WRITTEN BY: ANDREW EAKES | STAFF WRITER
Some of the most sensitive of subjects hit the hardest when they come from home. An event called “Just Saying!,” put on by Point Loma Nazarene University and the University of San Di- ego highlighted the impacts of Human Trafficking in San Diego County.
The event featured guest speaker Eugene Cho, founder and leader of Seattle’s Quest Church.
“Just Saying is a time for people to hear about the Beauty for Ashes Fund and hopefully give toward it,” said Natali Perez, an intern for the Center of Justice and Reconciliation. “It is also an awesome time for people to learn about human trafficking through spoken word and find ways in which they can get involved in the efforts to combat human trafficking.”
Both schools, along with PLNU’s Center for Justice and Reconciliation, conducted a three-year investigation led by Jamie Gates, Director of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation and Sociology Professor at PLNU.
According to www.abolishhuman- trafficking.com, the website that PLNU’s Center for Justice and Reconciliation created to address the problem, human sex trafficking is the second largest underground economy in San Diego. Be- tween 8,830 and 11,773 people survive Human Trafficking each year in San Diego alone. 110 gangs in San Diego are involved in Human Trafficking, and the average age of the people who are victims of human trafficking is 15.
This study’s findings resulted in two new ways for PLNU to raise awareness of human trafficking: the Just Saying poetry event and the Beauty for Ashes Scholar- ship Fund. They were first implemented in 2014.
“The anti-trafficking work that PLNU is engaged in has grown substantively to where PLNU sits at the heart of the anti-trafficking movement in San Diego,” said Gates. “Last year the Just Saying event raised awareness about Human Trafficking to social service agencies that work with survivors of human trafficking in our region and served as the night we launched the Beauty for Ashes Scholarship Fund.”
This scholarship helps to support survivors of human trafficking and awards them with a scholarship to Point Loma Nazarene University. It also at- tempts to extend this aid beyond the classroom with psychological counseling and help finding a job after graduation.
In its first year, Just Saying used presentations of spoken word poetry to raise $120,000 in its first year for the Beauty For Ashes Fund.
“I hope that students understand how prevalent this crime is – even in our own backyards,” said spoken word artist, Poetry Club President, and former Beauty For Ashes Intern Gia Cabarse. “The kind of trauma that these victims endure call for us to sit down and reassure those who are brought out of this life. They are people who deserve an education, an opportunity, a full life and freedom from oppression.”
Cabarse, along with former student and poetry slam team member, Haley Courtney performed two poems each at last week’s Just Saying event. The main focus of the night is getting involved.
“The night was designed to be inspiring, educative and a call for action,” said Gates. “The best way to get involved is by going to the next Beauty For Ashes Fund Club meeting on Tuesday February 16.”
Other ways to get involve include educating yourself by going on their website www.abolishhumantrafficking.com. Donations toward the Beauty for Ashes Fund can be given online at www. pointloma.edu/BeautyForAshes.
For some people the freedom to live how they please is not an option. In San Diego human trafficking has become one of the city’s major problems. Events like Just Saying and scholarships like the Beauty for Ashes Fund give these survivors a chance at a life. Through one mission our voices can be the solution, I’m just saying.
photo by Jonathan Soch