Newly-launched W&L club works to aid victims of human trafficking
“Take 2” to work jointly with relief organizations to make impact in community
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A new club dedicated to serving victims of human trafficking in the Rockbridge area met for the first time last week in an effort to make an impact on campus and in the community.
Julia Kaczmar, ’19, and Paige Williams, ’19, received approval from the Executive Committee to start their club called “Take 2” at the end of this past Fall Term.
“It’s kind of a girls helping girls thing,” Kaczmar said. “It’s cool to see an idea that we’ve had together get approved.”
Jimmy Thompson, director of True Mission Virginia, an organization that aims to provide long-term care for victims, spoke at the club’s first meeting.
Thompson said he learned of the tragedy of human trafficking a couple of years ago when he heard speakers from True Mission. He and his wife, Cindy, then visited the True Mission headquarters in Bryan, Texas, to learn more about the organization.
“I’m somebody just like yourself that just wanted to do something to help,” Thompson said. “My wife and I decided to do something here locally. The average age for a girl getting into trafficking right now is between 11 and 14. [They] need facilities that specialize in taking care of young girls.”
For the past two and a half years, the Thompsons have worked to secure land for a safehouse for victims in the Rockbridge area, but they have faced obstacles from surrounding neighbors who have objected to having a safehouse near their homes.
“When you operate something like this, you want people around you that care enough that would want to help,” Thompson said. “When you have shaken the hand of somebody who was actually sold by their parents, it’s just heartbreaking.”
True Mission Virginia recently partnered with Street Ransom, a nonprofit in Roanoke, Va., that offers assistance to victims of sexual exploitation.
Roanoke recently sold property to Straight Street, Street Ransom’s parent organization, for just $10. The property will serve as a safehouse for girls who have been trafficked.
Keith Farmer, director of Straight Street, plans to open the doors of Street Ransom’s Roanoke shelter when the organization has raised sufficient long-term operational funds of at least $2 million.
True Mission’s first order of business will be to furnish the Roanoke shelter for the girls.
Take 2 plans to sell second-hand clothing on campus and donate 100 percent of the proceeds to support the efforts of True Mission and Street Ransom.
Clothing that does not sell will be donated to Campus Closet, which takes donations to the Rockbridge Relief Center.
“My mom came up with the name,” Williams said. “We’re giving both the girls and clothes a second chance. Both of them get a new life.”
Kaczmar and Williams said they were inspired to start the club last year when they saw clothing being thrown away and realized that it could be put to better use to help girls in the community.
A clothing drive on campus during Spring Term 2016, as well as various donations since, have grown the clothing collection.
“We want to establish ourselves as something that people are aware of,” Williams said. “Honestly, education on the issue is so important,”
Kaczmar and Williams said that students can get involved by tabling in Elrod Commons for clothing donations, promoting awareness for the cause with friends and helping with sale logistics and marketing.
They said they are considering conducting pen-pal partnerships between club members and victims living in safe houses. Kaczmar and Williams also said they want to plan a service trip to the safe house in Roanoke so donors can meet those whom they are helping.
“I hope it sticks, and that people will continue [the club] when we’re gone,” Williams said.