SAFE Center educates students about human trafficking

Tuesday night, the UMD SAFE Center for Human Trafficking Survivors partnered with UMD Students Ending Slavery to host an awareness event in the Margaret Brent room of the Stamp Student Union.

Federal law defines human trafficking as”the illegal movement of people, typically for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.”

Julia Balageas, a senior communications major, was integral in the planning of the event. Balageas is taking an event planning class, where students were assigned different types of events.  

“We got the University of Maryland SAFE Center for Trafficking Survivors, they’re a brand new organization on campus, they just opened in May,” Balageas said. 

Balageas and five other students met regularly both in and out of class, exchanged emails, and worked with Stamp special events staff to plan the presentation and figure out how to use their AV equipment.

They [the SAFE Center) did an opening event in May but they kind of wanted another one, when more students here so they could really push to show all the great services they have.”

The event began at 5 p.m., but students and guests were given time to find their seats and snack on refreshments from Chick-fil-a. After signing in, students could enter a raffle if they had brought a nonperishable item to donate to the Center. Balageas said this was an opportunity to promote being green.

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Hunter Smith, a sophomore musician, performed two songs for the event.

One of the people running the event, I’m close friends with him, so he invited me to come play, and I think it’s a great cause, a great organization,” Smith said. “I want to be a part of it.”

Smith performed both “The A-Team” by Ed Sheeran, and an original song called “Brighter Days,” which Smith said is “more about positivity and starting over.”

During the majority of the presentation, speakers gave examples of real life stories about human trafficking, discussing the prevalence of the issue, even in the area directly surrounding the University. Following a video where a woman discussed how quickly a modeling job turned into a human trafficking situation, students were welcomed to ask questions, both about the issue and the event.

“We definitely want [students] to understand the prevalence and the reality of human trafficking, even in this area and that the SAFE Center if a fantastic resource,”Balageas said. “They’re confidential, they’re private, they have so many different services, and so many different great things to offer people who need help.”

The UMD SAFE Center website can be found here.

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