The good news about injustice is that there are those who fight it. Founded in 1997, International Justice Mission (IJM) has grown to be a leading non-governmental organization, rapidly changing the world as we know it. Gary Haugen, a former human rights attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, took his knowledge of the legal system and everyday humanitarian need, and applied it to the start of his own nonprofit. IJM’s focus surrounds exploited labor, utilizing grassroots movement ideology in emphasizing local efforts and bottom-up governmental reform rather than simply imposing American solutions on a foreign population.
It goes without saying that IJM is a potential dream career for me. With various internships, fellowships, and international field offices, there are numerous opportunities to get involved in fieldwork concerning poor populations that have become victims of violence. Haugen’s approach to the human rights realm is unique and effective in his platform of employing a majority of local hires. For example, in the Chennai, India office, most of the IJM employees are native Indians working alongside a small number of expat IJM workers. This allows room for healthier relationships to develop, increasing cross-cultural understanding and intercultural communication.
Haugen has been honored by the State Department as a “Hero,” the highest award possible given by the U.S. government for anti-slavery leadership and achievements. Haugen models an ambitious humanitarian worker in that he both has the expertise and the experience – never mind the grit – to lead an organization that attempts to tackle such a global human rights crisis. I was recommended to his first book, Good News About Injustice, by a current IJM leader in the UK who strongly suggested it for anyone considering pursuing social justice work. If you too are interested in changing the lives of impoverished people, channel your inner Gary Haugen and “decide justice is worthy and refuse to go away.”