PEAK — PROMOTING EDUCATION, AWARENESS, AND KNOWLEDGE
University of the Rockies is proud to share our PEAK initiative: Promoting Education, Awareness, and Knowledge. Every month, we'll highlight different causes and opportunities that reflect the values of the University. You'll also learn ways that you can participate or be more involved.
DECEMBER 2013 – HUMAN RIGHTS DAY & WORLD AIDS DAY
Human rights is an issue that effects each and every one of us.
The Outsiders Inside
By Dylan Self, University of the Rockies Student Advisor
Fast forward another half-century to 2001, when FBI agents in Honolulu launched an investigation into a small clothing factory run by Kil Soo Lee located in American Samoa, an unincorporated territory of the United States in the south Pacific. Lee began his business in the late 1990s, having chosen American Samoa so he could use the “Made in America” label on his products and avoid being detected by law enforcement (Anatomy of an International Human Trafficking Case, 2004). Lee recruited over 250 workers from surrounding countries such as Vietnam and China through promises of steady work and enough pay to send home to support their families overseas. Lee then demanded crushing down payments from the workers and put them into horrible working conditions while paying them almost nothing. These workers endured long hours, beatings, minimal food, false arrests, and impossible repayment schemes.
After months of servitude, one of the workers threw an SOS note out of the window of a company bus, which was ultimately found and relayed to the local Department of Labor. Soon, the FBI had the evidence they needed and, in 2003, Lee was found guilty of 14 counts including human rights violations, money laundering, and extortion. In a recent interview featured on National Public Radio (NPR), Lenny Sanchez, commander in the Palmview, Texas Police Department, explained the workings of the complex system that enables situations similar to the Kil Soo Lee incident to exist within the continental borders of the United States. Sanchez explained how “coyotes,” or illegal smugglers, are paid to move people from northern Mexico into the United States and further north.
“...they operate from actually crossing from whatever country they come from, and then they just trickle down, down into the U.S., which is now you have the person who actually coordinates here in U.S., the person that gets them out of the bus or from the river. And then you have the one that actually, that actually takes the person further up north so they can pass checkpoints and so forth. So you're looking at about maybe four or five people deep in the U.S. that actually take, that work in this operation to get people across into the checkpoints here in the U.S. (Inside the Hidden World, 2012).”
The individuals who are smuggled into the country often face conditions similar to the clothing factory employees in Kil Soo Lee’s American Samoa operation, and their stories can be just as terrible. As incidents like these continue to happen under American jurisdiction, it is something of which we as citizens must be aware. These stories must instill within us the drive to pressure our local, state, and national leaders to address fixing the conditions that allow them to continue.
For much of this year, our nation has been engaged in a debate regarding how to best address issues such as border security, national sovereignty rights in conflict with the rights of illegal aliens, responsibilities of businesses to assist state and federal agencies, and what to do about the millions estimated to reside in the U.S. in violation of American immigration policies.
Whether for or against more stringent enforcement, immediate citizenship, a “pathway to citizenship,” or immediate deportation, it is our duty to remember the powerless situation many are in and how those who prey on them are exploiting it. Let us remember this Human Rights Day (December 10) and every day that it is our right to be protected by our laws, but it is also our duty to protect the rights of those who can’t protect themselves.
Learn more about Human Rights Day.
World AIDS Day and the Etiquette of Illness
by Beth Dalton, University of the Rockies Librarian
Listen to U2's Bono speak about what has been achieved so far on the 25th anniversary of World AIDS Day.
First, it is important to acknowledge that it is normal to feel uncertain. If you haven’t known someone with a fatal or chronic illness before, this situation is new for you (Garwood & Melnick, 1995). Even when you have had experience in dealing with someone with a life-threatening illness, every situation demands its own response. People’s expectations and needs vary, each illness is unique, and your relationship to the sick person is special and singular. Don’t assume that the disease is worse or better than it is. It can be difficult to deal with uncertainty, but that is often part of the process of dealing with severe medical conditions. In addition, don’t presume that the future you envision will occur. For example, not everyone wants to or can quit their job to pursue their bucket list.
Second, language and how we use it is very important. One of the most important changes we should make is to stop using the term “victim” to refer to people who are living with a life-threatening or chronic disease. The word “victim” connotes powerlessness (Garwood & Melnick, 1995). Also, do not ask how a person got their disease. This type of question is unkind and uncomfortable (Elderidge, 2013). Moreover, pity is an emotion that may seem loving to the one who feels it, but can feel patronizing and condescending to the person on the receiving end – and the language of pity often seeps into our words without our awareness. It is best to use language that conveys respect. For example, it is kinder to ask, “May I help you?” than to say, “Do you need any help with that?” The first is a gift of your time and attention; the second implies a lack of capability (Garwood & Melnick, 1995).
Lastly, avoid saying, “I know how you feel” and compare what you have with what they have. When you find out that another human has a serious disease, it is in poor taste to use the occasion to regale them with stories of painful deaths, life-shattering loss, and bone-chilling suffering. If you make this mistake, it may be preventing you from empathizing with others – and even if you have suffered a life-threatening illness, you don’t know exactly what it is like to live in the other person’s shoes. It is better to offer an open heart and a listening ear than to interject your story into the discussion (Elderidge, 2013).
It is also important to remember that your friend’s, co-worker’s, classmate’s, or family member’s story is not yours to share without their explicit permission. This story is theirs alone, and they should have the right to share this information with whom they want and when they are ready. In addition to being hurtful, sharing information broadly can have real-life consequences such as impacting a person’s ability to obtain work, carry on their profession, and manage his or her relationships (Halpern, 2004).
The greatest gift you can offer is your time and your support. Silence and distance can be confusing and hurtful to a friend or family member who needs your support. If you are in doubt about what to say or do, try talking less and listening more, asking open questions, avoiding giving advice or criticizing, offering specific help, and simply being there with them. Share that you care and be a constant in their changing world.
Learn more about World AIDS Day.
Anatomy of an international human trafficking case, Pt. 1. (2004). Retrieved November 26, 2013 from http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2004/july/kilsoolee_071904
Declaration of Independence. (n.d.) Retrieved November 26, 2014 from http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html Elderidge, L. (2013).
10 things not to say to someone with lung cancer. Retrieved on November 26, 2013 from http://lungcancer.about.com/od/lungcancersupport/a/Things-Not-To_Say-to-Someone-With-Lung-Cancer.htm
Garwood, A., & Melnick, B. (1995). How should I act around people with AIDS?. Retrieved November 26, 2013 from http://www.thebody.com/content/art12094.html
Halpern, S. P. (2004). The etiquette of illness: What to say when you can't find the words. New York, NY, Bloomsbury.
Inside the hidden world of immigrant smuggling. (2012). Retrieved November 26, 2013 from http://www.npr.org/2012/04/19/150973748/inside-the-hidden-world-of-immigrant-smuggling
Browse through previous editions.