The Third Week

2 Aug

Once again I have neglected this blog. A plague on both my houses! Wait I don’t even own one house, let alone two. Why did that expression immediately come to mind? I’m so confused. Thanks Google! Did I just make a Shakespeare reference? I would be impressed if this was intentional and if it actually made sense in context. I guess I’m not as literary as I thought.

Let’s talk about the internship now.

The last blog I wrote was about the second week at CAST and the following week I was still collecting recipes from the shelter residents and the Survivor Advisory Caucus members for the cookbook. Much has happened since then, but I won’t bombard you with long stories all at once. Despite my absence on this page, I have been taking notes in my little journal and I’ll be writing some of the highlights from each week since late June.

Flashing back! It’s a verb now.

This week I went to the shelter to work – well that is if you consider chatting over coffee, listening to stories, and playing with the most adorable little chocolate baby in the world to be work. Although I’m always very distracted by the wonderful people and the delicious food at the shelter, I was able to collect five recipes and reflections today!

I walked into the shelter home on a Tuesday morning and was greeted by warm, welcoming smiles and hugs. After setting up my laptop at the dinner table, the residents decided who was going to explain their recipe and reflection first. While I was taking down the first recipe, one of the residents, who prefers to go by the name Fitche Little Girl, asked if I would like some coffee. Maybe it was because I felt chilly on that gloomy morning or that it seemed rude to reject the offer– either way I politely responded with a yes and continued talking to Ya Debre Berhan Beauty about her recipe. It wasn’t long before I had forgotten about the coffee request when Fitche set out a beautiful arrangement of coffee, cream, warm milk, sugar, brown sugar, and three plates of different types of cookies before me. I was taken by surprise and at first I thought she was joking. Fitche didn’t know me very well at the time and this gesture was too much work for a stranger. I remember covering my face with both of my hands and shouting, “There’s no way that’s for me! You must be expecting a princess and I am not worthy of such treatment.” Fitche laughed and said, “Well miss, you are a princess to me.” Upon realizing that Fitche was serious, a fierce blush inflamed my face and a uncontrollably repeated a million thank yous. I then enjoyed a special treat and was eventually able to finish up the first recipe: Yashinkurt Assa (sautéed tilapia topped with grilled onions). Delightful!

Learning recipes well enough to write detailed instructions proved to be quite the challenge. First of all, there was an evident language barrier, so I had to rely on (Amharic) translators to communicate with some of the residents. Those who were more comfortable with their English volunteered to translate, which was nice because it created a more relaxed setting for those who seemed shy to talk to me. Secondly, it’s very uncommon to measure ingredients when cooking and some of the ladies were not used to it. We had to whip out measuring cups and spoons to estimate the amount of x ingredient for certain recipes. Lastly, there were many ingredients that were obscure, which means that I’ll have to compose an appendix of some sort. Despite all of the little hurdles, collecting recipes and talking to the residents at the shelter was an overall joy.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention that Lularga made Diningding for lunch and it was absolutely fantastic. (I attached a blurry photo of my plate!)

You know what else is fantastic? Chocolate.

But did you know that up to 70% of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa where the one of the most severe forms of child labor exist? In the early 2000s, news reports and documentaries surfaced, bringing attention to the issue of child slavery in the cocoa industry. The US government estimated that about 1.8 million children are engaged in slave-like practices in West Africa alone.

Let’s define child labor.

According to the International Labour Organization, child labor is “often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity,” and is “harmful to physical and mental development.”

(For more information about the definition, visit–en/index.htm)

While many consumers wanted to attack chocolate corporations by boycotting chocolate (and some actually did), a sharp decline in chocolate sales would have devastated places like Ivory Coast and Ghana. Consequently, a coalition of chocolate corporations, NGOs, and West African governments organized to take a more systematic approach to abolish child slavery in cocoa production. Although some areas have seen major improvements, there is still much work to be done.

Would you like to know more about these efforts and what you can do to help? Even if you aren’t very interested, I strongly encourage you to visit these two websites anyway.

You really don’t know if the workers that picked your oranges received wages or if the shirt on your back was made with slave labor in a Cambodian sweatshop – chances are they probably were. While I don’t think we should all panic about where our goods are coming from (especially in the US where the trade deficit is always pretty high), it’s good to practice knowledgeable consumerism. It’s definitely a work in progress, but I’ve made this a goal of mine. There are definitely more effective ways to do this, but this is a nice start.

Thanks for reading! ✿


The Second Week

27 Jun

“Planting rice is never fun

Bend from morn till the set of sun

Cannot stand nor cannot sit

Cannot rest for a little bit.”


(One of the ladies from the shelter taught me this nursery rhyme and a dance that goes along with it. We had a load of fun singing and dancing. Rice is pretty big in the Philippines.)




This past week I made some progress on the Survivor Cookbook, which is a collection of recipes and reflections from the shelter residents and the Survivors Advisory Caucus members.  So far I have only sat down with four people, but I have six appointments for next week!

Until then, I’d be delighted to share some of the things that happened on my second week!


Introduction to Shelter

The shelter is a lovely home for international CAST clients. On Tuesday, one of the legal interns and I created an activity calendar for the residents and a schedule for the cookbook. Then we introduced ourselves and presented our projects at their weekly house meeting – which was so cool because I used an Amharic translator! The ladies expressed interest in the cookbook and several set up appointments with me right away.


Cookbook Project

A few days later I returned to the shelter to talk to Little Jamaican Girl (LJC) and Lularga about their contributions to the cookbook.  LJC gave me a family recipe that was prepared every Sunday: Jamaican rice, peas, and chicken with carrot juice. Yum! Lularga is hands down one of the sweetest old ladies you’ll ever meet. She gave me a recipe called “Diningding Iloceno Dish with Mungbean,” which is basically a vegetable stew with fried tilapia. In her reflection she talked about what each ingredient symbolized – everything was very much tied to her faith.

At the office the next day, I met with some of the caucus members about their recipes and I talked to one of them for almost an hour and a half! (Datti’s English was very difficult to understand, but she was so patient with me.) I honestly didn’t expect this much of a struggle with these recipes. Not only is there a language barrier, but also the dishes are so exotic and intricate. I mean have you ever heard of Telur Bubuk Balli from Eastjava? Try understanding how to prepare it well enough to teach it to someone else! I love this project though – I’ve always thought that food is the best way to bring people together.

I would like to tell you more about it, but I think you should wait until the cookbook is actually finished! I don’t want to spoil the surprise.


USC Conference

On Saturday I went to a conference at USC Annenburg School of Communications and Journalism with my boss and one of the caucus members.  They gave a brief overview of human trafficking and encouraged reporters and journalists to improve their interviewing and reporting methods. Apparently there are a lot of reporters who are insensitive when interviewing survivors of human trafficking – like the questions they ask are phrased in uncomfortable ways. For example, when survivors are asked something like, “why didn’t you just leave?” it makes them feel as if it were their choice to be a slave. Also, the media tends to focus on sex trafficking – which is undoubtedly important – but there are many other types of trafficking that deserve attention as well. Tessa suggested that stories/articles that focus on one specific case should at least mention a broader perspective on human trafficking to be more informative of the issue. Simple as that.


Well that’s it for now. Thanks for reading!


Week One Recap

19 Jun

I am currently continuing today’s work in a cozy Scripps’ Motley-like coffee shop in Echo Park. Normally I would stay in the office after Tessa (my boss) leaves, but I grew tired of sitting at my desk and decided to take my assignments home – after asking for permission of course. So now I’m taking a break to appreciate this is nice change of scenery and to say:

Hello there!

I apologize for neglecting this blog last week. I just got into a rhythm of work, swimming, obsessing over delicious homemade Chinese meals, and falling fast asleep (swimming has definitely taken the life out me). It is such a dreadful sport and I ardently respect and despise swimming fanatics. After eight months of no exercise, onlookers and lifeguards often fear for my safety, but I swear I’m not drowning – at least not yet.

Needless to say I haven’t exactly enjoyed my time in the pool.

Let’s talk about the internship now.

The first week might not be particularly exciting for you simply because it was all an introduction! I  learned nearly all there is to know about CAST including everyone in the office and their roles. I also studied the history of human trafficking and I’m now trained to give a “Human Trafficking 101” presentation. Then there’s the fun intern activities such as making phone calls, planning events, folding shirts, translating documents, etc. Tessa and I also discussed my long-term goals for this summer! I’m currently reviewing a toolkit to help students start a CAST chapter or establish an alliance with the organization at college universities. I’m also in the process of creating a digital library to organize the CAST resources in the office. Oh and next week I start working at the shelter for survivors of trafficking! Tessa came up with a “Survivor Cookbook” project, which allows caucus members and shelter residents to share their favorite recipes and write a reflection about why their respective dishes are special to them. We would then compile the recipes and stories into a cookbook that is both meaningful and delicious!

That’s a basic overview of all the projects I’ve started this week. I’ll tell you more about them as I make progress!

Thanks for reading!




Still feel like reading? Here’s some more food for thought!

“Farm workers are some of the poorest paid and most exploited workers within the US economy. They earn on average US$10,000 a year and are excluded from many of the fundamental labour rights guaranteed to most other US workers, including the right to organise and the right to overtime pay. Farm workers also lack health insurance, sick leave, pensions, and job security. These substandard conditions are the fertile ground that gives rise to forced labour in US fields.”

Here’s a short video illustrating labor trafficking in agriculture.

CAST 101

12 Jun



I would first like to thank you for taking the time to visit my page. Your interest is very much appreciated. I’m not at all familiar with the world of blogging, so please don’t be too critical.


Also, I plan on changing the names of people that I mention in my posts – simply for confidentiality.




I think yes.


My name is Adriana Ramos, I’m a Human Biology-Government dual major, and I’m interning at CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking) in Los Angeles. There’s so much that I can say about this organization. CAST’s mission is to assist persons trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and slavery-like practices and to work toward ending all instances of such human rights violations. It is the first agency in the US dedicated to victims of modern slavery via comprehensive client services and advocacy programs.  I’ll stop there – take a look for yourself!


So I recently moved in with my roommate Beyoncé’s house near Chinatown for the next two months, and so far the food and company have been wonderful. I can already see a significant difference (p<0.005) in my parallel parking abilities and my natural inclination to make eye contact with strangers. Beyoncé advised me to not be so friendly to people I don’t know.


Back to the internship.


I arrived about an hour early to work because I wasn’t nervous or anything. It was nice though because I had the opportunity to get to know the super cool volunteer at the front desk. Upon the arrival of the CAST Director of Partnerships, Tessa, I began a day full of introductions and informational sessions. This included studying the history of national and international human trafficking, as well as legislation (and other anti-trafficking efforts).


Well that’s all I’m going to write for now. I strongly encourage you to read a little bit about the issue and maybe even share your knowledge with others!


Here’s a start.


“According to the 2008 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, human trafficking is a multi-dimensional threat; it deprives people of their human rights and freedoms, it increases global health risks, and it fuels the growth of organized crime.”