Anna's Reflection on Working at A21| Charlotte, NC
Summer Reflection | August 30th, 2019
As I look back over sophomore summer, I grow more and more grateful for the crucial
part AGS played in my experience. I recall sitting back on the plane home, feeling, in some
ways, like I was catching my breath for the first time in three months. The previous ninety days in Charlotte stretched, challenged, humbled, and changed me. I learned vastly more about myself and the nature of my work, and the experience solidified my career intentions as well as brought fresh gravitas to how (and for what) I wanted to spend my life. Working with A21, a nonprofit group that combats human trafficking, was an incredible opportunity, and I am excited to put what I’ve learned to words. From the first day I knew I was in the right place, and my growth by the end of the summer more than confirmed it.
At 10:30 on May 18th, I walked through an unassuming little door into an office of 21st-century abolitionists. I never knew what the following days would bring. From 9:30 to 4:30 every weekday, we worked on projects that directly and indirectly impacted the women in our care, and which would expand A21’s capacities to take in even more trafficking survivors that summer - tasks ranging from office errands to event planning to research. Occasionally, we would be mulling about our separate duties when an emergency assignment - for a survivor or potential aftercare case - would come through, and we’d drop what we were doing to complete it in a sometimes two to three hour timeframe. It was sobering to know that the needs we were addressing were very real, and very immediate; there wasn’t time to be laid back in our work. A21 fosters a very close-knit and passionate office environment, where the staff encouraged us to think of our ability to serve survivors as a privilege rather than a “have-to”. This greatly helped me realize that, even though a good part of my tasks were office-related and administrative (running errands, driving the car, etc.), they were meaningful and contributed a great deal to the functioning of the office. I could be thankful that with each “Project Completed”, another woman (or women) was being helped along her journey to freedom. While confidentiality keeps me from sharing deeper details of my work, each day may have looked unassuming (like the little office building), but was filled with purpose and intentionality. Sometimes we were granted to see the fruit of our labors in the passing smile of a survivor, or the news that we’d taken on a new case, or joyful victories relayed from other offices. I grew in a range of skills and knowledge - nonprofit functioning, research abilities, design, interpersonal skills - and an understanding of human trafficking and its manifestation in America. With its passionate staff, far-reaching vision, and nearly-unparalleled professionalism in its line of work, A21 probably taught me more about modern-day slavery than any other source.
Perhaps my greatest takeaway, and for which I owe AGS the most gratitude, is the
much-needed and renewed passion to spend my life (and the time and talents I’m given) to serve those who are in need. For me, that means continuing to pursue a counseling career, potentially to work with victims (and survivors!) of human trafficking, sexual abuse, or PTSD. That, in turn, might lead me to other groups of marginalized, abused, addicted, or neglected women, to both speak out on their behalf and use whatever resources I have to support them in their journeys towards freedom and healing. Watching the A21 staff put aside better salaries, more comfortable lifestyles, or more high-profile jobs to fight on the front lines day after day, was incredibly encouraging for me. As I plan to continue to graduate school for counseling, I have a much better and holistic understanding of nonprofit work and what it looks like to combat trafficking as a career. It confirmed the way in which I want to live, as well as to give me clearer direction for the future.
From my first introduction to nonprofit work, to my inspiring team members, to the
difference I watched A21 make in the lives of survivors, to my own character and skill
development, these past few months constitute my most memorable summer. I have taken a great deal away, and an even deeper appreciation for the people who fight tirelessly - in the shadows and with well-known organizations - for those without a voice. AGS played a crucial role in making my experience possible, and I am so grateful.