If you attended our NY or LA conferences this year, you heard from IJM’s Creative Director, Vera Leung, about the issue affecting millions of people not only far away, but in the very cities where we live – human trafficking and modern slavery. As we end this year of our Do-Good Dozen awards, we honor IJM’s Advocacy Coordinator for the IJM Southern California Volunteer team, Joy Collins-Brodt, for the incredible work both she and IJM do rescuing and getting justice for these victims. Read on to hear about Joy’s career-shift, lobbying on Capitol Hill, and my personal favorite takeaway: “If you are operating in your strengths and talents - that is meaningful.”
Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to volunteer with IJM.
I am a California native from a family of nine children raised in a low-income neighborhood, so I would say my road to IJM started long ago when I was a child. My father immigrated from Nigeria and my Mom is from the South, and throughout my life I was taught not only to work hard but to also care for the underdog. When I learned that there are nearly 40 million people still living in slavery, I knew I had to do something.
A problem that big and complex can feel paralyzing, but I just started with what I had and asked IJM, “What can I do?”
After that, I just kept saying, “yes” to any action big or small. Eventually, I was asked to join the volunteer team as the Advocacy Coordinator, along with other passionate leaders across the nation who are looking to put slavery out of business for good.
What does your daily work look like as an Advocacy Coordinator?
My role as an Advocacy Coordinator is to equip and mobilize people in using their collective voices to support IJM’s mission. The U.S. Government holds a unique and influential place in the global landscape to confront atrocities and effect change. Our elected leaders can make a difference by passing bills that address the unprecedented abuse and violence of the most vulnerable people around the world. Recently, I went to Washington DC with hundreds of other IJM Volunteers from around the nation to lobby on Capitol Hill for H.R. 2836, a bi-partisan bill which would provide crucial funding to protect women and children from violence in Central America. Importantly, I work alongside IJM’s incredibly gifted and passionate staff members who are continually connecting with our Legislators fueling the fight against slavery and violence. Together, IJM has helped secure crucial funding and support for compact acts and the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery Initiative, which is the biggest anti-slavery bill passed in the last 20 years.
Are there any skills you acquired during your time in the entertainment industry that you utilize today?
If there’s one thing that folks in entertainment have in common, it’s tenacity and grit. Not only did I work with some of the most talented people during my time working in television, but I learned how not to take “no” for an answer if I truly believe in a cause or project. Advocacy work can be just as challenging, but we are unified in our vision – to stand in the gap for every man, woman, and child, and secure freedom and dignity for all.
What is one experience or person that had a great impact on you, and why?
Last year at IJM’s 20th Year Anniversary event called “Liberate” I was able to meet one of the survivors from the Philippines who was rescued because of the Child Protection Compact Act, which I advocated for in the years prior. On the stage in front of over 4,000 people, she shared how she never gave up hope because she believed people were standing up on her behalf.
Her story was evidence that our voice truly matters. I will never forget that moment.
As you mentioned, you helped the Child Protection Compact Act pass into law. What did that process look like and what does it mean for children in the Philippines?
One of my first advocacy meetings was with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office in Los Angeles. When I sat down at the table, I felt so nervous. I thought, “I have clearly lost my mind, who am I to speak to the halls of power?” I pushed past the fear and shared about the Child Protection Compact Act and asked for the Senator’s support. That bill passed, which then provided important funding to create a special task force to address sex trafficking in the Philippines. That task force was the one that helped save the survivor I met last October.
Since IJM’s work began in the Philippines, they have rescued over 1,450 children who were being sex trafficked.
IJM’s advocacy has helped the Women and Children’s Protection Center in the Philippines realize a 182% increase in personnel since 2016. There is still more work to be done – this is just the beginning.
Any advice for those looking to create meaningful work, whether that be in their daily lives, career, or interests?
There can certainly be a lot of pressure around the area of creating meaningful work and living that out in the world of social media scrutiny. Along with my volunteer work at IJM, I am the COO of an organization called Treasures which works with victims of exploitation. This is how I’ve decided to pursue meaningful work, but it’s different for everyone. If you are operating in your strengths and talents - that is meaningful. Connect with others who could support you in that pursuit. My friend Blythe Hill started a campaign called Dressember, which is a fun and creative way to bring awareness to human trafficking. She started with an idea and a few friends, and now it’s a global movement. Just know there are no set guidelines, as this is supposed to be a journey and not a destination.
What are three essentials that help you be your best self?
I am on a lifelong mission of becoming my best self. For me it takes having flexible priorities, creating rhythms in different seasons, and having strong values. The ways I am currently pursuing my best self is by:
- Staying present. In a driven, digitally connected, and fast-paced world, I can feel pulled in so many directions. In those moments I must choose to be present over productive and that enables me to view life in a whole new way.
- Staying inspired. I still love reading books from historical heroes and people who have overcome overwhelming odds. It helps me to step out of my own headspace and realize that I am part of a beautiful tapestry being woven together with some incredible human beings.
- Staying thankful. Science backs the fact that thankful people are more resilient, peaceful, and happier. Every morning, before I get out of bed I just whisper, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I also have a gratitude journal and I write down what I am thankful for every day. Always be grateful.
How can we help bring awareness to this issue and support IJM?
Start with what you have, where you are, and with who you are. What are your strengths, gifts and talents? I highly recommend finding organizations that are already doing great work and volunteering for them. Keep learning more about issues of slavery and how our consumption of certain products is directly linked to trafficking - from coffee, to clothing, to electronic products. You can also apply to join a local IJM volunteer team which is a great way to get involved in the wonderful work happening around the globe. For more information you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or head here.
Photos are a courtesy of Joy Collins-Brodt and International Justice Mission
No matter your skills or career, there is always a way to advocate for issues you’re passionate about! This month, women from our Yellow community are participating in Dressember, a global anti-human trafficking campaign, to raise funds and awareness for organizations like IJM! Head here to learn more and donate.