We often claim that we don’t have enough time in the day to do everything that we need to do. Whenever I think this way, I remember a quote by American author, H. Jackson Brown, Jr. “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” Let’s add Shana Pederson to this list. Shana is a woman who makes a huge difference in the lives of many victims of human trafficking — on her own time, after her 9-5 job, and while taking care of her family.
It’s often believed that human trafficking only deals with children, women, and men that are sold to prostitution, but in fact in can be people working in ‘regular’ jobs. Human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing criminal industries in the world. It involves the recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining of people for the purpose of various forms of exploitation. Victims are often controlled through force, fraud, or coercion. There’s also a misconception that it only occurs abroad, but New York city and New Jersey are important transportation hubs. Think Port Authority, and the many airports around this city. Look around Times Square at the characters that approach your kids, the girl you met at a bar, your manicurist, and maybe even the server at your favorite restaurant. This statement isn’t made to make you paranoid, but aware of the issue.
I wasn’t personally aware of it until I met Shana. She doesn’t push the issue on you, but simply has a conversation about it. Shana first introduced me to the term ‘modern day slavery’ at an event a couple of months ago where they exhibited work from victims. I thought slavery didn’t exist anymore. I was wrong. Sometimes we get so caught up in our daily jobs and responsibilities that we don’t realize what is going on under our noses.
Shana has found a non-profit organization called Life Preservers, Inc. Their tagline is “preserving life. one artist at a time.” Its mission is to fundraise for those organizations that serve this population. They host an annual event in different New York City venues, and have raised close to $30,000 in the last four years.
One individual along with a handful of dedicated people have raised such a significant amount and raised awareness through hard work, and word of mouth. They have done this without a huge budget. All of them have their own careers, but they care so much about making a difference that they make the time for it.
Shana is also an artist, therefore I can see the connection as to why gathering other artists to help fund raise makes sense. When I asked Shana what drove her to continue such a huge project on her spare time? She said that she was lucky to have the right guidance when she was a young woman, and didn’t fall prey. Shana has also been exposed to human trafficking growing up in New Mexico, and has people close to her family that were part of modern day slavery.
I know that Shana has a passion that brews directly from her soul. She truly cares about helping those that are less fortunate. When you meet Shana — she will not come at you with her cause or try to get you to donate money. Shana soothes you into the cause, and makes you open your eyes slowly. To think that the person servicing us might be part of modern day slavery could be daunting, but we have to be aware. Yet, one easy thing that you will realize about yourself once you get to know Shana is that you can’t say that you have no time to help those less fortunate. If she can make the time…so can you…and so can I.
For more information and to support Life Preservers, Inc., please visit http://lifepreserversproject.org/index.html
To read more on what New York City is doing on Human Trafficking: