TAMPA, Fla. -- Isha Patel, a 17-year-old high school senior at Berkeley Prep, is taking on a global problem.
A top honored Girl Scout, Patel has been on a globetrotting mission to help victims of the unspeakable crime of human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is the type of problem that typically you have to have some pretty advanced training to make an impact with,” said Tim Torkilsen, who is Isha’s teacher and the Director of Global Studies Program at Berkeley. “And here’s Isha who goes out and is doing these things and bringing people together to try and really make an impact in these people’s lives. It is truly remarkable.”
“So, I started to do research on play therapy, and I met with therapists and government officials who help us to understand how they help victims of human trafficking,” Patel said.
Last summer, she spent time with human trafficking victims in Kenya.
It is not your usual pre-senior year trip. But for Patel, it has been a passion project since she was in middle school. She has been looking into finding a solution to human trafficking ever since.
Through the Girl Scouts and the Global Studies Program at her school, the opportunity came up to put a plan into action.
“It’s just really important that we help out as many people as we can,” she said. “Especially those who don’t have the voice, or the resources or the opportunities.”
Her efforts resulted in the highest award in scouting when she received this year the Girl Scout Gold Award.
She gathered the resources, researched who would be in need—in this case, the Kenyan non-profit Frolics of Hope. She then took a family trip to create a play therapy center for the children there.
Patel said she got emotional hearing the gratitude from the girls she helped at Frolics of Hope.
It is also an effort that hits close to home, as the National Human Trafficking Hotline’s 2021 report showed about 800 Floridians were victims or survivors of human trafficking that year.
Patel is now spreading awareness and what she learned to fellow students at Berkeley Prep, where she is a senior.
Her Girl Scout project is also her high school Global Scholars Project. She is well on her way to getting an A, while the non-profit in Kenya got a much-needed place to call home.
“They have the opportunity to use play and drawing and music to express themselves, which helps therapists help them through their trauma,” said Patel. “These toys and these tools would help them have more fun and bring light into their lives.”