Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Reaching Out to Youth: Comic Book on The Stories of Trafficking Survivors

HTP Readers - We have a special post for you! Olga Trusova, a Fulbright Fellow who researched issues of trafficking, education and prevention in Ukraine and Dan Archer, a comics-journalist from California and founder of www.archcomix.com have teamed up to produce Borderland, a comic book based on the stories of trafficking victims to help raise awareness particularly among youth. Please see more information from the authors below as well as a way to get involved!

Borderland comic is coming soon!
As many of you know, we have been working on a comic called Borderland over the past year. In Borderland, we wanted to explore the human trafficking equation from a new perspective—to challenge our understanding of this complex issue. Borderland tells seven stories about human trafficking based on real testimonies from survivors. From a pastry maker in Warsaw to a waitress in Istanbul, the underground world of human trafficking touches every aspect of modern life. Often in surprising and unlikely ways. We are thrilled to announce that Borderland will be printed and distributed to schools and youth in Ukraine by the International Organization for Migration this fall. Now we are looking for ways to reach a similar audience in the United States. Please, take a speak peak at the first story from Borderland on our website: http://www.borderlandcomics.com and pre-order your full copy on Kickstarter: http://kck.st/dfcJUS

Support Borderland on KickStarter
By pitching in you can help us raise $8,000 on KickStarter to support and complete this project. We have two goals: to print and distribute a hard copy of the comic in the U.S., complete with extensive footnotes, research notes and further links; and to create an interactive iPhone/iPad app to promote awareness of the issue to a younger, tech-savvy U.S. audience. By pledging as little as $5, you can help make this happen and, as a bonus, will get various goodies such as a signed hard copy of the comic book, posters, behind the scenes pack, your name in the acknowledgements page, and more. Go to http://kck.st/dfcJUS and pledge!

About the Authors
Olga Trusova, a Fulbright Fellow from Stanford University, spent a year conducting research and collecting authentic stories told by victims of human trafficking in Eastern Europe. Dan Archer, a comics-journalist from California, a founder of www.archcomix.com and 2010 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow, has turned these testimonies into comics to create a comic book anthology project titled Borderland. The project began with a belief that as consumers of various goods and services, people should be aware of where those goods and services come from and at what cost. The U.S. government has tremendous influence on foreign governments and their policies, therefore it is important to bring its citizens' attention to such a powerful issue through an innovative combination of comic art and interactive technology. By reading Borderland, you help make the change!

I also had a chance to interview Olga Trusova, one of the co-authors, about this effort. Here a few of her responses:

EG: What about your research in Ukraine led you to believe that a comic book would be a good way to spread the message about trafficking?

OT: About a year ago I came to IDEO's Social Impact Lab with a question of "How might we prevent human trafficking?" that I was trying to answer as an upcoming Fulbright Fellow in Ukraine. A lot has happened since our initial brainstorm and I'm glad to share that one of the solutions proposed by IDEO folks back then has now become a reality! I decided to focus on comics and interactive storytelling as a way to engage with young audiences in order to raise awareness about this issue. It will be printed and distributed by the International Organization for Migration in 136 schools across four regions of Ukraine in the first pilot this Fall.

EG: Even though it is through a comic book medium, do you feel young students are able to understand human trafficking despite the complexity and difficulty of the material?

OT: I've conducted a number of focus groups with students in Ukraine and found that they were very excited to see comics about Ukrainians in Ukrainian. A lot of them were familiar with manga and American comics, so it was an easy medium for them to understand. I was also glad to see how many discussions sparked after the feedback session (with "Lera's Story" in particular, students were wondering why Lera felt unhappy in the end, how she got her job, why she wanted to find her mother in the first place, and so on). That is really the point of this comic - to promote an open dialogue about a taboo subject in a society that is highly affected by this horrific issue. While NGOs put together comprehensive materials with statistics, hot line info, and case studies, youth don't really relate to such dry documents and often prefer to read comics and play video games. Yet they are the ones who will be making life changing decisions soon. My goal was to start a mind shift in how we think about human trafficking in addition to teaching kids tips and tricks on how to avoid it.

EG: Will the stories be redone in any way for a U.S. audience compared with the Ukrainian series?

OT: In Borderland, I wanted to explore the human trafficking equation from a new perspective—to challenge our understanding of this complex issue. The comic will be available in Ukrainian, Russian, and English for a wider reach. This way it'll be used as a preventative tool among youth in Ukraine on the one hand, while on the other - it'll serve as a way for spreading awareness in the West.

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