Virginia Woolf wrote this in her journal in 1915 during the height of World War I, and less than six months after a depression that led to an attempt on her own life.
As we reflect on National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month this January, it can be hard to see the future as anything but dark. As much as we wish a month of awareness were obsolete because human trafficking and its effects were abolished, the reality is that there are still more than 45 million people enslaved worldwide, and human trafficking is one of the fastest growing global crimes. UNICEF estimated in 2002 that 1.2 million children are trafficked globally every year.
It’s also becoming clearer that Ohio has become a hub of human trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported that human trafficking claimed a total of 292 victims from January through September 2016, compared to 289 victims in 2015. Gracehaven’s estimates are higher, citing more than 1,100 child victims of sex trafficking in Ohio each year.
As President Obama pointed out, human traffickers prey upon some of the most vulnerable populations among us, such as migrants and refugees, homeless LGBT youth, Alaska Native and American Indian women and girls, and children in poverty.
It’s easy to feel the darkness of these realities. Statistics may help paint a picture of the severity and scope of the problem, but the reality of human trafficking can almost be felt without them—it’s not about numbers; even one person suffering slavery is enough to inspire the most urgent action. Under this weight, it’d be easy to fold and count your contribution to the cause as small and inconsequential.
But there is good to be found. There are people who are stepping under the collapsing structure to not only hold it up, but rebuilding it in unforeseen ways.
We believe that some of these people are customers of the Roosevelt Coffeehouse.
As a nonprofit dedicated to fighting human trafficking, our vision from the jump has been to impact as many people as possible. This starts with building a network of influencers by our side, and in this case, you, the customer, are the influencer. 2016 was a year spent strategically building our platform, and it’s paid off.
The Roosevelt was named the number one coffee shop in Columbus in the Columbus Underground’s survey. We were also nominated for the Liberator Award, where we found ourselves among the ranks of some stellar nominees recognized for outstanding efforts in fighting human trafficking. And lastly, Roosevelt founder Kenny Sipes was named fourth on Metropreneur’s Top 10 Entrepreneurs of the Year list. You’re the reason for our success. These accomplishments were possible because you committed to make an impact by buying our product, and it goes a long way in spreading our reach and driving awareness to our cause.
But we’re most proud of the tangible differences we’ve made. In 2016, we donated nearly $12,300 to fight human trafficking. Globally, we partnered with International Justice Mission to provide trauma-focused therapy for children human trafficking survivors; help fund rescue missions; buy 11 medical care packages for victims; and help pay for urgent medical care for an abused child. We provided one month’s expenses for a Uganda safe house through Restore International. And we donated to Exile International’s Esther Fund, which sponsors unsponsored children affected by child soldiering.
On the local front, we partnered with She Has A Name to purchase job training for trafficking victims, and Gracehaven to help pay for art and physical therapy for victims. We also contributed to Gracehaven’s Over the Edge Fundraiser, which raised over $178,000 to provide specialized counseling for children sex trafficking victims in Ohio.
This is your impact. Your small, individual acts of sacrifice through contributions, big or small—it’s your daily pour over. It’s your generosity in the tip jar. It’s sharing the Roosevelt with a friend. And it’s the regular acts of so many kind donors who pledge to keep us going and growing.
Our future may seem dark as long as human trafficking exists to cloud it. But we’ve seen so many acts of kindness in the midst of the cloud. In her terrific essay on Virginia Woolf, Rebecca Solnit, reflecting on Woolf’s statement about darkness, praises Woolf on her willingness to embrace the unknown. Solnit writes: “Despair is a form of certainty, certainty that the future will be a lot like the present.” She says, “To me, the grounds for hope are simply that we don’t know what will happen next, and that the unlikely and the unimaginable transpire quite regularly. And that the unofficial history of the world shows that dedicated individuals and popular movements can shape history and have, though how and when we might win and how long it takes is not predictable.
Solnit continues:: “Most people are afraid of the dark, . . . [fearing most] the darkness that is the unknown, the unseeable, the obscure. And yet the night in which distinctions and definitions cannot be readily made is the same night in which love is made, in which things merge, change, become enchanted, aroused, impregnated, possessed, released, renewed.”
We can’t let our certainty of what the night conceals keep us from acting. It’s the same night in which the Roosevelt was birthed, and we believe together we’re making a difference.
Thank you for your support.