While I know that the technology in this industry can be transformative, it’s also easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of deadlines and “just work.” That’s why I was intrigued by Sabrina Stratford’s post on LinkedIn about her transition from ABBYY to fighting human trafficking and how what she learned from her capture career will positively benefit at-risk people.
One common reaction, “how cool that you’re moving away from the corporate world to do something that matters,” didn’t sit well with Stratford. It took a few days, but she realized, “Two sides of the same coin are cashing in for this next chapter in my life. The position of Project Manager to keep people from moving into slavery comes with a very specific skill-set requirement. As you scan these skills, take a moment to think about our roles in Sales and Marketing, or BD.
- Overseeing transit monitors and empower them to succeed
- Transit Monitor training
- Financial Requests and budget management
- Data collection and verification
- Victim engagement and empowerment
- Investigations and legal cases
- Administration and human resources
- Utilizing strong cognitive skills, both quantitative and qualitative, to develop and maintain a data-driven approach to LJI’s anti-trafficking efforts in Alaska
Stratford notes that Love Justice International has intercepted about 24,000 people. They’ve been effective because of actionable data and understanding that the greatest possible impact is interrupting traffickers in transit. She feels like her entire professional career has prepared her for the role, including her time at ABBYY and the beginnings of her career giving people the ability to search a digital file cabinet. As she said, “Data IS and always has been KING!”
DIR: Wow, 45 million in slavery today – why is this such a hidden story?
Stratford: I think it’s because not everyone understands what human trafficking actually is and it certainly doesn’t look like a kidnapping in a Liam Neeson movie. We define human trafficking as, “Moving someone into slavery.” This typically happens by manipulation and coercion. When you’re living in poverty or vulnerable for other reasons a predator can move in and sell a story of helping with a promised job or relationship. Frequently the victim goes willingly based on these promises and then once they are in the grips of the Trafficker they can be put to work as a laborer, sold to someone else, or put straight into sex work. They are not allowed to leave or contact anyone so if they refuse to engage in prostitution they are “broken in” by a process of gang rape, torture, and starvation. And based on the data this means that one in every 200 people are in this dire situation needing help.
DIR: How large of a role did your faith play in making this decision?
Stratford: Love Justice International’s (LJI) mission is, “sharing the love of Jesus Christ by fighting the world’s greatest injustices.” For me, personally, the decision to quit my job and join the fight came directly from prayer and conviction. God loves every person more than the person you love most, and God’s perspective is the truth. So if you want to get the truest understanding that you can of the issue, imagine it happening to the person you love most. Somebody’s baby getting raped every day will kick you into high gear no matter your religion. We, as a country, are divided in so many ways but I think the injustice of human trafficking is universally considered evil and one of the greatest injustices of our generation.
DIR: Your post points out that this is a continuation of your career on which you’ll rely on many of the skills you developed in the capture industry. Where is the overlap in your project management expertise and your new role?
Stratford: I’ve always been one to go do/see/eat the local’s best whether it was in Hong Kong, Singapore, or Bali and that spirit has prepared me to open up to people in a safe way and learn all I can about culture. It’s no exaggeration to say I’ve been training for this role my entire career.
Being a LJI Project Manager in a country where we haven’t worked before (LJI has amazing success in other countries), means I’ll need to build out our relationships and partnerships with the Anchorage police, State Officials, TSA, after-care homes, mentorship organizations, and Alaskans. I’ve had the good fortune of working in Sales and Development roles that required me to reach out to people and build interconnection in order to succeed. Coming from a place of asking the right questions and helping people get what they need is going to be a cornerstone for this pilot.
DIR: You also mention the technology expertise you have will be helpful. How? I’m curious how those parts of your career fit to make a mosaic.
Stratford: LJI appealed to me because of their success rate in helping the people who need it most. As I researched the why and how of what they do I learned that the data shows how to get the biggest ROI or how to help the people who need it most with a small budget. Education and awareness is important so people understand what human trafficking is and how to stay safe, but nobody has good data on how education is actually producing a dent in the numbers of people trafficked.
There are groups with brave people who will bust into a brothel and rescue victims – also great work but a small affect. Rehabilitation is absolutely necessary for survivors but a very expensive undertaking. The data shows that if you can intercept a person at the point of transit your odds of doing so are high and it doesn’t cost a great deal of money to be a Transit Monitor. LJI has the intercept process down to a science and the data we collect is instrumental in the authorities’ prosecuting the Trafficker as well. We hand over hard proof to police investigators that testifies as to how the Trafficker met and contacted the potential victim, what lies they told the victim, if they took the victims passport and phone, if drugs were part of the deal, where they were headed and who they were going to meet, and if the victim has already been violated. We close the loop with data and technology and make prosecution easier.
DIR: How goes the jujitsu training? (Your blog post had me laughing.) And, on a serious note, how dangerous is this for you personally?
Stratford: I want to be as ready as I can be for this position and there is some degree of danger involved. We’ll be perfectly safe in the airport but we’ll all need to be keenly aware of our surroundings when we leave ANC. I’m a native Texan and Alaska is open-carry so I’ll be at home with that practice but beyond that, I’ll just need to watch myself in transit and let people know where I am at all times. Each trafficked person is a minimum of $200k to the Trafficker so we are going to disrupt their supply chain in a big way.
Jui Jitsu is another step I want to take to better myself but I had a 200# Marine set on my chest the first day and crack a rib – so we’ll see how I can continue my training.
DIR: How can people help?
Stratford: We have 16 volunteers who have been through Transit Monitor Training with me in Alaska and they are just waiting on my arrival to take action. My role is 100% self-supporting; that means I provide my own budget through donations and my savings. I am actively fund-raising so I can get up there and fight, but I need recurring monthly donations or support of any kind. If you want to join the support team and be a part of something bigger than all of us, please visit https://www.lovejustice.ngo/our-team/sabrina.
You can read about Sabrina Stratford’s journey on her blog, read it here. https://sabrina6469.wixsite.com/website/post/welcome-to-alaska