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Group raises awareness of human trafficking

Bridget Feeney | Friday, April 15, 2011

Saint Mary’s students are committed to promoting social justice, but one special group of students has incorporated that commitment into the academic lives of its members.

Sophomore Cailin Crowe is a student in Dr. Jan Pilarski’s course “Christians in the World,” a step towards fulfillment of the justice studies minor, which requires students to perform either community service or start a campaign on campus raising awareness for a social issue.

Crowe opted to enlighten the Saint Mary’s community about the realities of human trafficking throughout the semester.

“The issue of human trafficking isn’t getting enough attention. This is an issue that is a very serious and pressing matter,” Crowe said.

Human trafficking, or modern-day slavery, is a global issue that involves the coerced labor of people, usually women or young children, for sexual or commercial purposes, Crowe said. Victims are often smuggled across international borders and may work without pay or fair working conditions.

Pilarski, director of the Justice Education Program, supported Crowe’s decision to make the issue more widely understood on campus.

“Human trafficking is an issue few people are familiar with,” Pilarski said. “There seemed to be great potential to educate the campus about a relatively unknown problem with this project.”

Pilarski said her class is a learning-based experience in order to teach students how to apply classroom knowledge to their extracurricular activities.

“The students in this class are studying the intersection of faith, justice and action this semester,” she said. “We use the praxis cycle in our course, which connects experience, social analysis and action.”

The class project aims to help students understand the importance of working for social justice in our society through the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, Crowe said.

“This class looks into Catholic Social Thought and how crucial it is for us to apply what we learn in class to real life,” Crowe said.

Crowe and her classmates have created several events and projects to spread awareness about human trafficking.

The class held a Tuesday showing of the documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate,” which discusses the ways chocolate companies like Nestlé and Hershey’s work with African cocoa plantation owners who use child trafficking to produce cocoa for those companies.

Crowe said the students also sent postcards to U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly that included shocking, little-known statistics of human trafficking and petitioned Donnelly to fight against human trafficking in Indiana and the United States.

Crowe said the students are also negotiating with Dining Services to have fair trade chocolate sold at Cyber Café next semester to help the student body make socially responsible consumer choices.

“So far, we have gotten a really good response,” Crowe said. “People seem genuinely interested in starting something on campus to end human trafficking.”

Despite the group’s initial success, Crowe said the group still wants to accomplish more, especially with involvement of the South Bend community in their efforts. By next fall, the group hopes to have an organized club on campus.

“We all have a responsibility to help these people,” Crowe said. “Our choices as consumers can affect the livelihoods of children and others around the world.”

Students interested in joining the club or obtaining more information should contact Crowe at [email protected]