Tuesday, April 7, 2015

URSP Student Abigail Lash Conducts a Comparative Evaluation of Services for Survivors of Human Trafficking

My name is Abigail Lash, and I am a senior studying social work. In Fall 2014, I took a social work course on Human Trafficking taught by Dr. Laura Tsai. The course opened my eyes to modern day slavery, and allowed me to explore my passion for international social work. Dr. Tsai has practiced in the anti-trafficking sector of social work and done several research projects in Southeast Asia. She has been able to provide an international context for understanding the devastating issue of human trafficking. When Dr. Tsai shared that she was working on a project to evaluate support services for survivors of trafficking in the Philippines, I jumped at the opportunity to join her.

I have always been interested in international social work, and, in recent years, have honed in my focus on Southeast Asia. This experience has given me an incredible opportunity to learn about the anti-trafficking sector in the Philippines, and has given me a glimpse into the culture surrounding the issues of poverty, migration, and religion. For this project, I am specifically looking at the factors of trafficking survivors’ environments and housing situations that either provide them security, or produce risk factors that make them more vulnerable for re-trafficking. I am conducting research on trafficking survivors living conditions, by analyzing data from a financial diaries study that was completed in the last five years. Each week, I am looking at five different participants from the financial diaries study, and compiling a case study for each one of them, focusing on their housing situations and surrounding environments.

In looking at these participants financial diaries, I am amazed by the complexity of the family systems in the Philippines. All of the participants are from a low-income background, but some of them are from families with over 15 children, and may also have step-siblings and half-siblings. The Philippines is roughly 80% Roman Catholic, and so birth control is difficult and can be very expensive to access. Looking at the family systems is very interesting, because it helps provide an understanding for what support services are needed for survivors of trafficking.