By Caitlin Giddens
There won’t be classrooms or homework, but for seven Baylor students, education won’t end during spring break.
Members of International Justice Mission, along with other students, will travel to Houston to learn how to combat human trafficking. Participants will work with legal experts and community agencies to learn more about this growing social injustice.
“Before studying the issue, we may have a narrow view of human trafficking, so I hope students leave with an informed perspective of the complexity of modern-day slavery after this trip,” said Paige Panter, VISTA for service-learning in the student activities department. “Modern day slavery is abhorrent, but it is not a black and white issue of few, clear-cut parts. Its causes and implications are many and multifarious. We will look at the issue from various perspectives, including poverty demographics, social constructs and women’s issues.”
Because Houston is one of the nation’s largest hotspots for human trafficking, several local organizations are battling the epidemic.
“We are meeting with one faith-based organization in Houston that helps to educate churches and connect churches to fighting trafficking,” Panter said. “We’ll also be working at the YMCA in Houston one day. The YMCA there has an International Services division that includes refugee resettlement and support for trafficked people.”
As a native of the Houston area and participant in the International Justice Mission spring break trip, Sugar Land junior Alex Scheibner hopes to find solutions to the trafficking problem.
“I was really surprised when I found out Houston is a hotbed for human trafficking,” Scheibner said. “I thought it wasn’t true because I never saw it. But that’s the only way trafficking will work, if no one sees it. A lot of businesses are fronts. So we all need to learn the signs of covered trafficking businesses.”
Education is the first step to combating sex trafficking. While most of the organization’s members attending the trip are knowledgeable in trafficking, they will learn even more during spring break, Panter said.
“Students will also watch documentaries, reflect on what they learn and blog each day about their experience,” Panter said. “The blogs will be aggregated on a central kind of mother blog site, which we’re really excited about.”
As International Justice Mission is predominantly composed of social work or international studies majors, members hope the blog will reach students unaware of the trafficking epidemic.
“People think trafficking is something that happens in different countries, in poor parts of the world,” Katy sophomore Kristina Miller, member of International Justice Mission and participant in the spring break trip, said. “But this happens in our backyard, especially in Texas. We just want to educate people because once everyone knows what is going on, they want to help.”
After working with different organizations in Houston, International Justice Mission members hope to return to Baylor with new ideas for battling human trafficking.
“We’ll see all kinds of different programs,” Scheibner said. “We can see what makes a good program and how to bring it back to Baylor.”
International Justice Mission will host Justice Week March 21-24 to raise awareness of other social injustices.
“Our big event is called the tunnel of oppression,” Scheibner said. “In the tunnel, there will be dramas on different issues such as domestic abuse.”
Students interested in participating in the spring break trip to Houston should email Paige_Panter@baylor.edu. There are two spots open for students with any major, and students don’t have to be members of International Justice Mission. The cost is $150.
“A lot of times, people think IJM is just for females or social work majors,” Scheibner said. “But we’re thrilled to get different majors and genders. We need the diversity to fight this huge problem.”