Xavier Magazine

Human Trafficking: 21st Century Slavery

Harold and Dancy D’Souza arrived from India in 2003 excited about the future in America for them and their two boys.

But their dreams were soon dashed when they realized the family friend—a man they called “uncle” who promised a great life in America—had no interest in their well-being. To him, they were something else: slaves.

By 2007, out of work, homeless and destitute, the family was turning to charity to get by. Through a local church, they were introduced to Jessica Donohue-Dioh who knew right away what was going on. “They were victims of human trafficking,” she says.

While it’s somewhat hard to believe slavery still exists in the 21st century, human trafficking for sex or labor is the second fastest-growing criminal network in the world. The U.S. is a top destination for sex trafficking; the average age of forced prostitution in the U.S. is 13.

Donohue-Dioh, a 2004 social work graduate who now teaches at Xavier, has become a nationally recognized authority on trafficking and victimization and a sought-out speaker and educator on the subject. She’s also the founder with a local YMCA of End Slavery Cincinnati, a non-profit organization that provides education to the community and services to victims.

“I was blown away with the realization of what was going on in our community,” she says. “I realized a lot of people I’d known in Cincinnati were greatly at risk. The D’Souzas were our first case. The most important thing I did for them was to identify what had happened to them as human trafficking.”

That allowed the Department of Health and Human Services to label D’Souza as a certified victim of human trafficking. Their case was classic: working long hours for no pay; their savings and official papers taken; access only to food from the restaurant where they worked; the constant threat of deportation. When they finally went to the police, the uncle kicked them out.

As official victims, however, the family became eligible for services such as rent support, food stamps and Medicaid. During their ordeal, the D’Souzas never gave up hope, and Harold eventually got permission to work and is now celebrating more than five years at Children’s Hospital. This spring, the whole family received permanent residency status.

Most important, though, they are now free.

Xavier Magazine

Urban Farming: Taking Root

It’s a chilly morning in early May. Amy Matthews pulls a knit cap over her auburn hair as she moves among the rows of fruits and vegetables on South Circle Farm.

The strawberries are blooming and the kale is coming up. It’s a typical spring day on the farm. But Green Acres this isn’t.

[lightbox link=””]AmyMatthews_orig[/lightbox]On the other side of the white picket fence that borders the farm is the clanging of a metal recycling operation and a worn-out series of city blocks. The farm is just south of downtown Indianapolis, a two-acre urban farming oasis grown from abandoned city lots. It also has put Matthews on the forefront of the latest environmental craze and made her a budding rock star in the urban farming community. 

Using strictly organic techniques, she cultivates the space to grow everything from eggplants to onions. Oh, and bees. “Just by growing the food the way I do, I’m doing something healthy,” Matthews says as cars whiz by behind her. “You can’t solve all inner-city problems with an urban farm, but it can be a pretty impactful place in a city.”

She ducks inside the greenhouse. Her calloused fingers are black with soil and her boots are caked with dried mud. But her still-young face looks happy. The location, she says, was perfect for her first farm.

She leases the land from a non-profit community development organization, and they support each other in ways that support the community. A community center up the street brings children to the farm to learn about healthy eating, gardening and cooking. On special days, they bring their parents out to enjoy a healthy meal. Neighborhood volunteers work in exchange for fresh produce.

What she doesn’t cook she sells to a city market, co-op groceries and downtown restaurants. Her Community Supported Agriculture program—members pay for a weekly supply of produce—is growing faster than she can fill orders.

The 2002 social work graduate learned the importance of food to the community at non-profit and foodbank jobs in Cleveland, Arizona, Chicago and Washington, D.C. It complemented the basics of farming she learned about in such out-of-the-way places as Alaska, Montana and even Nepal, where she went during an academic service-learning trip. 

“I saw firsthand how they were using food and agriculture to do social work. It really struck me,” she says. “That’s where I saw my first urban garden.”