Josh Levy

Josh Levy graduated from Columbia University in February 2015 with a Master's of Public Administration. Before becoming an AP Peace Fellow, he was the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) intern for the West Africa Team in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, where he provided administrative and research support on a variety of security and development issues. Prior to joining the UN, Josh worked for The World Bank, where he co-managed a research team and assisted the Global Center for Conflict, Security and Development in improving their evaluation methods for development projects in fragile and conflict-affected situations. Mr. Levy also worked in public relations and marketing in the public sector and in the private sector prior to moving to New York to pursue his Masters. After the fellowship, Josh wrote: "The fellowship has helped me grow professionally and personally. I improved my photography skills, my journalism/writing/reporting skills, and my project management skills. And seeing the fruits of my labor was the best experience. Once the toilet was built I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment." Contact: jlevy@advocacynet.org



A Tale of Two Cities: One Built by Immigrants, the Other by Migrant Workers

06 Jun

June 4, 2015

Having just finished a week-long training with The Advocacy Project to prepare myself for the next few months of my life, I have been keenly aware of the need to give voice to the voiceless. Lengthy discussions on human rights, moral philosophy, and geopolitics combined with jam-packed days of classes on photography, videography, and social media storytelling left me with a sense of empowerment.

In the words of Edward Everett Hale, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” It is with this spirit that I set out to build toilets in Northern Uganda. However, there was also something nostalgic to the beginning of this journey.

Nostalgic Reflections

Maybe it was realizing that I would no longer hear the daily screech of the subway as it roared past me on the platform, or perhaps it was the blur of goodbye lunches, dinners, and drinks I had with friends. Whatever it was, that feeling of nostalgia is hazy now as I sit here in the Abu Dhabi airport at 5:00am, unable to sleep, waiting for my flight.

The last 20 or 30 some-odd hours of near sleeplessness have been a mixture of emotions and experiences. I got a chance to soak up luxury in a pool beneath the tallest building in the world, but I also learned of the plight faced by countless migrant workers whose blood saturates the foundations of that building.
Taking it for granted

I’ve said goodbye to Dubai and New York. One a city I love and another a city I hate. New York, the global melting pot of cultures, is famous for its history of being built by immigrants to the United States. They all had dreams of creating a better future and New York presented itself as an opportunity to many. It took over a hundred years for this city to rise up to its iconic world class status.

Dubai, on the other hand, is like something out of a science fiction movie. The incredible dichotomy between rich and poor makes you feel like you are in the capital city of The Hunger Games surrounded by destitute wasteland and poor districts.

And yet the international character of this city is astonishing. It seems like there are more foreigners living here then locals, but everyone I spoke to about their life here hates it. Even the people who seem to be well off expressed a desire to move away. These foreigners seem torn between wanting to leave but being unable to do so. However, after I spoke with people who were less well off, I discovered the true nature of Dubai’s illusory promises of a better future.

Desert Wonderland

Dubai burst into existence in the blink of an eye. Construction is happening at a blistering pace here, and it is being built by migrant workers who were lured by hope and trapped by corruption. Modern day slavery in Dubai consists of laborers working in extremely hazardous conditions in 10 or 12 hour shifts around the clock, 7 days a week, to erect skyscrapers, luxury apartments, and malls. They are paid a subsistence wage and treated with no regard to their well-being.

I spoke to a Pakistani man named Ali Raza about the conditions migrant workers face in Dubai. He told me stories of economic strife, dreams of a better future, and an illusion that sucks in its victims, trapping them in a web of corruption.

After arriving in the city filled with anticipation to begin working, government officials in Dubai withheld Ali’s passport, thus preventing him from leaving the country, and refused to grant him entry due to a misspelling of his name in the visa they issued him. This forced Ali to reach out to his family for more money so he could repurchase another visa and get his passport back.

This is reminiscent of the slave-like conditions faced by migrant workers in Qatar who came into the spotlight due to the World Cup. Still, Ali, like so many others, came to Dubai for a better future, and so he continued trying to start his new life here. After paying exorbitant fees for a work permit, Ali struggled for a further 6 months, relying on his family back home for support, until he was able to gain the ability to work. 5 years later, he is barely breaking even and can only seldom afford to send money home to his family.

Fortunately for Ali, he does not face the deadly conditions of construction workers, who encounter similar obstacles, but also face long days working in the brutal sun, earning barely enough to get by. Some workers resort to eating once or twice a day and share a room with as many as 8 people in order to keep their cost of living to a minimum.

If a migrant worker gets injured or seriously ill, he receives extremely poor medical care and can be turned away from the hospital even with a broken leg or other emergency. Ali testified that he faced similar circumstances, and he says there are many who lose hope and resort to suicide.

Tallest in the World
Subsistence wages, extremely hazardous work conditions, and the confiscation of passports are all hallmarks of modern day slavery. Hundreds of workers die each month while building monuments like the Burj Khaifa, but no one hears their cries. Ali Raza’s stories remind me of why I joined The Advocacy Project, to give voice to the voiceless.

So now I prepare for Uganda with the knowledge and understanding that although I am only one person, I can still do some good. I expect that I will finish this journey, but just as I experienced in my brief stay in Dubai, I have no idea what I will encounter along the way.[content-builder]{“id”:1,”version”:”1.0.4″,”nextId”:”1″,”block”:”root”,”layout”:”12″,”childs”:[{“id”:”2″,”block”:”rte”,”content”:”June 4, 2015<\/em><\/span>\r\n\r\nHaving just finished a week-long training with The Advocacy Project to prepare myself for the next few months of my life, I have been keenly aware of the need to give voice to the voiceless. Lengthy discussions on human rights, moral philosophy, and geopolitics combined with jam-packed days of classes on photography, videography, and social media storytelling left me with a sense of empowerment.<\/span>\r\n\r\nIn the words of Edward Everett Hale, \u201cI am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.\u201d It is with this spirit that I set out to build toilets in Northern Uganda. However, there was also something nostalgic to the beginning of this journey.<\/span>\r\n\r\n\"Nostalgic<\/span>\r\n\r\nMaybe it was realizing that I would no longer hear the daily screech of the subway as it roared past me on the platform, or perhaps it was the blur of goodbye lunches, dinners, and drinks I had with friends. Whatever it was, that feeling of nostalgia is hazy now as I sit here in the Abu Dhabi airport at 5:00am, unable to sleep, waiting for my flight.<\/span>\r\n\r\nThe last 20 or 30 some-odd hours of near sleeplessness have been a mixture of emotions and experiences. I got a chance to soak up luxury in a pool beneath the tallest building in the world, but I also learned of the plight faced by countless migrant workers whose blood saturates the foundations of that building. <\/span>\r\n\"Taking<\/span>\r\n\r\nI\u2019ve said goodbye to Dubai and New York. One a city I love and another a city I hate. New York, the global melting pot of cultures, is famous for its history of being built by immigrants to the United States. They all had dreams of creating a better future and New York presented itself as an opportunity to many. It took over a hundred years for this city to rise up to its iconic world class status.<\/span>\r\n\r\nDubai, on the other hand, is like something out of a science fiction movie. The incredible dichotomy between rich and poor makes you feel like you are in the capital city of The Hunger Games surrounded by destitute wasteland and poor districts.<\/span>\r\n\r\nAnd yet the international character of this city is astonishing. It seems like there are more foreigners living here then locals, but everyone I spoke to about their life here hates it. Even the people who seem to be well off expressed a desire to move away. These foreigners seem torn between wanting to leave but being unable to do so. However, after I spoke with people who were less well off, I discovered the true nature of Dubai\u2019s illusory promises of a better future.<\/span>\r\n\r\n\"Desert<\/span>\r\n\r\nDubai burst into existence in the blink of an eye. Construction is happening at a blistering pace here, and it is being built by migrant workers who were lured by hope and trapped by corruption. Modern day slavery in Dubai consists of laborers working in extremely hazardous conditions in 10 or 12 hour shifts around the clock, 7 days a week, to erect skyscrapers, luxury apartments, and malls. They are paid a subsistence wage and treated with no regard to their well-being.<\/span>\r\n\r\nI spoke to a Pakistani man named Ali Raza about the conditions migrant workers face in Dubai. He told me stories of economic strife, dreams of a better future, and an illusion that sucks in its victims, trapping them in a web of corruption.<\/span>\r\n\r\nAfter arriving in the city filled with anticipation to begin working, government officials in Dubai withheld Ali\u2019s passport, thus preventing him from leaving the country, and refused to grant him entry due to a misspelling of his name in the visa they issued him. This forced Ali to reach out to his family for more money so he could repurchase another visa and get his passport back.<\/span>\r\n\r\nThis is reminiscent of the slave-like conditions faced by migrant workers in Qatar who came into the spotlight due to the World Cup. Still, Ali, like so many others, came to Dubai for a better future, and so he continued trying to start his new life here. After paying exorbitant fees for a work permit, Ali struggled for a further 6 months, relying on his family back home for support, until he was able to gain the ability to work. 5 years later, he is barely breaking even and can only seldom afford to send money home to his family.<\/span>\r\n\r\nFortunately for Ali, he does not face the deadly conditions of construction workers, who encounter similar obstacles, but also face long days working in the brutal sun, earning barely enough to get by. Some workers resort to eating once or twice a day and share a room with as many as 8 people in order to keep their cost of living to a minimum.<\/span>\r\n\r\nIf a migrant worker gets injured or seriously ill, he receives extremely poor medical care and can be turned away from the hospital even with a broken leg or other emergency. Ali testified that he faced similar circumstances, and he says there are many who lose hope and resort to suicide.<\/span>\r\n\r\n\"Tallest<\/span>\r\nSubsistence wages, extremely hazardous work conditions, and the confiscation of passports are all hallmarks of modern day slavery. Hundreds of workers die each month while building monuments like the Burj Khaifa, but no one hears their cries. Ali Raza\u2019s stories remind me of why I joined The Advocacy Project, to give voice to the voiceless.<\/span>\r\n\r\nSo now I prepare for Uganda with the knowledge and understanding that although I am only one person, I can still do some good. I expect that I will finish this journey, but just as I experienced in my brief stay in Dubai, I have no idea what I will encounter along the way.<\/span>“}]}[/content-builder]

Posted By Josh Levy

Posted Jun 6th, 2015

5 Comments

  • Kathy

    June 10, 2015

     

    Dear Josh,
    It might be the worst of times, but you can always make it the best of times, life is completely attitudinal, and we all must have very positive attitudes, even in the worst of circumstances, and have a lot of hope and faith if we want to truly ease the disparities in this world. Stay strong Josh and keep your mission present as I am afraid you will meet many more Ali(s) in your journey, see it as a reinforcement of how needed your efforts are, and how much of a meaningful difference we can all make. Kila la kheri! (Good Luck)

  • Lynne Levy

    June 19, 2015

     

    Josh
    Wow! I am in awe of you and this journey you are on. Keep these articles coming so I can share them and let everyone know the status of your project. I am incredibly proud to call you my son!
    Love and may God continue to bless you each and every day!

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