Students fight modern-day slavery

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By Vesna Brajkovic

 

Slavery seems like a relic of the past, but it continues to exist in the present day with an estimated 27 million slaves, according to slaveryfootprint.org. Freedom Force, a new student organization on campus, hopes to bring change and awareness to modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

Freedom Force is partnered with international organizations Love146 and International Justice Mission (IJM). Many planned events help these organizations fight slavery around the world.

“I think it is very important to spread the message of Freedom Force because it is a very present issue in today’s world, even in the United States, and many don’t know that,” said senior Holly Tracy, a member of Freedom Force.

Although this student organization is new to campus this semester, it already is planning several events to raise awareness and funds for Love146 and IJM. The student organization chose to launch its campaign No Slave November, which will feature several different events held in the University Center each week throughout the month. These events include fact tables, a photo booth, prayer and letter writing.

“I think (this organization) can make a difference for the overall issue, because, if nothing else, we’ll raise awareness and encourage people in their everyday lives to stand up for something

Cassie Steiner

Cassie Steiner

important,” said senior Victoria LaFave, a member of the organization.

Freedom Force is holding events from noon to 3 p.m. Monday to Thursday next week in the University Center. A Facts about Trafficking table will be set up on Nov. 11, where students can guess true or false to statements about trafficking. On Nov. 12, there will be a Slavery Footprint table where students will be able to calculate their slavery footprint. Nov. 13, the Free2Work table will offer students an opportunity to see different types of clothing and how much forced labor was used to produce it. Concluding the week’s activities will be a photo booth on Nov. 14, where students can take pictures with signs against trafficking.

“The photo booth will help capitalize on the idea that people share things on Facebook but don’t do anything necessarily in real life,” said senior Cassie Steiner, president and founder of the group. “So, this photo booth will have different signs that will say things like “End it” and “Our generation can end slavery” and other catchy phrases like that, and hopefully we’ll get a buzz on social media.”

A Prayer Night and Prayer Walk are planned for Nov. 22, and finally there will be a Day of Action and letter writing on Nov. 25. Students will have the opportunity to sign IJM action cards and write letters to those affected who are in aftercare.

“Most people are against human trafficking, so the problem isn’t convincing people to take action. The challenge is telling people about the problem and educating them as to how they can help,” said Vice President of Freedom Force John Hoey. “We as an organization raise money for both Love146 and IJM. That money is used by those international organizations for aftercare and

John Hoey

John Hoey

advocacy.”

Freedom Force’s main goal for this year is to pass a Safe Harbor Law in Wisconsin, which would provide children who are coerced into prostitution a safe place with aftercare and not be seen as criminals themselves, as well as educate as many students as possible.

“We often take our freedoms for granted,” Hoey said. “We don’t realize that there are people that have zero freedoms in our own backyard.”

The idea for forming Freedom Force started last winter break when Steiner, Hoey, and a few other current members took part in MTVU’s Against Our Will campaign and won the Slavery Footprint Campus Challenge, which was held to raise awareness about human trafficking.

“We sent over 3,000 letters to different businesses asking them to check their supply chains to make sure forced labor wasn’t used,” Steiner said. “That campaign really got us excited and made us want to keep doing what we were doing.”

Freedom Force aims to make the biggest difference they can with the help of UW-Whitewater students who can help support fundraisers and participate in educational events.

“I think it’s one of those things where once you know the truth it’s kind of hard to turn your back on that,” Steiner said.