Volunteer Maryland prides itself on getting citizens involved in direct service here in Maryland, and we here at Volunteer Maryland Headquarters are no exception. For my direct service this year I chose to volunteer some of my time serving with TurnAround Inc, the domestic violence and sexual assault center in Baltimore City. The center focuses on the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as advocacy for victims of human trafficking through their anti-sex trafficking program. Human trafficking, widely referred to as modern day slavery, is the trading of humans predominantly for the use of sexual slavery and forced labor and TurnAround works with victims of these crimes helping them to re-acclimate themselves to life outside of the world of trafficking. Advocates with the anti-trafficking program spend their hours of service attending doctor appointments with victims, engage them in social activities, and serving as someone the victim can turn to for support and encouragement as they enter into a life of freedom.
Being an advocate with TurnAround, I’m able to see the local impact of our work and as a volunteer I understand the importance of knowing how my service impacts my local community. However, I am also aware that as a volunteer I find myself wondering how my service makes an impact on a global scale. This past month, I was given a glimpse of that impact during the National Conference on Volunteering and Service (NCVS) in Atlanta, Georgia. NCVCS is a conference where leaders from nonprofits, business, and government come together to build and lead a more powerful and vibrant volunteer sector and remind everyone that service really can unite us all. The conference hosts sessions that cover a wide variety of social issues and strategies to combat those issues and a few of those sessions dealt with the issue of human trafficking. I attended one such session hosted by Lisa Williams, founder of Living Water and found myself part of a dialogue that spoke to the impact that states can make against the issue of human trafficking. Living Water is a home of respite for young girls victimized by human trafficking and Lisa was at NCVS to help local citizens understand that taking action against this issue is a pressing need in all communities including right there in the state of Georgia. She was there to help Georgians understand how getting involved could help to destabilize a $32 billion per year industry and to help them see that one state could make a difference.
As I sat listening to Lisa reach out to the Georgians in the audience I found myself thinking about the work being done here in the state of Maryland and felt a sense of pride in knowing that our state is helping to make a difference. TurnAround and organizations like it work diligently to help fight human trafficking here in our state by providing service to victims and raising awareness about the issue. Lisa doesn’t know this, but as she was working to get her home state invested in this issue and showing them the impact they could have, she was simultaneously impacting me. She was showing me the impact TurnAround has in fighting human trafficking and she helped me see how my service on a local level is truly helping to alleviate the issue on a global scale.