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The “Ah Hah Moment”

For many who have committed themselves to a cause, we can trace our dedication to that revelatory “ah-hah moment” that transformed us from spectators to actors. The moment that made us see the world clearer; the moment that we realized we could no longer remain idle to injustice.

My moment came on May 10, 2010. The previous week marked our annual “Loyolapalooza” concert, which for the first time became a benefit event to support Free the Slaves. I had come down from the high of our fundraising success, and was now overwhelmed by final exams.  As I prepared for my next test, an email popped up from Sarah Gardner, Free the Slaves’ Major Gifts Officer who I met at Loyolapalooza. “Great news from Free the Slaves,” Sarah wrote, “44 adults and 26 children were freed from slavery in a brick kiln in India!” I quickly read the details of the rescue and downloaded the attached photos. This was the first time I saw the face of slavery and the first time I fully realized my potential to help bring freedom to others.   

Now at Free the Slaves, I have the chance to see photos and read inspiring stories of liberation every day. However, behind every story of freedom is the exploitation and violence that comes along with being enslaved. To learn more about the reality of slavery in our backyards, FTS interns went to Courtney’s House, an organization that provides direct services for sex trafficking survivors in the DC-metro area.  Courtney’s House staff greeted us along with founder Tina Frundt, herself a sex slavery survivor, and they dedicated their afternoon to teaching us about their work. Along with educating us on the services that CH provides, the staff provided us with psychological insight into the lives of vulnerable children. “Children are trafficked from every background,” Tina explained, teaching us that slavery comes in a variety of forms, many times in ways we don’t expect. 

It’s easy for us to distance ourselves from slavery, but Tina’s talk got me thinking: how different are we really from those enslaved around the world? We’re all humans who depend on the same needs for survival; we all seek love and companionship, personal fulfillment, and hope.  At the end of the day, the distinguishing factor is that my needs are met while many others are not; call it circumstance, fate, or chance. But now, the same fate that set my survivor brothers and sisters and myself apart have brought us together, as I have determined my path to better their own. 

From that “ah hah moment” to now, Free the Slaves has empowered me to empower others, whether it be families making bricks in India or children on the streets of DC. We’re all united by our shared human dignity, and are called to ensure that dignity is unanimously respected.