While initially being on the outside looking in, Kevin Connelly’s current job at Businesses Ending Slavery & Trafficking (BEST) gave him a whole new perspective. Kevin’s previous ambition to tell someone’s story through the lens of a camera transitioned into him becoming part of the scene. Rather than capturing a fleeting moment of injustice, he now works directly alongside those underrepresented and neglected.
After graduating from college, Kevin traveled to Southeast Asia to work as a freelance photographer. Settled on the border of Burma and Thailand for 8 years during a time of conflict
between the Karen ethnic group and the Burmese military, Kevin wished to “humanize” refugees to the world at large in the hopes of creating more understanding and compassion. Making sure he wasn’t being irresponsible to the greater story, Kevin took time to meet with those already providing services to refugees in the area, including some anti-trafficking organizations.
After living in Southeast Asia for 8 years, Kevin sought out Seattle for his next chapter. This time without the camera lens.
Currently getting his master’s in Public Administration at the University of Washington, Kevin also works as the Corporate Relations Coordinator for BEST. The organization’s goal is to link service employers with the training and information needed to increase the number of trafficking victims identified and decrease exploitation overall. BEST provides video-based training, consultation with organizations to implement these trainings for their employees, and connects survivors with jobs.
In this role Kevin works to bring in corporate sponsors to provide financial support in exchange for free training for their employees, recognition on digital channels, and most importantly the knowledge that they are supporting an issue consistent with their values. Kevin also seeks out partners for BEST’s Employer Alliance, which allows companies to be trained on the issue of trafficking for free.
When I wondered why BEST seems so predominantly focused on the hotel industry, Kevin explained, “This year The National Human Trafficking institute released that 82.5 percent of the individuals who identified a location of their exploitation, identified at hotels.”
This staggering statistic speaks to the importance of BEST’s initiative focusing on the hotel industry. The BEST trainings have already shown positive results; a recent report showed that before BEST training only eight percent of hotels had identified human trafficking victims, but after training an astounding 44 percent were able to identify instances of trafficking at their properties.
At a larger level, what makes BEST operate are the committed people and organizations they work with. Seattle Against Slavery (SAS) and BEST have a strong partnership; in fact, Kevin worked as a facilitator for SAS’s Trafficking Prevention for Schools program before transitioning into his current role. The two organizations also work together as part of the Ending Exploitation Collaborative (EEC), which aims to reduce the demand for commercial sexual exploitation.
Kevin has been dedicated to helping those ostracized by their country or culture. His dedication to human trafficking displays his continued fight to serve the under-served.
“A lot of people forget just how many people trafficking affects. When you traffic one person it is not just affecting them but affecting their whole family.”
This transcends gender and age. This affects the whole community.