junior and broadcast communications major David Douglas saw the
importance of connections made through internships come full-circle
in November. Douglas, who worked during the summer of 2004 as a
special projects intern at CBS4 News, WFOR-TV Miami, returned to
South Florida for a conference titled "Invisible Chains: Breaking
the Ties of Trafficking in Humans."
summer internship, Douglas had worked with Michele Gillen, WFOR's
chief investigative reporter. It was Gillen's investigation - "The
Invisible Chains: South Florida Slave Trade" - that prompted
the November conference.
was among the highest experiences of my life," said Douglas.
"I have been working toward my goal of being an investigative
reporter, and when you attend something like this you get to see
first-hand that you can use your career as a tool to bring people
together to change our world for the better."
Chains investigative news series exposed Florida as one of three
epicenters of modern-day slavery in the United States - something
that came as a surprise to Gillen herself.
investigation] was prompted by the American Ambassador to the Holy
See, who every time I was on assignment in Italy persuaded me to
look into it," Gillen said. "I was shocked when I looked
into it and found that it was happening literally in my own back
conference - a first of its kind - brought together many dignitaries
and high-ranking officials, including the U.S. ambassador to the
Holy See, Jim Nicholson. Also present at the conference was John
Miller, an ambassador to the U.S. State Department who was appointed
to help fight human trafficking worldwide.
Douglas, some of the most powerful moments of the event came when
the survivors of slavery had the chance to share their stories.
They included a woman Gillen originally interviewed for the series.
"When Maria told her story everyone was so proud of her for
her bravery," Douglas explained, "and then inside your
mind you take a step back and realize that she has to share her
story from behind a screen because she still lives in fear her trafficker
will find her. That's when you realize how horrible this problem
is and why we must all work together to stop it, which is exactly
why Michele held this conference, to bring awareness and then charge
people to work for change."
and know that only by working together is it possible to write this
new chapter," said Gillen. "I think we created a link
of hands and hearts coming together to really come up with a plan
to stop this problem."
conference, Douglas said he's thankful for an internship that gave
him more than he ever imagined.
I went to Miami, I was looking to make connections to help me find
a job, to learn about investigative reporting, and hopefully come
away from the experience more educated about my future career,"
said Douglas. "What I found was a woman who not only came to
work and did her job, but a woman who genuinely cares about the
greater good and wants to make a difference in this world, and knows
she has the ability to do so. There was clearly so much more on
Michele's mind than the next Emmy, and I'm so thankful I had the
chance to meet and work with her."
recipient of 21 Emmy Awards, took the time to be a mentor to Douglas
and include him in her work.
the idea was you won't learn without doing, so I'll give you things
to do," Douglas said. "I'll never forget the day Michele
was doing a phone interview with an electronic-voting expert about
the problems Florida was facing with their voting machines and when
she finished she handed me the tape and said: 'Go pick out the three
best bites from this.' To be trusted like that by someone of her
caliber was a great honor."
the workshop helped deepen his dedication to helping to illuminate
the issue of slavery. "Sister Eugenia Bonetti, who came from
Rome to speak at the conference, told me, 'If you don't help unlock
the chains, you're responsible for keeping them,'" he said.
"She is absolutely right, so look for me to do something to
spotlight this problem to the Elon community very soon."
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