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Whitworth senior educates students about human trafficking

Since Angie Hartley, a senior at Whitworth University, learned about human trafficking two years ago when she was training to volunteer at a Cup of Cool Water, she became concerned enough to work with Whitworth’s International Justice Mission Club to organize educational events to raise awareness on campus.

Angie Hartley
Angie Hartley

“I didn’t realize there was human trafficking in the United States, and even in Spokane,” she said.  “I discovered that youth downtown might be affected by sex trafficking and be forced into prostitution.”

Angie learned that trafficking is a big industry in many areas.  She became convinced that people need to know what is going on.

As president of the International Justice Mission Club on campus, she wanted to see that something happened.

Growing up in the 3,000-member Bethel Church in Richland, she became interested in social justice problems as she participated in the 200-member youth group.

In high school, she organized a 30-hour Famine, a World Vision event, and went on several mission trips in the area, plus two weeks for two summers in Helene, an island off Honduras, helping third graders in a school at a mission connected with a clinic.

A major in international studies and Spanish, Angie also studied last spring in Spain as part of an academic and cultural exchange program.

“I learned from these experiences that faith is not just words, nor is it just actions,” she remarked.  “It’s a combination of both.”

Her interest continued to grow last year when she took a “Gender, Politics and Law” class with Julia Stronks, looking at the importance of gender in society and ways women are oppressed, including by trafficking of women.

Angie, who attends Vintage Faith Community in Spokane, believes that “we are responsible to look after people who do not have rights.  A big part of faith is social responsibility.  Churches should be concerned about people brushed aside, ignored and oppressed by society.”

The International Justice Mission Club (IJM), which is a chapter of the national club, (ijm.org) organized a week of educational events for students in November to stir their interest in working with one of five organizations in Spokane that addresses human trafficking.

IJM started when U.S. lawyers went abroad to win freedom for people and found human trafficking was part of a larger system of gender violence, labor and sex trafficking.

Every year the club decides on a priority issue.

This year they partnered with Women in Society Everywhere (WISE) and other clubs, to talk about women’s roles in society, oppression and domestic violence.

Angie has been involved in the club for a year and a half.  They show movies on campus, discuss gender violence and raise funds.

For some students attending the events, it was the first time that they heard that human trafficking exists in Spokane.  They were curious and interested in the issue, said Angie. 

Tuesday, Nov. 16, students joined in a class on “The Slavery Map,” an interactive map of the world with pins on different cities and a brief description of a case of slavery and an action taken to free the people.

Another Tuesday class on “The Supply Chain” informed students about what companies use slave labor.  The goal was to help students make decisions about what products they want to buy as consumers, so they can avoid things made by slave labor.

“Knowing who makes what can help reduce our role in supporting the slave trade in sweatshops,” she said.  “Knowing which companies use slave labor, we can make our voice heard and can have an effect on their business.”

On Wednesday, there was a class for business leaders to learn how they could recognize and address forced labor.

Not-for-Sale presented both international and local trafficking issues.  More than 250 attended their Stop Paying for Slavery presentation.

They emphasized the idea that anybody can and should be involved in the fight against human trafficking, giving examples of ways that students can buy or not buy certain products, and can encourage their friends and family to learn more and raise money. 

On Thursday, Nov. 18, students participated in “Breaking the Chain,” taking out a link in a large chain when they signed up to do something.

Some wrote letters to corporations that continue to use slave labor at some point in their production. 

“The letters warned corporations that if they continued to choose not to change their practices, we would choose to stop buying their products,” she said.  “Students also spoke with World Relief representatives and 13 people signed up to volunteer with World Relief’s anti-trafficking program.

“Overall it was a successful week,” Angie reported, “and I think many people learned for the first time that slavery still exists, and felt the need to be involved to fight against this crime.

“The event was empowering and left students with the idea that there is hope in the fight against trafficking, but it will take the collaboration of all people to end the issue,” Angie said.

After graduating in May, 2011, she plans to do a one- or two-year interim program before going to graduate school to focus on international development.  She is applying for programs teaching English or doing community service abroad.

She started at Whitworth as a major in international business, but found the courses in comparative politics and culture more interesting than the business classes.

“I had had the naïve perspective that we could help by donating money and feeding the world,” Angie said.  “I realize that the issues are multifaceted.”

For information, call 509-438-6997 or email ahartley11@my.whitworth.edu.

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