Students volunteer to combat human trafficking

Medical+students+from+the+Oakland+University+Beaumont+School+of+Medicine+attend+a+seminar+on+how+to+combat+human+trafficking+cases+and+what+signs+to+watch+for+when+identifying+victims.+

IAN LEVINSON

Medical students from the Oakland University Beaumont School of Medicine attend a seminar on how to combat human trafficking cases and what signs to watch for when identifying victims.

Gina Navaroli, Staff Reporter

Students came together to combat human trafficking on Wednesday, March 15. The Freedom Fighters 6.12 club collaborated with Heavenly Hope International to create an event for students to volunteer and become educated on human trafficking.

Participants prepared care packages for past and present sex-trafficking victims, and a former trafficking victim shared her experiences during the event.

Heavenly Hope International is a nonprofit organization that provides support and resources to sex-trafficking victims and survivors, while educating others through outreach, education and advocacy.

The organization’s founder and CEO, Laura Fiyak, thinks it is important to hold educational human-trafficking events on college campuses.

“I feel like the college age can be very influential in the community, but also very susceptible to the sex industry,” she said. “They need to understand how they can be more aware of their surroundings, so they do not get sucked into a trap that they do not understand. The college age is a very popular age to get started in a strip club, sex industry and entertainment.”

Ways to stop the dangers of human trafficking is always on Fiyak’s mind.

“They [victims] walk into it because they want to make some money or they were forced,” she said. “Either way, it can turn into exploitation if they are not careful. We also teach on how to properly identify, interview and report different signs of trafficking.”

Because human trafficking is a growing problem, Fiyak wants to shed light on it.

“I’m passionate because it is the second-largest growing crime — next to drugs — in the world,” Fiyak said. “We need as many people as we can to come together in unity to fight against it. When you see such a big, heinous crime, it is almost impossible for anyone that has a heart to just sit there along the sidelines and do nothing.”

Blake Pokley, a junior majoring in finance and president of Freedom Fighters 6.12, said this is just the kind of thing his group tries to stop.

“Freedom Fighters’ main mission is to end human trafficking,” he said. “We want to do this through informing, teaching, volunteering and raising up more advocates.”

Freedom Fighters and Heavenly Hope International were connected by Pokley’s attendance of an event called “Love Detroit” in early 2016. He met Fiyak there, and has worked with her ever since.

Pokley is passionate about fighting human trafficking because of his own experiences with the industry.

“I used to be addicted to pornography,” he said. “When I read an article on how evil the pornography industry is and how strongly correlated pornography is to human trafficking, I realized my actions were not only hurting myself.”

Pokley said he is disgusted by the brutality of the industry.

“Those who are trafficked are literally slaves,” he said. “Their entire purpose, at the moment, is for the best interest of their trafficker, that is pretty messed up. How can so much pain, humiliation and anguish be enjoyable to someone else?”

For more information about Heavenly Hope International, visit http://heavenlyhopeinternational.org or email [email protected].