In 2006, Jenny Lee, Artsci’08, Ed’09, of Kingston, attended a presentation about human trafficking that changed her life. The eye-opening and “brutally honest” presentation was given by an aftercare worker who helps girls and women who have been rescued from brothels in Cambodia.
“It blew my mind to learn that the levels of slavery and people trafficking are greater today than at any point in history,” Jenny says, noting that respected modern-day abolitionists have put the current number of enslaved people at between 10 and 30 million worldwide. “My immediate thoughts were ‘Why is this being allowed to happen?’ and ‘What are we doing about this?’”
Over time, Jenny learned more about the issue through her own research and by talking to people working in the anti-human trafficking field, but it wasn’t until 2009 that a catalyst of different events prompted her to get involved in a more active abolitionist role.
Since then, she jokes that the fight against human trafficking has become her “second full-time job”. In addition to her work as an occasional teacher for the Limestone District School Board, Jenny is a member of Alliance for Action, a Kingston group advocating to end human trafficking; the Ontario representative for Chab Dai, Canada‘s anticipated Freedom Registry; and a member of the Coalition for an Ontario Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force. She’s held events to support Ratanak International and its work in Cambodia against trafficking and child sex exploitation, and she spent this summer as an intern with International Justice Mission Canada in London, ON, focusing on developing curriculum and reaching out to potential partners.
“It was a comfortable role in that I was able to apply my strengths and my professional background,” says Jenny of her internship, “but I was still able to learn a lot, like how to engage and mobilize people of all ages and backgrounds to take tangible action against human trafficking.”
As a passionate and committed teacher, she has spent a lot of time recently thinking about how her educator and abolitionist work intersect. For Jenny, education is really the first step toward tackling this complex, multifaceted, and global problem. Being educated and informed, she explains, allows organizations to work collaboratively and create effective solutions to the problem, rather than constantly reinventing the wheel.
“Teaching not only re-energizes me, but also gives me hope that by educating people at a young age about real-life issues, we can help them see that they have a role in effecting positive change,” says Jenny. “I’m always heartened by how fearlessly and creatively youth are able to tackle tough issues. It reminds me that there’s a bright future ahead if we keep going the way we are now.”