While we generally think of slavery as something we learn about in history class growing up, the reality is that it is still very much a part of our society. It’s going on in our inner cities, our communities, our backyards and all around the world.
In fact, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry.
In the world today, more than a million victims are being trafficked and forced into a life of sexual servitude.
After seeing a video exposing these awful truths, junior communication major Rochelle Delgado made it her personal mission to help abolish this modern-day slavery, so she further researched the topic through the organization that first educated her — The A21 Campaign.
“It pretty much just shocked me. Here I am doing nothing, and these people are everywhere,” she said. “The numbers are big, but when you think about it as an individual person, it makes it so much bigger.”
At first, she admits, she felt overwhelmed by the scope and magnitude of the issue.
“That’s what people do. They see all the numbers, and obviously, we can’t do everything, so we just become paralyzed,” Delgado said.
Instead of remaining idle, she began to think of how she could do something to solve the problem, and with her 21st birthday coming up in October, Delgado saw a great opportunity.
“I’m 20, and I can’t imagine how many 20-year-olds are in that situation, sold to sex everyday. I realized I can use my situation to help their situation,” she said.
From now until her birthday, Delgado is asking that friends give to the A21 campaign to aid in their efforts.
“I’m going to turn 21 in October, and I don’t really need anything,” she said. “Instead of people giving me gifts, I’m asking them to donate money.”
Along with the funds she raises, Delgado hopes to bring awareness to a situation going largely unnoticed.
“It all starts with knowing.
When we don’t want to know something, we plug our ears and we close our eyes because if we know, then we have to do something about it. With knowledge comes responsibility,” she said. “Once you know, you need to do something about it. I know, so I have to do something. I can’t not.”
As well as setting up an online account for those wishing to contribute, Delgado is handing out red cups to collect spare change, and replacing a traditional birthday bash with a benefit event at local coffee house, Bodega Bean. She believes that if everyone works together, human trafficking and sex slavery can be brought to an end.
“If everybody does what they can do, via their talents, via their abilities, via their resources, then this can be stopped,” she said.
Senior public relations major Brett Land is among many already helping, as one of the performers at the event at Bodega Bean.
He read about Delgado’s plan on her blog this summer, and admired what she was doing.
“Social justice may seem like a trendy fad at times, but the truth is, people like Rochelle, whose hearts are broken for the afflicted, get passionate about making a difference. So that’s what they do,” he said.
Wanting entertainment to draw attention to the event, Delgado enlisted Land’s help.
“Rochelle asked if Cara Scott and I would be interested in playing at her “birthday party” and we didn’t hesitate to say yes,” he said. “If live music means more people are going to come and learn how they can break the chains of injustice, then I am honored to be one who provides it.”
Senior art major Aubrey Carroll also learned of the A21 campaign through Delgado’s blog, and was moved by the atrocities taking place.
“Being forced to do anything is sickening,” Carroll said. “I didn’t realize it was such a huge problem. It made me nauseous.”
Carroll decided to use her talents to contribute to the cause, selling original prints at a coffee shop where her art was being displayed.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity. I was really surprised how much we actually raised that night,” she said.
Though the task may seem daunting, Delgado is determined not to relent.
“I can’t do it myself, but God can do it all. If I don’t do something, if I don’t talk about it, if I just give up, then nothing is going to be raised,” she said.
As she shares her cause around campus, her message to those who want to give, is that every little bit counts.
“If a dollar is raised, if five dollars are raised, that’s something. A dollar can make a big difference. One thing can make a difference,” she said.
Even after her birthday has come and gone, Delgado has no plans to stop telling others about what is happening.
“It’s a constant thing,” she said. “Traffickers never stop, that’s their life, so why should stopping trafficking ever stop? Why should we take breaks or put it on the back burner?”
And while we may not realize it around us, Delgado hopes that others understand that these practices of human bondage, that may seem so far removed from our modern world, are taking place every day.
She said, “We read about it in history, but it’s never in our reality. But, actually, it really is. It’s not just in books anymore.”