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Kristen

  • Human Trafficking, Local

    Human Trafficking – When Evil Hides in Plain Sight

    Human Trafficking

    Human Trafficking

    When Evil Hides in Plain Sight

    By Maggie Thompson

    There are more human slaves today than ever before in history.

    Generating up to $35 billion annually, human trafficking has become one of the greatest human rights challenges of this century. In the United States (U.S.), there is a 147-mile stretch of Interstate 20 between Atlanta, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama called “Sex Trafficking Superhighway.”

    Shockingly, 40% of human trafficking in the U.S. happens in the South. This is primarily due to the surrounding international travel hubs such as Atlanta and Houston. Although trafficking is so globally prevalent, it remains in the shadows of society. The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) African American Studies program hosted a documentary screening and panel discussion on human trafficking in September (2017). Carlon Harris, an African American studies major and graduating senior, made and presented the documentary. 

    Through his research, Harris is hoping to transform the subject of human trafficking to an everyday conversation piece by localizing the issue and bringing awareness to the people of Birmingham. “Human trafficking happens 365 days of the year. So basically it can happen anytime, anywhere. Most victims, they will pass you,” Harris stated in an interview with Birmingham’s WBRC Fox 6 News. Kathy Taylor, a survivor, and human trafficking advocate is the center of Harris’ documentary. On camera, Taylor answered questions and shared some of her own experiences as a trafficking victim including the fact that her victimization began on a college campus.

    After the screening, panelists discussed the issues that accompany human trafficking, the steps law enforcement is taking towards prevention and what the public can do to help. The panelists included: Helen Smith of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sergeant Anthony Williams of Birmingham Police Department and Dr. Robert Blanton, UAB Professor of Government. 

    Human trafficking, which is fueled by poverty and gender discrimination, is estimated to surpass the drug trade industry in less than five years.

    Subsequently, traffickers are becoming more powerful and knowledgeable as society continues to allow the submergence of the massive issue modern slavery has become. Although it is primarily men that run this trade, women are also included. Pimps and Johns are common names for these men and women. They control and terrorize these victims. Victimizers use fraud, force and coercion to lure their victims into captivity, sometimes even using victims as bait.

    However, not all traffickers look or act the same.

    Human trafficking does not discriminate and it is nowhere near being transparent. Therefore, anyone can become a victim or a victimizer. Some victims find that their only option toward escape is to become a victimizer themselves and view the “promotion” from prostitute to pimp as a natural process.

    In conclusion, creating awareness is the first step towards ending human trafficking.

    Panels and organized events that educate the public on the facts of human trafficking can act as a gateway to major prevention as well as putting an end to what has become the greatest human rights challenges of this century. The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Institute for Human Rights is working hard to promote prevention and awareness by informing students on the indicators of human trafficking and how to identify and help a potential victim.

    If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.
    For tips on how to stay safe and aware of your surroundings, click here, https://www.girlspring.com/?s=Human+Trafficking
    And for the Human Trafficking Hotline site, click here.
  • Fashion

    Finding Your Personal Style

    Style Coach, Megan LaRussa on how to simplify finding your personal style

    Style Coach, Megan LaRussa on how to simplify finding your personal style

    Finding your personal style is hard, watch this video with style coach Megan LaRussa and learn how to do it!

    Megan is a style coach based in Birmingham, Alabama. However, she travels the world to find the best clothes for her clients! Check out Megan’s other style tips here, https://www.girlspring.com/holiday-style-megan-larussa/

    Likewise, check out her personal website here for more tips!

  • Confidence, Goals

    New Year’s Resolutions or New Year’s Goals?

    New Year’s Resolutions or New Year’s Goals?

    New Year’s Resolutions or New Year’s Goals?

    by Maya Kitchens, GirlSpring Springboarder

    It’s the time of year when we realize just how committed we are to our resolutions and goals!

    Having New Year’s Resolutions are very common for people as the clock strikes midnight on the night of December 31st and the early morning of January 1st. I myself have had New Year’s Resolutions, however, I have broken them pretty quickly. I’ve decided to call these “New Year’s Resolutions” something different. I’ve decided to call them “New Year’s Goals” instead. To me, goal sounds more positive than a resolution. The term “new year, new me” is very popular, but I don’t necessarily want to change, I want to accomplish more. Going into the New Year, don’t change yourself, maybe change the way you look at life. I’m going into 2019 with a more positive outlook on life, which in turn will make me more successful.  

     

     

     

    Read more posts on GirlSpring here!

  • Photography

    Top 10 Rapid Stress Relief Activities for Girls

    Stress Relief

    Top 10 Rapid Stress Relief Activities for Girls

    Girls undergo some emotional breakdowns which may be related to relationship issues, low self-esteem, problems at work, tight curfews by parents, trying to impress their friends, and even worrying about getting married when their biological clocks are ticking! The female gender loves attention, and failure to receive it can derail them emotionally. Therefore, they need to find a constant source of happiness and satisfaction to help them cope with the challenges in their day-to-day lives.

    Here are some of the top 10 rapid stress relief that girls can try out:

     

    • Going for a ride

     

    Research has proven that connecting with nature and pumping up some adrenaline in the system can be an excellent way of relieving stress. Thus, the best way to go about it is hopping into a car with a friend and hitting the road. The vehicle should be at high speed on an isolated road to avoid being irritated by traffic jam which may increase the stress levels. Besides, they can always hire a car if they do not have one. It is a must do for every girl who is stressing out because of the various reasons mentioned above.

     

    • Taking a walk

     

    Walks should be taken in the evening when there is less commotion in the area. Girls can do this within their neighborhood or wherever they please. Walking helps in elevating the moods of the females which eases their levels of depression. Another reason that makes walking a mandatory stress-reliever to try is that it aids in releasing endorphins making the person involved in the exercise happy. However, the pace should be fast to increase heart rate which also helps with hormonal balance.

     

    • Girls’ night out

     

    Girls can choose to have dinner together, go clubbing, hang out anywhere in the city, or decide to go to the movies. With this, they get to spend quality time with their loved ones as they participate in the activities they cherish together. Also, having the people they love around them dilutes tough situations that they are experiencing hence making them enjoy life the more.

     

    • Snuggling with a pet

     

    Another essential tip is adopting an animal either a dog, cat or any other that they may prefer. It is an activity that has proven to release hormones that introduce a gentle spirit for the girl.

     

    • Consider a spa night

     

    Spa dates can be expensive, but they can still do it at home to minimize on expenses. The easiest way is it to buy scrubs and prepare homemade face masks, use the best diffuser to diffuse essential oils to create that well scented and relaxing atmosphere, and take some wine or any drink of choice. These will make her feel relaxed and free from the pressures of life. But she can also spice it up by taking a bath in a tub with candles around. The beauty and ambiance that these bring are enough to make life less stressful.

     

    • Get to the kitchen and cook something

     

    Cooking is a creative exercise that makes people explore their abilities. But for it to be interesting, they have to prepare meals that take less time to make and which require minimum skills for the activity to be enjoyable. Some of the foods to consider cooking include sandwiches, burgers, salad, cakes, blending juice or smoothie and even coffee. All these will keep their minds off the stress. Therefore, girls should try this stress-relieving hack.

     

    • Go shopping in a mall

     

    Malls are beautiful places packed with all kinds of commodities. Seeing beautiful stuff that most girls have always wanted will automatically make them feel good about themselves. Also, they can merely window shop as a way of planning on what to buy next.

     

    • Read a good book

     

    Reading books helps with engaging the mind which is a way of killing idleness. But the plots of these stories must be intriguing to prevent the reader from getting bored. It will automatically ease stress especially when the victims connect well with the characters in the stories.

     

    • Put some loud music and dance to it

     

    They say music is a drug that almost everyone gets high on and girls are not an exception. Therefore, it is a rapid stress-relieving tip that they must try out. But it is more fun if they do it with a friend or a sibling for them not to feel lonely. With this, their moods will be elevated especially when they sing along and scream to the top of their lungs.

     

    • Take a nap

     

    Rest is as good as a change, and sleeping is the best way to relieve stress. It helps the whole body to relax including the brain hence rejuvenating to better body functioning.

     

  • School

    Tips For A Stress-Free Semester

    Tips for Studying!

    Tips and Pointers for a Stress-Free Spring Semester

    By Uzma Issa, GirlSpring Springboarder

    It’s that time of the year again!

    It’s the time people enjoyed the winter break, it’s a new year, and school comes creeping from around the corner. People finished their midterm exams and the second semester is about to start. I don’t know about you, but I struggled with the first semester, one main issue is the problem of time management. Everyone procrastinates on assignments, putting it off until the last minute. So how can we improve our time management skills for the new year?

    I’ve had the problem of procrastinating, not wanting to do work in the moment, and pushing off assignments to finish later.

    This causes problems because I end up pushing too many assignments to finish later not giving me enough time to finish. I’ll end up staying up late or doing my homework the morning it is due.

    I have gotten better at completing assignments on time and this is how:

    1. Look at all the homework you have and evaluate how much time it will take and the difficulty of it.

    2. Create a schedule for yourself.

    3. In the schedule, vary the difficulty of assignments so you don’t have to do 2 hard or time-consuming assignments back-to-back.

    4. Include breaks to eat, use the bathroom, or leisure.

    5. Try to include a bedtime. So if you end up not being able to finish your homework in time, you cannot stay up late. Sleep is vital to our health.

    6. Stick to the schedule. If you finish something faster than you anticipated, then you may do other things or get a head start on your other assignments.

    One thing to keep in mind is that everyone needs sleep.

    As kids or teenagers, our brains are still developing; they need sleep to function properly the next day. If one goes to sleep extremely late in the night trying to finish homework for a class the next day, that person most probably will not be able to stay alert and retain the information taught in class because of their fatigue. Nationwide Children’s claims that on average, teenagers get around 7 hours of sleep, but need about 9 hours of sleep.

    Here are a few ways you can get the sleep you need:

    1. Maintain a regular sleep schedule, sleep and wake up at around the same time every day.

    2. Try not to oversleep on the weekends. It may seem beneficial, but it will be harder to get back into your sleep schedule for the weekdays.

    3. Take short, early afternoon naps. They are quick but will energize you to do work later on.

    4. Limit screen time before bed.

    5. Try to minimize screens or Bluetooth devices in your bedroom.

    6. Cut out caffeine.

    An additional note to realize is that our phones are huge distractions.

    We may not realize it, but many people use their phones more than they realize. Many people probably know this, but on the new iPhone update, there is a feature in Settings where you can track your screen time, notifications, pick-ups, and more. There is also an option to keep limits on apps you use a lot. So, I recommend setting a time limit on your phone so you can concentrate on other goals and be less distracted. Also, set a bedtime on your phone, so you don’t use your phone after a certain time, allowing you to get better sleep. Some people use their phone as a stress reliever, but it’s not the best option.

    People should partake in different stress-relieving activities such as drawing, coloring, knitting, creating something, cooking, or exercising that helps them take their mind off of stressful ideas.

    During breaks, you take from assignments, or after a stressful day, you should take some time out for yourself to do something you enjoy doing. Self-care is an important part of life and you should not spend the whole day overworking yourself but to take time out to take care of yourself. If you have lots of assignments to do or work to catch up on, do not try to do everything all at once, non-stop. Take breaks to energize yourself and do something you enjoy – then work some more.

    Overall, these are a few things that might be helpful for the second semester of this school year, or life in the future.

    I know some of these tips helped me and I am still trying to improve my time management. Good luck to everyone in school and I hope you found this article helpful!

  • Animals, Articles

    Triptych of Bingo, My Guardian Angel

    story about a dog

    Triptych of Bingo, My Guardian Angel

    By Grace Sullivan

    I can’t remember the house we got her from.

    Nor can I remember the lady that gave her to us. I can’t even remember what the other dog that was chasing her around a coffee table when we walked in looked like. However, I do distinctly remember that my dad told my mother and I he wanted a big, mostly grown male who could fetch the newspaper. My dad realized when we came back with her that neither of us had been listening.

    I was three years old, quite unobservant, and all I wanted in life to make me happy was a dog.

    Basically, these were simpler times. My mom had done some research for pet adoption after her old dog, Austin, died from cancer when I was two. I only remember that mutt through home videos of him fetching a ball and bringing it back gently to my baby seat. I don’t even think I asked for another dog; our big house just felt empty to my mother without a dog’s footsteps.

    There was a couple on Facebook that posted they had found two stray dogs that they couldn’t keep and needed a home.

    My mom drove me over there, probably so that she could avoid having to let me sift through twenty or so dogs at an animal shelter. A good decision on her part. Now I only had two girl puppies to choose from and surprisingly, I didn’t take very long. The door opened to their house, the couple greeted us, and they brought us into the living room. As I mentioned before, there were two of them, the one with slightly darker fur chasing the other one around a small coffee table. Neither of them bothered to look up, even as my mom and I walked over and sat down on the other side of the couch. Neither of them seemed to get bored from running around a coffee table over and over again either. My mom told me to look at them, maybe pet them once they calmed down.

    I was allowed to choose which one we took home. 

    I took a good look at both of them. The one doing the chasing had reddish fur, slightly longer legs than the other, a little bit skinnier. She reminded me of a spice. Cinnamon, specifically. I took my attention to the other one. She seemed a bit more nervous than her “sister”, but she still looked as if she was having fun. Her fur was only a couple shades lighter, but for some reason, I associated her with a pale sweetness, with sugar or cream.

    “I want the vanilla one!”

    I said in the middle of my mom’s conversation about adoption prices. Looking back, this made absolutely no sense for me to say. First of all, I was referring to the lighter dog, but vanilla extract is a dark substance. I guess my child brain was imagining the ice cream. Secondly, the dog wasn’t even a light color. It was still a ginger-brown at the time. Only by the time she was around ten would she really start to look like a “vanilla” dog. “Which one is that?” My mom had to ask, glancing between the two in confusion. I pointed to the one I meant and her attention was drawn to me. The puppy licked my pointed finger and jumped up on the couch next to me. My mom and I were equally delighted.

    “Well, what do you want to name her?”

    I could have said Vanilla, but that sounded more like middle name material to me. So I gave our new dog to only dog’s name I knew.

    “Bingo. She will be Bingo Vanilla Sullivan.”

    Little did my three-year-old self know I would have to correct just about everyone that Bingo was a girl for the rest of my life. All because the children’s rhyme said “his name-o.” But it didn’t matter to me then. I spent the rest of the time cooing over Bingo and constantly reaffirming her that she would, in fact, be going home with us. She just sat across from me and pantsed with no understanding of my words. I loved her already.

    Bingo was about four years old by now.

    And she was officially the most important thing to me in the world. So important that I even got offended when my parents told me I was more important to them than our family dog. I immediately greeted her with hugs and kisses every day after school, and sometimes I would even just lay beside her on our living room carpet and scratch her belly as she licked my face like I was her baby kitten. As soon as we brought her home, we realized she thought she was a cat, and as I spoiled her rotten, she was led to believe she was also a queen. I didn’t mind and I even let her have her own little throne: our ottoman.

    My best friend, Alex, came over one day before we had to go to karate.

    Alex happened to be the other most important thing to me at the time. I was only seven, but I was already experiencing the feeling of anxiousness a teenager gets when their crush comes over for the first time. We arrived back from school and Alex wanted to go on the trampoline in my backyard. Bingo sat outside on the porch, watching closely as we climbed through the net. We did all the activities one usually does when on a trampoline: jumped, bounced, flipped, rolled. At one point, we started wrestling, aka the most romantic thing you can do with your crush at age seven. I shrieked and giggled out of excitement, and we kept at it for about ten minutes before we had to go inside to get ready.

    What I had failed to notice during our ultra-romantic wrestling match was Bingo watching intently from the porch. She had gotten very concerned that someone was attacking her kitten and hadn’t known how to stop it until we got off the trampoline. As soon as Alex hit the ground, Bingo ran across the yard and jumped on top of Alex so that she could bite him on the finger. My dad ran out and held her back before she could do any worse, although it seemed like she just wanted to give him a warning.

    “Ow! Bad dog!”

    Alex yelped, holding his finger where teeth marks were barely visible. My dad took us inside to let Alex get cleaned up and scolded Bingo on the way in. “Grace, you need to keep that dog away from me!” Alex exclaimed as my mom led him to sink to rinse the wound with water.
    Never before had I been genuinely angry at Alex, but him scolding my dog was enough to do it. I found it sweet that Bingo had protected me, even though there was nothing to be protected from, and the fact that Alex thought he had the right to get upset about a mere nip had me bristling. Secretly, while my mom put on a bandaid, I walked back outside to where Bingo was being punished and knelt down beside her.

    “It’s okay, girl. I know you didn’t mean to hurt my crush.

    You thought he was attacking me. I still love you.” I planted a kiss on her cheek and rubbed the warm spot between the napes of her forehead. She licked my hand and I could’ve sworn the corners of her mouth turned up.
    Alex, on the other hand, I didn’t speak to for the next three days, until he promised he would never insult my dog again.

    We drove Bingo back from the shelter mostly in silence, the exceptions being my dad’s sniffles and my mom turning around from the passenger seat to smile at Bingo in hopes of a tail wag.

    Her tail didn’t move. The only thing that did was her big, brown eyes, gazing up glumly from her thin blanket. I rubbed her head in the backseat, carefully pushing her body when she sat up, encouraging her to lay back down. I got out my phone to take photos when I realized this was her last day. Putting the phone close up to her snout, I made sure to replicate a photo I had taken of her years ago at our old house, back when she was healthy. Later, when I compared the two, I would see how her nose had cracked and dried over time, and how the edges of the fur were completely white now.

    My dad carried her down our driveway, her legs too frail to walk down herself. It was strange seeing Bingo like this. For most of her life, she had been able to keep a puppy’s level of energy. Now, just as we all realized her life was nearing its end, did she become an old woman. My dad slowly set her down on her dog bed, facing the big windows overlooking our den. The natural light reflected onto her glazed eyes and it already felt like I was looking at a dead dog.

    We stayed surrounding her and petting her until the night came.

    My mom had gotten up earlier to make us some dinner, but my dad and I stayed put. My dad sat on the couch, watching me scratch Bingo’s belly, much more carefully than I had in her earlier years. I could feel her ribs protruding from her stomach, the way her body now felt like it was just a thin layer of skin wrapped over bones. From the corner of my eye, I noticed my dad was crying. Slow, silent tears that he was trying to force a way through rapid blinking and coos at Bingo. All I could do was sit on the couch next to him and put a hand on his shoulder, the other one rubbing Bingo’s head. During the night, my parents went back to their bedroom, but I had asked to stay in the den with Bingo.

    Part of me was terrified if we all left, she would pass before the morning.

    So I used a blanket from off the couch and I laid down next to her. I scratched her stomach, but her tongue had become gross over the last few weeks of sickness. So instead, I put my nose to hers: a dog’s kiss. I couldn’t believe how cracked it was. I rubbed the side of her face, right in the spot that resembled a lion’s mane, trying to memorize the texture of her fur. Telling her how she had been a good girl, I talked to her through the night.

    Thanking her for biting Alex that one time even though he hadn’t been hurting me. Apologizing to her for giving her a name that made half the people we knew thought she was a boy. She laid across from me, blinking as a sign of listening, her body’s subtle movements up and down the only indication she still breathed. She wasn’t smiling back like she used to, and I couldn’t stop tears from reaching my eyes. But Bingo nuzzled her head closer toward me as a tear fell and tried to lick it off my face as she had always done when I was younger. “Thank you, sweet girl,” I whispered. I smiled even though she didn’t and finally, I fell asleep.

    To our collective relief, Bingo was still breathing when we all woke up.

    We spent more hours huddled around the dog bed before the vet came, some of our family friends stopping in to visit Bingo and say goodbye. In the afternoon, the vet arrived and I attempted to make myself as composed as possible. She was a nice woman. She didn’t talk too much about the process of putting Bingo down until it was necessary, instead keeping her tone conversational and remarking on how sweet Bingo seemed.
    “Yeah, she’s been our guardian angel, especially for Grace,” my mom said to the vet. I wasn’t paying too much attention to their conversation; my gaze was focused completely on Bingo. A part of me worried I would never see her again, that dogs don’t go to heaven or maybe that heaven wasn’t real at all. But if any dog were to go to heaven, I would think it would be her.

    Finally, the time came and the vet started explaining how this would go.

    We were free to leave the room she said, but none of us wanted to. I could tell all of us felt like Bingo shouldn’t go without us by her side. I doubt she even remembered a time we weren’t by her side when she was just a little puppy chasing her sister around a coffee table. The vet brought out the shot that would put her down, promising us it wouldn’t hurt her. I buried my head into her anyway; I didn’t want to see the shot go into her frail body, no matter if it hurt or not. Bingo was shaking. I started speaking to her in an effort to calm us both down. “It’s ok baby, it’s alright, you can go,” I said, my voice barely a whisper so that no one else could hear it but her. “I love you, it’s ok, I love you, it’s ok, I love you, it’s ok..”
    The shot had been injected. Bingo didn’t stop breathing yet. “Oh my god, she’s still holding on,” the vet said. “She really doesn’t want to leave you guys.”

    Another wave of tears arrived as I realized we should have expected this.

    Bingo had always been stubborn. The vet refilled the shot to do another injection. Bingo was too sick to stay alive. We could all tell it was painful for her to hold on. “Bingo, it’s alright, I promise.” My tears landed on her cold forehead as the vet put in the last injection. “I love you, baby, it’s ok. You can go, I’ll be ok.”

    Her breath came to a stop.

    Her frail body wasn’t moving anymore. I kept my face buried in hers as she finally let go.

  • Fashion

    Polishing your Wardrobe with Megan LaRussa

    Polishing Your Wardrobe - Megan LaRussa

    Polishing Your Wardrobe!

    With Style Coach, Megan LaRussa

    Gearing up for an interview? Style Coach, Megan LaRussa shares quick and easy ways to ensure you look and feel polished!

     

    Check out the GirlSpring Youtube page, here! You can watch more of Megan’s videos there.

     

    Megan spoke at one of Wonder Woman talks, learn more here!