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Students discover ‘footprint’

Nicole Michels | Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It takes a lot to outfit a Notre Dame student — clothes, electronics and other various school supplies. Ever wonder who made all of those things?  

On Wednesday, ND8 hosted an event in the Dooley Room of LaFortune where students could look up their “slavery footprint,” an estimation of the number of modern-day slaves involved with the production of the items they use.

This event was the second in a month-long series focusing on the problems of human trafficking and modern day slavery.  

Sophomore John Gibbons, co-president of ND8, said the goal is to take a holistic look at the issues so the various aspects of these global problems are brought to the attention of a larger audience.

“A fair amount of the population knows so little about these problems,” Gibbons said. “Our main goal is to raise awareness about them so that it inspires people to think about it more and what they can do to help.”  

All of the groups involved were motivated by a desire to increase awareness of these issues, inspiring students to help those affected and giving those students ways to respond.

Rosie McDowell, director of International Community Based Learning and Outreach at the CSC, said the Center’s focus in the series was to help student groups to collaborate in order to better address social issues through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching.  

“One of the things we try to do at the Center is to encourage collaboration among student groups, and to give them support and resources to move forward with educational events about social issues for the campus and in the community,” McDowell said.

The series kicked off on Nov. 3 with a showing of the Invisible Children documentary “Tony,” which documented the struggle to end the use of child soldiers by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.  

The St. Mary’s Invisible Children club and the Notre Dame club Inspire were heavily involved in bringing the film screening to campus.  

Olevia Boykin, president of Inspire, said Invisible Children contacted her over the summer about doing a screening of “Tony” on Notre Dame’s campus.

“We paired up with the CSC to bring this event to Notre Dame, and Rosie McDowell thought that the Invisible Children event could be a part of a larger conversation on human trafficking and modern day slavery,” Boykin said.

Senior Sarah Commiskey, president of the Invisible Children club at Saint Mary’s, also focused her efforts at showing this documentary on campus.  

“I wanted to spread the word, just really to advocate for Invisible Children, and in the best case scenario, turn apathy into action,” Commiskey said.  “I want to really get people so fired up that they do something about it.”

Sophomore Erin Hattler, co-president of ND8, said students can get involved in the cause by donating to organizations Catholic Relief Services and by pressuring lawmakers to enact legislation protecting victims and to not cut the budget allotted for international aid.  

“The bill [the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2011], originally passed in 2000, is currently making its way through the House and the Senate because it is due to expire at the end of this year,” she said. “We want to mobilize students to contact their representatives to encourage them to pass this bill.”

Hattler said the bill provides crucial funding for programs aiding the victims of sexual trafficking, and is crucial in its ability to set the standard internationally for nations attempting to combat the problem.

The goal of the groups involved with this series is not only to raise awareness, Gibbons said, but also to provide tangible ways for students to act.

 “While we want to bring these harsh realities to life, at the same time we want to show that there are ways to work toward changing them,” he said. “We want to show people that there is hope and that there are ways to address these daunting problems.”