Students raise money to combat human trafficking

By Bre Nichols

Students are working to connect and educate women about the millions of people enslaved worldwide by human trafficking. Sophomores Melanie Babb of Greenwood Village, Colo. and Brittany Reed of Tyler are attempting to free people currently involved in the sex trade and help those who have already been rescued by collecting donations of clothes to raise money.

“There are 27 million slaves in the world right now, the most in world history,” Babb said. “We cannot become numb to that large number.”

These students are collecting donations of clothes, shoes, purses and jewelry in a box outside the Pi Beta Phi room in The Stacy Riddle Forum on Ninth Street and Baylor Avenue.

The collection will continue throughout the school year as part of the Fashion for Freedom Exchange, the initiative Babb and Reed began this week.

At the end of each month, all donations will be taken to Buffalo Exchange in Dallas, a thrift store that gives cash in exchange for clothing and accessories. Proceeds from the sales will benefit the A21 campaign.

The A21 Campaign is a non-profit organization that shelters the victims of human trafficking. The first shelter built by the organization is located in Greece, but the organization is in the final stages of opening a second shelter in the Ukraine. The A21 Campaign has also begun a program to raise awareness about the issue and educate those at-risk to the dangers of human trafficking.

According to the campaign’s website, the money received by the organization will be used to support girls in the shelters. On average, it costs $120 per day to support one girl in the shelter.

The campaign aims to end human trafficking and keep women safe.

“It’s a psychological warfare, and this [lifestyle] becomes their identity that they’re placed with,” Babb said. “So to bring them out of something so difficult is huge.”

Of all the slaves who are rescued in Europe, “80 percent of rescued women end up being re-trafficked. Most of this re-trafficking occurs within the first two years of their escape,” the campaign said.

Babb said she desires to support the education and awareness that the A21 Campaign provides.

“People in America hear the word ‘slaves’ and automatically think of chains,” Babb said. “And because we don’t see any, we think we are free.”

Babb said although the issue of human trafficking is prominent in Texas, it isn’t regularly discussed.

“There are three times more slaves right now than ever before, but it’s not talked about because it’s not something people want to bring up,” Babb said. “It’s horrific, absolutely horrific.”

Through the Fashion for Freedom Exchange, Babb and Reed said they hope to get the Baylor community involved.

“We are called by God as a community of 14,000 students to make a difference,” Babb said.

Reed said she encourages the whole university to participate in donating clothes.

Though the box is located in Stacy Riddle Forum — the Panhellenic building — the Fashion for Freedom Exchange “is not just for sorority girls,” Reed said. “Baylor ­— as a campus of people willing — has the power to turn around sex slavery and give hope.”

Antioch Community Church will also hold an information rally about human trafficking on March 4 with speakers who will pray and talk about what people can do to help.