Thursday, December 11, 2008

Research Project

Over the last three months I have spent a lot of time working on my language, settling in, getting to know people and working with the English clubs. But now that I am more comfortable at work, I am looking for some more sustainable and long term projects. For the last month I have been playing with the idea of doing a research project where I would conduct a survey, analyze the data and then based on what I concluded I will create workshops addressing the chosen theme. Until recently I wasn’t sure what area I wanted to focus on but when I was approached by a young woman who asked me to help her translate a letter which she had received from a British family, I was finally inspired.

The letter that this young woman wanted help with was a response from a man in the United Kingdom. Apparently she had been applying for nanny jobs in America and Europe over the internet and this man had found her resume and responded by offering her a job. According to this letter she would be flown to London where she would be in charge of watching over his two children in his “big house with a lovely garden.” The letter painted a charming picture and stated that this was a well off British family who needed a little help around the house. The only problem was that the person who wrote that letter was not a native English speaker. Each sentence had numerous grammatical and spelling errors, the wording didn’t make sense and in my opinion the whole thing seemed really shady. Prior to joining the Peace Corps I had helped plan a conference about human trafficking and so I have been exposed to what human trafficking is and some of the basic methods that traffickers use in order to recruit men and women for a life of slavery. The perfect nanny job found over the internet with no legal documentation seems like a text book example of how a person gets sucked into human trafficking.

When I shared my concerns with the young woman, she brushed it off and said she didn’t think that was the case. She thought that this man seemed very nice and it would all be fine. I started asking her questions like ‘what would you do if he had lied to you and actually wanted you to work somewhere else? What would you do if he didn’t pay you? What would happen do if you became sick? What if your mother became sick, would he pay for a ticket back to Kyrgyzstan? Who would you call if there was a problem? Where would you go?’ For every question I asked, I received nothing but a blank stare. She didn’t know anyone in the UK, she didn’t know how the legal system worked or even how to fill out a visa form. There had been no planning or forethought when she started applying for these jobs around the world.

Even after over an hour of explaining what human trafficking is, why I thought her letter was a scam, and how dangerous it could be, this young woman was still blinded with the hope of finding a job in the UK. I walked away really discouraged and frustrated. All that evening the only thing I could think about was this young woman’s vulnerability. Her vulnerability didn’t come from her lack of physical strength, or her inability to understand English. Her vulnerability stemmed from her desperation and lack of planning.

This interaction is what lead me to my research and workshop idea. Over the next 2 years I want to conduct a survey where I will evaluate the long term planning skills of local university women. Based on the results of the survey I want to conduct monthly workshops for women about topics such as goal setting, long term planning, having a plan b, how to use available resources and subjects along those lines. It’s going to be a lot of work but I think that it would be really interesting and rewarding. Currently I am researching how to research. It would only make sense if my research project on effective long term planning was planned out well!

But honestly, I can only hope that through this project I will plant the seed of long term planning in the minds of young women. So that people, like the young lady that I spoke with, will start looking at these opportunities with open eyes.

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