An all day Coalition Building Workshop was held on December 15th for Modern Day Abolitionists. The Workshop was facilitated by Mary Ellison, Director of Policy; James Dold, Policy Counsel; and Nikki Marquez, Policy Associate – all of Polaris Project. Polaris Project is one of the largest anti-trafficking organizations here in the United States (being active in over 25 states), as well as in Japan. They have programs that operate at the local, national, and international levels. They are also one of the few organizations that work on all forms of human trafficking serving victims within the U.S., as well those from foreign countries. Polaris Project also handles a toll-free, 24 hour a day National Hotline for those interested in more information, resources, referrals, or to report a suspected case of human trafficking. We encourage anyone and everyone to add this number to their cell phones (1-888-3737-888). Their motto: “For a world without slavery”.
The purpose of the Workshop was to educate the attendees on the skills and tools needed to advance anti-trafficking legislative efforts in order to have an impact for trafficked victims. It was all about empowerment. The Workshop was well attended not only by volunteers from the Richmond Justice Initiative (RJI), but also volunteers from the Shenandoah Valley Justice Initiative, the Virginia Beach Justice Initiative, the Release Me organization, law students from Regent University, and other individuals concerned about the issue of human trafficking.
After an overview of what human trafficking and modern-day slavery look like (Human Trafficking 101), the role that Polaris Project plays to help in the fight against this atrocity was explained. The facilitators then went on to discuss why coalitions are necessary and how to build them. We were provided not only a refresher on how the legislative process works, but also a better understanding of Lobbying 101. We were taught the importance of communication and the use of the media in communicating with coalition members and legislators, and how to do so effectively. Finally, the facilitators educated us on how to overcome the common obstacles that can occur when working in coalitions. Obstacles can arise from within the coalition such as: distributing tasks, choosing leadership, dealing with disagreements and difficult people. And obstacles can arise from outside the coalition such as: fiscal challenges to getting legislation passed, dealing with outside agencies and law enforcement, and convincing law makers on the importance of passing legislation to aid in ending human trafficking.
The Workshop was clearly, overall, a very information intensive program. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other Virginia state Justice Initiative volunteers, as well as others who have a heart in wanting to see an end to all human trafficking. Polaris Project truly did a beautiful job in organizing this Workshop and encouraging everyone to get involved in the legislative process in order to meet that end. – Tina Nyczepir