Category: Community

Beyond the Blind Eye

Journalist Lesley Yarranton describes the difficulties in raising awareness of human trafficking.


            Imagine coming home after work and discovering a body in your backyard.  Some years ago, many who lived in the landing path of Heathrow Airport had that or a similar experience.  Autopsies concluded that all had fallen from a great height, probably from wheel wells as flights lowered their landing gears; victims probably died of cold before they fell. Many were traced to airports in Africa, and investigations there suggested that the individuals had help getting to the wheel wells to stow away, help that may or may not have been voluntary. When the press reported that human trafficking was the most likely explanation behind the deaths, readers in Britain began to recognize the enormity of this issue.

            Lesley Yarranton, a British freelance journalist who has investigated human trafficking since the 1980s, related this series of events during a panel discussion of “Human Trafficking and Media.”  She traced the frustration journalists had in convincing readers of the seriousness of the situation.  “The term itself did not help in generating public attention,” Yarranton explained.  “Human and trafficking are blind words in journalism.” The terms don’t have the impact needed.  Traffic is an annoyance, not a profound, violent offence to another person.  In Britain at least, shocking photos and lurid reports over many years, have convinced the public first, that human trafficking is not confined to other, poorer countries, and second that the issue is not a source of titillation but of shame.

            Yana Hashamova, Associate Professor and Director of the Slavic Center at Ohio State, spoke about her research into attitudes towards trafficking and audience reactions to films that address that issue. She first reported on research she had conducted regarding attitudes towards trafficking in Bulgaria and in the U.S.  Some of her findings:

—  Trafficking in Bulgarians is perceived as something which is not right, unfair. However, when trafficking involves foreigners in Bulgaria, attitudes change.  “It is their own fault” is the predominant answer. And, when it comes to sexual exploitation, public opinion is more likely to “blame” those who engaged in prostitution.

—  American students hold a more general (abstract) view of the “positive aspects” of trafficking while Bulgarians connect the “positive side” to concrete economic opportunities (to avoid poverty in one’s own country). The reasons for trafficking are also perceived differently: Americans believe that the whole society is responsible for it, while Bulgarians ascribe it to “business with people.”   American men exhibit lower interpersonal empathy and higher rape myth acceptance; they show more hostile attitudes towards rape victims.

             Hashamova then turned to the portrayal of trafficking in cinema.  She noted a voyeuristic tendency that exploited the sexual side of trafficking.  Only with more recent films, like Lilya 4 Ever, where all is seen through the woman’s eyes as she is subjected to harrowing and humiliating treatment, does the horrific over the voyeuristic aspect of trafficking come clear.  Americans found many of these movies dissatisfying; they wanted happy endings and acceptable solutions to the problem.  She is pessimistic about the impact cinema can have on the problem because cinematic elements so easily block the “shocking trauma” that trafficking represents.

            The third member of the panel was an undercover detective working in a large urban area on problems of sex trafficking.  He made it very clear that the problem has no easy solutions.  Even cases that he saw as clear cut could be compromised before they could be prosecuted.  Victims were often reluctant to speak or ran away before matters could come to trial.  Getting clear evidence that behavior was forced was difficult.  Prosecutors sometimes did not know the specifics of the trafficking laws on the books or in other instances wanted an airtight case before moving forward.  The detective was pessimistic that the legal system could solve the problem.  He offered up an unsentimental and (to the large audience present) uncomfortable view of the world of the traffickers–which might include parents who sold their daughter into prostitution or domestic servitude to pay off a gambling debt. 

            Although his close experience over many years made him sympathetic to the victims, he engaged in an extensive discussion with a member of the audience over the legalization of prostitution.  “Legalization,” the detective said, “would only make it harder to prosecute trafficking.”  He spoke of the unhelpful side of journalist sensationalism, for example when the press reported for the last Dallas Superbowl that there would be tens of thousands of women trafficked in, when in fact, the police identified 28 cases.  For the Indianapolis Superbowl, eight cases were identified.   Trafficking is more associated with what happens every day than what happens once a year.  And pending cases can be destroyed when journalists release too much information early on.

            Journalists in Britain have had some success at raising public awareness of trafficking as an offence to humanity.  Filmmakers          have made found ways to involve audiences in victims’ suffering and degradation, though such films are hard to watch.  The undercover would like to see (but doesn’t expect to see) more prosecutions, especially of pimps and those in control.  All agree that public awareness of the reality of the issue is the most practical near-term objective, and all agree that media plays an important but ambiguous role in raising awareness.  Exactly how media has succeeded so far, how much its presence impedes and assists, and exactly what the media should do to “solve” the problem are still unanswered questions.

            The panel was organized by Stepanka Korytova, as part of a faculty study group on “The Many Faces of Human Trafficking,” of the International Studies Program and of the College of Arts and Sciences Themester Fall 2012: Good Behavior, Bad Behavior: Molecules to Morality.

Charity, Trust, and Cultural Traditions


Abbie Jung speaks from Vienam about her experience with NGOs in Souteast Asia. Listening are Bloomington (upper left) and panelists and an overflow audience in the IUPUI Global Crossroads classroom (lower right).


          The Red Cross Society of China is one of that country’s oldest and largest charities; yet in a recent survey in China, 82% responded that they would not contribute to it.  In Communist or former Communist countries of Southeast Asia, the government looks suspiciously on nonprofit philanthropic organizations, suspecting that their very existence is a tacit criticism of the government’s failure to provide an important service, and so regulates nonprofits heavily.  As a consequence, some nonprofits prefer to register as for-profit companies, and face the tax implications instead.

             This year, the Center on Philanthropy celebrates a quarter century on the IUPUI campus.  The store of knowledge and expertise it has accumulated in that time has drawn international attention.  The center’s reports on the impact of new laws and regulations on philanthropic giving are watched closely and reported widely in the press.  But the laws of philanthropy are not quite the same as the laws of physics.  Habits of giving and expectation of the results of giving operate differently in China than they do in the U.S.

             The China Philanthropy Leadership Initiative, a group of IUPUI students interested in Chinese philanthropy, gave those differences center stage in a symposium at the Global Crossroads classroom of the IUPUI Office of International Affairs.  The event included participants from campus and from the Indianapolis community; the truly “wired” venue allowed Bloomington to participate and brought in a speaker currently working in Vietnam.   

             Leslie Lenkowsky, SPEA and Center on Philanthropy professor and one of a handful of top international philanthropy experts in the nation, opened the session with a challenge to the notion that the laws of philanthropy vary around the world.  He outlined five problems that all nonprofits must address—from the need to define their mission and expectations, to the difficulty of measuring outcomes and determining impact, to the lack of incentives to perform effectively. 

             Melynne Klaus, director of the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation, outlined the work of that organization to make a positive impact on the arts scene in Central Indiana.  They have worked to simplify the application process (and reduce the grant application time that organizations must devote) by standardizing the application form with similar organizations in the city, and to establish rules of transparency and clarity of mission.  They ask organizations that apply for funding to establish their own measurable goals as part of the application process, and then the organization is evaluated for how well it meets its own goals.  Anthony Lorenz, CFO for WFYI, the nation’s 19th largest public broadcasting corporation,  provided a financial context for establishing transparency.  It tracks community needs through patterns of annual giving.

             Abbie Jung, based in Hong Kong and San Franciso, happened to be in Vietnam when she spoke to the group about her experiences with nonprofits in China and Southeast Asia.  Philanthropy is a long-standing tradition in Asia and giving is generous.  She noted differences from Western trends. Private giving is still more common than strategic support of civil entities and NGO’s.  Family interests and education are the traditional objects.   Patterns of  government regulation and enforcement are still evolving. 

            The IUPUI symposium was the signature event of semester-long program exploring philanthropy and its global implications.  The initiative was completely student driven and was developed both to expand cultural understanding of the workings and issues of philanthropic organizations and to train young professionals through resources that go beyond the campus.

Bridges: Children, Languages, World

Bridges Mini-Camp: Crafts

A participant in the Ya Ya Mini-Camp shows off his Beijing mask.

Children and their parents worked together on Chinese crafts at a mini-camp offered by the Bridges Chinese Language program, Ya Ya.  The mini-camps, designed by Ya Ya instructors, Jen Pearl and Xini Wang, provide a way to connect with students during IU’s summer break.  They also make it possible for members of the Bloomington Chinese community, including visiting scholars at IU, to meet the Ya Ya students and their families.   

Two more camps are planned for the summer, one on martial arts and another on cooking.  Jen and Xini hope that the camps will keep students interested in Chinese so that they will continue language class in the fall.  Jen and Xini will volunteer their time to teach the Ya Ya students throughout the academic year on Saturdays at the Center for the Study of Global Change.

The Bridges project facilitates the development of world language instruction programs for children, emphasizing Less-Commonly Taught Languages and provides instruction in Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Mongolian and Swahili during the academic year.   For more information see the Bridges webpage.

Hearing Africa’s Children

Twesigye Jackson Kaguri at the school for AIDS orphans.

Twesigye Jackson Kaguri at the school for AIDS orphans.

          “Can you hear me now?”  The answer for the 250 AIDS orphans who attend the Nyaka School in the village of Nyakagyezi, Uganda, would be a certain “No.”  Nestled in the mountains near the borders with Congo and Rwanda, the Nyaka School is a nine-hour drive from the capital, Kampala.  Interns and visitors quickly give up their electronic connectivity to the world when they make that trip to become a part of one successful effort to change the future for a generation crippled by AIDS.  Public school is not free to anyone in Uganda; to children who have lost their parents to AIDS—Uganda has two million of them—finding the goat or chicken to sell might help with the tuition if the income didn’t need to be used for basic survival. 

           Twesigye Jackson Kaguri (IU alumnus)  told the story of building a school in his hometown where these children could get an education at no cost.  Construction began in 2001, and the school opened in 2003.  The founders immediately saw that a school alone was not enough.  The children needed to be fed.  They needed places to sleep, and Kaguri did not want to fall back on the traditional orphanage model.  The project trained “grandmothers” to  provide safe and healthy homes for children, whether relatives or not.  It set up farming on its 17 acres of land and taught the children the basics of growing food while growing the food that provides two meals a day for them (with some left over to sell to provide funds to help support the project).  It developed dance and music programs that the children take out to other schools to raise AIDS awareness.  Addressing one piece of the complex problem at a time, Nyaka School graduated its first class in 2008.  All graduates passed the state exams, and many continue in secondary school on $500/year scholarships made available by the project.   Read more about the Nyaka AIDS foundation  and the history of the project.

          Kaguri’s presentation was part of a public “mini-conference” on global issues, offered in conjunction with the Institute for Curriculum and Campus Internationalization at IUB this week.  Attendees come to the conference with a commitment to international education and a recognition of the enormity of global issues; they don’t need to be told of the problems in this world.  What they really come to learn is what they can do about them, specifically what they can do in the classroom to increase awareness of global issues and to begin to find ways to help.

IU students design a summer camp in Bluefields, Jamaica.

IU students design a summer camp in Bluefields, Jamaica.

  Hilary Kahn continued the solution-oriented conversation with a description of a summer service-learning project in Jamaica, the “Real JA,” far from the tourist centers of the island.  IU students in the summer course stay in the homes of residents of Bluefields in Southwestern Jamaica.  They attend community meetings and work with residents and each other to design a summer camp for the community’s children.  “The course prods students off the veranda,” Kahn explains.  “It is not armchair study abroad, but rather a chance for students to really engage in the community to share and shift authority and identity.  They listen to all the different voices in the community and gain the sympathy and empathy necessary for more effective connections.”

Holi: Color to the Season

Radha celebrating Holi (c1788)

Holi is a Hindu festival that the Indian diaspora has carried around the world.  The first textual notation of the holiday dates from the seventh century and tells the mythic story of Pralhad, a devotee of the supreme god, Vishnu,  but son of a demon.  His father ordered him to sit on a bed of fire, and he survived unscathed. Thus, Holi marks the triumph of good over evil and the passing of winter and the coming of spring.  Many traditions are associated with the holiday.  The most common is the throwing of colored sand and water.  The Asian Culture Center brought that tradition to Dunn Meadow this month and transformed the dull brown field of winter into a rainbow of colored sand.

Holi 2011 in Dunn Meadow

Holi 2011 in Dunn Meadow

Holi 2011 in Dunn Meadow

Holi 2011 in Dunn Meadow

Chinese and Arabic Language Students Start Young

Ya Ya class participants take aim at their knowledge of Chinese vocabulary during this interactive Chinese class for young learners.

Ya Ya class participants take aim at their knowledge of Chinese vocabulary during this interactive Chinese class for young learners.

 Several IU units have joined together to make training in Chinese and Arabic available to children in Monroe County. 

Both programs take place at the Monroe County Public Library each Saturday and are free and open to the public.  Currently, Bridges: Children, Languages, World programs take place throughout the Bloomington community, offering Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Mongolian, and Swahili for young learners in a fun and inviting atmosphere.  For more information, contact or visit the Bridges website,

Arabic class at the Monroe County Public Library

Arabic class at the Monroe County Public Library