Friday, September 05, 2008

Applying Toronto to North Carolina (and wherever else life takes you)

I've seriously started thinking about how I can apply the lessons I've learned here in Toronto through the people I've met, the places I've been, and the things I've seen to the people, places, and things back home in North Carolina. How can I serve those who need me most in the Raleigh-area? What are the resources available to people who are homeless, poor, "invisible", dying of AIDS, marginalized, or unlovely in my home state? How can I get involved? What can I actively do in order to proclaim my social concerns in a positive way?
Many of the dark things that plague the inner-city of Toronto can be found right in my backyards of rural and suburban communities through my state of North Carolina. There are homeless people in the Raleigh-Durham area. There are poor people living in run-down and inadequate housing throughout the state. There are people who have to choose between paying this month's rent or buying food for their family. There are people living with HIV and dying of AIDS all around us.
One thing that many people think of happening only in the mega-city is human trafficking. Part of CSM's prayer tour is driving down Yonge Street and pointing out the approximately 25 "massage parlors" on the 2nd floor of many buildings. These shops are anything but a massage parlor. In fact, they are brothels where immigrant women are tricked into the sex trade and are forced into prostitution. Many of the women come from third-world countries and are promised a new and better life in Canada. The people making these promises tell the women that they will have all of their paperwork and immigration documents taken care of. When the women (and men as well) arrive in Canada, somehow their paperwork has "fallen through" and they become illegal residents of the country. The seemingly nice and caring people who promised them a better life in Toronto then show their true colors by giving the women two options: 1) be arrested and then deported back to their home countries where war, famine, and oppression rule, or 2) work in a "massage parlor" for the rest of their lives. Because of their situations back home, most make the forced choice to stay in the city and sell themselves against their wills. Everyone knows that the massage parlors are no such thing, but the authorities rarely do anything about it.
Human trafficking can also involve people being forced into workplace slavery - on farms, in sweatshops, and mega-corporations. Basically, human trafficking is modern-day slavery and it happens on a much larger and frequent scale than you may think. And, the sad thing is that it is occurring in our very own state, in our very own communities.
I encourage you to educate yourself on this horrendous act of crime. Because if we - the average citizens - do not care about this heinous industry, then who will? Change starts with you. And, change starts with me.
Check out this video to learn more...

-Jason, CSM Toronto City Host Summer 2008

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