Stories from the Field

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.– Margaret Mead

Next week is very special for us. A unique volunteer project that we’ve been planning for a few months is finally coming together next week. From April 5th to the 12th, a team of twenty professionals from Google and Salesforce are going to join my crew in Nepal with the sole intention of using their technology and skills for the prevention of  human trafficking. They’ll spend the first half of next week meeting with local Nepali nonprofits that work with the survivors of human trafficking so they can understand their ground reality, needs, and challenges. In the second half of the week, they’ll team up with twenty Nepali engineers from the Kathmandu chapter of Startup Weekend to brainstorm and build technology solutions for these organizations.

Kelly James (Salesforce) and I have been talking about leading a team of engineers on a volunteering event of this kind for a while now. While filming Stolen Innocence, I realized there was practically no technology being used to track or prevent human trafficking. This bothered me quite a bit and that’s when I started thinking more about conducting an experiment like this, with engineers and designers from the Silicon Valley who could use their skills to design and build some essential, low cost tools and technology to work against human trafficking. This was when Kelly, Moline Dastrup (Google), and I decided to present this plan at both Salesforce and Google. Both companies inculcate and support a strong volunteering culture among their employees, so we got a huge response when we pitched this unique opportunity to them. Of the applicants, we cherry picked a diverse group of twenty people, each with unique skills and professional backgrounds.

From early January, the group has been meeting regularly to talk about women’s rights issues, trafficking trends in India and Nepal, and Indian/Nepali society and the role of women in it.

The twenty technologists heading to Nepal for the volunteering project

The team of twenty Googlers and Salesforcians at their San Francisco fundraiser for Stolen Innocence

As we near closer to the start of this unique volunteering week, I’m excited to immerse each individual into a deeper knowledge about human trafficking and why it’s growing. Many social problems are discussed behind glass walls, and not very often do people get a first-hand immersive experience to understand the issues. I believe this is key to the success of this collaborative experiment. Once the group understands the root problems first hand, they can use that knowledge to build better products to help stop it.

All through next week, we’ll be posting updates about this project on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Follow us on any of these channels to join us on our journey, and wish us luck so our efforts lead to good changes in the system!

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