Meet Leah, one of our amazing frontline staff members who helps trafficking survivors graduate from high school.
In the Philippines, a high school diploma is the difference between a human trafficking survivor being competitive in the workforce, or constantly struggling to secure gainful employment. 10ThousandWindows’ Education Program supports survivors as they study to earn their high school degrees. In 2019, 88% of survivors who received education support from us passed their high school equivalency exam, which is five times higher than the Philippines national average.
Leah manages 10ThousandWindows’ Education program. The interview below has been edited for clarity and length.
What is your role with 10ThousandWindows and what is your favorite part about your work?
Leah: As the Education Program Manager, my role is to ensure that survivor autonomy and self-determination are integrated throughout all the educational services we provide, the policies we make, and in our external partnerships. My favorite part of the work is when survivors are empowered and given the opportunity to fulfill their dreams through our educational assistance.
It is heartwarming to know that clients have graduated from college, found gainful employment after passing high school, and developed skills needed for going back to school or find employment.
It is a dream come true when passion meets work. I derive a lot of satisfaction working for this organization that aims to make a difference in the lives of survivors of exploitation and violence.
What motivates you in your job every day?
Leah: There are a lot of things that inspire me to do my job. Each new day always brings something new and different and it can be rewarding. I like learning new things that I never imagined I would encounter. The work we do is never-ending and can be complex, but it gets easier in a collaborative environment and strengthened by personal connection, laughter and fun (Oh, how I miss working in the office!) Working together as a team and contributing to something greater than myself motivates me in my work.
What do you hope for the survivors you serve?
Leah: As human beings, we experience the same fears, the same hope, and the same uncertainties but we also have the capacity to use our minds to conquer our panic, see things realistically and clearly, find solutions to our problems and find the responsibility to exercise compassion and help. This is what I hope for the survivors we serve. That they will find deep in their being the capacity to face the magnitude of challenges that we are having right now. And even with the challenges, they will also not lose hope and confidence in themselves to overcome all these things.
The pandemic has been hard for everyone, but what has brought you hope even in this difficult time?
Leah: Small gestures can make all the difference in times of crisis. I was impressed with one survivor who did this in the midst of the pandemic. She took some of her own limited money to prepare a simple lunch for those people in her community who are having a really hard time. If we all had hearts like hers, we would live in a better world! This story gives me a lot of hope and a renewed belief in the goodness of people. This act of humanity reminds me of Pope John Paul II’s quote “Nobody is so poor he has nothing to give, and nobody is so rich he has nothing to receive.”