Freedom Week to promote human trafficking awareness

Westhampton College students and the WILL program are co-sponsoring Freedom Week from March 22 to March 26 to raise awareness of both domestic and international human trafficking.

The inspiration for this event stems from an impactful trip that junior Carter Quinley and senior Tran Doan took to Thailand. During the trip, Quinley and Doan participated in the Purse Project, which teaches female victims of human trafficking to make pocketbooks to help them reintegrate into society. Their experience fostered a desire to bring this issue to the University of Richmond community.

“We really hope that students become aware of human trafficking and its reality both in the United States and throughout the world,” said freshman Addie Rauschert.

All week, there will be a table displayed in the Commons with informative pamphlets and freeset organization bags made by women emerging from sex trafficking and prostitution. The hand-crafted bags will be sold for $15 each, and all profits will directly benefit the Project Meridian Foundation, a Richmond organization that rescues victims of human trafficking.

Interested students will also receive an orange bracelet, symbolizing international freedom, to wear for the week. Participants are asked to reflect on those in human bondage, who lack basic freedoms that many Richmond students take for granted.

At 3 p.m. on March 25 in Room A001 of Gottwald Science Center, Maureen McDonnell, the First Lady of Virginia, will lead a question-and-answer panel with variety of guest speakers from Richmond’s Project Meridian Foundation (PMF). The speakers will include: Lawrence S. Eagleburger, former U.S. secretary of state and PMF board member; Nathan Wilson, president and founder of PMF; Craig W. Duehring, former assistant secretary of the air force for manpower and reserve affairs and PMF board member; Louis F. Palombella, former DEA section chief and PMF director of training/counterintelligence; and Captain Steve Drew, commander of the major crimes unit for Richmond Police Department.

“There are a wide variety of speakers, so the event should be really interesting,” Rauschert said. “We hope that students take the opportunity to become aware.”