The October 2013 Empathy Week was the fourth of its kind that I’ve experienced as a student at CU Boulder. When I think about my experience as a student on this campus, there is no single event that has so greatly shaped my time here besides Empathy Week. For this reason, it was a bittersweet week for me.
When I was a freshman, two seniors told me I needed to stop in to see the Empathy Week exhibit in the UMC. I arrived at the exhibit ignorant of the horrific exploitation happening in the world. I was overwhelmed with sorrow. The grief I felt overtook my motivation to help find a solution; quite honestly, I felt hopeless that a solution existed this side of heaven. In the fall of my freshman year, I began a leadership program here on campus and was thinking about solving complex problems. But kids being trafficked for sex seemed like a problem for “grown ups”—people with PhDs and thirty years of work experience. As an undergraduate student, I assumed I couldn’t have valuable contributions to the solution.
In the months following the first E-Week I attended, I couldn’t seem to get away from the subject of human trafficking. In my classes, at my church, in the media, I was continually reminded that this crime was happening. I kept encountering people here in Boulder who were partners and volunteers with iEmpathize. I kept encountering everyday people that collaborated in some way with iE to be a part of the solution. The people I encountered were both young and old, with and without PhDs. Slowly but surely I had a change of heart. If I didn’t take ownership in the solution, who would? Waiting until I became a “grown-up” was waiting too long so I started to investigate the ways I could help here and now in my unique position as an undergraduate student.
This fall marked my fourth Empathy Week at CU. This year, I was invited to be part of the planning team in the weeks leading up to the event. I had the privilege of taking part in set-up and teardown of the exhibit on my campus. I helped design a new model for the Mattress Vigil that can be used by campuses in the future. Most importantly, I spoke in front of a great deal of peers about the issue. One of the greatest successes of this event for me was the small class discussion I was able to spark through invitation to the event. Getting people to acknowledge the issue and then talk about it is crucial for gaining momentum. While Empathy Week 2013 marked the last of my time with iE on this campus, it is still only the beginning of my commitment as an advocate. Back in 2010, I never would have thought that I would have such an opportunity to own the Empathy movement at CU by the time I graduated. My greatest hope is that perhaps this year, I was that senior who invited some freshman girl into the issue. I hope that she, whoever she is, is experiencing the same heart change I experienced and will soon catch vision of the contributions she can make as a student.
– Caitlin Davis, student and Empathizer