Written by: Liam Watts
In October of this year, OKWU students and staff Sam Hurley, Brianna Hudson, Taralynn Hurdle, and Reed Garland had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to be a part of the International Justice Mission’s annual summit. There they had the opportunity to hear from IJM employees about the work that they were helping to sponsor, lobby for policy that would aid in the fight against human trafficking, and talk to national leaders in our government.
For those who have never heard of the International Justice Mission (IJM), it is a nonprofit organization that fights to end slavery and human trafficking across the globe, primarily in third world countries. OKWU has been partnering with this organization in the last year to help students get involved and make a difference. This year, we had the opportunity to send students to NorthStar, IJM’s college conference where all the college chapters of IJM could get together and brainstorm ways to raise awareness and money, and employees got to tell stories about how everyone’s donations were working to benefit others. Afterwards, our students also got to be a part of IJM’s Summit where they helped lobby for important legislation.
Bri Hudson told me that the most impactful thing she learned was about the shrimp industry in Thailand and its connection to slavery. While it may not be what someone normal thinks about when imagining human trafficking or slavery, every year people came over for work only to be trapped on boats for years, working without pay. IJM partnered with Walmart to start funding rescues for the men on these boats. With help from students all over the country including OKWU, this was able to become a reality. In Bri’s words, “It was sad and disconcerting just how hard it was to solve the problem. But it was so cool because people like us asked Walmart to act and we were able to help create this change.”
After spending time at NorthStar, Sam, Bri, Taralynn, and Reed traveled to the Hart senate office building where they had the chance to work with Senator Lankford and Congressman Hern’s office to lobby for a new bill that IJM was lobbying for. This bill would help to provide funding for human trafficking relief.
While it may not always seem like one person can make a difference, one never knows what impact one might have. As Reed described it, “If enough people can come together to say something, someone has to do something.” If you’re interested in getting involved with IJM or learning how you can help, make sure to reach out to Reed Garland, or any of the other OKWU students who went to D.C.