This article originally appeared in the winter 2015 Harker Quarterly. Access the full issue, including class notes, at Harker’s issuu.com page: http://issuu.com/theharkerschool/docs/harker_quarterly_winter_2015.
A brief hiatus in San Jose afforded Stephanie Guo ’09 precious time to pause for reflection, after spending nearly a year working as a human rights advocate in the Philippines, helping to combat child sex trafficking and global slavery.
In mid-September, the alumna and class agent returned to the U.S. from Manila, where she had been volunteering with International Justice Mission (IJM), the largest international human rights organization of its kind. She was preparing to head abroad again, to start a new life as a graduate student at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Still battling jet lag, she made room in her hectic schedule for a visit to Harker’s upper school. On a beautiful fall day, over a long lunch at the Edge’s French patio, she chatted with Harker Quarterly, reflecting back on her work in IJM’s Manila field office.
“I had the privilege of working in the National Communications, Mobilization and Advocacy Department as the government relations and advocacy intern,” said Guo, explaining that IJM is based in Washington, D.C., with field offices all over the world.
“IJM is dedicated to proving that justice for the poor is possible. In my office, our casework was focused on child sex trafficking, a global slavery epidemic fueled by poverty and exploitation. Manila is one of three offices in the Philippines dedicated to this work, and is also one of IJM’s oldest offices, and has accomplished so much in the past 14 years,” she reported.
Guo’s position normally requires a one-year commitment, although she had to leave the internship a couple months short due to her prior graduate school commitment. During her time with IJM, she had a variety of responsibilities. Many of her projects included advocacy work and facilitating government partnerships to improve post-rescue victim recovery and legal processes.
The overall mission of IJM, said Guo, is to combat everyday violence, an injustice that ensures that the poor stay
poor. This violence looks different in various contexts, she explained. “For the poor widow in Africa, this could manifest in land grabbing. For the impoverished father in India, this could look like bonded labor,” she said.
In response to the massive problem of global poverty, and motivated by the biblical call to love the poor, IJM has staffed its eld offices with interdisciplinary teams of lawyers, social workers, law enforcement professionals and community mobilizers, all experts in their respective fields and passionate about the cause. The ultimate goal is to leave the communities they serve with a trans- formed justice system, better equipped to do their own advocacy work.
Guo said that she had friends who had worked with IJM in the past and knew it was something she wanted to pursue in between finishing college and going on to graduate school. She was one of the youngest interns in her office.
One of her most memorable experiences was accompanying rescued girls saved from traffickers to shelters, assisting as they were set up with private social workers. “Having other girls present who had previously been rescued and successfully completed our program there to help out was really a game changer in getting these young girls to open up,” she recalled.
After graduate school, Guo hopes that her career will include working toward securing basic human rights. She credits Harker’s emphasis on global education and outreach for opening the door to her present interest in advocacy work.
“Harker was one of the first venues through which I began to realize my passion for seeking global justice and I would be thrilled if more students would consider pursuing careers in this field,” she said.