but I was happy with all that we were able to accomplish in a short 4 hour seminar. And last but not least, here are the obligatory "funny" photos of the group :)

Showing off big "American" smiles.
Kharkiv Oblast PCVs rock!
More Info about the Counter-trafficking and Migrant Advice Hotline:
Dialing 527 is toll-free from Beeline, life :), Kyivstar and MTS mobile operators in Ukraine.
Dialing 0 800 505 501 is toll-free from landline phones in Ukraine (launched in 2006).


Post a Comment