Florida Gulf Coast University President William Bradshaw says human trafficking is one of the greatest human-rights issues of our time. It’s gaining recognition as a major crime operation and one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. Children are taken from the streets and are primarily sold into sexual slavery, but there is a way students can help those recovering from the trauma human-trafficking victims have been put through.
FGCU is hosting an event called Eagles Take Flight at the Veterans Pavilion on Thursday, Nov. 6. Students can support victims by donating hygiene items such as toilet paper, soap and toothpaste to the event, all of which will go directly to the Wings of Shelter safe house in Fort Myers.
Freshman psychology major Laura Besix is with the service learning group working with Wings of Shelter. She said that Florida has the second-highest rate of reported trafficking in America, and Fort Myers has one of the highest in Florida. “We need to know about these things because when you’re uneducated, you’re at risk,” Besix said.
Madeline Heath, one of the event coordinators, said there will be many artistic performances at Eagles Take Flight. There will be showcasing of slam poetry, visual art, dancing and several speakers from Wings of Shelter and several other organizations. Heath hopes that opening up this event to all forms of expression will highlight the crime of human trafficking and help students understand and want to help those who were victimized.
Heath was inspired to work on this event because of her own experience with victims of human trafficking at her former high school.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but while I was going there, there were students who were victims of human trafficking,” Heath said. “It was really shocking to me. People don’t realize it, but it’s happening in our backyards, right here in front of us.”
Florida in particular feels the brunt of human trafficking in the United States because it’s an ideal state for these operations. Victims of trafficking usually end up near vacation and tourist spots, and Florida is a vacation destination. Also, the state is a peninsula, which makes it easier to smuggle people in from other nations. There are also many immigrants living in the state, which keeps the pool for new victims at a perpetually high status.
This event brings a new cause to fight for. It can open students’ eyes and get them on track to make a difference in the world, as the way other events on campus such as Eagles Inspire have done. Students can help out by attending Eagles Take Flight and contributing hygiene products.
Eagles Take Flight’s Dakendo Michel said, “Be on the lookout. Be an advocate.
“You can’t ignore what is happening, because it’s going on right now in our backyards. It’s one of those problems that we pretend doesn’t exist,” Michel said.