How do you END something that has been going on since the beginning of time as we know it?
When I first went to The Freedom Café in Durham, I was in search of a really good cup of tea. I had no idea what The Freedom Café was; I only knew that my fellow tea-loving friends kept telling me I had to go. I went looking for tea made with filtered water, at the right temperature, steeped for the right amount of time, made with quality leaves, and all the other things that make a great cup of tea. I found that at The Freedom Café, but I was surprised that I found so much more there as well.
The counter crew at the Freedom Café helped me start to learn about human trafficking in ways I never understood before. At first it started with learning about the places that grew my tea, how it was sustainably grown and harvested, and how the tea was Fair Trade Certified™. I always knew it tasted better, but I never really understood the depth of why. As I learned more about my beloved tea, I also learned about chocolate and clothing, two major areas where human trafficking is prevalent. I started to see how many times a day I was voting with my dollar to either support fellow humans or harm them. I started to read more and watch videos. I eventually asked how I could help out around the Freedom Café. Finally, I became a board member at the Café. I still have so much to learn, but if you were to look in my tea drawer at home or see where I shopped this past holiday season, you would see that I am starting to understand just how important each little purchase can be to someone else’s life.
Human Trafficking isn’t just something we can shop away. It’s complicated and layered. If it was easy we already would have solved it. Didn’t we free the slaves after the Civil War? Isn’t slavery over? No, and it won’t be until human life has value everywhere. Human trafficking won’t end until we globally decide that no one is worth less than anyone else.
Fighting human trafficking at its root is not just a rescue operation. It is a legal battle. It is about persuading governments to create laws to protect all humans and then being able to back those up with enforcement that isn’t corrupt. It is about all of us refusing to purchase products or services produced by people who have been trafficked. It is about changing the system. It's about showing companies and producers that they can make money and have lasting success when they enact fair policies and provide a living wage to all workers. Otherwise, trafficking just keeps going on and on.
We must demand that human trafficking stop being an option for producers. We can do that through the products we buy, the adventures we take when we travel, the people from whom we buy services, and so many other ways. But we also must demand that laws change, demand our police force have the resources and the laws to support them when they do run into a trafficking situation. We must help other countries find ways to help their own people through changing what they allow.
None of this can happen without awareness, understanding and wisely directed resources. That is why The Freedom Café is so important. We have to start right here at home. We must strengthen our laws, provide the funding to allow officers and case workers to spend time on these cases. We must support victims and make sure they have a chance at life, and help others not fall into the same traps. We need to find solutions that work and then back those solutions with resources until everyone on this planet is free. Until that day, we have to keep fighting. We need everyone to be aware, we need to vote with our dollars, and we need to care about every life on this planet, regardless of location, sex, race, religion, addiction, age, or anything else that makes one population more vulnerable than another.
This is a big problem. It is going to take all of us to solve it. So come and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, and help us end human trafficking one ethically sourced mug at a time!