Blog: Here's what Tom says about that!

If you think technology is isolating, you’re using it wrong

Posted May 25th, 2012 by Tom

Eric was 16 years old when we met in Ghana in 2001 when we were filming Traces of the Trade. We became very close friends. I don’t think 2 weeks has gone by since then that we haven’t communicated via email. I had hoped to get back to Ghana by now to visit him, but it hasn’t happened. So Eric and I rely on technology. We talk via email and Facebook. We spoke by telephone one time a few years back, but it is SO expensive!

Yesterday, we succeeded in connecting via Skype. Though I’ve seen pictures of Eric, and he of me, over the years, this was the first time we saw each other “live” since 2001. It was an unexpected encounter. We’ve been trying to connect via Skype for a few weeks now but I’m not all that savvy when it comes to Skype. For whatever reasons, we just couldn’t get it to work. Then yesterday, bingo! We did something right and it just worked.

Neither of us really knew what to say. Mostly we just laughed at the thrill of being together on our computer screens even though 7 time zones separate us. The warm glow of seeing Eric, and hearing his voice, has not left my heart since.

I’ve read the stories about how technology has created more isolation among people. Though I acknowledge that being “plugged in” a lot can harm one’s relationships in the “unplugged” world, it doesn’t have to. People have always found ways to keep themselves from dealing with the challenges in their real-world lives. But don’t blame it on technology.

I just spoke with my friend in Ghana, face to face, through Skype. Until we are able to be together in person, it does not get any better than this!


Modern Day Slavery in New Jersey (wait… WHAT?!)

Posted December 6th, 2010 by Tom

When I [saw] teenagers going around, going to the movies and just being a teen … I just couldn’t understand why my life has to be this way …  –“Nicole,” human trafficking victim

Whenever I discuss modern-day slavery with audiences–no matter where in the world I do so–the vast majority of people are stunned to learn that there are more people enslaved today than at any other time in history.

In my most recent post I highlighted the work of journalist Nicholas Kristof, including the book he co-wrote with his wife Sheryl Wudunn: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The stories in Half the Sky demonstrate clearly that the abuse and enslavement of women and girls is the most outrageous expression of terrorism of our time.

Now comes the story of two young girls from West Africa–one from a small village in Ghana, the other from Togo–who, rather than receive the education their parents were promised, were forced to work in a hair braiding shop in Newark, New Jersey. Against their will they worked, on their feet for 12 hours a day. At night they slept on the floor with groups of other enslaved girls. Their enslavement was enforced through beatings, the withholding of food, sexual abuse, and isolation.

A woman who heads a clinic to help young women after they are freed from such conditions said,

Sadly, the work of our clinic is necessary in every community in America. Human trafficking, also known as modern-day slavery, exists in big cities, in small towns, in rural areas with no towns, exists in restaurants, in hair salons, in hotels and in farm work.

Learn about another aspect of this tragedy on December 6 and 7 when NPR’s All Things Considered airs a two-part series. “Trafficked” is produced by Youth Radio and discloses the system of enslavement of young girls in Oakland, California. The FBI says that more than 100,000 children and youth are forced into prostitution each year.

At our website we maintain a list of organizations dedicated to eradicating modern day slavery. Please check it out. Become informed. Take action. You can make a difference.

Growing a Global Heart

Posted May 2nd, 2010 by Tom

“We stood in El Mina slave dungeon, on the Cape Coast of Ghana on a recent trip to West Africa, overwhelmed by despair, grief and rage. Without needing to verbalize it, we were both imagining what reaching this spot must have felt like for some long-ago, un-remembered African ancestor as she stood trembling on the precipice of an unknown and terrifyingly uncertain future.

“It was hard to process the fact that for over three hundred years, millions of women, men and children, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, brothers, potters, weavers, had begun their long and brutal journey of being captured, kidnapped, sold and enslaved from the very spot where we now stood the portal now infamously known as the door of no return.”

These are the words of my friends Belvie Rooks and Dedan Gills from their website Growing a Global Heart.

Belvie and I have worked together several times over the past two years, bearing witness to the profoundly transformative impact our separate journeys to the slave dungeons of West Africa had on each of us.

Belvie and Dedan have “a powerful vision of helping to heal the planet from the ravages of catastrophic climate change while honoring and bearing silent testament to the “many thousands gone”–one tree at time!”

Their goal is to help plant one million trees along the route of the Trans-Atlantic slave route to honor and remember the millions of unnamed, unheralded, and unremembered souls who were lost. The planting of the trees will help combat the ravaging effects of global warming and catastrophic climate change and actively highlight and support African-inspired sustainable solutions.

Please visit their website today. Purchasing a “Growing a Global Heart” stainless steel water bottle will help plant 40 trees. Using the bottle will help reduce the use of plastic drinking bottles in your life.

Dedan and Belvie say that what they need most “…are your hopes, prayers and any ideas that you have that might help move this project forward. If you have any suggestions or feel that you can help in any way, we welcome your input.”

I ask you, my friends, to support this work and to please forward this message to your friends and colleagues via e-mail or re-posting on your blog.

Healing ourselves and our world takes many forms. Growing a Global Heart is what healing looks like.

Copyright 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf | Website: James DeW. Perry