Photo: Free the Slaves interns and staff--Danielle's in the middle! (Danielle Melfi)
I wasn't sure what to expect, but I didn't think I'd be courting donors from New York, attending a press conference at the State Department, and meeting an actual slave liberator. Not in the first week. But that's how I'll be spending my summer as an intern at Free the Slaves. Turns out that the work of freeing slaves is just as exciting as it is rewarding.
Over the past ten years, Free the Slaves (FTS) has become a thought leader in the human rights field, alerting the world that slavery still exists and bringing hope through positive action to see slavery end in our lifetimes. FTS has immersed itself not only in its grassroots work in six countries, but it has also been on the forefront of policy in the US and in research abroad. An incredible feat for an organization comprised of approximately 20 fulltime staffers.
And where do I fit in all of this? Not too long ago, I was under the impression that slavery had ended with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. After learning about the issue of slavery during a college fundraiser last year, my eyes were opened to the harsh reality that the freedom I take for granted is not as universal as I once thought. Fast forward to the present: I’m now a modern-day abolitionist, helping to lead the efforts on my campus (Loyola University Maryland), spreading the word through mtvU’s Against Our Will Campaign, and proudly serving as an intern to Free the Slaves this summer.
As a Post-It above my boss Sarah’s desk reads, “People won’t remember what you said or you did…but they will remember how you made them feel.” My job as a Development Intern is just that- to make people feel the work of Free the Slaves come to life. Our work lies at the heart of the organization, as we unite Free the Slaves’ multifaceted approach to spread awareness and gather support for our work around the world. I get to spend my afternoons reading real-life accounts of people coming out of slavery and into freedom, including girls like Kripa. Kripa, a sixteen-year-old girl from Nepal, was rescued from being trafficked out of her village. Now, Kripa has used her freedom to protect others, as she has become a security guard at a shelter for trafficking victims.
Or, I get to receive drawings sent to our office by girls in our ashram, a group home for survivors in India. The walls of the ashram read, “What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” Now, with the gift of freedom, the girls of the ashram have hope for a brighter future and are able to dream beyond what they previously imagined for their lives.
During my first week, I had the opportunity of sitting down with Free the Slaves' founder, Kevin Bales. As he talked with the interns during our orientation, Kevin challenged us “why not.” Why not end slavery today? Why not join the movement to bring about this much-needed change in the world? And for all of you college students out there, why not you? Follow me this summer in my journey at Free the Slaves, and learn what you can do to help bring freedom to all the Kripas of our world.