Benefit opposes human trafficking

Ipsa Chaudhary

A few months ago in Advanced Placement World Studies, a class discussion about human trafficking sparked Ashleigh Atasoy’s interest in the subject. For this reason, four sophomores came together to raise awareness about sex trafficking by hosting a benefit called “We the Women.”

The benefit will be from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday, May 12 at the Upper Crust Bakery, 904 Elm St. It will include a lunch, silent auction and speakers from International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that brings social justice to those in developing countries.

Atasoy said the class discussion made her aware that human trafficking continues to be prevalent.

“We kind of touched on how human trafficking was still a big deal today,” Atasoy said. “That just kind of surprised me, I guess. I didn’t know [trafficking] was still something that was going on today. … And I was like, ‘I kind of want to do something about this. But I don’t really know how I could as a student.’”

Atasoy talked to World Studies teacher Katherine Sasser about trafficking and suggested doing a benefit to raise awareness. Sasser supported the idea and started suggesting different organizations that the benefit could possibly fund. After speaking with a friend from church, Atasoy decided to support IJM.

Atasoy, along with sophomores Urmila Kutikkad, Sam Ryan and Trisha Chaudhary, met with a friend of Sasser’s, Kyrsten Skulborstad, who had worked extensively with IJM and was passionate about the cause.

“I realized that all I need –- all that any of us need –- is a little bit of courage to step out in the battle for justice,” Skulborstad said in an email interview. “I realized that regardless of our age, education, location or current job, everyone can participate in the fight for justice.”

Atasoy said that hearing about what Skulborstad was doing in the Philippines convinced her to support IJM.

“She was telling us [these girls’] stories and how they got involved in sex trafficking and how IJM helped them escape,” Atasoy said. “Something about listening to these stories of these people makes it much more real because these people are halfway around the globe, but they’re so similar to us.”

So Atasoy and her friends planned a benefit specifically for women in the hopes that they would really understand why the girls had decided to take on this project.

Skulborstad said she has merely provided guidance on how they can share IJM’s message with those who attend.

“I’m excited for the fruit this benefit will produce,” Skulborstad said. “This is one small step in the battle for justice. My IJM colleagues around the world and I are moved by and proud of their courage to take action, right from their own community.”
By Ipsa Chaudhary