It’s a beautiful day for another featured interview on Transparency Blog! A while ago, my godmother sent me a link to an Instagram page about a movement started by college students, and it was none other than Not in My City Project. I saw what they were doing and knew I had to reach out. This interview is super encouraging for any millennials out there who have a burning passion to serve and fight against injustice. Heck, this is super encouraging for anyone who is young and feels like they have a God-give purpose. Keep reading to learn more about being called young and find some practical advice about how to move forward!
1. Tell me about Not In My City Project and how it all got started.
Not In My City Project is an initiative designed to engage and mobilize college students in the fight against human trafficking. We train college students to organize, implement, and host awareness events to tell other people that trafficking is an issue in our own backyard. We also train students to promote and package products sold to raise money for direct services (ie. medical services, counseling appointments, group therapy sessions, mentorship programs, educational services, and other basic needs) for survivors provided by Present Age Ministries.
We are based in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is the #1 city in North Carolina for human trafficking. In the United States, there are an estimated 150,000-300,000 youth at risk for commercial sexual exploitation every year. The average age for entry into the sex trade is 13 years old, and the average lifespan of victims after they have entered “the life” is only 7 years. Two percent of victims are ever rescued.
To us, these statistics are simply not okay. Sydney and I both began internships with Present Age Ministries, a local 501c3 organization dedicated to combatting the sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking of teen girls in the Charlotte and surrounding areas, and we both found ourselves unable to part with the work that is being done in our city.
We began to recognize this gap between service providers who are doing groundbreaking work but need volunteers, and college students who have enough passion to move a mountain but need an outlet to do so. Not In My City Project exists to fill that gap where we live and work.
2. Why college students, specifically? Why do you think they are so powerful?
College students have the ability to change culture. Do you hear us, college student?! You do! We’ve seen it! We have found that the college students around us are dedicated to more than just their studies. They are dedicated to jobs and families, to creative solutions and bold movements, to having hard conversations and advocating on behalf of others.
The college students we interact with are the people who are willing to sacrifice the most and believe the best. And we’ve seen that the response to sexual exploitation and trafficking is no different.College students have the ability to change culture. Click To Tweet
Our goal for this project is to mobilize college students, but the fight doesn’t end on campus. If we can train college students on the issue of human trafficking and provide creative avenues for service now, freedom’s reach is absolutely endless. We will see a movement of teachers, police officers, business people, lawyers, engineers, nurses, social workers, dancers, and architects advocating for freedom.
We will see people educating their coworkers. We will see people identifying risk factors and reporting warning signs. We will see people loving our girls well. We will see freedom and redemption and change. We will see a new city–one that does not tolerate trafficking and sexual exploitation.
3. Being young adults, have there been challenges with leading this initiative at a young age? What are they and how do you handle them?
The reality of the situation is that even though it feels like it at times, this project is not our full-time job. We are also balancing homework, internships, programs, families, and friends (all while practicing self-care of course). Communication is key! We are constantly talking about project things and life things so we are up to date on what needs to be done when.
We also battle the perception of inexperience. We are young. And we don’t have degrees (yet!). It’s understandable. However, God has called us to work and serve in this way, so we walk confidently forward. We are honest about who we are and what we do, and we expect God to do the rest. We both have extensive local and international experience in anti-trafficking work, and we believe that God is using that experience alongside our obedience to make this project work.When God has called you to work and serve, walk confidently forward in that. Click To Tweet
4. How do you empower others around you to take action?
We train them and then trust them. We have equipped our volunteers with information, training, and guidelines to do their jobs well. But then we encourage and push them to actually do the work. We ask questions to make sure they are on the right track and encourage them in the work they are doing.
There is always an element of accountability in the work we do and we trust that our volunteers are as deeply passionate about this issue as we are. Ultimately, we believe that God has placed the people around us in that place for a reason, and it’s just a matter of equipping them effectively.
We have seen so many times that the response to the nature of the issue of trafficking brings, in equal amounts, righteous anger and disbelief, but also compassion and determination to see justice. Honestly, other than training, supporting, and encouraging, we simply trust that God will move and use talents and passions for his glory.
5. What advice do you have for young people who may feel the urge start a movement/organization with a cause?
YES, DO IT! When the Lord is calling you to something, even something scary, it is always, always, ALWAYS the most beautiful and worthwhile thing in the whole world. But also here is some practical advice:
- Stay connected to the source of truth and justice. These issues break the heart of Jesus infinitely more than they break yours. Remember that. The Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe is fighting against injustice with relentless, unending love. And you are called to work alongside Him. It will not happen in your own power, and as you lean more into who God is, you will see more of His heart, be molded to be more like Christ, and be pushed to worship, which is ultimately what this life is all about.
- Be honest and clear about who you are and what you’re doing. Make a clear mission statement and vision and only do the things that fit into that plan. It makes your branding and work stronger, and it allows other people to partner with you.
- Make your work replicable. There is value in walking out the gifts and callings that God has given YOU–that’s absolutely true. But also, if you are the only person in the world doing something, how is it going to continue once you are gone? Write everything down. Make processes. Make flow charts. Whatever it takes. Someone should be able to take your place and do the work themselves. The work you are doing (or want to do) is so great, but how much better would it be in a hundred other people are doing the same work in other places? (Hint: much better!)
6. Do you have any new or exciting projects coming up?
We have new t-shirt designs rolling out this winter and next year, which we are super excited about! We are also in the works of hosting a conference and a 5k to reach students in Charlotte! We are always on the lookout for new opportunities to connect to the campus and the surrounding community, whether that be through awareness events or other volunteer opportunities.
7. How can my readers stay connected with you?
Get with us on social media!!!
Hanha is the writer behind Transparency Blog, and she is super passionate about encouraging women to find their identity and belonging in Christ! She graduated from the University of National Champions—Go Heels!—and she is currently pursuing plans to become a physician in the near future. A few fun facts? She’s addicted to Grey’s Anatomy, has a special place in her heart for tacos, and podcasts are her present obsession. In her spare time, she daydreams about places she can travel and loves connecting with friends on Instagram. Come say hi!