Walking against trafficking
September 29, 2009
On Friday, October 2, Danielle Sheffield will be heading downtown to walk around—but not, like many in Grand Rapids, to visit ArtPrize sites. Shefffield and the people who join her will be walking to raising awareness of child trafficking around the world.
"Right now, there are about 27 million people enslaved in the world, and about 80 percent of them are children,” she said. “These children deserve someone to advocate for them.”
Getting to the source of trafficking
Sheffield is this region’s community ambassador for Stop Child Trafficking Now (SCTN), an organization that combats child sex trafficking around the world. Many anti-trafficking organizations fight the crime by rescuing victims, Sheffield said, an approach which has drawbacks. “For every child rescued, there’s another one to take its place.” She was drawn to work with SCTN because the organization is dedicated to attacking the demand side of the problem. They go after the “Johns,” the persons who perpetrate these crimes:
"The idea behind it is to publicly prosecute these people so they are going to jail, they are losing their jobs, they are being humiliated publicly,” Sheffield said.
Building a community event
The Stop Child Trafficking Now walk began as a Calvin event but evolved into something larger. Sheffield and the student-run Social Justice Committee, which is partnering with SCTN, are inviting all of Grand Rapids. “So now it’s like a community event that Calvin is hosting,” she said.
The walkers will convene downtown at 5 p.m. at the Ladies Literary Club to register and then walk the adjacent blocks. Following the ambulatory part of the evening, the walkers will socialize over coffee. A partnership with Madcap Coffee ensures that anyone who donates to SCTN and walks will get a free cuppa. (The organizations are also partnered with Clothing Matters, Pita House, and Marie Catribs.)
Coffee time will be followed by a community dinner. Then comes the movie. Walkers will return to the Ladies Literary Club for a 7 p.m. showing of Call and Response, a documentary that takes an undercover look at child trafficking.
Being in-the-know on important issues
Sheffield is looking for a good response to the event. “We really didn’t know what the participation was going to be, but there’s a lot of interest building,” she said. She is hopeful that the walk will raise more than funds.
That’s a hope that 2007 Calvin graduate Austin Graff understands: "The reason we like walks like this is it creates awareness of the issue,” said Graff, who, since his graduation has worked on child trafficking awareness with the International Justice Mission in Washington D.C. “Unfortunately we live in a world where people don’t know what’s going on. Hopefully it will create a spotlight on these issues and will inspire people do their own research on justice issues. Education is the first step.”
Education can be a powerful step, Sheffield said: “Nobody stood for the transatlantic slave trade, once they found out that it wasn’t something humans should be involved with, and in the same way, people shouldn’t stand for the fact that there are 27 million people enslaved now.
~by Myrna Anderson, communications and marketing