Students Work To Raise Awareness of Human Trafficking

ELIZABETH–Benedictine Academy Campus Ministry students are uniting with the United Nations’ “Blue Heart Campaign” in an effort to raise awareness about human trafficking- the practice of forcefully coercing or deceiving children, women and men into slavery for exploitation and/or profit.

Students at the all-female Catholic college prep high school in Elizabeth have launched a number of campaign strategies and will meet with the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime on March 8 to share the students’ “Blue Heart Campaign” efforts and be further briefed on the situation. It is estimated that 2.4 million people throughout the world are lured into forced labor as a result of human trafficking at any given time. Woman and girls account for about eighty per cent of the detected victims.

“Our student Campus Ministers have their Hearts united to the Hearts (H.U.H.) of the young girls and children who are being trafficked and sold into child slave labor in the United States and across the globe,” Linda Michalski, Benedictine Academy’s director of campus ministry explained. “Our students painted a banner and have taken a pledge to raise awareness to stop this global epidemic,” Michalski added. They will present the pledges and banner to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime when they meet in March. The students are also reproducing the banner into posters to be displayed in local stores, businesses and other high schools, according to Michalski.

When President Obama declared January as “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Month”, he urged all Americans to educate themselves about all forms of modern slavery and the signs and consequences about human trafficking. He called on all Americans to “combat this crime within our borders and join with our partners around the world to end this injustice”. In concert with the President’s request, the United Nations released the “Blue Heart Campaign” last month.

“The Blue Heart represents the sadness of those who are trafficked while reminding us of the cold-heartedness of those who buy and sell fellow human beings,” Michalski stated. “The use of the blue UN color also demonstrates the commitment of the United Nations to combating this crime against human dignity,” she added.

“The United Nations strongly believe, as we do, that raising awareness is one of the key pieces to protecting our young children in the United States,” Michalski continued. “Essentially, we can help stop Human Trafficking by letting people know it exists. We hope to get as many people as possible to put the Blue Heart logo on Facebook/Twitter/Website and ask them to pass it on.”

Students at Benedictine Academy  have been significantly impacted by what they have learned from the UN’s “Blue Heart Campaign”. “Human Trafficking has made me aware of the real dangers that lurk in our very own communities,” Benedictine Academy senior Alicia Onacki of Roselle said. “Educated, I feel empowered to put an end to human trafficking and make a difference in the world,” she commented.”

“Human Trafficking has had a deep effect on me,” Megan Hely, a senior from Union said. “It has opened my eyes to the dangers around me…the fact that it goes on in my own community disgusts me and makes me motivated to do something about it.”

Vida Quaye, a senior from Elizabeth said, “Just the thought of these children being abused, neglected and deprived hurts.” Geraline Arroyo, a senior residing in Union, reflected that, “As a high school student, I sometimes feel so insignificant in this big world. But tackling human trafficking head on, making a difference, and building a school all show me that I can cause a change.” She referred to one of last year’s Campus Ministry accomplishments- raising $8000 to build a school in the Sierra Leone in West Africa.

Benedictine Academy continues to spread the word about the Blue Heart Campaign among its students, families, alumnae, friends, and other schools across the country. The suggested message being sent is: “Human trafficking and child sex slavery is an extremely pressing global issue. Thousands of young American girls are also forced into slavery every year in every community. Can you believe the average age a child is forced into slavery in the United States is 13 years old? These children could be your children, a niece, a friend’s child, or your neighbor. Think about it.  Join the fight, become an advocate – spread the message by putting this message on your Facebook, your company’s website, or Twitter with the Blue Heart logo.”

This issue is not only happening overseas, Michalski noted. It is occurring in our own cities. Anyone suspecting human trafficking can call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (1-800 –The–Lost) or Covenant House Hotline (1-800-843-5678).

Benedictine Academy Campus Ministry students are working with the United Nations’ “Blue Heart Campaign” in an effort to raise awareness about human trafficking (Photo courtesy of Benedictine Academy)

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