An Interview with Christa Hayden Sharpe from International Justice Mission (IJM)

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Christa Hayden Sharpe is no stranger to social justice work. Christa is the Vice President of Regional Operations for Southeast Asia and is temporarily serving as the Vice President of Global Aftercare. For Christa, the realities of labor trafficking and sexual exploitation give her the drive to wake up in the morning and to continue in the fight against social injustices on a global level with International Justice Mission (IJM). IJM is the world’s largest international anti-slavery organization working in 17 communities across the developing world to combat slavery, trafficking, and other forms of violence against the poor by rescuing and restoring victims, holding perpetrators accountable, and transforming broken public justice systems. The values of IJM tie closely to Christa’s faith and her core beliefs about justice.

Growing up I have had a sense of God’s great provision and care for me and for other people and how much he’s loved me and cared for me. It’s just always been very real to me that there are so many people in the world that don’t have the protectors they need and don’t have security” she shared.

From here, she has dedicated her life to working against violence and injustices and has been working with IJM since 2005 in a variety of capacities.

I just feel like my life is short and I want to give everything to it. I don’t want to do anything else” she explained.

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Christa has worked as Director of Aftercare in the IJM Cambodia office as well as the Director of Church Mobilization in the United States. After that, she filled the role of Cambodia’s Field Office Director and now she is in her current role as Vice President of Regional Operations for Southeast Asia. Her longing to be involved in social justice work though didn’t launch her immediately overseas. Christa started where she was locally working in battered women’s shelters with refugees and rape survivors. When we asked her about what she recommends for those seeking to get involved, she recommends volunteering where you’re planted.

Some of you might be super passionate about sex trafficking, so start volunteering locally. Learn about the issue you are interested in and then do more listening than talking."

In addition to volunteering, Christa stressed the need for responsible shopping, getting involved in advocacy efforts, and fundraising. Specifically, with the work of Dressember, Christa explained the direct benefit of financial resources.

“The campaign that you’re a part of is helping us establish justice in a place that had rarely seen it before. You’re literally fueling and building new justice systems.”

The efforts of Dressember’s campaigning benefit partners such as IJM and the social justice work they do on a global level. The work that Christa is accustomed to is literally transforming the corrupt justice systems found specifically in Southeast Asia.

“We learn how things are working and how things are not working. We identify where gaps in the system are. From there we design solutions to build more capacity in the systems to identify those leaders of goodwill and we want to encourage them and lift them. We build trust between local communities who have never seen police or court on their side before.”

As advocates for the Dressember campaign, the capacity of IJM grows as funds give way to opportunities for more countries being positively affected by IJM’s efforts.

For someone working on the front lines of the cause, the risk of burn out or apathy is high. In the midst of working against some of the world’s darkness, many grow discouraged and complacent. They might hold the mindset of 'What difference does it make?' Christa encourages those feeling the weight of exploitation to remember the gift of community.

“When that feeling of overwhelmed starts to come, just think of the next step. What is the next thing I can do? Who can I join with so I feel like I’m not alone in this? That’s often when it comes, when we’re not in coalition with others. We’re not the only ones caring. There are millions of people around the world that are passionate about this. If we are doing this together with others, then the bigger things will come.”

We’re in this together at Dressember. Through partnerships with organizations like IJM and through the support of one another as advocates, together we can make a difference. For more information on IJM and the work they do, follow the link below:

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About the Author

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Sara Kernan is a proud Alaskan that now calls Southern California home (while trying not to melt in the summer). She is finishing her undergrad program this year and looks forward to this opportunity with Dressember to be an advocate for social justice on a different level. Sara can usually be found either drinking coffee or finding a new hiking trail with her husband and going on new adventures.