Posts by Matt Cifaldi


The Olympics are about collaboration as much as competition

At Idealist, the sporting world is not our usual beat. The Olympic Games, however, hit us where we live as an inspiring, international gathering of outstanding individuals and teams (not unlike our own new network!). So we’re taking this opportunity to pay homage to excellent athletes, winter beauty, fun games, and a host of other concepts we could tie (even tenuously) to Sochi. Welcome to Olympics Week on Idealists in Action.

When you think of the Olympics, you probably don’t think of international collaboration. In fact, many of the most famous moments from past Olympic Games are competitive struggles between two nations.

However, the Olympics would never be possible without an impressive effort by each country involved to set aside their differences and come together for two weeks every four years.

This year, the Winter Olympics are taking place in Sochi, Russia. Amidst the controversy surrounding the current games, it’s easy to forget that multiple Olympics have been boycotted for various reasons. In recent history, the United States and its allies boycotted the 1980 Olympics held by the Soviet Union, while the Soviet Union and its allies returned the favor when Los Angeles played host in 1984.

Adorable bear mascot or not, Jimmy Carter definitely boycotted the 1980 summer games in Moscow because of US/Soviet relations.

Adorable bear mascot or not, Jimmy Carter boycotted the 1980 summer games in Moscow due to poor U.S.-Soviet relations. (image vis Dmitri Melnik/Shutterstock)

In short, it takes a massive amount of compromise, understanding, and cooperation to host the Olympics, and we at Idealist would like to celebrate Russia for taking on the task. Yet we know this endeavor is just one collaboration taking place between our two former-enemy countries every day, and we thought we’d take this opportunity to highlight another excellent example that’s about to get underway.

The National Centre for Contemporary Arts (NCCA) is a combination museum, exhibition space, and research organization based in Moscow. It was established in 1992, around the same time the Russian Federation was created from the fall of the Soviet Union. Its mission is to aid the development of contemporary Russian art within a global context.

To do this, the NCCA often partners with arts organizations from other countries. On February 23rd, the last day of the Olympics, the NCCA will welcome the venerable experimental, collaborative new music ensemble Bang on a Can All-Stars to Moscow. These visitors from New York City will participate in a five-day residency with 11 Russian artists in a partnership they’re calling the Bang on a Can Institute. If you’re in the Moscow area around the end of this month, you can check out one of the group’s performances.

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Experimental music ensemble Bang on a Can All-Stars will be welcomed to Moscow for a five-day residency immediately following the Olympics. [image via Stereogum]

By entering into this collaboration, all the musicians involved will learn something new and have an opportunity to expand their knowledge of their craft. Just think of the many other masterful musical collaborations that have taken place through the ages (particularly in the 1980’s)! Of course, regardless of what these musicians compose together, the cultural interchange will be worth the effort.

So when you’re watching the Olympics over the next two weeks, remember that the games aren’t just about getting a gold medal. They’re also about international unity, and about the hope that we can create a better world by interacting with and learning from people that come from different nations and cultures.

And, of course, they’re about curling.

What are some of your favorite international collaborations?

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Join Idealist on March 11 as we launch a new global movement for action and change!

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Fight for Light: Bringing clean, green awareness to black campuses

Happy January! Welcome to Clean Start week.

There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of organizations working to increase awareness of climate change. If you take a step back though, it’s apparent that there are quite a few issues and population segments that are underrepresented in the environmental community.

One of these issues is how climate change affects people of color and the poor, and one of the most underrepresented groups of people in the environmental sector is African Americans.

Due to heat waves and air pollution in cities and increasing energy and food prices, climate change is poised to have a disproportionately large and negative effect on the urban African American community. African Americans are also generally underrepresented in the staff of environmental organizations, both public and private.

In 2009, Markese Bryant and John Jordan saw these growing problems as a call to raise awareness of environmental issues among African Americans. Then students at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, they teamed up and formed Fight for Light, which works “to transform Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) into hubs for environmental sustainability and social innovation.”

Almost five years later, Markese and John are the leaders of a thriving nonprofit organization that’s inspiring campus leaders across the nation to become more environmentally active.

How did they do it?

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John Jordan, left, and Markese Bryant.
(photo via fightforlight.org)

Find something you care about

It may seem obvious, but it’s essential to devote your time to an issue that really resonates with you. If you plan on turning an idea into something concrete, you’ll have to be prepared to spend a lot of time working on it.

Before they formed Fight for Light, Markese and John had been concerned about the environment as well as the lack of African American representation in many professional settings. After reading The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones, Markese and John became interested in the idea of a “Green New Deal,” which would help lift people out of poverty while also encouraging the use of alternative energy sources and promoting conservation. Knowing this was something they could feel good about putting time into, they moved onto the next step.

Start small

Once Markese and John decided what to focus on, they wanted to get right to work. However, they were both still undergraduates, and couldn’t immediately invest all their energy into Fight for Light. So they started with small steps, first entering a nationwide student business competition and collaborating with organizations that shared their vision.

In 2010, Markese partnered with Green for All and helped develop the College Ambassador Program. This program encourages young leaders at 15 HBCUs to become advocates around the environmental issues that affect their communities. One year later, John began to manage a large grant given to Morehouse by the National Science Foundation, which helped Fight for Light encourage sustainability among the student body and also led to him managing student engagement at Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University.

Somehow in that mix, Markese also found the time to team up with Green for All to film this music video:

Get support

All their efforts eventually led to a big reward. In 2012, Markese and John were selected as Echoing Green Black Male Achievement Fellows in recognition of their several years of slow but steady awareness-raising about environmental issues on HBCU campuses. With the fellowship came financial help and the freedom to turn Fight for Light into something bigger.

Expand

With the support provided by Echoing Green, Markese and John are now increasing the reach of Fight for Light across the country. Markese recently traveled to Nashville to serve as a keynote speaker at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference, while both Markese and John traveled with students from the Atlanta University Center to the Power Shift 2013 conference in Pittsburgh.

As Fight for Light makes new contacts and continues to expand outside of the Atlanta metro area, its core mission remains the same. Every day, more students at HBCUs come into contact with the organization, and each new supporter is a fresh voice in the environmental awareness movement.

Your turn

How can you get involved? If you’re interested in raising awareness of environmental issues, particularly at HBCUs, just get in contact with Markese or John. If you like what Fight for Light is doing, follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

What other organizations or people do you know who are addressing issues at the intersection of climate change and minority communities?

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Beyond bears: What I learned about people in Alaska

Stuck? Feeling hopeless? Unsure of your next step? For the almost two decades Idealist has been around, we’ve been asking you—our community—to tell us about the obstacles you face when trying to turn your good intentions into action. We’ve compiled a short list of the top-reported obstacles, and now we’re blogging about them one by one. This week, we present: people issues.

A few years ago, one month away from college graduation, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.

I was a double major in communications and Spanish, had two internships under my belt, and no earthly idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. I applied to dozens of jobs, mostly in New York City but also abroad, and crossed my fingers.

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Idealist’s Community Manager Matt Cifaldi immediately after bear-spraying himself in Alaska.
(photo courtesy of the author)

During this time I called a friend of mine who told me to apply for a job at a nonprofit he had worked for in Alaska through an AmeriCorps grant. He was enthusiastic and thought it might be a good fit for me.

Little did I know then that two weeks after commencement I would find myself setting up a tent in a field outside of Anchorage at 2:00 a.m., wondering what I had gotten myself into.

The program lasted from June to November, and the idea was simple: in teams, we traveled across the state of Alaska improving trails, keeping highways clean, and developing events with local communities. We lived at campsites in tents. Showering was a weekly event, and we had no access to electricity.

I expected my time in Alaska to be a trying experience, and it often was. Rain would last for an entire week, the mosquitoes were unbearable during the summer, and I never really got a full night of sleep. I ran into all sorts of wildlife, most of it frightening. I climbed mountains and glaciers, and I learned more about living outdoors than I thought I would ever know.

What I didn’t expect, and in fact didn’t even consider, was what I would learn about other people. I signed up for the Alaska program for relatively selfish reasons: I wanted to wash off four years of city living, have an adventure, and get some experience working in the nonprofit sector.

But when I arrived home in November smelling like a campfire and ecstatic to sleep on a mattress, I came back with more than bear stories. I had learned some valuable lessons about living and working with others that I still find useful today.

1. First impressions are almost always wrong.

For our first week, everyone attended an orientation program. We learned how to use chainsaws, practiced CPR, and watched a video about bear safety. We made meals together and started to get to know one another. After the end of orientation, the initial large group of fifty split into six smaller teams.

We were all from different areas of the country, and ranged in age from 18 to 30 years old. No one on our team seemed to have much in common, and I thought I had everybody figured out within a week of working with them. I decided they were lazy, or stubborn, didn’t work well with others, or were distant.

However, as their unique stories unfolded over dozens of campfire conversations and morning coffees, I realized that each of my teammates had a deep personal story to tell.

And that I had been wrong about each and every one of them.

For example, during the first few days, one person on my team casually told me he’d come to Alaska by following an eagle that had appeared in his dreams. I quickly dismissed him as a little bit crazy. But by the end of our time together, I looked up to him and considered him my good friend. And to this day I record interesting dreams I have, mostly due to his influence.

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The grandeur of the 49th state! (photo courtesy of the author)

2. Different personalities clash in close quarters. Get over it.

We did everything together. Every day we woke up, made breakfast, drove to our worksite, worked until lunch, ate lunch together, worked some more, drove back to camp, cooked dinner, then went to sleep.

With nothing but time on our hands, we gossiped. It often felt like we were living a supercharged version of Survivor. I’d be friendly with one teammate for two weeks, get into an argument with them, then find another teammate to be best friends with for the next fortnight. Everyone did it. With a limited supply of potential friends, most transgressions were quickly forgiven, and just as quickly occurred again.

Working with such a small group of people and being in constant contact taught me this: everyone has something valuable to offer, as well as something negative. Focusing on the negative aspects of someone’s personality is often easier, especially in a work setting, but it’s never productive.

3. Being a leader is a lot harder than it looks.

Our team leader was responsible for our budget, arranging jobs across the state, and generally keeping us motivated and alive. She was our boss, parent, and friend all at once.

Before Alaska, I’d viewed my past managers’ jobs as similar to mine, except they got paid more. From living in close contact with my boss, though, I realized her responsibilities were much greater. She had to do everything I did, plus keep everything organized and solve disagreements between team members, of which there were many. She was also just as far from home as the rest of us, and couldn’t as comfortably confide in us as we could in each other.

There’s a reason managers get paid more: their job is often much harder than it seems.

The entire Alaska trip was harder than it seemed it would be, in fact, and there were times I truly wanted to give up and book a flight home. But in the end, I wouldn’t trade the half year I spent there for anything else.

I am a better person for having been to Alaska, and not a day goes by that I don’t use something I learned there. Like when I meet someone new, I know not to judge them based on first impressions. And when I meet a bear, I know not to run away. It will just chase you.

Tell us about a time you unexpectedly learned about people when you set out to learn something else.

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Interested in photography, public health, or teaching English? Connect with your fellow Idealists!

Welcome Idealists!

You already know that you can come to Idealist.org to find an awesome job, volunteer opportunity, or internship, but did you know that you can also find some awesome people?

There are thousands of people working for social change on Idealist.org and they’re all right at your fingertips, ready to answer your questions, partner with you on a project, or help with an idea you’ve been developing.

Here’s a sampling of some of the people who want to meet you. Don’t forget that in order to view their full profiles, you need to have a profile too. It’s super easy to sign up.

 

Mohamed

 

Mohamed is a skilled photographer and videographer who grew up in Cairo. He’s interested in volunteering to document activities related to the social impact sector such as human rights and the environment. Check out his work and send him a message if you are interested in collaborating with him!

Emily Davis

 

 

Emily left the United States in 2009 to teach English abroad in Japan and Spain. She’s returning home this August and wants to meet other Idealists with international experience. She’s a great source of knowledge for anyone thinking about teaching English abroad, so get in touch! Also let her know if you have any great recipes for ramen.

 

Jordan Kifer

 

If you’re an artist and looking to connect with someone who shares your interests, talk to Jordan! She recently graduated from the University of Michigan and believes that everyone has some form of art to offer the world. Besides her experience in photography and qualitative research, she studied Spanish and Latino/a Studies while in college.  ¡Conéctate!

Andreas Fischer

 

 

Andreas is a social scientist from Germany and recently completed a round-the-world trip where he visited Nepal, New Zealand, and South America, among other places. After working as a Project Coordinator in Mannheim for four years, he has experience in the field of Public Health and wants to meet open-minded and creative people from across the world.

 

 

Looking for more Idealists who want to connect and collaborate? Check out the previous installments of this series, and spiff up your profile to make sure people can find you on the site. Happy connecting!

If you don’t have one already, create a profile to offer your expertise to the community, and find people who can answer your questions. Sign up here and include information about your past work and what you’re looking to get involved in. When you’re done, send a link to your profile to matt@idealist.org, and you might see yourself on our blog!

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Interested in USAID, sustainability, or social work? Connect with your fellow Idealists!

Welcome Idealists!

You already know that you can come to Idealist.org to find an awesome job, volunteer opportunity, or internship, but did you know that you can also find some awesome people?

There are thousands of people working for social change on Idealist.org and they’re all right at your fingertips, ready to answer your questions, partner with you on a project, or help with an idea you’ve been developing.

Here’s a sampling of some of the people who want to meet you.  Don’t forget that in order to view their full profiles, you need to have a profile too. It’s super easy to sign up.

Jennifer Walsh

Jennifer is a CPA who has been working in the nonprofit sector for over five years. She has a wealth of experience in finance and HR, and also serves on the board of an organization focused on sustainable agriculture. Feel free to contact her whether you’re an aspiring treasurer or an eco-friendly farmer! She’s also interested in meeting other types of nonprofit professionals, so reach out and make a connection.

 

Katerina

Katerina recently moved to New York City from Toronto, and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Psychology at Pace University. She’s particularly interested in mental health issues and working with seniors. She’s looking for advice from people that have careers in the of field of psychology, so if you can help her out, connect with her!

 

Rob

Rob just returned to the United States after working for USAID in Iraq for two years. Before that, he was studying English Literature in Ohio. Check out his profile to find out how he got from the Buckeye State to Baghdad, and keep in mind that he’s looking for friends and collaborators!

 

 

Leslie Piken

Leslie just graduated from Simmons College with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work. Congrats, Leslie! Her goal is to become a holistic psychotherapist, so if you have experience in that field, send her a message! She’s also looking to collaborate and share knowledge with other social workers.

 

Ullas!

Ullas is kind of a big deal when it comes to biology. He’s got a Master’s in Microbiology and a Ph.D. in Virology, and speaks five languages to boot. He’d like to do whatever he can to remedy economic disparities, so if you’re a fellow researcher or interested in socially relevant biological research, send him a message!

 

Looking for more Idealists who want to connect and collaborate? Check out the previous installments of this series, and spiff up your profile to make sure people can find you on the site. Happy connecting!

If you don’t have one already, create a profile to offer your expertise to the community, and find people who can answer your questions. Sign up here and include information about your past work and what you’re looking to get involved in.

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Could you use a volunteer web developer? Do you have advice on sector switching? Connect with your fellow Idealists!

Welcome Idealists!  
You already know that you can come to Idealist.org to find an awesome job, volunteer opportunity, or internship, but did you know that you can also find some awesome people?

Idealist.org is one the greatest databases of people working in social impact positions in the world, and they’re all right at your fingertips, ready to answer your questions, partner with you on a project, or help with an idea you’ve been developing. Here’s a sampling of some of the people who want to meet you.  Don’t forget that in order to view their full profiles, you need to have a profile too. It’s super easy to sign up.

sean

Sean McGrath has worked in Albania and Italy, currently resides in New Jersey, and is planning to move to Sweden. When he’s not trotting the globe, he’s on the lookout for volunteer opportunities where he can help the homeless or youth. He also completed college and high school in just 6 years, which makes Sean the closest thing to Doogie Howser, M.D. on Idealist. Page him if you have advice on moving to Sweden or share his other interests!

inga

 

Inga Carey grew up in the Bahamas and went to school in Canada. She currently serves as a trust officer for a bank in Nassau, but wants to break into the nonprofit sector. She could use advice from anyone with experience in sector-switching, so get in contact with her if you’d like to help out or have some useful tips.

bud

 

Bud Zapata is a web developer looking to donate some of his spare time to a good cause. He can take a design and turn it into a functioning website, which is an invaluable skill for many nonprofits. Send him a message if you represent an organization that could use his talents, but make sure to read his profile first to see what he can do for you!

marion

 

Hailing from Montmorency, France, Marion Dupont is a ballet dancer, speaks four languages, and has experience in marketing and sustainability. She’s on the lookout for friends and collaborators, and has plenty of knowledge to share after living and studying in the USA, China, and Ghana. Check out her profile and send her a message to start a conversation.

lisa

 

Lisa Much lives in Columbus, Ohio and recently graduated with a degree in Sustainable Theater. She works for the Ohio CDC Association and is also a freelance stage manager and prop designer.  She’s searching for like-minded individuals and organizations, and would be happy to share her expertise in community development and theater with fellow Idealists.

 

Looking for more Idealists who want to connect and collaborate? Check out the previous installments of this series, and spiff up your profile to make sure people can find you on the site. If you don’t have one already, create a profile to offer your expertise to the community, and find people who can answer your questions. Sign up here and include information about your past work and what you’re looking to get involved in. Happy connecting!

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Sewing, photography, and researching: Can you use these skills to make a difference?

Photo credit: Donna Cymek, Creative Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: Donna Cymek, Creative Commons/Flickr

You sure can! And each of the individuals below would love to tell you how!

Each week, we’ll introduce you to some members of the Idealist community who are out to do good in the world. You can get to any of their profiles by clicking on their picture. Then just click Send a Message to reach out!

WasimWasim has worked for a wide array of media organizations around Los Angeles and amassed an impressive amount of experience. He founded Kotori Magazine in 2003 and is also an avid photographer, a skill he would like to use to help out organizations and causes he supports. Check out his Idealist profile to see some links to his photos, and contact him if you have any questions about media or want to collaborate on a project.

 

 

Sara

 

After graduating college with a degree in anthropology, Sara worked with primates in Oregon, Indonesia, and Chicago. Now she’s moving to Arizona after acquiring an M.A. in Nonprofit Management. She’d love to share her knowledge about anthropology, primates, and nonprofits, so send her a message!

 

 

ClayClay recently moved to Maryland and works with Habitat for Humanity. He’s dedicated to living and promoting a sustainable lifestyle, and would like to meet people that share his concern for the environment. He’s particularly concerned with lessening fossil fuel consumption and revitalizing urban communities. Help Clay make a change and drop him a line!

 

 

Alissa For the past seven years, Alissa has owned and operated a clothing boutique in Southampton, NY. She’s an expert in fashion design and has been sharing her skills with others for years. She is particularly interested in teaching young adults and children how to sew and design. If you’re curious about the fashion industry she’s an invaluable resource.

 

 

April

April is one of our editors at Idealist, and loves connecting with interesting people. She can give you advice about everything from urban bike riding to 3-day weekend itineraries. She’s a great person to contact if you have questions about how to start a career in writing or just want some suggestions about getting involved in the NYC nonprofit community.

 

 

Are you looking for advice? Or partners and collaborators? Do you have knowledge to share? Create a profile to offer your expertise to the community and to connect with people who can answer your questions, partner with you on a project, or help with an idea you’ve been developing. Include information about your past work and what you’re looking to get involved in. Happy connecting!

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What do a Peace Corps volunteer, a Brazilian politician, and an epidemiologist have in common?

Photo credit: Donna Cymek, Creative Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: Donna Cymek, Creative Commons/Flickr

They’re all Idealists!

Each week, we’ll introduce you to some members of the Idealist community who are out to do good in the world. You can get to any of their profiles by clicking on their picture. Then just click Send a Message to reach out!

 

April

 

April Fredricks is a Peace Corps volunteer working in Namibia. She’s a great resource for people considering volunteering abroad and is interested in sustainability and the environment. She’d love to connect with other Idealists before returning home to the Pacific Northwest, so check out her profile!

 

Jonviea

 

Jonviea Chamberlain is an epidemiologist about to graduate from UMASS-Amherst. She will soon move to Switzerland to start a PhD researching spinal cord injuries. If you have questions about her field of work, send her a message! She also enjoys reading and photography, for less scientifically inclined Idealists.

 

Andre

André Dutra works with the Brazilian government as an advisor for Youth Policies. He also ran for office in 2010!  He is looking to meet new people and volunteer overseas. Send him a message if you’re curious about Brazil, politics, or just want to connect!

 

 

Aurora

 

Aurora Gangan is looking for other Idealists who share her passion for improving the health and wellness of children. Born in the Philipines, she now lives in Seattle, WA. If you know of a volunteer opportunity she might be interested in, or just want to share some knowledge, let her know!

 

Matt

 

Matt Cifaldi works for Idealist and also wrote this blog post! I’m a member of Idealist’s community engagement team, and I would love to hear from you. Let me know if you’ve found something great on our site, have any ideas on how we can improve your experience, or if you have a great recipe for chicken empanadas.

 

Are you looking for advice? Or partners and collaborators? Do you have knowledge to share? Create a profile to offer your expertise to the community and to connect with people who can answer your questions, partner with you on a project, or help with an idea you’ve been developing. Include information about your past work and what you’re looking to get involved in. Happy connecting!

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Opportunities and events on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve… You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”  – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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This Monday, January 21st, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Since 1994, MLK Day has been a national day of service for people willing to take a “day on, not a day off.” If you’d like to invest some time helping a good cause this weekend, perform a quick search on Idealist and explore the dozens of organizations hosting events. To help you get started, we’ve put together a few opportunities below:

Wherever you live and whatever you want to do MLK day, Idealist has you covered. If you want to stay up to date on what’s new, just set up an email alert based on your favorite search. Have a great long weekend, and enjoy your day on!

Are you 50 or older? Check out these tips from nextavenue.org on how to make a difference on MLK Day.

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Want to fight human trafficking? Explore these opportunities to make a difference

Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  With nearly  27 million people trafficked each year, people and organizations around the world are coming together to draw attention to this pressing issue. To help you explore ways to get involved, we’ve put together a list of job opportunities and events around the world.

If you want more information and opportunities on human trafficking, set up an email alert based on a search for the term “human trafficking”. Idealist will deliver dozens of jobs, volunteer opportunities, events, and internships directly to your inbox.

Photo credit: thomaswanhoff, Creative Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: thomaswanhoff, Creative Commons/Flickr

Opportunities in Cambodia

  • If you live in southeast Asia, or would like to work there, check out Transitions Global. Although based in Ohio, this organization works extensively in Cambodia and runs a center for girls rescued from sex trafficking. They’ve currently got three positions posted on Idealist, all of them in Cambodia.

Opportunities in the United States

Special events

  • Not in the market for a new job but still want to make a difference? On January 29th in New York City UNICEF is screening Not My Life, a documentary about human trafficking filmed over four year across five continents. After the screening, there will be a panel discussion with advocates from the movement.
  • On the West Coast, the Freedom and Fashion Collective Conference on March 23rd needs volunteers for backstage production and foreground logistics. The Conference will bring together  the non-profit, fashion, business, and media industries to fight human trafficking.

What are YOU doing for Human Trafficking Awareness Day?

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