PeaceJam Tackles Tough Topic

Raising Awareness for Human Trafficking


Bella Lundy

Junior Matthew Castro lights a candle for each human trafficking survivor story heard by the students during the Peace Jam chapel. There were six candles that were lit, representing the six survivors and their stories.

Will Langdon, STAFF WRITER

Globally, there are almost 21 million victims of human trafficking. This year, PeaceJam wants students to take action to help the cause. This issue is one that has plagued Central Florida for decades, and with additional awareness, PeaceJam hopes to make a positive impact on the community. PeaceJam Week happened from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2, and was packed full of activities to raise awareness.

   On Tuesday, the club made a presentation at an all-school assembly where they introduced the topic. The club also had advisories participate in an activity on Thursday, and they led a chapel service the same day that was focused on human trafficking awareness. Several members read stories about several trafficking victims, for whom they lit candles. PeaceJam additionally hosted an information session on January 31.

   “We’re also doing a faculty and parent panel session where we invite them to come learn about human trafficking and how to speak to their children about it,” PeaceJam adviser Denise Musselwhite said.

   Finally, for the financial side of support against human trafficking, the club hosted a pancake sale.

   The search process for the yearly PeaceJam topic involved many other issues, but eventually the club found out more about how significantly human trafficking affected society.

   “We always narrow down our topics to a few different issues at the beginning of the year,” senior and PeaceJam Co-President Reese Gawronski said. “At first we weren’t all that interested in human trafficking, but then we did some research on it and we saw that this is an issue that really affects our community specifically. We got pretty passionate about it, and when we took a vote to decide what topic we wanted to focus on, there was a lot of support behind human trafficking, so we settled on that.”

   The issue of human trafficking is one that especially affects Orlando and the state as a whole. Florida is the third most trafficked state in the United States. More specifically, I-4 is one of the most used highways for traffickers. As the population has increased in Florida, there has been an increase in schools, and this is significant because middle schoolers are the most targeted group of children for traffickers.

   “Essentially, they prey upon anyone who is weak in any sense, whether that’s financial, emotional or just physical,” Gawronski said. “If you look at [young] students, they are physically, mentally and emotionally weaker than adults and can more easily be taken advantage of.”

   PeaceJam prides itself on the topics it has covered over the last few years, but none have likely been as sensitive as this one.

   “It’s more controversial,” Gawronski said. “We’re trying to teach students how this can affect them, while at the same time not being too graphic about the nature of human trafficking, more specifically, the sex trade. It’s hard to navigate this topic and make sure we’re not offending anyone or going past what would be appropriate for us to say, while at the same time getting our message out and making sure these kids are safe from the dangers of human trafficking.”

   The majority of the funds PeaceJam raises during the week will be donated to the Florida Human Trafficking Commision, and the club is also donating $100 to the Lifeboat Project as a thank you for the information session it gave to the club. Although it is hoping to donate as much money as it can, this year the main goal of PeaceJam is not fundraising.

   “We raised about $1200 last year in support of Rethink Homelessness,” Musselwhite said. “Because the primary purpose of the campaign this year is to raise awareness, we aren’t really focused on raising a lot of money, whereas last year we thought we really needed to raise a substantial amount of money to impact homelessness.”

   According to Gawronski, it is imperative to always be aware of your surroundings and to know the threats of this illicit trade.

   “For our school, I would say people think of human trafficking as something that affects maybe poor people or people who are immigrating to the country, or maybe people that don’t have the connections or resources that you might see kids at Trinity having,” Gawronski said. “However, it’s an issue that can affect anyone, and it’s a very dangerous mindset to have that this isn’t something that directly affects us.”

   Though the topics change, PeaceJam always has certain general goals for each year.   

   “I think the overriding goal is always to communicate to our students that they all have the power to educate, create change and make an impact,” Musselwhite said. “PeaceJam’s purpose is to teach students that their voice counts. That’s always the number one goal of our projects.”

Musselwhite explains that for this year, the club is primarily concerned with raising awareness about the topic. She wants students to be educated about it so that they will be able to make an impact themselves. 

   “We’d like [students] to be able to spot out symptoms of human trafficking, whether it’s seeing something odd at the mall, or at the airport,” said Gawronski. “If this happens, they should also know how to report it. As always, we want to educate kids about the topic in general and help them to have a deeper understanding of what other people go through.”