Looking back while moving forward

From LCHT: We're excited to embark on its seventh summer Leadership Development Program with ten fantastic individuals! This summer, participants will be working on several exciting projects, including data collection and analysis for the Colorado Project, event planning for fundraising and organizational events, public relations for the Colorado Project, among others. As we look ahead to what is sure to be an amazing summer, we also take time to reflect as former intern Dawn Carmin shares what the Leadership Development Program meant to her.

Dawn Carmin
US Agency for International Development
Former Intern, Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking

My time at LCHT has been such an asset to me personally and professionally. It's rare to find an organization that provides as much thoughtful consideration, space for discussion, and guidance in leadership development for individuals engaged in complex issues like human trafficking.

Working with LCHT helped prepare me for international development work in post-conflict East Timor and in my work with the US Agency for International Development (USAID)

-- positions that require an ability to analyze complex situations, be emotionally intelligent and responsive, and to explore creative activities that focus assistance in ways that will make the most sense and impact.

Through LCHT's intensive technical trainings on the issue of human trafficking, weekly thematic intern meetings and research projects, I was able to foster an understanding of the complexities of human trafficking and ways in which the anti-human trafficking movement is trying to address them. I have called on my technical skills as an FSO in contributing to the Agency's new Combating -Trafficking in Persons (C-TIP) strategy and curriculum for the employee orientation on the issue. I've also been able to support the USAID mission to Ukraine and the Government of Ukraine in its anti-trafficking programming which is carried out by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In addition to fostering a solid technical capacity, my time with LCHT's Leadership Development Program provided me with responsibility and leadership opportunities. I was given the chance to educate community groups, professionals and students about human trafficking. I was given the opportunity to lead discussions on social and economic barriers that leave individuals at risk as well as ways that people can help support the C-TIP movement. I also helped interview new interns and got to participate in some management activities of the program from which I learned so much.

Of all the leadership opportunities at LCHT, my favorite was being a mentor to a high school student engaged in a trafficking awareness project for her peer group. In this role, I was called on to support her C-TIP education, but also to help her realize her project and to be a role model for her classmates.

As an intern, graduate research assistant and participant in the Leadership Program Development I found mentors, teachers and friends who have continued to help me grow and who have created an environment where individuals feel empowered to
make meaningful changes to social, economic and cultural barriers that place individuals at risk for trafficking.

I still consider myself a part of the LCHT community and appreciate being able to call upon my former colleagues at LCHT.

The ways in which Amanda, AJ and the LCHT team lead the organization reflects an extremely deep dedication to finding creative and sustainable solutions to difficult development and human rights challenges, as well as fostering leadership in individuals poised to affect change in the world.


Keep Going

AnnJanette Alejano-Steele
Co-Founder and Board Chairperson
Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking

It’s somewhere after midnight post-Launch party, and I should be exhausted. I can’t quite settle down yet, because of all of the amazing things I observed tonight. I’m in a reflective space, appreciative of the energies that went into the evening. I’m thinking about the community support that presented itself in our beautiful space. I’m thinking about Bradley Myles’ recent blog about our LCHT community that is “immersed in good vibes, laughter, engaging discussions, and great energy surrounded by genuinely authentic people.”

Tonight, guests perused our office space, interacted with our computerized learning stations, and contributed to our Action Mural. As importantly, guests talked to each other about the issue of human trafficking on various levels.

I was humbled by the number of people who came to share in our celebration. Anti-trafficking field colleagues. Law enforcement. TAXI neighbors. College and university colleagues and students. Friends. Family. There was this uber-diverse and supportive community celebrating our efforts.

And surrounding us was a collective undercurrent whispering, “Keep going; we’re behind you because this work is necessary.”

This is the essence of sustainability.

Our launch event captured the fine details of our sustainability as a five-year old organization, a product of our intentional collaborations, both in the preparations and the party atmosphere. These details include steadfast optimism, trust, and pulling up as we climb.

Steadfast optimism. In my part of our presentation tonight, I mentioned my entrée into the local anti-trafficking movement that began as a thought: “Let’s see what happens when I approach Amanda to join her in this work.” Through the years, we have persevered as ever-positive optimists, open to possibility, and open to the fact that stumbling blocks created alternate paths to explore. Borrowing words from Derek Siver (2010), much of what we’ve done over the years has included a series of optimistic “tests and trials: an ongoing experiment to see what happens.” Indeed, a lot has happened in our rich history and we were thrilled to share with our guests tonight.

Trust. In the anti-trafficking field, trust is such a core component of the crime, in both negative (criminal) and positive (supportive) ways. At our launch, I could feel the trust that we held in the community. What I felt during today’s events was the implicit trust between our staff members, the trust of our friends and family, and the trust between our anti-trafficking colleagues. And here’s the thing. Trust takes intentional time and patience. Inherently, trust is about conveying “you matter.” Trust is the outcome of follow through. Reliability. Common ground. Humility. And trust-building is also about coffee. Healthy doses of humor. Awesome places to meet for lunch. Debates about Glee.

Pulling up as we climb. I think that when most of us hear “leadership development,” the emphasis is on “leader.” I humbly disagree. I think it’s about “pulling up as we climb,” because what is the use of laying down leadership initiatives if there is nobody to sustain the foundational work? It was great to see younger activists eager to learn tonight. It was great to feature the work of our interns in our leadership development program. This is a shout out to colleagues in my age cohort (yes you, listen up). We need to do our best to take patient time with our mentees. And we must include self-care tools to sustain their work. But that’s worthy of a blog unto itself (stay tuned…promise).

So…it’s about time I closed out the night. As co-founder of LCHT, I appreciated the time everyone took to join us. Thank you for holding us in trust and encouraging us to keep going. I stand alongside Amanda in the invitation to think critically with us in the laboratory and become part of the solution.

Let’s collectively see what happens when we mix your ideas with ours, and let’s keep going in a sustainable way.