How seeing global injustices changed Jeremy Lin’s perspective
At One Day’s Wages, we don’t pretend to have all the answers to how girls experiencing poverty can be empowered. Justice work is messy. The systems that oppress women and girls are complicated. And understandably, there is no easy solution.
But if there is one thing we’ve learned in our 9 years, it’s that nobody understands the contexts and communities we work in better than indigenous, local leadership. This was a big reason why we wanted to take our partner, Jeremy Lin, to visit some of the communities and leaders we’re working with on the ground in Thailand.
Jeremy Lin joined One Day’s Wages this year to raise funds for our work empowering girls–donating a game’s wage to the cause. His donation, and the donations of his fans, are making a huge impact, but Jeremy and his board at the Jeremy Lin Foundation didn’t just want to make a financial contribution. They also wanted to genuinely learn more about the realities of global justice issues–both the encouraging and the heartbreaking parts–and they wanted Jeremy’s fans to learn as well.
For the trip, our founder Eugene Cho took Jeremy and his board to Chiang Rai, Thailand. Like all places in the world–Chiang Rai has both beautiful and challenging aspects. As the northernmost city in Thailand, bordering Myanmar and Laos, it boasts an array of beautiful temples, incredible food, and mountainous landscapes.
The region also has a long history of being a destination for human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The education levels are very low, leaving young girls vulnerable to traffickers. Our in-country partner, The Freedom Story, works with local leaders and stakeholders to prevent trafficking by helping girls in Chiang Rai access secondary and higher education.
The trip consisted of traveling, listening, learning, eating, praying, hooping with kids, fellowshipping, and dreaming with the JLin crew and board. Together they wrestled with the complexities and nuances of sex trafficking, poverty, education, girls’ empowerment, and the intersections of these issues.
The group also traveled to Bangkok and walked through one of the red light districts, where on any given night there are 10,000 sex workers. Many of these sex workers are from rural areas, the hill tribes, and migrants from neighboring countries.
They also met with folks that were “on the ground” engaging these issues–both Western and indigenous, local leaders. They were often left with more questions than answers, because development and justice work is again, incredibly messy.
As they met with these leaders, they learned about their struggles. Eugene explains that their work is “far from easy or perfect, but through the scars, tears, and pain…you learn so much about tenacity, passion and faith.”
Indigenous, local leaders will tell you, the context within which they work is complicated. But it’s easy for us as donors and development workers to fall into the habit (sometimes unintentionally) of sharing the singular story: stories of pain, brokenness or injustice. As Eugene Cho often reminds us,
“we have to be careful to share that all cultures have both beautiful and broken expressions of humanity and culture. This is the case in the United States and such is the reality in Thailand…to reduce the tapestry, identity, narrative, history, and fabric of an entire country or continent to one angle is irresponsible, dangerous, and simply…wrong.”
Jeremy Lin recognized this while visiting with leaders, organizations, and girls at risk of falling into the human trafficking industry, “there are so many layers. We read about it and we think it’s so simple.” But as he and his group learned, the intersections of girls’ empowerment, trafficking, education, and poverty are anything but simple.
Jeremy says the trip enabled him to see these issues through “a different lens.” He was inspired by the indigenous, local leaders he met, the people of faith and courage he exchanged stories with, and the young women he encountered who keep persisting. “I definitely want to change the way I think, live a more grateful life and I want to spend a lot more time serving other people.”
Eugene, Jeremy, and his foundation board came away from the trip committed to continuing our partnership to seek justice on a global scale. We look forward to collaborating together with JLin, our partners on the ground, and YOU.
Inspired? Don’t just like the idea. Learn. Get involved. Consider donating $7 or any amount to Jeremy’s campaign: www.onedayswages.org/jlin
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