Why I became a Youth Ambassador for Shiva Foundation by Divina Chopra

9 June 2015

As a student of Politics and International Relations, the end of second year left me disenfranchised, tired and quite frankly, bored. I decided to take an industrial placement year as a break from lectures and 5 kilogram textbooks. This year taught me that job opportunities are as diverse as they are competitive. I worked at MEC Global, a leading media and advertising agency, an environment that was engaging, diverse and rife with opportunity. However, I found myself missing weekly seminar debates/arguments on the Arab/Israeli conflict and the role of women in war. Having been involved in MEC’s CSR work, I felt that I could add greater value at an issue-led organisation. It was this realisation that led me to decline my contract extension at MEC and look at non profit organisations for a summer placement that was focused on social impact and making a difference.

I was recounting this realisation to my flatmate when she told me of a splinter organisation set up by the founders of the charity she volunteered with in India. I curiously typed in ‘Shiva Foundation’ and it ticked all the boxes; a small start up, a foundation that was interested in collaboration and an issue that I was hugely fascinated by that I had little knowledge on, human trafficking.

Meeting Nishma, the foundation’s Senior Programme Manager, in an overcrowded Starbucks in the glorious London borough of Angel, I was only further inspired by her move from the world of corporate law to that of a non-profit. She told me of the work they were currently doing, the projects they were hoping to launch and how they were looking to expand the team. One of the draws of Shiva Foundation was being the first Youth Ambassador for the foundation, I had the scope to carve out a role that allowed me to hold real responsibility and invest valid contribution.

The relationships that the foundation has forged with key stakeholders in this space; Unseen, Human Trafficking Foundation, City Philanthropy and so on, meant I would be exposed to NGOs, local authority, government representatives and media personnel. This would allow me to gain genuine insight into the anti trafficking space and how these organisations were both working individually and collaboratively on awareness, rehabilitation and lobbying projects.

The foundation was founded by Shiva Hotels so the corporate social responsibility element was especially interesting to me. I was impressed by the business’s dedication to the anti trafficking issue and intrigued by the role it would to play in establishing preventative and protective methods within the hotel industry. As a franchisee of a chain as prestigious and well-known as the Hilton highlights how, with the passing of the Modern Slavery Bill, big businesses and small businesses alike must confront the issue of modern slavery.

After the meeting, I sat down at my laptop, mug in hand, and asked myself, ‘what do I hope to take away from my time at Shiva?’

There were many things I hoped to take away; experience, knowledge – the usual, but on reflection, what I actually really wanted to take away was knowing I had made even the slightest contribution to this issue. What does it mean to have no rights, no autonomy over your own life and have somebody in possession of you? How does this affect your mental and physical state? Who is in danger? Is there a profile for a “typical” trafficked victim?

As I began to research, more and more questions arose on the complexities of the issue, only cementing my desire to volunteer with the foundation and expand my knowledge on trafficking and modern slavery. Returning back to my political roots was a welcome move, surprising myself with how I missed being outraged by the blunders of our political leaders that are reported daily. Interestingly, joining Shiva made me realise how much I valued studying Politics and International Relations, something I had forgot during my caffeine-fuelled 3am library sessions. I feel privileged that the degree I am studying can allow me to add value to organisations such as Shiva Foundation, and that through this summer placement, I can assist in the pioneering work that anti trafficking organisations are doing to root out this heinous crime.


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