“The World's Terrible Truths are Never Solved by Turning a Blind Eye,” & Other Important Lesson's Learned at Microsoft's 2016 //oneweek Hackathon.

Danielle, a Microsoft employee, volunteered her time to Hack for Good at Microsoft’s //oneweek Hackathon for REST’s Project Reach Out and met a survivor of sex trafficking and employee of REST who privately shared her story to help inform the project participants. Danielle sent us this letter about the profound impact this survivor had on her.

*The survivor’s name has been changed.

Dear Amy,
I’m writing to let you know that you’re wonderful. Thank you for making the time to come to Microsoft campus and share your story for our //oneweek hackathon project.

This was a courageous, generous thing that you did for us. You have remarkable grace under pressure, considering that we put a microphone in front of you and said, “talk.” About your deepest fears and triumphs. About your life as a victim of sex trafficking. About your emotional state, then and now. Tell us everything, and let us record it. Inform our project with your deeply personal history.

I want you to know that regardless of the impact our hackathon project has on others, you’ve affected me profoundly. I was hesitant to join this hackathon team. My reluctance was selfish, driven by my sensitivity and aversion to the state of the world right now. I did not want to open my eyes to this issue. I did not want to invite the effects of another heartbreaking reality. I did not want to learn that Seattle, my community, harbors pervasive sex trafficking. But I knew that was the wrong way to think about it. That the world’s terrible truths are never solved by turning a blind eye.

I’ve been inspired by this team and our community partners. There are so many passionate, sincere, and talented people working to find a solution. Or at the very least, encourage progress. It’s especially uplifting to see this group of Microsoft folks come together for a good cause. It’s easy to get lost in our “day jobs,” to stay heads-down in product launches and feature developments. In this, we’re poking our heads into the light. Our collective goal, day after day, is to help you. To help women and young girls everywhere find relief, understanding, and escape.

Again, Amy, you’re amazing. You didn’t have to accept our invitation to talk. You didn’t have to bare your heart and soul to us. But you did, and I’m forever grateful. I was nervous to talk to you. I know that I’m privileged, and my life is blessed by good circumstances, good luck, and good relationships. I expected to feel guilty in some way when we met. But you have the unparalleled ability to make those around you feel empowered and enlightened. To share your story in such a way that the only option after hearing it is action. I felt respect and understanding, and the overwhelming desire to help.

You told us that you’d live the same life all over again to be able to help one girl who’s in the same situation. That without your experiences, no matter how dark, you couldn’t be the right advocate and champion for others. If you don’t already know, I want to tell you – that’s incredible. That’s the definition of selflessness, and heroism.* We can only hope to achieve your level of compassion. Technical solutions are important, but they’re only as good as the human behaviors they mirror. If we build this solution with your spirit and empathy always in mind, we hope to make a real impact.

Thank you for your fortitude. I truly admire you and appreciate your dedication to this cause.

All the best,