A leap of faith for the A21 Campaign
by Vanessa Platt
On the 19th May, I and two friends each embarked on and completed a sponsored skydive. And falling 13000 feet out of a light aircraft at 120 mph is not, incidentally, something I do for fun. Speaking for myself, only an exceptional cause would get me to consider doing such a thing.
I first heard about the work of the A21 Campaign from my friend Sarah, whose idea it also was to skydive in support of them. She first directed me to the video on their website entitled ‘Natalia’s Story’. I cannot recommend it highly enough - it is available to watch here: http://www.thea21campaign.org/videos.php. I learnt that slavery, said to have been abolishing in 1833 throughout the then British Empire, is now a modern-day industry which generates approximately 27.8 billion USD per year. By the end of the video, I had agreed to do the skydive.
The Campaign, whose name stands for ‘Abolishing Injustice in the 21st Century’, is combating the horrific crime of human trafficking from the ground - through, as they say, ‘rescuing one life at a time’. They deal primarily with the 1.39 million victims of commercial sexual servitude worldwide, 25% of which are trafficked from Eastern and Western Europe. The present situation in Europe has created conditions in which the trafficking of women for sex slaves is thriving: the fall of Communism left millions in the former Soviet Bloc in poverty, where shortage of jobs then unevenly affected women and EU immigration restrictions encouraged a rise in illegal immigration. Poor education and social morale also, crucially, encouraged a rise in male clients willing to pay for sex. For a trafficker, this situation is ripe for exploitation.
With a keen awareness that every number represents one human life, A21 provides refuge for victims in their Crisis Care Shelter where they are helped to rebuild their lives and receive on-going legal counsel and protection in seeking real employment and a new life of freedom. Educative programmes in schools work to dissuade young people from paying for sexual services, and the A21 legal team fight for tougher sentences on traffickers. This year their focus is to expand their efforts from Greece and Ukraine into Bulgaria, where they have just successfully opened a new Home and recently convicted two traffickers, each sentenced to over 15 years in prison and a collective penalty fine of 200,000 euros.
The A21 Campaign certainly finds an echo in the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’ As a very smaller group of people, therefore, I and my friends were delighted to raise a total of £850 for the campaign through our dive. As I said, no other cause would have captured my heart quite so absolutely. We base our identity as a modern world, a nation and an individual upon our freedom. Let us restore that basic right to the identities of those who, right at this very moment, are in the clutch of traffickers.
The amazing work of this small group is funded entirely by generous public donation. Please - continue to support them by donating whatever you can, however small the amount, at https://www.thea21campaign.org/donate.php.
For more information please visit http://www.thea21campaign.org/.