UI student travels to Nepal to learn about human trafficking

Danielle Havel traveled to Nepal in November, meeting with non-governmental organizations that help survivors of human trafficking. Her team helped develop strategies for the NGOs to use in advancing their efforts.


Katina Zentz

UI student Danielle Havel poses for a portrait in the IMU on Wednesday, November 28, 2018. Havel worked with students across the country to discuss issues of human trafficking.

Kinsey Phipps, News Reporter

Sitting at the Mayflower front desk in September, Danielle Havel’s phone lit up with a notification: “Pack your bags; you’re going to Nepal.”

Havel, a University of Iowa student, traveled to Thailand last summer with GIVE Volunteers, learning about permaculture, elephant conservation, and childhood education. That experience prepared her for and excited her about Nepal, she said, where she worked with organizations helping human-trafficking survivors. 

Havel had followed social-media influencers India Severe “Indy Blue” and Tristen Persons “Tristen Ikaika,” admiring their frequent travel adventures.

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When the two announced they were hosting a trip with effect.org, Severe and Persons encouraged their followers to apply and join them on a trip to Nepal, working with and learning about nongovernmental organizations serving survivors of human trafficking.

Havel applied without much thought. Given Severe’s and Persons’ heavy following, she didn’t expect to be chosen for the team of 30. To her shock, Havel was invited to take the trip to Kathmandu, Nepal. She raised money for the trip using fundraising tips she learned by participating in Dance Marathon and left on Nov. 9. 

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For a week, the team met with NGOs Shakti Samuha and ABC Nepal, Havel said. Team members helped the organizations come up with strategies to promote the cause and aid survivors. 

Survivors of human trafficking founded Shakti Samuha with the motto “Turning tears to power.” The group provides shelter for female survivors ranging in age from 7 to 25, she said.

ABC Nepal, also a shelter house for survivors, formed after the founder witnessed two girls sold by their father into human trafficking. It has a rights-based approach that teaches survivors to speak for themselves. ABC Nepal strives to give a voice to the voiceless, Havel said.

Havel speaks about ABC Nepal and Shakti Samuha with pride, because she sees the value and importance of their work, she said. The prominence of human trafficking around the world will always be in the back of her mind.

The team met with survivors but was not allowed to ask about what the survivors went through, Havel said. The shelters focus on the future rather than the past. While talking about the survivors’ favorite colors and hobbies, they all made jewelry, Havel said while she played with her bracelet made of teal string and wooden beads. It’s the one she made with the girls of Shakti Samuha.

Jenna Paskey, a student at Ohio State, became close with Havel on the trip, and she will intern with ABC Nepal this spring.

“Being at college, half the people in class don’t care about what you’re learning,” Paskey said. “In Nepal, it was nice to be in a room where everyone cares. Seeing everyone come together for something that’s much bigger than all of us was amazing.”

Arizona State student Terryn McDonald was also on the trip with Havel.

“Dani is one of those people that you meet once in a lifetime whose personality latches on and fills you with love and happiness,” McDonald said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “On a trip full of 30 people, it can be very overwhelming. Dani’s presence helped us all become more grounded.”

The trip to Nepal influenced Havel to switch her major to a B.A. in global-health studies. She hopes to intern with GIVE Volunteers and work for an organization postgraduation focused on traveling to do good, she said. 

“Personally, I’ve learned that you really can’t take life for granted,” she said. “In the case of human trafficking, it can happen to anyone at any time. You never know what tomorrow will bring, and you have to live in the moment. Also, just be kind to everyone.”