UI students take a 24-hour stand to raise awareness about human trafficking
Will DeViney, a junior at the University of Idaho, said he used to operate under the idea that slavery no longer existed in the U.S. — until he learned about the 60,000 Americans who are victims of human trafficking.
“My mind was blown by the number of Americans that are currently enslaved today,” DeViney said. “Then I learned about the number of human trafficking victims around the world, and it’s even more horrendous.”
DeViney was among the many students who participated in the Stand4Freedom human trafficking petition event Tuesday outside of the Idaho Commons.
George Simon, UI junior and Stand4Freedom organizer, said the event was part of a larger national campaign to raise awareness about slavery.
Simon, Theta Chi president, said student volunteers stood outside of the Commons for 24 hours straight, from 7 a.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. Wednesday. The volunteers worked in shifts, holding signs, passing out informational flyers and answering questions about human trafficking.
“So many people fall victim to the human trafficking market every year,” Simon said. “We are all working hard to bring awareness of this cause to campus and get students to encourage our government to do something about it.”
Simon said he first became aware of the national event at a conference in Portland, Oregon, with the student organization Cru.
“One of the seminars at the conference was about human trafficking, and it really touched my heart,” he said. “I was contacted by another Cru member who had the idea of bringing this event to campus and I thought, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.'”
Simon said event organizers also made an Instagram account to post images of students around campus showing their support for the cause.
“We have a media team going around campus and asking people why they would stand for freedom,” he said. “We’re hoping to spread the word through social media with #uidahostand4freedom.”
Kirk Bower, Cru member and Stand4Freedom participant, said he first heard about the event through the International Justice Mission, a nonprofit dedicated to combating human slavery.
“I heard about the idea and proposed it to some students who were passionate about the issue of human slavery,” Bower said. “This event has opened my eyes to how many people there are out there who want to know more about this and do something to help.”
Bower said in addition to spreading awareness on campus, the event featured a table where students could learn more about the International Justice Mission and sign petitions to urge government officials to actively pursue legislation to prevent human trafficking.
“We have two petitions for people to sign, and we’ve gotten a promising amount of signatures,” Bower said. “One petition will be sent to the United States government and the other to the United Nations — we want authority figures to know it’s not OK to put this issue on the backburner anymore.”
According to Connie Cooley, a Stand4Freedom organizer, Scott Minnich, UI microbiology professor, joined a group of 30 students between 12-2 a.m. Wednesday morning. She said some of the same students were still standing with Simon at the event’s close.
Simon said with 36 million human trafficking victims around the world and 60,000 in the U.S. alone, ending slavery is a daunting task. But, he believes raising awareness through Stand4Freedom is the first step toward making a difference.
“So many people came together for this — student clubs, ASUI, the Panhellenic Council, individual volunteers,” Simon said. “I see now that so many people are passionate about this cause, and it gives me hope that together we can finally put an end to human slavery.”
For more information and resources to stop human trafficking, visit worldreliefspokane.org. World Relief Spokane is a regional arm of World Relief, which provides refugee resettlement assistance, employment services, micro-enterprise loans, immigration services and works to raise awareness and serve victims of human trafficking.
Corrin Bond can be reached at email@example.com