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A Change of Habit

Written by Julianne Ballog, Miami University Intern, Spring 2016

It is a cold, snowy Sunday back in January. I walk through my local grocery store, checking my list and filling my cart with the weekly

necessities. I reach for the cheapest item without paying any attention to the impact of that choice. From hair products I use to tame my curly hair, to bananas I eat with spoonfuls of peanut butter, I don’t give any thought to how these items are produced, manufactured, and sold. I just throw the items in my cart, check out, and am on my merry way.

Now flash forward 4 months.

It is a sunny, warm Sunday afternoon in May. I walk through my local grocery store, checking, and filling my cart with the weekly necessities. This time, however, I reach for an item and read the package all over. I look for where it was produced and for certified labels like “slavery free” and “fair trade.” From the face wash I use, to the coffee I drink, I now give thought to what the ethical implications are of these items I am about to purchase. I consciously put the items in my cart after they pass my test – realizing that this is the world that I am contributing to and I must take measures to sustain it.

These changes in my routine are a result of the work I have done during my time as an intern for the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center.

I walked into the office one day and, prompted by a quiz at Made in a Free World (http://slaveryfootprint.org/), was asked how many slaves I own. I was baffled by this question. I am immensely passionate about human rights and justice, what makes you think I would even think about owning slaves?! Let alone, didn’t slavery end?

Well, it turns out that I was wrong. The problem was that I did not even think about owning slaves. That absence of thought (when purchasing goods and services) is what lead to me contributing to slave trade, which is still present in modern day. Slavery exists today in many forms, particularly through slave labor. I learned this quickly through the research I conducted for the ethical buying guide for the human trafficking program.

What is different about my background than other interns at non-profit agencies is that I am actually an English education major. Now you may wonder, “Why is a teacher at a non-profit?” Well, the answer is that I have an unrelenting passion for social justice and have dedicated my undergrad studies to integrating social justice and education. IJPC supported this and incorporated it into the work that I did.

Mel, Allison, and Andrea all took different interests of mine and applied them to a variety of projects:

  • Using my creativity and love of art to create graphics and other various designs for the Flying Pig and other events.
  • Using my education background to create a powerpoint to be used in school settings for the Human Trafficking Curriculum.
  • Using my English and writing interests to craft some blog posts and other various writing materials.

They also created projects to which I could grow in more understanding and advocacy (especially through the legal system):

  • Conducting research on the death penalty through various websites, materials, and readings.
  • Researching Ohio legislation and legislators–positions and bills for/against the death penalty.

It is not very often that you get to engage in work that completely transforms the way you live your daily life and future. This experience with IJPC was one of those very special opportunities that I am beyond immensely grateful for.