State Representative Kevin Parker, '96, speaks with (clockwise) Dayna Coleman-Jones, Whitworth's assistant dean of students; Audrey Evans, '14, Whitworth's UNITE associate program director; and ASWU President Molly Hough, '13, in a meeting about Whitworth's anti-human trafficking movement.
By Andrea Idso, '12
ASWU President Molly Hough, who is spearheading Whitworth's human-trafficking initiative, speaks at Convocation Sept. 6. Hough discusses service as defined by James 2:26, which states, "Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works."
Last spring Molly Hough, '13, was in a meeting with fellow Whitworth students who were asked, "What are we doing to be a courageous university?" Nearly everyone in the room remained silent; a few students offered tentative answers.
The question nagged at Hough, who in April was elected president of the Associated Students of Whitworth University for 2012-13. During the summer, Hough met with Seattle Pacific University student-body president Nate Strong, Whitworth junior Audrey Evans, and 2012 alumnus Kasey Culmback to brainstorm ideas for an issue they could get people to rally around. They sought a cause that would garner the support of Whitworth students, Spokane community members, and residents of the Pacific Northwest.
Many issues the group considered were too controversial and divisive. Then they landed on human trafficking.
"This is a baseline evil," Hough says. "And it needs attention."
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, human trafficking is the second-most profitable international crime, surpassed only by the drug industry. The UNODC defines human trafficking as the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them.
ASWU committed to making human trafficking a target issue for the entire academic year. The group is hosting workshops, seminars, lectures and presentations, including seminars on modern-day slavery and labor trafficking; a workshop on conscious consumerism; and an expert-led discussion of pornography and its link to human trafficking.
"Through this initiative, ASWU is giving a voice to the voiceless," says Whitworth President Beck A. Taylor. "They are demonstrating how we can make individual contributions based on each person's passions, skills and abilities, and then partner with others to transform lives."
Whitworth alumnus and Washington State Rep. Kevin Parker, '96, has joined ASWU in its anti-human-trafficking efforts. "Few people realize we have more slaves in our world today than at any point in human history," Parker says. "It is devastating that 2,200 children are reported missing in the U.S. every day and many of those children end up being trafficked."
ASWU teamed with UNITE, a coalition of Pacific Northwest businesses, churches, nonprofits, law enforcement agencies, universities and legislatures dedicated to ending modern-day slavery. Whitworth's partners through UNITE include Seattle Pacific and Gonzaga universities, World Relief, Called to Rescue and Lutheran Services.
Hough, Evans and Culmback created a UNITE core team to initiate human-trafficking-related events on campus. The team has received considerable support from Whitworth Chief of Staff Rhosetta Rhodes, '99, Assistant Dean of Students Dayna Coleman-Jones and President Taylor.
According to Taylor, the students' UNITE effort exemplifies his four basic priorities for Whitworth: elevate academic quality, focus on Christ in a grace-filled way, serve the community, and position Whitworth as a significant and relevant institution in society's discourse around difficult issues.
"Our student leaders are blazing a trail consistent with our mission and our values," Taylor says. "They are effectively integrating our co-curricular education to produce a comprehensive educational experience."
Aligning with UNITE's mission to "educate, empower and change," Whitworth's core team spent the first phase of the initiative focusing on educating students and the public on the facts of human trafficking.
"It's so easy for us to think, ‘Oh, this is happening in South Africa; it's not my issue,' but human trafficking is happening a block away from Whitworth," Hough says.
UNITE's next two phases will emphasize empowering people in their everyday lives to go out and create change.
"The idea is that you can take on small amounts of responsibility so that people are being active participants in change," Hough says. "We're giving people tangible ways to fight against modern-day slavery in their everyday lives."
Being a conscious consumer is one of the practical ways in which people can create change. Free2Work, an organization that provides consumers with information on how products relate to modern-day slavery, produced an app that people can use to scan grocery-store items. The app tells the user whether or not the product is fair trade.
Whitworth also has partnered with Not For Sale, a nonprofit that fights modern-day slavery by targeting its root causes. On Sept. 22, Whitworth hosted a Not For Sale event sponsored by the Spokane nonprofit Generation Alive, which seeks to empower students by engaging them in acts of service that promote justice. The daylong event featured educational workshops, seminars and presentations.
"We're so used to hearing statistics, and it's easy for us to dehumanize them," Hough says. "One of our goals is to show that these ‘statistics' are our brothers and our sisters."
Christian rock band The Wrecking performed at Whitworth as part of the Not For Sale event. After the concert, band members discussed why they're involved with Not For Sale. Lead vocalist Douglas Elder showed a picture of his daughter to the audience and said, "I would fight for her. I would do anything for her."
Another face of the anti-trafficking movement is pitcher Jeremy Affeldt, of the 2010 and 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. He and his wife, Larisa, founded Generation Alive. Affeldt spoke to Whitworth students in 2010 as part of Not For Sale's Stop Paying for Slavery Tour; ASWU is planning another event where he'll speak to the Whitworth community on human trafficking later this year.
"Freedom in this country means that you can say what you want to say, do what you want to do, be who you want to be," Affeldt says. "If that's something you want, then have enough dignity to pass on that right to these people. Have enough dignity to fight for the human being who doesn't have the ability to dream. We've got freedom of speech; let's speak out for these people."
In January 2013, Rep. Kevin Parker will take Whitworth students to Olympia to inform legislators about the facts of human trafficking. Hough is excited about the idea of students educating legislators and the impact the education will have when legislators vote on the issue.
"Some of our greatest challenges, changes, and transformational leadership have been met by the younger population, from Jesus to Martin Luther King, Jr.," says Parker, who is also an adjunct instructor at Whitworth. "We lawmakers would be wise to maximize these students' passion and dedication for the greater good."
Last year, Parker supported legislation with bi-partisan buy-in that increased the penalty of trafficking from the cost of a speeding ticket -- $300 -- to a maximum penalty of $10,000. The money from those penalties will stay in local jurisdictions and will be used to set up transitional housing and education for people rescued from trafficking.
ASWU encourages all Whitworthians to get behind the anti-human-trafficking movement, and Hough hopes the group's initiative will light a fire in Whitworth students.
"If we are an institution that lives by our mission statement to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity, then we seriously need to figure out what that means before we throw that on paper," Hough says. "This is your home for the next four years. What are you going to do here? We don't think that you need a piece of paper to go out into the world to make change. You have the most incredible opportunity, surrounded by resources. This is your community. Do you really want thousands of sex slaves in Spokane? "We're not focusing on the fact that this is such a heavy issue," she says. "Rather, we're trying to capitalize on hope and how powerful that word is. It's meant to be an action statement."
The campaign will end in May, with UNITE's participant universities hosting simultaneous capstone events to celebrate. Whitworth's event will feature local law enforcement, churches, businesses, legislatures and high schools.
"This will be a true celebration of the work that was done in eight months," Hough says. "And who knows what the ripple effects might be?"