As a UB senior, Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez has already done more for the world than most do in a lifetime. She formed an online social justice platform to fight human trafficking; volunteers with preteen girls to improve their sense of self-worth; is starting a scholarship fund for former victims (“overcomers”) of human trafficking; has done three UB research internships; and founded Buffalo’s first anti-trafficking walk.
Christine receiving the American Association of University Women 2013 Jacquie Walker Scholarship.
This devout Catholic, model, Acker scholar and McNair scholar has her own fashion blog, goes to every leadership conference she can and is a hobby photographer. Among other awards, she has received the American Association of University Women 2013 Jacquie Walker Scholarship, and will use part of the award money to fund the scholarship she’s starting for trafficking overcomers. Currently she’s also applying to graduate schools and raising funds to study abroad in Tanzania or Mexico.
Christine started out as a pre-physical therapy major at UB, then switched to business. But after a research internship on the ethical diamond trade with assistant geography professor Trina Hamilton, she fell in love with the geography department and switched to geography/international trade. “I loved working with her because she allowed me to spread my wings and kind of design my own research project,” she says.
Inspired by her mother’s commitment to helping others, for Christine it boils down to this: “It all starts with seeing every moment as an opportunity and not being afraid to take a step forward and leave your positive print on the world. And UB helps me do that every day.”
It began right here at UB in 1983, when her father came to the university from Indonesia to study engineering and met her mother, an education major from Puerto Rico. They fell in love, stayed in the States and started a family.
There was a good nudge in 5th grade, when Christine had a “Eureka!” moment about her potential to make a difference and started selling popsicles roadside to raise money to help a local girl with cystic fibrosis.
It may have gotten its biggest push when she became one of 12 winners of the 2011 Maurices Main Street Model contest, “a nationwide model search which had to do with community activism. It’s all girls, all sizes, with a heart for the community,” she explains.
In addition to a modeling contract, Christine won a $7,500 donation to the organization of her choice and a $1,500 clothing gift card. Her donation went to St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, her third home—after her family home and UB, she says. But when it came to the gift card, she paused:“How much clothing could I possibly buy with $1,500? So I was inspired to buy clothing for girls in Buffalo, because I know that I’ve been blessed in ways that not everybody has.”
She didn’t just buy some clothes, though. She changed lives.
“Connecting with other people and helping them see their beauty so that we can both grow and learn about the world together is something that I felt has been my calling since 5th grade.”
Inspiring Buffalo preteens at Girls Day.
Winning the modeling contest lit a new philanthropic spark that Christine turned into an annual summer conference for preteen girls—including girls from Buffalo’s large refugee population. Girls Day unites a sense of unique personal value with academic success, faith and fashion.
It’s been so successful that in 2013 she expanded it from a single event to three. Remembering how she felt when she was that age, she says: “I think that’s a really crucial stage in development. And I think it’s very important for young women to stay together and to support each other.”
This also connects with her passion for fighting human trafficking. Raising the self-esteem of young women, she says, will make them less vulnerable to sex trafficking. And if we help change the culture of how men look at women, demand will automatically decrease.
It was in her American Pluralism class her sophomore year at UB where she first heard about human trafficking from teacher Alison Albright. Christine was so appalled, she knew immediately that she had to do something. Prof. Albright engaged her class in dialogue about social justice issues and encouraged Christine to find local anti-trafficking organizations. “This helped shape my world view,” she says.
So she created Bloggers Against Social Injustice, an online global platform that educates the online community about human trafficking and holds events around the world to help raise funds for and awareness about it. Christine has since recruited more than 30 BASI bloggers from 11 countries—from Croatia to Singapore, Nigeria to Brazil.
At 2012 [Free-Them] Freedom Walk in Toronto.
She didn’t stop with the Web world, either. She made a mini documentary on human trafficking. And she and other BASI members at UB founded Freedom Walk Buffalo, the area’s first anti-trafficking awareness walk, featuring talks by sex-trafficking overcomers and activists. In fall 2013 BASI was awarded the iStand Award by [Free-Them], Canada’s leading anti-trafficking organization, for its extraordinary measures against trafficking.
“I just felt like this was my calling. I feel like it’s doing something. And it’s positive. So it must be where I have to be.”
Christine’s pretty much astonished by everything UB turned out to be. “UB’s amazing. I didn’t think that college would be like this. Every day, I can make a difference and stand up for what I believe in.”
Christine’s best advice for future UB students: “Take advantage of the research that’s going on. You can even have chances to be published with professors. And that’ll really help your career and help you further in your interests. Because professors at UB are interested in their students, even though it’s a huge school.”
Last updated: December 04, 2013 3:31 am EST