Every twentysomething wants to find their passion. Throughout this formative decade, minor decisions can make a large impact on where you find the work that makes you tick. For Wes, 21, his journey began at the start of his college career by simply watching a movie.
One day during his freshman year of college, Wes’s friend invited him to watch a documentary on human trafficking, called Nefarious. After watching the film, Wes and his friend decided to research human trafficking in Europe – since they would be studying abroad in Switzerland. While living abroad for four months, Wes ended up visiting Amsterdam’s Red Light District with nonprofit Not For Sale.
“I was blown away by the problem,” Wes said.
When a U.S. Aid Campus Challenge came up after he had returned from his travels, Wes recruited some friends to enter into the competition with him. As an Applied Economics & Narrative Justice major at Virginia Tech, Wes and his team of recruits created AboliShop, a program that brings online consumers information about the impact of slavery on goods they are about to purchase.
Wes’s program has created a step forward in consumer awareness as it offers a glimpse for the everyday online shopper into just how pervasive the global slave trade is currently. AboliShop is a plug-in for web browsers, and when installed, it allows online consumers easy access to slave trade information. When making a purchase, a user simply needs to click on the AboliShop button to find out what impact the product they are looking at has on international human rights.
The goal is to make it as easy as possible to find out what kind of impact one particular purchase is making. AboliShop partners with Not For Sale and have finished the beta version, Wes and his team hope to launch by this November, just in time for Black Friday.
Additionally, Wes is also working on improving trafficking hotlines in South Africa. He is partnering with organizations on the ground who currently run these hotlines to use new technologies to increase awareness and user base. Wes is looking at Cape Town, Pretoria, & Johannesburg to be the first cities in which the new technology launches. Although he is already working with local NGOs in South Africa, he and his team would love to become part of a global network, such as the ones that Google and Polaris Project are currently creating.
Wes believes strongly that it is God who is leading him to be in the fight against human trafficking for the long term. He knows he will most likely end up working in an anti-trafficking specific career.
“I’m not going to turn away from this, if God is making it so blatantly obvious,” Wes said.
Although he is only 21, Wes has strong advice for others in their twenties. “People will take you seriously if you take yourself seriously,” he advised. “If you trust that God is going to do great things for you, then other people will start to get that that’s the way you’re operating, and they’ll start to think the same things.”
Wes | Website
Founder of AboliShop & Applied Economics Narrative Justice Student, VA Tech • 21 • Blacksburg, VA