S̄wạs̄dī! My name is Lauren Dekleva, and I am traveling to Chiang Mai, Thailand where I will intern with Urban Light, an anti-trafficking NGO that restores and empowers boys who work in the red light district.
I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I developed a fascination with the world and a deeply rooted sense of justice. That inkling of awareness began to bloom my freshmen year of high school when I discovered a magazine article about human trafficking. Horrified and shocked at the human rights violation, I spent a year speaking about it at debate tournaments across the state, while learning to discuss difficult topics like rape, prostitution, and forced labor – things that children my age and younger were experiencing firsthand. With every recitation, my sense of injustice grew and thus stemmed a desire to devote my career to eradicating human trafficking. Eventually, this passion led me to Belmont University’s Social Entrepreneurship program, from which I graduated in December 2016.
I have always hoped to engage in the fight against trafficking internationally, and am incredibly grateful to Lumos for the opportunity. I am completing my project through Cultural Canvas Thailand (CCT), a nonprofit organization that endeavors to “generate awareness and volunteer support of the current social issues facing Chiang Mai.”
My project itself is with Urban Light, an organization in Chiang Mai dedicated to providing young male sex trafficking victims with help and services, where none were available before. It is uniquely positioned as one of the only anti-trafficking organizations in existence to “specifically focus on helping young men and providing an outlet for safety, health and renewal.” They provide a wide range of services in health, employment, housing, education, harm reduction, prevention, outreach, and legal support to help victims ultimately transition out of trafficking. I will be serving as the full-time Education, Advocacy, and Social Marketing intern. As such, I will be assisting the organization with victim services and advocacy by teaching English classes, conducting life skills workshops for victims, developing relationships, managing and maintaining UL’s social media accounts, fundraising, and helping the case managers.
I anticipate that this immersive experience will give me a new understanding of the global scale of human trafficking, an even deeper passion for trafficking recovery efforts, an appreciation for Thai culture and its people, and a desire to continue exploring. I intend to return to the US having acquired skills that will allow me to positively impact the social justice field in my own country.