January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a time when advocates, organizations, and individuals around the globe raise awareness about this important issue. Human Trafficking is a problem that impacts everyone—including the aviation industry. For years Southwest Airlines has proudly supported multiple nonprofit organizations whose efforts help with the rescue, recovery, and restoration of Human Trafficking survivors—including Ayuda.
Ayuda is the only nonprofit organization in the DC, Virginia, and Maryland region that offers a full range of immigration and family law assistance, social services, and language access support for low-income immigrants from anywhere in the world. Unique in their ability to serve men, women, and children, with experience serving survivors of both labor and commercial sex trafficking, they have a depth of expertise in serving trafficking survivors and support hundreds of immigrant survivors of human trafficking each year through our legal and social services programs.
Keep reading to learn more about their work and be sure to join Ayuda virtually on Wednesday, Jan. 26 from 5-6 PM ET for Ayuda’s annual Human Trafficking Awareness Month panel discussion: A Conversation with Survivors. Visit their website to register for the webinar.
The following was guest co-authored by Laurie Ball Cooper, Legal Director at Ayuda Laura Trask, Development Director at Ayuda
Local Lens on a Global Issue
The Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area is one of the largest hubs of human trafficking in the United States, a result of a mix of characteristics unique to the region: its location along the I-95 travel corridor, a sizeable immigrant population, and a large number of foreign diplomats who employ foreign domestic staff. As a result of heightened anti-immigrant rhetoric, immigrant victims of human trafficking are even more afraid of being deported and thus less likely to report their perpetrators. Immigrants are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking and face unique obstacles in seeking legal assistance and accessing the social safety net. For nearly 50 years, Ayuda has supported more than 150,000 low-income immigrants in overcoming these obstacles
Immigrant Survivors of Trafficking Need a Holistic Approach
When a person emerges from or is trying to emerge from a situation of human trafficking, they need help across a spectrum of needs. For immigrant survivors, these needs are often made more complex and difficult to fill because of a person’s immigration status. Most survivors require more than a lawyer and more than a social worker and more than a therapist in order to escape trafficking and thrive. Survivors typically require a team working together to meet their various needs in concert, minimizing retraumatization of the client by working together to minimize the number of times the client has to re-tell their story. In addition, many immigrant survivors choose to go through inherently retraumatizing processes of seeking justice and/or applying for immigration status based on their trafficking. When their lawyer works together with their therapist, a survivor can be supported holistically through those extremely emotional and challenging processes.
In many situations, indeed in the majority of situations in which Ayuda’s legal team represents a survivor of trafficking, the survivor does not come to Ayuda identifying or having been identified as a trafficking survivor. In recent years, we have seen survivors come to our pro bono consultation clinics seeking general immigration advice, only to discover that they had been forced into debt bondage—a form of human trafficking—by a previous or current employer. This is the most common way that Ayuda’s legal team identified survivors of trafficking. Ayuda’s holistic model of services and specialized anti-trafficking expertise has served thousands of survivors of trafficking over the years who would have otherwise gone unrecognized and unsupported in their communities and their recovery journeys.
Coming Together To End Human Trafficking
During January, Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we hope that we can lift up our clients’ experiences to highlight that trafficking is not always what those who have not survived it imagine it to be—the means of force, fraud, or coercion used to extract work from an individual, for example, may not be physical. Instead, an employer may refuse to give a survivor access to their passport, threaten them with deportation to a dangerous country, or otherwise use non-physical means to trap the survivor in the situation. Through meeting clients where they are and offering holistic services, Ayuda is able to support our clients as their chart their paths after trafficking to make the futures our clients imagine for themselves a reality. But this work would not be possible without the support of our community.
Together with partners, including Southwest Airlines, we are able to provide more culturally specific, trauma-informed services immigrant survivors of trafficking need and deserve. Since 2019, Southwest has generously donated e-passes to Ayuda to help our clients reunite with loved ones, and to support our fundraising efforts to increase funding for our life-saving services. Moreover, Southwest Airlines is helping to raise awareness about this important issue and highlighting the important work many organizations across the country are doing to combat human trafficking. As we start this new year, we know that we will face challenges and uncertainty. We know that with the pandemic, trafficking has risen. But we also know that we are not in this fight alone. We are grateful for the support provided by Southwest Airlines. Together with our partners—immigration advocates, human rights champions, pro bono attorneys, community volunteers, and more—we will continue to advocate for an end to human trafficking.
To support immigrant survivors of trafficking with comprehensive legal, social, and language access support visit www.ayuda.com.
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Whether in the air or on the ground, we believe community is more than a place – it’s at the heart of what brings us together. Since 2016, Southwest Airlines has partnered with Ascend, the largest non-profit Pan-Asian organization for business professionals, executives, and students in North America. Members of this group span various professions and across multiple industries. Through its vision of serving as a collective voice for the Pan-Asian business community, Ascend is committed to advancing the professional contributions of current and future Pan-Asians leaders.
Through their work, Ascend reaches more than 60,000 professionals and encompasses dozens of volunteer chapters. With such a vast network, spanning multiple cities, Southwest is proud to support Ascend’s goals by providing travel to the organization to connect its members to convenings that matter most in their professional journeys. Whether it is a leadership development program, professional conferences, and events for community building, Ascend supports its members through all stages of their professional lives both nationally and at a regional chapter level. Southwest is proud to connect members to these leadership opportunities around the country.
Programs such as Executive Insight for Pan-Asian Women, or Elevate, a first-of-its-kind leadership program for early-career Pan-Asian professionals, are created to provide culturally-aligned professional development tools and resources. The organization’s signature event, the Ascend National Convention & Career Fair, is the largest gathering of Pan-Asian business leaders and professionals in North America, which gathers 2,500+ industry leaders, senior executives, professionals, and students.
Southwest has a steadfast commitment to connecting people and championing communities and we are proud to partner with organizations that complement our pillars of Loving People, Building Resilience, and Living Responsibly, like Ascend. Through our support of Ascend, and many other organizations that put people first, we are doing our part to make the connections that empower communities to thrive.
To learn more about the great work this organization does, visit ascendleadership.org.
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While each Southwest Employee plays a different role, we all have the opportunity to connect People to what’s important in their lives. I recently took this responsibility to heart and bridged one of Southwest’s Community Partners in Buffalo to an important landmark in our nation’s history—a place that also means something to me because this landmark is located in my very own hometown of Lewiston, New York.
Southwest Airlines is a proud Community Partner of the National Federation for Just Communities in Western New York, a nonprofit organization dedicated to overcoming racism, bias, and discrimination by building understanding, respect and trust through education, advocacy and community involvement. On January 14, the National Federation for Just Communities, welcomed four of the original Freedom Riders to the Buffalo/Niagara area for a tour of the region’s Underground Railroad, and a panel discussion on their experiences with the Civil Rights movement. As teenagers in the 1960s, these four Freedom Riders were arrested and beaten for their silent protests against discrimination during sit-ins at the Greyhound Bus terminals in Mississippi. The Underground Railroad, a network of secret trails that the enslaved used to seek freedom in free states and in Canada, is significant to the Buffalo/Niagara area in many ways, especially because it marked one of the final stops before freedom in Canada.
When I learned of the Freedom Riders’ visit to Western New York, I immediately contacted someone who knows a thing or two about how significant the Underground Railroad is to our nation’s history—my dad. He led the volunteer effort of resurrecting the “Freedom Crossing Monument,” a tribute to the enslaved who sought freedom in Canada and the volunteers who helped them on their journeys to cross the Niagara River.
Four original Freedom Riders and reenactors at the Freedom Crossing Monument, Lewiston, NY. // Photo credit: Lee Simonson
The Freedom Riders’ visit to Lewiston, initially planned to be a quick stop-over, turned into an occasion that has made local history. The town’s leadership and its residents were present, as well as reenactors portraying Lewiston abolitionist Josiah Tyron and his sister-in-law, Sally Barton; Josiah, Lewiston’s volunteer “station master,” secretly assisted the fugitives to Canada in his rowboat under the cover of darkness. The gathering and ceremony evoked many emotions, many of which are too precious to convey—from both the Freedom Riders and those who came to greet Lewiston’s esteemed guests.
This connection, which was close to home for me, reminded me that there are countless ways we can bridge a gap or share a story or piece of our own personal history with others. The connections we make with the people, places, and things that define us as citizens can forever be a part of history.
Southwest Airlines makes a positive difference in the African American community during Black History Month and throughout the year by supporting nonprofit organizations nationwide.
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Beginning October 13, Dallas Love Field is FREE! The restrictions of the Wright Amendment will be gone, ushering in nonstop destinations that span from coast to coast. Southwest has been counting down the years and weeks (literally—we have a billboard at the Love Field entrance and a countdown clock in our Headquarters lobby) until we can say, “Goodbye, Wright Amendment. Hello, America!"
We are excited to begin this new era by serving five new nonstop destinations on October 13, followed by ten additional new nonstop destinations on November 2. The addition of these 15 new nonstop destinations will bring Southwest to a total of 31 nonstop destinations from Love Field.
In anticipation of this momentous event, each week we will take a look at one of the cities that North Texas Customers will be able to soon visit nonstop on Southwest. Each post is written by a Southwest Employee who is affiliated with the city and can give an insider’s view of what to see and do while visiting. Enjoy!
You’ve heard it before: there is no place in the world like New York City! As a decade-long resident of NYC’s Upper East Side, I can tell you there is nowhere on earth where one can do, see, and enjoy so many different cultures, cuisines, and activities than in New York. Where else in the world can you visit the MET Museum, enjoy an imported-from-France macaroon at La Duree, paddleboat around Central Park, enjoy a cup of coffee from the local café, and ride the subway to any other neighborhood? All in a day in New York!
New York La Guardia hosts 33 nonstop flights to eight cities, and it’ll be even easier to get there once the Wright Amendment lifts! Home to snow-filled winters and beautiful fall weather, New York is quite appealing for the holidays, but is also just as fun during the spring and summer months. There is so much to do, you may find yourself overwhelmed by everything! Here are some of my suggestions to get you started—enjoy!
Your New York City to-do list:
Joe’s Pizza: New Yorkers are all about their pizza. Joe’s Pizza on Bleecker Street is known for its pizza as much as its super famous clientele. If you’re willing to wait in line, you never know who you might run into! It’s open pretty late too for all the night owls—that’s when Leo goes! Yes, that Leo!
Billy’s Bakery: Billy’s Bakery is a surefire hit for those that love their desserts—my favorite location is off the beaten path in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood on Franklin Street. Cupcakes, sweet treats, coffees, and more! Billy’s is so good, they made my wedding cake!
Broadway: There are so many things to do in NYC, but only one thing you must do! After all, there is a reason there is only one Broadway! Seeing a show on the “Great White Way” it is a must-do for any visitor, or resident for that matter! No matter what you choose—a new play or musical or a revival of something you loved years ago—going to a Broadway show is the best way to experience what New York is all about. I recommend sticking around the stage door after the performance too. It’s a fun way to grab autographs and photos with the show’s stars.
The 9/11 Memorial: It would be hard to find something in New York as captivating as the newly opened 9/11 Memorial. If you have a few hours, definitely spend some time at the Memorial site and its accompanying museum. Discover all you can about this important day in our nation’s history.
The Brooklyn Bridge: Walk—or bike—the Brooklyn Bridge. For those looking for a great excuse to exercise while seeing the world-famous Manhattan skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge is it! Easily accessible from both the Manhattan and Brooklyn boroughs, conquering the Brooklyn Bridge from one side to the other is both gratifying and fun. Don’t forget your camera!
My City Secret:
Tacombi: In the Nolita neighborhood, stop by Tacombi. Best known for its taco selection and fresh-squeezed fruit juices, here everything is made inside a retrofitted Volkswagen bus, which sits right in the middle of the restaurant!
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At Southwest Airlines we connect. We connect People to what’s important in their lives, and we connect to one another as Cohearts systemwide. We also connect in the community – to the hundreds of organizations that champion causes that matter most in the communities we serve. And while the American Repertory Theater, widely known as the “A.R.T.,” based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is known throughout the arts community as a destination for world-class performances, it’s their leader, Artistic Director Diane Paulus that truly embodies what a simple connection can do. This week, Diane was named as one of the TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Jill Simonson, Diane Paulus and Bruce Whitacre at the A.R.T. Gala in Boston
I connected with Diane for the first time having been introduced to her by Bruce Whitacre, the Executive Director of the National Corporate Theatre Fund, of which Southwest Airlines is also a partner. Upon meeting her, I forgot she was a Tony Award winning, hugely sought-after artist who has revolutionized the Broadway musical experience, and likely the most influential person I’ve ever met). I forgot about these attributes because I was overwhelmed and in sheer awe at how humble and kind Diane was. She asked me what shows I enjoyed most and what my work is like at Southwest Airlines. That simple connection shaped my opinion of Diane and her organization, A.R.T.
As community partners to Southwest, A.R.T. is able to produce new productions on various stages around the country – most recently in Las Vegas this Spring - by flying artists, actors, producers and directors in from other cities. And when A.R.T. is working on upcoming shows in Cambridge or New York, Southwest enables those productions to fly-in talent there too. With Southwest, A.R.T. incorporates talented, passionate individuals, all of whom are committed to the arts and what the A.R.T. can offer, regardless of where they live.
Our organizations have a lot in common—I knew about A.R.T.’s grassroots beginnings, Diane’s egalitarian Leadership style, and overall, the creativity and open-mindedness that sets them apart from the rest. Sound familiar? And at the Heart of both of our organizations is a deep-rooted passion for our audience—whether in the theater or in the sky—and our ultimate goal of making each person’s connection enjoyable, original, and one-of-a-kind.
Diane sits among the most influential people in the entire world on TIME’s list, but she wouldn’t tell you that. She’d rather revel at how genuinely proud she and A.R.T. are to be in partnership with Southwest Airlines, as I have witnessed in her remarks a dozen times. Diane’s script is more of how we have championed the organization, and how it is partners like Southwest that enable their work to reach new skies.
Diane, if anyone is proud, it’s us. Congratulations on this most esteemed honor. We LUV you and all you’ve accomplished!
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