USF Erasmus program students take the local transportation in Thailand.
The child-safe hotel where Kelsey Silva ’13 and fellow
University of San Francisco classmates slept in Thailand was familiar, in a
studied way. As were the center that housed Thai women who were recently
rescued from prostitution and the restaurant where Silva’s class ate that was run
by former Cambodian street children.
What wasn’t familiar, what Silva couldn’t learn about through
research in the weeks before her departure to Southeast Asia to meet victims, was
the resilience and personal responsibility to end global human trafficking that
“I have become less saddened by the slave market’s global
reach and more inspired, knowing that people are fighting human trafficking in
all parts of the world,” Silva said after meeting victims face-to-face.
The trip, a two-week immersion to Thailand and Cambodia, was
the culmination of a yearlong class and research project undertaken by students
in the Erasmus Community — a shared learning program. Each year, Erasmus
students work with faculty, studying a topic related to global social justice
in-depth, volunteer for Bay Area nonprofits that provide services related to the
Erasmus research topic, and take part in an immersion.
In recent years, students have worked under David Batstone,
professor in the School of Management and president and co-founder of the
nonprofit Not For Sale Fund; and Michael Duffy, director of USF’s Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought —experts on human trafficking and how organizations
support victims by campaigning for the passage of anti-labor exploitation laws,
providing child-safe housing to orphans, and teaching victims professional
a village near the border city of Mae Sai in northern Thailand, Silva, an
international studies major, and a fellow classmate met street children and
well-known Thai abolitionist Kru Nam. Sponsored by Not for Sale, Nam's
nonprofit offers housing to undocumented orphans who have lost parents to
drugs, trafficking, or sexual exploitation. Some children were rescued after
being sold by their parents or abandoned into a life of trafficking.
“We were able to connect while playing basketball and laugh
together,” said Teresa Carino ’13, a theology and religious studies major. “While
we were playing, they were just simply kids who liked to have fun and shoot
In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Silva, Carino and the other Erasmus
students ate at a restaurant that doubles as a training ground for young
waiters and cooks by employing former street children, children similar to
those they met in Thailand. On the menu that day? Tarantula soup, a Cambodia
Seeing the passion of abolitionists like Kru Nam and
organizations like the Not for Sale Fund was inspiring and revealed the value
of introducing to the cause students like herself, who can spread the word
about human trafficking, Silva said. More importantly, it highlighted how
individuals and organizations are building a generation of young people intent
on bringing human trafficking to an end.
“It was empowering to realize the advantage of youth in the
fight against human trafficking and the power they will carry on for many years
to create change,” said Silva, who hopes some of those she met become
politicians, lawyers, police officers, and full-time abolitionists dedicated to
promoting fair wages for workers and preventing their exploitation.