Thursday, October 11, 2012

Traffic Jam: Stop Human Trafficking!

Last weekend, I worked with a few Ukrainian friends to organize a counter human trafficking project called "Traffic Jam". The 3 Ukrainian organizers - Alla, Platon and Vova are students who participated in Camp CACTUS last summer - a leadership camp in Ternopil, focused on organizing community and social development projects. They did most of the work planning the project such as recruiting participants, making the seminar schedule, and all I did was help them find trainers and a place to hold the seminar. We organized a 2-day seminar as a training of trainers about human trafficking at the American Center in downtown Kharkiv.

Traffic Jam Seminar participants and organizers!
The group of 3 students was granted a mini-grant from CACTUS to fund the seminar. CACTUS is a camp organized by Peace Corps Volunteers but it is also funded in part by FLEX grants - my friend Roma wrote a grant last year, and he was granted funding for the camp. FLEX stands for Future Leaders Exchange, and its a very well-known program here because they offer full scholarships to 9th-11th grade Ukrainian students to study in America for 1 school year.

We started the seminar with this self-assessment exercise: "my opinion about the topic counter human trafficking", and we were excited to see that most of our participants were interested and wanted to know more about the topic.
We played "Lions and Trees", an American-style icebreaker where people basically just run away crazily from lions and toward trees. 
Our first trainer was a lady from the Kharkiv ministry of human rights and human trafficking. She gave a very long and thorough presentation in Ukrainian. I'm only pointing that fact out (that she spoke Ukrainian) because most people speak pretty clean Russian in Kharkiv. Kharkiv is very close to the Russian border and a lot of people who live in Kharkiv either have Russian roots or travel frequently to Russia.
After some technical difficulties, we finally got the projector to work. 
The participants divided into groups to brainstorm how human trafficking affects peoples lives - not just the lives of victims but their families and others as well.
The second trainer that we had was a former police officer. It was interesting to hear his point of view, from someone who has experience with trying to catch traffickers and other criminals. He also asked me to compare the American justice system with the Ukrainian system - like how our police can ask someone to wear a wire and secretly record conversations, which hold up in court as evidence. Apparently this isn't legal in Ukraine, and he thought that our system worked much more effectively than Ukraine's. However, the conversation started to get over my level of Russian knowledge (since these are specific legal and police terms that I didn't know) and it got heated really fast when he made some statements that contradicted with our participants point of view and they were shocked.

The third trainer that we had was phenomenal... his name was Ivan Budko and he was a charismatic and enthusiastic young man who came to train our participants on public speaking. His training was by far the best training that I've ever seen done by a Ukrainian - it was super professional and yet active and engaging with the communicative method.  This topic is unusual for professional development in Ukraine, even though its become almost an expected topic at American professional development seminars. Just like Americans, many Ukrainians are terrified of giving public speeches. Not very many of our participants had experience with public speaking, and I think that they learned a lot of techniques from our trainer like how to relax before giving a presentation, preparing your speech to fit your audience, scanning the room and eye contact (a big one for Ukrainians!), how to use appropriate hand gestures, and how to capture your audience by doing small things like adjusting your emotions and the volume of your voice. If you'd like to invite him as a trainer to your next seminar or conference, you can find out more information on his website at (which is in Russian but he speaks English fluently).

Ivan explaining the breakdown of a public presentation into its components; 20-60-20 by percentages of warm-up/introduction, main body and conclusion/call to action. 
Warming up by making funny humming noises with vowels. 
We ended the seminar by asking the participants to practice giving short presentations using my "527" powerpoint slides. This was the presentation from when I conducted a "527" seminar in fall 2011 as part of the Gender and Development's nationwide counter trafficking awareness project - where Peace Corps Volunteers from every oblast participated in training Ukrainians and filming public service announcement videos. The goal of the 2-day Traffic Jam seminar was to train our participants well enough that they would be able to go back to their schools and communities and conduct human trafficking lessons on their own. I brought 2 of my 11th form students with me to the seminar, Dasha and Vitaly, and we will conduct a counter human trafficking lesson for the 8th graders in our school. Dasha attended Camp H.E.A.L. with me last summer, so she already has had some lessons about human trafficking and she also participated in the 527 awareness campaign that we did on the beaches of Sergeevka, Odesska Oblast : )

Vitaly and his partner presenting about the education levels of trafficking victims... over half of them have a university or college education - these are the people most likely to search for jobs outside of Ukraine. 
Dasha presenting about 527 - the national hotline where Ukrainians can call to check if job/travel/study abroad opportunities are legitimate or not. 
Overall, the seminar went really well and I was very impressed with the initiative and project design skills of these young Ukrainian leaders! If you'd like, you can check out our VK page at (but its all in Russian).

with Vitaly and Dasha between the American and Ukrainian flag :D


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