This past summer, I had the privilege of meeting an enthusiastic and lovable International Justice Mission representative at an anti-trafficking meeting hosted by World Vision. Petra Bosma is the Communications Coordinator at IJM Canada. And I would like you to meet her! For those of you who want a job in the social justice field, here is a great example of what that could look like.
Petra, where did you grow up? Are there any childhood memories you be willing to share?
I was born in the Netherlands and moved to Canada when I was five. I grew up on a dairy farm near Cornwall, Ontario. One of my best childhood memories is playing Cops and Robbers with our neighbours. Almost every night during the summer, we’d cross the field that separated our farms and we’d play at least one game of Cops and Robbers.
How does your childhood differ from what many children in the world experience, and how do you feel about this?
I think it’s hard to realize just how different our childhoods are in comparison to the childhoods that most children in the world experience: limited education and economic opportunities, exploitation, etc. None of it is fair, is it? Because the reality wasn’t [and isn’t] fair, I wanted to fix it all. One thing I had to come to terms with was that I wouldn’t be able to get involved with every single cause and every single initiative. I decided to choose one or two key initiatives to get involved with and try to make as much of an impact there as I could.
Do you remember when you first became aware of social justice/human trafficking?
I think I have a personality that naturally bends toward caring about justice issues. As a kid, I would get really upset when someone seemed to get away with something unfair or unjust. You know, like when you see the kid next to you cheating on a test and they don’t get caught.
I can’t pinpoint an exact moment that I became acutely aware of social justice issues. I think I may always have cared about social justice issues, but I became focused on functioning public justice systems in university. I took a fourth-year course called Transitional Justice. The course touched on some really heavy topics and examined approaches to justice for countries that had experienced mass atrocity. The lasting impact the course had one me was that it spurred a deep desire in me to see public justice systems function effectively.
The more I learned, the more aware I became of the very real atrocities that happen when a public justice system fails, and when systems are corrupt or fail to protect people, especially the poor. Around that time, I became aware of International Justice Mission and the work it was doing. It was addressing the very social justice issues I felt so strongly about.
What is you role at IJM Canada? What is your favourite task/responsibility?
I’m the Communications Coordinator. I love a lot of things about my job. I get to do a lot of different tasks throughout the day, and I love that. My favourite task is probably writing. I got to do a lot of writing today, and I’m completely energized by it. I also get to manage a lot of our social media (we’re on Facebook and Twitter) and I love connecting with people who care about our work through those tools. Their passion and zeal to help fight violent oppression encourages and energizes me.
I did an undergraduate degree in English and Political Science and a graduate degree in Political Science. It did two things for me: it developed my writing skills and taught me about government systems. Both things that help a lot with the work I do at IJM. My boss summed it up really well one day when he said that I deal with words and pictures. English majors deal with a lot of words. And the political science background helps me understand just how critical functioning public justice systems are.
Is there a specific story/rescue/event that has taken place since you’ve worked at IJM that has really impacted you?
The most impacting story I’ve heard while at IJM is about Suhanna. Suhanna had been trafficked and rescued in an IJM operation. While in aftercare, she made some unhealthy friendships, including one with a boy who claimed to love her. He convinced her to run away from the aftercare home. She did and was re-trafficked by him. This time she was trafficked to Mumbai, a city of 18 million people. IJM investigators and social workers decided to go looking for Suhanna, to see if they could rescue her again. They were told it would be impossible to find Suhanna. But they did. After four months of intense searching, IJM found Suhanna and rescued her again. She’s in aftercare, and is studying to be a social worker. You can watch her story here:
Can you give a quick summary of what IJM Canada does?
The best summary I can give you is probably the one found on our homepage:
International Justice Mission Canada is a human rights organization that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression, in partnership with U.S.-based International Justice Mission (IJM). IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to ensure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to ensure that public justice systems, police, courts and laws effectively protect the poor.
You can become a Freedom Partner. We need monthly supporters who are willing to give $24 a month to help IJM secure rescue 24 hours a day. It’s that monthly support, over the long haul, that allows us to continue to do our work. You can learn more here.
What advice would you tell people who are wanting to pursue a career in NGO/social justice work?
Learn all you can about the issue, and then figure out a way to meld your passion with your skills. Social justice work needs people who are accountants, writers, graphic designers, IT specialists, managers, etc. Really, the possibilities are limitless. And, when you love what you do, work doesn’t feel like work.
Movie? Life is Beautiful, The Sound of Music and the Band of Brothers mini-series.
Ice cream flavour? TART Vanilla Frozen Yogurt
Quote? “Never, never, never give up” – Winston Churchill
So there you have it, someone who has devoted their time, resources, and talents to fight on behalf of the oppressed. Thanks Petra for sharing your journey with us. Don’t forget to check out the IJM Canada website to see how you can get involved!