There currently are as many as 27 million slaves in the world, more than any other time in recorded history, according to the International Labour Organization. Of this 27 million, about 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year.
A group of student-athletes from MSU has decided to do something to help victims half a world away.
Last month, MSU Athletes in Action, or AIA, a interdenominational Christian fellowship for college athletes, launched a campaign to assist victims of sex slavery and trafficking.
AIA set a goal to raise $5,000 to build a safe house for pregnant girls and young women who have been rescued from sex trafficking. The girls are between the ages of 12 and 19, and a house, or houses, will be built in Thailand or Cambodia.
Journalism sophomore and former track athlete Derek Kim, MSU football intern Joel Kuntzman, senior quarterback Andrew Maxwell and former MSU linebacker Chris Norman started the fundraiser with the intent of contributing the money to the End It Movement, an organization dedicated to bringing awareness to and ending slavery.
More than 60 people were involved with the fundraising.
“I believe it’s part of our responsibility to do something with what we’ve been blessed with,” Kim said. “My advice to students is simply to bring awareness, stop it, get the word out (and) be a voice for the voices who don’t have enough strength to be a voice for themselves.”
E.J. Swanson, a nationally recognized speaker and pastor, spoke at AIA’s weekly meeting Tuesday and matched the students’ donation.
Swanson founded the I Won’t Watch organization, a group that sells watches to raise money for different projects around the world. I Won’t Watch donated $6.5 million to similar projects last year.
“Typically, within that movement and hardship, when girls become pregnant, they kick them out on the streets,” Swanson said. “This home will encompass them and give them a place to live through the duration of their pregnancy.”
So far, 19 pregnant girls and young women have been identified in Cambodia, Swanson said.
The money was matched by several other donors and was celebrated at AIA’s meeting, totaling about $35,000, with more donations still coming in. The students raised more than anticipated, clocking in close to $7,500.
Having raised more money than expected, there is the possibility of being able to build two homes for girls rescued from slavery, Swansonsaid.
“Because we’re student athletes, we have a lot of influence on the campus,” said Zion Keck, an interdisciplinary humanitiesfreshman and member of the women’s rowing team. “… If we can take something that is as critical as sex trafficking or sex slavery and make it clear that we’re putting up an effort to stop it, than we can set a positive example and just really capture attention so we’re really able to use our gifts to give back.”