There was something missing in Dr. Sheetal Shah’s classroom. As Head of Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences and lecturer at Webster University Leiden, Shah wanted her students to engage in what they learned. Having worked at the grassroots level in Asia and Europe, the counseling psychologist sought to provide a valuable opportunity to her students by taking them into the real world to deal with real people.
In July 2011, Shah began working on the Bijlmer Project, a research and intervention-based initiative focusing on the psychosocial needs of victims of human trafficking within the Amsterdam Bijlmer area. While the project has several research objectives, it also gives students the chance to step outdoors and experience the real world for themselves. “[By] dealing with real people, [the students] understand that, at that very moment, someone lives a very different ‘reality’ from their own,” Shah explains. “Understanding the perils of modern day slavery also makes them comprehend how we all have a slavery footprint and are contributing to this multi-billion dollar industry of human trafficking.”
At the upcoming TEDxDelftWomen event, Shah elaborates further on the “classroom outdoors” concept. The counsellor insists that learning outside the typical classroom environment is not only a prerogative of students. “The more aware we are and the more we know how we contribute to a global issue like this contemporary form of slavery, we know we can do something to change that,” she claims
As an educator, Shah compares taking to the TEDxDelftWomen stage to entering a classroom for the first time. “[…] I need to connect with the audience and ensure they take away what is intended for, in terms of the message,” she says. “Only this time, I have less than 15 minutes.” In regard to this year’s theme, Shah had this to say:“Work ethic for me is ‘head and heart aligned’ and that is what authenticity means to me personally and professionally.”
Want to know more about your slavery footprint? Visit SlaveryFootprint.org.