By Melissa Jane Kronfeld & Megan Legband
At just 29 year old Katie Godkin Morales is the Founder and Executive Director of the Batey Rehab Project, an initiative that seeks to enhance the lives of villagers in Batey communities of the Dominican Republic through sustainable programs and projects designed by university students and executed alongside local community leaders.
Born in England but now living in Florida, Katie studied Architecture before working in the corporate marketing, graphic design, and architectural design space. But her heart lies with her international aid work. Balancing her job as President of a graphic design company she founded, and working tirelessly as the founder of the Batey Rehab Project, is a delicate high-wire act that Katie accomplishes with grace and ease. This is reflected in the gorgeous wares found in the the Batey Shop, a fair-trade jewelry shop that sources directly from the Baharona region in the Dominican Republic, and supports the survivors her organization’s program.
Katie tells us she is happiest when in the Batey community, surrounded by its children whom she knows can – and will – have a better life due to the Batey Rehab Project. Reflecting on her life’s achievements thus far, Katie believes that her passion speaks louder than her words in the fight against human trafficking in the modern day. Katie’s work to serve the people of Batey communities is inspiring to anyone, from anywhere who wants to make a difference in the world.
Check out what happened when we caught up with Katie to talk about the fight to #EndSlaveryNow!
What is one fact that every person should know about slavery?
The Dominican Republic is a source and destination country for trafficking. A recent United Nations report assigned the Dominican Republic the third-fastest growth rate for human trafficking globally.
How did you first learn about modern slavery & what did you decide to do about it?
In 2009 I traveled to the Dominican Republic for the very first time, and I do not think anything could have prepared me for the world I was about to enter. Since the very first day I landed upon the island of Hispaniola my heart became grounded within the Batey communities of the South known as Barahona. The Bateyes are home to Haitian Migrant Workers that provide the workforce behind the sugar industry in the Dominican Republic, the work force behind the only cash crop in the world that is still present day cut by hand.
We learn about slavery in our history classes as if it did not exist in the world present day, but the actual reality is that it surrounds us if we simply look beyond our bubble. The bubble of life where we live in a perfect world and we could not imagine living without one meal a day, basic shelter, and a mom and dad that truly love us. This is the reality of what I see in my new world.
Two years ago I built a home for a beautiful family that was in desperate need. A single mother with four beautiful girls and two boys. Only a few months later would I find out that the father had re-surfaced only to open the doors of their home to a man who would continue a sexual relationship with their 13 year old daughter in exchange for money and monetary items in their home, including as a radio and a sofa.
Do not ever let a moment like this pass you by, because if this mother cannot protect her child as my mother would, I will be the very first to stand up and say I WILL. I will be the force behind a hurricane of impact and social justice for woman in my communities until the day we can successfully say we did it.
What is the most critical obstacle preventing us from having a slave free world?
We are our biggest obstacle. Just because something seems unattainable does not mean that it is not worth the effort. I stand by my life quote daily in every aspect of what I do: Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars.
What is the most important lesson you have learned while fighting for freedom?
Be true to who you are. There will be many people who do not support you and may not even like you along your journey, but there will also be some pretty amazing people along the way too. The non-profit world is a lonely world, but only those who fight for freedom can attest to the incredible feeling that comes along with making an impact upon one person, a community, a country or even the world. I feel that my fight has only just begun.
Why do you believe the Millennial generation will be the one that can end slavery?
We have a voice. We are not afraid to stand up and say what we believe in. We look towards innovation and sustainable methods to make an impact. The Millennial generation is building a new world of opportunity with pure passion behind every step. We have the resources, the education, the drive.
At BRP I work with hundreds of design students each year at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I remember starting off our international venture trips with only seven brave souls who ventured with us on our first international venture in November 2013. Just three years later we offer 90 international internships annually and receive over 600 applicants a year for these 90 spaces. This is an example of one university filled with of a generation of designers, creators, innovators and thinkers who are ready not to join a corporate office job, but to change the world.
What does a slave free world look like to you?
In a slave free world, we have the choice to be who our creator made us to be. To think for ourselves, to choose our religious beliefs, to love who we choose to love. As a child I was always interested in Archaeology and History and in college I took an introductory course to Anthropology. If we look take a moment to look all the way back, everything that defines us today has no justification because we are simply just humans living on this earth in a chosen place. It seems today our world is more interested in a social trend and how to become rich and famous. We all need to take a closer look at how we contribute to the world because a slave free world would not consist of what we consider normal in daily life today.
What is one thing every reader can start doing right now to help end slavery?
Educate yourself and take notice of organizations and non-profits who are trying to make change around the world within the realm of modern slavery. Support these organizations in any way you can. In 2015 the population of the United States was just over 321 million people. Sometimes all it takes is to give a dollar, because just imagine what 321 million dollars could achieve when we are fighting to end modern slavery.
Profiles In Abolition is an in-depth look at the influencers, innovators & thought leaders in the modern anti-slavery movement. An accompaniment to Millennial Magazine’s ongoing 10-part series exposing modern slavery – a project of the Nexus Global Youth Summit (catch up with Part One, Part Two & Part Three) – Profiles In Abolition will examine a diverse & inspiring array of advocates whose critical voice must be heard.
Want to learn more from the world’s leading luminaries in the fight to #EndSlaveryNow? Sign up for the Nexus Anti-Slavery Speaker Series, a weekly conference call with the men and women on the front lines of the modern abolition movement! This call is open to the public and everyone is welcome to listen in! Click here to register for free. Then learn more about modern slavery by following Nexus on Twitter, Instagram & Millennial Magazine!
Originally published on Jan 11, 2017.