Introducing our 2018/2019 Grant Partner: A21
What if you could get paid to party? You excitedly sent your resume to a beach resort where you’ve always dreamed of taking a vacation. Now, you’ve been hired to wait tables at a resort restaurant. The tourists you’ll meet like to have a good time, and the job description included singing and dancing along to whatever entertainment might be happening each night. Your housing and meals will be covered, so you can save a lot of money for the rest of the year and spend a little on having fun.
When you arrive at the beach resort, a company representative greets you with a smile. They’re excited to show you around the lush grounds, but they ask for one thing before the tour starts: they request to not only see your ID, but to take it from you for the duration of the season. Now you’ll have to meet your employer’s every demand until they return it to you. This situation means your dream job is likely to become the nightmare of human trafficking that many Bulgarians experience.
The number of people trafficked from Bulgaria is the second highest in the European Union. Each year, women and children are forced into the domestic and regional sex industry while men and children are mistreated in agricultural, construction, and service jobs in Bulgaria, other European countries, and the Middle East. Some traffickers have been arrested for participating in organized crime networks that recruit Bulgarian employees. Thousands of labor law violations were found at other employers from 2016 to early 2018.
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If you were a Bulgarian in the situation above, one of your options for getting help would be calling the Bulgarian National Human Resource Line. It is managed by A21 in partnership with the Bulgarian National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings (NCCTHB). Since 2014, this line has served victims in crisis situations, leading them to police and rescue. The number also provides resources and training for at-risk populations, government institutions, service providers, educators, and others.
In addition to identifying and restoring victims, A21 works to prevent trafficking as well. Dressember has supported A21 since 2015. Last year, our grant supported their multimedia campaign Can You See Me? Through videos and posters in airports, train stations, and other transit hubs, this campaign depicts scenarios in which trafficking can happen, and encourages people to report when they see these situations.
Christine Caine’s first step toward founding A21 with her husband, Nick, was noticing posters of missing persons during a trip to Thessaloniki, Greece: “I went from looking to seeing what could have been my child. That moment changed everything because I saw my daughter.” A21’s office and aftercare shelter in Greece opened in 2008, working in collaboration with local police to receive rescued victims. As survivors arrived at their center, the team realized that 40% of the victims rescued in Greece had been trafficked from Bulgaria. This led A21 to establish an office in Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia, where they provide basic needs, healthcare, legal support, and education for survivors. A21’s social enterprise, Liberty, also began in Bulgaria when a survivor shared that she knew how to knit. This employment has helped survivors build new lives, including owning a bakery, earning a nursing degree, and taking a child out of an orphanage.
It's so much more than a scarf.
Give the gift of hope to survivors of #humantrafficking through #Liberty today.
In addition to the office and the resource line, A21 has supported other initiatives of the NCCTHB. When the the commission organized and hosted the December 2012 international conference, “Making Prevention Work: Addressing the Root Causes of Human Trafficking in Europe,“ a creative fundraising session featured A21 alongside representatives from the US Embassy in Sofia and CNN. In 2013, A21 collaborated with the commission and Manpower Bulgaria, a business initiative against slavery, on the “Zero Tolerance for Human Trafficking” campaign. It taught job seekers about signs of suspicious offers and informed employers of ethical recruitment principles. Beyond these partnerships, A21 has also met in person with tens of thousands of Bulgarian young adults each year since 2013 to make them aware of trafficking dangers.
A21’s next project in Bulgaria will be a Freedom Center, and your participation through this year’s Dressember campaign will help bring it to life. This type of facility goes beyond transitional housing and immediate services, to provide holistic aftercare where survivors not only heal, but pursue their dreams in a community-based environment. Dr. Rhiannon Bell, A21’s Director of Aftercare describes the beauty of this work: “I think every human being wants a sense of acceptance, value, and belonging, regardless of circumstances, and often these things have been taken away from our survivors. And so we work with meeting those basic needs of acceptance into our care, into our Freedom Centers.”
Raise your voice against slavery this December!
Commit to wearing a dress or tie every day in December. You'll challenge yourself, expand your knowledge on modern slavery, and be equipped to lead your community in the fight to end human trafficking. Registration is open for Dressember 2018 and fundraising has already started! Be a part of the impact for our local and global partners by creating your campaign page today!
About the Author
With undergraduate majors in piano and Spanish from Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in composition from Stony Brook University, Krystal J. F. Grant uses her music and words to reckon with society's brokenness. Her passion for fair-trade fashion led her to Dressember, and her childhood in Alabama guides her commitment to freedom throughout the world. She and her husband enjoy visiting museums and National Parks or just making popcorn and watching anime at home.