Last month, 60 survivors of human trafficking received cards made by the students of Danielle Walker’s Women in Contemporary Society class. Walker teamed up with Durga Tree International, a fundraising organization that works to end modern day slavery, whose CEO Beth Tiger personally brought the cards to a shelter in Guatemala for survivors of human trafficking.
Walker, an adjunct professor of women’s studies at Ramapo, participated in a fundraiser held by Durga Tree last year and introduced herself to the leaders of the organization with the thought that she may one day partner up with them for one of her classes.
That day came after she was inspired by a student in one of her prior classes, Women in Social Media. As part of this class, Walker had her students blog about human trafficking. One of her students, Alaina Seyler, posted about A21, another nonprofit that fights human trafficking. On their website, A21 encouraged people to send cards to them, which they would then route to survivors of human trafficking.
Inspired by this idea, Walker utilized her connection to Durga Tree and had both sections of her Women in Contemporary Society class make cards that would then be brought to Guatemala and hand-delivered by Tiger.
“Being that it just so happened that I made a connection right in our backyard, I know that the CEO herself meets these survivors face-to-face because she takes an annual immersion trip with a team of ordinary citizens that volunteer to go, and they go visit these people and stay for at least a week to learn about their lives and the people that they’re helping directly through their donations and their volunteering,” said Walker.
As there are 72 students currently taking Walker’s Women in Contemporary Society course, and each made at least one card, all 60 girls in the shelter were accounted for. Other students who were not in the class, but wished to get involved, donated craft supplies. Tiger and the business manager of Durga Tree also visited the class to give a presentation about human trafficking.
“I purposely designed it so it would be a bonding activity – that it would be a shared memory of that class where we did it together,” Walker said. “When I was an undergraduate I had no clue; I had never even heard of human trafficking. It’s really becoming more of a hot ticket issue, and I hate to call it that because I don’t want to sensationalize that… it’s a human rights issue that does need press, that is very deserving of awareness and international attention.”
The recipients of the cards are ages 9 to 15, according to Walker, and 15 are babies and toddlers born of the survivors who were impregnated by their trafficker.
“Even though one person may not be a major leader that gets world attention, they can still be a leader by doing even a small action like that,” Walker continued. “Just to know that they made these children who survived an absolutely horrific experience smile for at least that day when they got that card personally delivered from someone they know who cares, and that’s the CEO of Durga Tree, and that they had 72 other people that they knew cared about them.”
Walker hopes that this project will inspire the students of her class to get involved in any movement, related to human trafficking or otherwise, that sparks their interest and pulls at their heart strings.
“I would hope that in a broad sense it is encouragement to volunteer, to do social good, to make conscious decisions, to positively impact the lives of others that you may never even meet,” she said. “I told them just because someone’s a stranger to you and they’re halfway across the world and you’ll never see their face, that doesn't mean you can’t care for them, and it doesn't mean you can’t have compassion for them.”