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Meet a Volunteer: An Interview With Nate Quick

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Experts & Activists

Nate Quick is a counselor at an international Christian school in Hong Kong, who teaches a class on spiritual disciplines, works on student leadership development, and leads spiritual retreats and service projects. He has made multiple trips to visit The SOLD Project, and recently, he brought a group of 24 students from his secondary school to come see our students and learn more about what we do. He ran a full day program consisting of English classes, Manderin classes, games and activities, and art classes. His students also helped with work projects, helping to move to the new city center and paint the upstairs room. Lauren Ellis interviewed him about the experience, and we’d love to share it with you here!

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Thank you again for bringing your high schoolers to help with The SOLD Project! We’d like to start off by asking: Why did you/the school decide to work with SOLD?
I didn’t really think about it… It just felt right. But the things that I love about SOLD is that it is going to the roots of a problem. While it is right that we are targeting people to rescue and rehabilitate out of slavery, they are easily and quickly replaced–it’s a faucet. If we can go to the source of the matter, things like poverty, prevention, lack of education,etc.., now these are equally, if not more of a imperative. That’s what I see SOLD doing, going in and impacting the community, mentoring and educating, providing opportunities for students to succeed–this is too incredible of an opportunity not to want to get involved. I want my students at my school see an organization like this and learn about what passion and work looks like to solve a problem and get over obstacles–SOLD tells that kind of story.

What do you hope to see change in the world? What is one of the world’s biggest issues?
Wow. I guess selfishness–if we were not geared towards selfishness because of the nature we were born into, we wouldn’t have many of the world’s biggest issues.

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What are you doing (as a group) to work towards solving that problem?
In my current position, I teach a new and better way of selflessness. If I deny my selfish nature and take on the mind of Christ who taught us to serve selflessly, then we will be looking to do what He did and restore and redeem that which has been defiled and not reflective of truth. But on specific issues, we as a school want to bring awareness and look for opportunities to serve and help.

What was one of their (or your) biggest takeaways from the trip?
For many of my students, they were impacted by the love of the SOLD staff. One of my students called them “real life superheroes.” My students loved serving in the school, and having a good time at SOLD resource center but to be able to hear about what SOLD does was inspiring.

For me my biggest takeaway is usually a dose of jealousy! I am jealous of the work that SOLD does and who they are as people. Each visit reminds me how great of project that SOLD is and I want people to know that.

What was a challenge for them? What was a success?
Actually the biggest challenge was the new environment. Hong Kong kids predominately spend most of their time in air conditioned buildings for a lot of reasons, mostly because it’s incredibly humid with poor air quality, and well, it’s more comfortable inside. Being out in the heat was a different lifestyle, and were prone to not feel well at times, especially if they weren’t taking care of themselves by drinking water! But some of them were challenged to be more of a leader or team player while putting on the program, which is always a challenge that brings various levels of success.

Why is it important for high school students to volunteer like this?
This is a tricky one–there are some potential pitfalls to having high school students, or anyone really, to volunteer on trips like this. Expectations versus reality is a problem to manage. Motivations to “why you want to help” can also be problematic philosophically as well. I’m not a big supporter of serving to make yourself feel good about life or yourself. However, when students are put in a position to volunteer, they have great potential to see people, themselves, and issues differently and as a result, grow as an individual. Within my context, I brought the next generation of potentially the world’s wealthiest individuals. What can I do to impact their perspective and how they see the world and the impact of poverty  and the system of poverty in various forms so they can be wise to lead, serve and give.

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What would you do differently for the next trip?
Each trip is different, they cannot all be cookie-cutter programs. As long as it is useful to SOLD I would be up for [it.]

What would you say to other schools/groups that are thinking about having their students volunteer?
If you have a large group like we did, communication is always a key element in the preparation process. Have a plan with built in flexibility and contingency ideas. Be careful of personal agenda and do your best to have everyone be on the same page as much as possible.

Thank you Nate, for sharing your experience with us!

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Lauren Ellis started working as a graphic designer at 18 and by 26, she left her agency job to help start up a small web agency in downtown Austin where she worked as Creative Director. Since then, she left her home in America behind to work in Thailand with The SOLD Project. Lauren teaches art therapy classes, designs all of The SOLD Project’s work and manages the social media accounts.

An Interview With The Spoken-Word Creators

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Here is the short film created by Matthew Evearitt and Greg Steward

One of our amazing summer interns, Madelynn Emmerich, interviewed Matthew Evearitt and Greg Steward to get a behind-the-scenes look at the spoken word video they produced for SOLD this year. Check out the interview below to learn more about the creative process, the challenges they faced and what inspires them in their art and activism.

Would you two mind telling me a little bit about yourselves and how you two first became involved with the art that you both work in today?

Greg: I’ve always been a fan of music, rap, poetry, arts, and all that fun stuff. Apparently my mom said I used to write a bunch of stuff when I was a little kid. Then Jr High came around, rap became more popular, I kind of started writing stuff and practicing. It wasn’t until Senior year in High School, I actually started rapping with a buddy of mine on a semi-serious level. Then there was this really cool girl that I liked, who was into poetry, so I was like, why don’t I just write a poem. And then a buddy of mine was throwing a show, and he was looking for artists. I shared the poem I had written. When he heard it, he was like, “DUDE, I want to put you in my performance!” And ever since then I’ve been writing on a more serious level.

Matthew: Film, I’ve always been a photographer, I wanted to be a skateboard photographer when I first moved to New York in 2003 and then it didn’t really pan out. I started making skate video clips, and so I learned about editing through that and learned about trying to get good angles, or interesting angles that I thought at the time were interesting. They probably weren’t interesting to anyone else {laughs}. That and being able to experiment with different things with the camera and editing. But I never tried to do as much as I am now, since I moved to the Bay area in 2013. In New York, I thought that it had to be paid stuff all the time. I would get gigs, models, and events here and there and I thought that was good enough. But ever since I’ve been here I’ve really expanded my thought on what to shoot and when to shoot. To me I think it’s all the time and don’t worry about if you’re getting paid or not, ya know just do it and make something. Since I’ve been here, it really has sparked off a lot more ideas for me and opportunities like working with The SOLD Project, Greg, and a lot of Lyrical Opposition.

Why do you each do what you do?

Greg: As Matthew mentioned, I’m a part of a group called Lyrical Opposition. We’re a non-profit organization that focuses on the creative arts to help the community have a voice. I started it because it was fun and a good way to express myself. But now the reason I do work like this is, one, to bring attention towards particular causes like The SOLD Project. And then, two, I want to be an example for others to realize they too can be creative, they too can have fun, they too can express themselves.

Matthew: I like to use this as a creative outlet, and I also think, like what Greg was saying, if I can use my medium to bring forth attention to causes that I think are important, then ya know, I want to do that. The natural way that I can do that is by using film. Even for helping organizations in Oakland, I use film to bring attention to those organizations and what they’re doing. I want to be able to use that as a platform where people will be able to see what’s going on in Oakland.

Is there anything or person that inspires you?

Matthew: The Bay inspires me. Seriously, Oakland has brought to my attention all kinds of things that are happening that I really think are beautiful and are helping the community. I’ve always been inspired by that and generated ideas from that inspiration. Let’s do a project that starts a conversation about patriarchy or something like that.

Greg: I’m an inspiration junky. I get inspired off of everything. This guy {points to Matthew} inspires me, stories of people overcoming inspire me, just creativity in and of itself inspires me. I’m that guy. One of my biggest inspirations in life has always been Bruce Lee. He always wanted to express himself honestly, and always wanted to work on his craft and become better. He had a very good way of being happy with his current abilities but never content always wanting more. It’s just a good balance, and I strive to do that with my art. I strive to be confident with what I’m capable of but never content to just settle.

What is your involvement/relationship to The SOLD Project?

Both: Rachel Goble and Oaklife church

Why did you create this video?

Greg: Rachel had a fundraising event, and she asked me to write a piece. I was like, “SURE!” So I wrote the piece, performed the piece, she liked the piece. She said we should make a video for the piece, to talk to Matt. Then we hit up Matt. And then I don’t know how much time went by, about a year I think, at least. Then we recorded the piece.

Matthew: Yeah, this was a long process. Greg wrote that piece for Rachel’s event. I had never heard it until Rachel played it for me. She had it saved as an MP3. Then I started seeing something in my head. An empty white room with a window. I was seeing just Greg saying this in the room and being in the room. And then you would see images of this girl, who ended up being Phyu. Who was young, maybe not a child but not a woman yet. Just standing there, staring, looking at something or someone, you didn’t know what she was looking at. I thought that through the words and between the cuts of Greg and this girl, the viewer would kind of get this sense of who he (Greg) might be talking about. Then the last, the end of the film, you would see them both together in the room. So the viewer would be left with the question, who is this person?

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Matthew and Greg

Who made the creative decisions for the video? Did you choose to have the girl, Matt? Or were this and other decisions more collaborative? 

Matthew: It was collaborative. I just brought this idea to Rachel, and she took it and added her input and then Greg had some input too. We all were able to put our pieces into it the idea.            

What does she represent to you?           

Matthew: She represents the kids that SOLD project is trying to save through preventive measures.           

Greg: In the piece, I’m speaking as if I’m talking about a girl, so it makes sense to have Phyu there because she’s female and we are talking about a girl in the piece. If they (audience) understands SOLD and child trafficking in and of itself, it’s more broad than just teenage females. But she represents all child trafficking.

Why did you choose to film this video in a blank room?           

Matthew: I thought it was neutral and didn’t have a lot of baggage behind it. The context is a SOLD Project film, which obviously adds some baggage to it. But in the beginning, it starts off as this very neutral space.

Why did you choose not to have music during this video?           

Matthew: Originally, I thought we were going to have music. Our friend Ben is a composer, and I put a track he sent me on it and sent it to Rachel.

Greg: I thought there was music. When you asked that question, I was like, DUN DUN DUN, little awkward turtle.           

Matthew: Well then she responded, and she wanted to go with the acapella version. Sometimes I really enjoy acapella, ya know anything with a spoken word track at least. So I think it still works, and I like that. I would put music to it maybe sometime down the line if there’s a version two or remix or something. But I don’t think we’re ready for that {chuckles}.

Greg, your spoken-word piece began with saying, “What is it within a person’s heart that drives them to deprive another person the opportunity to choose?” Then you closed it by saying the same thing except instead of “deprive” you choose “provide.” I found that to be really powerful. Why did you choose to speak those as the opening and closing?

Greg: Sometimes in a movie you’ll see a scene and then it won’t make sense, and then they’ll have the rest of the movie and then they’ll end on the same scene that they started. I always thought that was cool, that it was a clever, artistic way to tell a story. So in the beginning, setting the tone, I wanted people to feel the tension of why do people hurt other people, right? After telling the story, I wanted to relieve them with the question, why do people help other people. So we created the tension, and now it’s like, now the ball’s in your court. Search within yourself to find out why you would help somebody. Instead of deprive, provide, so yeah. Just a little clever twist to leave them with a question in mind.

Any other comments or artistic choices you would like our audience to know about?

Matthew: Thank you to Greg, thank you to Rachel.

Greg: Thank you to Matt. I would challenge anybody that is reading, or listening or sees the video to share their thoughts. Because as an artist, it’s good to hear that people are seeing your stuff and all that jazz. But then as an organization, it’s also good to get feedback and to know the actions that you’re taking are being noticed.

 

Meet the Woman Behind Counter-Trafficking in Chiang Mai

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One of the leading figures in the counter-trafficking movement in Northern Thailand, Boom Bean is the founder and Director of The HUG Project (and its offshoot, the ACT Center), which is a multidisciplinary team involved in the protection of victims and investigation of cases of abused and sexually exploited children. She collaborates with Police Lt. Col. Apichart Hattasin of the northern Thai division of the Royal Thai Police, who is devoted to investigating, arresting, and prosecuting traffickers and other perpetrators of violence against children. To date, the HUG Project/ACT Center has been involved in the rescue of approximately 40-60 children per year who have been sexually abused, trafficked, or otherwise exploited, and many other cases are currently under investigation. Boom Bean also helps train staff, volunteers, and members of other counter-trafficking organizations on raising awareness and on how to work with children who have been victims of abuse. She was nominated for the U.S. Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award in January 2014, and she has been one of TEDx Chiang Mai’s speakers on human trafficking in Northern Thailand. We’re thrilled to speak with her about the phenomenal work she’s doing.

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Khun Boom, thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us about your experience and perspective. Can you tell us a little bit about what led you to where you are now?

I grew up with a single mother and never knew my father. I had grown up knowing about sexual abuse from someone very close to me and I was never sure how to respond to it, so I remained silent. At university, I studied English Literature and, as part of the major, I read various books based on true stories of children being abused. I enjoyed working with children, so I initially chose a career in teaching language (Thai and English) to children and university students. Many of these students would often come to me and tell me their stories of abuse.

In 2011, I began researching, reading, attending trainings, and doing volunteer work on the abuse of children. It was during this time that I became aware of the issue of human trafficking. I felt called to be more involved in counter human trafficking efforts, so I decided to start a non-profit organization focusing on counter human trafficking. A few months later, the HUG Project was founded, HUG being the northern Thai word for love.

When I first started the HUG Project, it was with the intention of creating prevention mechanisms for children and staff through trainings and awareness activities. Throughout the trainings, I regularly heard children and adults share stories of abuse. Consequently, my team started to focus more on the protection and intervention side of human trafficking — the investigation and prosecution of traffickers and or perpetrators. Much of the investigation was done myself, with support from my team. At the beginning of 2013, the police on the team arrested a foreign pedophile who had been preying on street children. Following the arrest, Police Lt. Col. Apichart Hattasin and the HUG Project officially founded The Big Brother Project. Our goal was to protect, empower and restore children who have been exploited and abused, or who are at risk. The Big Brother Project (in collaboration with the ACT Center) works with children who may not be eligible for other programs due to the complexity of their specific issues.

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What are two or three of the biggest challenges you face?

One big challenge is putting a good case together to make sure that justice is served for victims. In Thailand, victims are the key witnesses, so you need very strong evidence, which can be difficult to collect, and you need victims who are willing and able to cooperate throughout the process.

The restoration time for victims of human trafficking and child abuse is also very challenging. They have been through an extremely traumatic experience, and may not understand that they are victims, and sometimes resist the process. It takes a lot of time, energy, patience, and dedication.

If you could change one thing to help end trafficking in Thailand, what do you think would be most effective?

I would like to see the educational system (schools) start reporting children who skip school, and I want to see authorities work together to prevent children from dropping out of school. Many of the victims that we work with dropped out of school at an early age. We need to come up with better and much more effective strategies and mechanisms to prevent children from dropping out of school and to keep them within the education system.

Please tell us about a case that stayed with you, affected you, or changed you in some way. What happened and how did it change you?

Every case will take something out of you. My very first case involved a young girl who dropped out of school in her early teens when her father’s life and money became consumed with alcohol. She began to go out late at night and started serving drinks and dancing at bars. Then a friend of hers told her she could make a lot more money selling her body for sex. She was connected with a “friend” who promised a certain salary if she worked for him, but as often happens, traffickers’ promises were not all they seemed to be. She earned far less than promised, but she had seen what could happen to her if she tried to leave, so leaving was not an option. It was at this point that I met her. The volunteers on our team opened our home to her and enrolled her in school.

This was the first time in her life that she encountered structure and boundaries, and she did not care for it. However, each time she ran away, we convinced her to come back. Each time she relapsed, we showed grace and forgiveness. She is now in school and doing well (and is one of SOLD’s scholarship students), and she is back at home with her father who now has a stable job. In the meantime, we continue our efforts to bring her traffickers to justice. But she still has a life-long road towards restoration. She has begun a life of healing, not only from the physical abuse, but she also seeks the kind of healing that can only be given by the grace of God.

This experience taught me that we can’t really change people, but we can motivate them to change themselves.

What are you most proud of?

I am always happy and proud to see children that I work with grow to become healthy, independent individuals, and to see them serve others!

If there were one thing you could tell foreigners before they come visit Thailand or before they try to get involved in supporting the anti-trafficking movement, what would you want them to know?

My encouragement would be that there is no single best method in fighting this crime. We must work together. What works in their home country may not work in Thailand. I want to encourage people to support the local people to help fight this crime in a way that is effective and sustainable.

 

**Note: The ACT Center is a recently launched pilot initiative to triangulate efforts between various governments (including the U.S.), NGOs, and local police officials to counter trafficking in the region. To find out more, read this article in Chiang Mai City Life Magazine.