Sophomore Hayley Orth said over winter break, she heard a statistic, that over 27 million people were involved in the contemporary slave trade. Orth said that she wanted to make a difference, and decided to at Towson.
Towson University students participated in “Stand for Freedom” Tuesday, March 12, in an attempt to raise awareness for the victims of slavery around the world. The event was orchestrated by Orth.
The event took place outside of the Union at the Susquehanna patio, where a group of Towson students stood for 27 hours in representation for those 27 million people enslaved today.
“It’s the coolest thing when people walk by and you ask them ‘Hey, have you heard of modern day slavery,’ and they’re like ‘Wait, why is slavery still happening,” Orth said.
Orth said different types of slavery exist: forced labor, where people are forced to work, particularly overseas, and human trafficking, a form more common in the United States.
Stand for Freedom is part of a bigger program sponsored by an organization known as the International Justice Mission. The organization visits thousands of college campuses in the United States in attempt to raise awareness of those forms of slavery.
Despite troubling weather conditions, including a rainstorm that lasted for several hours, the students rallied in attempt to meet their goal of gaining 1,000 signatures to bring to President Barack Obama’s attention to the issue. By just 5 p.m. Tuesday, the group reached its goal.
Sophomore Becky Wiacek was also one of the students in support of Stand for Freedom. She, like Orth, said she was immediately taken aback by the overwhelming number of individuals still enslaved.
“It really felt like we were helping unify the campus on one specific cause because the message reached so many people,” Wiacek said.
Orth said she hopes that students take more than just acknowledging that the problem exists, but also that they start to inform people around them of the situation.
And the campus was responsive to their message, Orth said. The change is just beginning with the 1,919 signatures they received.
“It just shows that this campus is starting to wake up to this issue and that’s something we are all really excited about because it’s going to take all of us to end it,” Orth said.