HUmanity, a student-led organization focusing on human trafficking awareness, will be hosting its annual Freedom Week to educate students about trafficking. Several events and activities are scheduled from Feb. 19-23.
Senior Evan Pratt, HUmanity president, has been involved in the organization for three years. He first heard about it through a chapel announcement and said he could not turn his back on the opportunity to become involved in anti-trafficking.
“We’re at Harding, and there are a lot of things you can get involved in, and its very easy for this particular issue (not to be) talked about because it is something that’s uncomfortable,” Pratt said.
“It should make us uncomfortable, because it’s a challenging thing to acknowledge … I think it’s important to have the compassion and vulnerability to face some of the difficult things in our world and, as a community of mission, to talk about that together and develop an action plan for what to do about it.”
HUmanity will be joining the Student Association’s party in the stu on Monday. They will be distributing fair trade coffee and tea. In the evening, members will meet with students for a “freedom café” in the Kibo room of Kibo Midnight Oil coffeehouse to further discuss fair trade facts and opportunities.
Wednesday, the organization will show a human trafficking documentary in the Swaid Center for Health Sciences. The film will be followed by a discussion led by sophomore Hayley Baca, vice president and social media coordinator for HUmanity. Baca said she has worked with trafficking survivors and hopes to use her experience to end the crime.
“I believe the most important part of this event is the educational side that we get to bring to raising awareness for human trafficking,” Baca said. “It is a problem for America and it happens in our own backyard. Everyday girls, boys and adults are being trafficked through the internet and trapped into slavery. If we all just became more aware of the events happening around us, then we could work together in creating ways to prevent, rescue and restore broken lives.”
On Thursday, HUmanity will be writing red x’s on students’ hands to represent human trafficking advocacy. In 2017, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported more than 13,800 calls regarding trafficking cases. At least 80 calls involved Arkansas.
HUmanity will host a panel in the Reynolds Recital Hall to discuss the prevalence of trafficking in the U.S. and worldwide on the Friday of Freedom Week. Senior Riley Jones, treasurer for the organization, said this is what he is looking forward to most.
“I think the most influential part of Freedom Week is just telling people that it exists and it doesn’t just happen ‘over there,’ wherever that is, but rather that it happens even in Searcy, Arkansas,” Jones said.
Pratt said the purpose of Freedom Week is not only to spread awareness, but also to connect people to organizations where they can be involved in helping human trafficking survivors and victims. According to Jones, students have the ability to help end the underground crime by spreading the word.
“If you do come, please come back,” Jones said. “The more people that are too scared to do something … the more we need people to speak up about it.”