Post by: Alexa Kathol
Children learn from an early age about two of the world’s most driving yet opposing forces: love and hate. They seem fairly straight forward: to love is to do good towards others and to hate is to do evil towards others. I grew up believing the same—that was until the Summer of 2015. That June I attended a church camp in Joplin, Missouri where I witnessed an award-winning short film entitled “Audillo.” The plot followed the true story of a fifteen-year-old Guatemalan boy named Vincente. At a young age he was recruited to play soccer for a prestigious football academy, but he soon tragically discovered the man posing to be his soccer coach was really a child predator.
The film was produced by the International Justice Mission, an organization dedicated to ending slavery and abuse worldwide, and the advocate of Vincente. What drew me to this heartwarming story was that IJM saw Vincente not as another sad statistic, another case too far gone, but as an individual, a child, who deserved justice and freedom. After hearing this, I had an epiphany: hate is not the opposite of love. The opposite of love is apathy.
Ever since that day, I knew I wanted to help Latin American children just like Vincente. I wanted to pursue a career in criminal prosecution, international law, and justice. At the time of this decision, I was unaware Latin America is responsible for 33 percent of the world’s homicides, that two million Latin Americans engage in forced labor annually, that tens of thousands of women and children are sex trafficked each year, or that just six percent of reported cases of sexual violence ever reach a verdict. For me, the worst part was knowing that there was a real boy, about my age, living just a few hundred miles away, who was being taken advantage of. And that just as easily could have been me. It was at that moment I knew in my innermost being if apathy truly was the antithesis of love, choosing to drift idly by while some of my closest neighbors continued to suffer would only add to the world’s injustice.
The only solution was to act. But even though I enlisted as a Spanish minor, served as the secretary of the Spanish Honors Society, and presented extensive research on the violence, inequality, and injustice the women and children of Latin America face, something was still missing. There was a major gap between algorithmic research and lived experience. The only way I could distinguish the vague, removed configuration of numbers and percentages from very tangible families, friends, and individuals would be to go, live, and labor among them. Afterall, how could I justly claim to help anyone without first being able to empathize? And how could I put myself in another’s shoes without first taking off my own?
Come January my sophomore year of college, I traveled to Costa Rica to work for Fundación Rahab, a non-profit with the mission of improving the quality of life for women, children, and families impacted by human trafficking and forced labor. Through this life-changing opportunity, I conducted and compiled psychological research, designed a new childcare program, and presented my findings at Universidad Veritas. However, I found my greatest purpose in the relationships I built and the children I encountered.
One child in particular, 8-year-old Hillary, told me about her own tragic situation, recounting the times her mother would go to court and she would sit in the back watching and listening. She told me when she grew up, she wanted to be an attorney, one who helped mothers and children because of what her attorney did for her. On the verge of tears, I sat in silence, amazed that even though we lived countries away, we both shared the same dream. In that moment, gone were the physical and emotional barriers of class, status, gender, and nationality. But instead, I looked into the eyes of a person, a child, who was not a statistic manipulated to bolster a biased agenda, but a broken individual in need of hope, redemption, and justice.
Ever since I first heard about the Center for Global Justice, I knew it would be the perfect springboard to continue the fight against apathy. Because it has been my dream to work for an organization like the IJM, having the change to actually work for them as a law clerk is, quite literally, a dream come true. As a student staffer, I am so excited to research human rights protections, gain hands-on experience performing pro bono legal work, and to serve and support those in the field. I could not imagine spending my free time in law school doing anything else. I love that the Center for Global Justice prioritizes equipping Christian advocates who will promote the rule of law, seek justice for the downtrodden, and help those already engaged in such advocacy. I am fully confident that working for the Center for Global Justice will not only affirm my aspirations and desires but will allow me to start making tangible change in the world. Through my experience, I am hopeful that I will learn how to help achieve justice for children just like Vincente and Hillary.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Student Staff member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.