by Rebekah Bresee
Whitworth University has the mission of providing its students an education of mind and heart. As a part of that mission, the faculty and staff hope to equip their students to honor God, follow Christ,and serve humanity. One of the most recent ways in which Whitworth students and administration plan to abide by this charge is through the Unite program.
Unite is a community alliance designed to eliminate human trafficking as well as educate young people about the problem and empower them to make a difference. The issue of human trafficking may seem foreign and far away, but in reality this injustice is present in Whitworth’s own backyard.
Last July, Spokane police raided and shut down eight brothels, one of which was only five miles away from the Whitworth campus.
Angeles Solis is president of the International Justice Mission club and a Unite advocate.
“Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world. It is affecting so many people,” Solis said.
Molly Hough and Audrey Evans brought the idea of Unite to Whitworth and started contacting community organizations, Solis said.
“What truly inspired us was that human trafficking affects our daily lives: the food we eat and the clothes we wear. There could be a brothel across the street,” Solis said.
Human trafficking not only includes sex trafficking, but labor trafficking as well. It is common for victims to be forced to work in domestic homes, farms or factories that have inhumane conditions while receiving little to no pay.
After being informed of the human trafficking crisis by Hough, Whitworth University President Beck Taylor decided to do some research of his own.
“I was quite alarmed at what I discovered — that Spokane is a popular ‘way-station’ for human trafficking,” Taylor said.
Freshmen, along with other students and community members, were given a look at the real horror of sex trafficking during Convocation. Guest speaker Minh Dang shared her personal experience of being sold as a sex slave by her parents.
Dang was chosen to speak at Convocation by Taylor and Chief of Staff Rhosetta Rhodes.
Taylor said they chose Dang because they knew she would be able to articulate the human trafficking crisis and put a face to the horror through her personal experience. Dang’s experience was a transformational story that also provided hope, he said.
Freshman Brianna Almaden is interested in the program.
“It was crazy to hear Minh’s story. This stuff just doesn’t seem real until you hear it from someone who has actually experienced it. I think it is cool the school is taking part in this big problem. I want to be involved however I can,” Almaden said.
Unite is wasting no time before impacting the community. It has already reached out to universities and organizations in Spokane, Seattle, Vancouver and Portland.
“Unite is a movement utilizing and providing a platform for diverse organizations to collectively raise awareness and join activists with other activists. We want to shed light on the structural inequities and social forces that allow injustices to exist,” Solis said.
The main goal of the Unite movement is to enhance opportunities for students to engage in their community and live out the Whitworth mission statement, Solis said.
“The wonderful thing is if we can rally our whole community, we may be able to actually move the needle on this issue and not just raise awareness,” Taylor said.
Unite had its kick-off event on Thursday, Sept.13. It featured Mark Kadel, director of World Relief Services in Spokane.
The next big event for the Unite project is the Not for Sale Academy World Tour that will be hosted in the Hixson Union Building Saturday, Sept. 22. The event will include workshops, speakers who have had personal experiences with human trafficking and a performance by The Wrecking.
Contact Rebekah Bresee at firstname.lastname@example.org