By Maristela Romero
The UMD Students Ending Slavery (SES) organization participated in the #ENDITMovement Thursday outside of Adele H. Stamp Student Union by offering passersby the chance to spread awareness about modern slavery in the form of a red X on the back of their hands.
The prominence of the red X would ideally prompt others to ask participating individuals what the purpose was for, in which they would have the opportunity to mention the prevalence of modern slavery in Prince George’s County and around the world.
The END IT movement and organizations like UMD SES strive to educate as many people as they can on this issue, in order to spark action.
“It’s all about a ripple effect with awareness. If we get three people to write X’s on their hands, hopefully those three people will tell three more people, ” said SES co-president Sydney Shiver, a junior international business and English double major.
Modern slavery is an interchangeable term for human trafficking, which can take many different forms, including child labor, sex tourism and forced participation in pornography.
SES member and junior government and politics major Sierra Dischel suggested ways students can take action in order to avoid indirect support of human trafficking.
“When you’re making consumer choices, you can look at the supply chain and make sure you’re not funding [coerced labor],” Dischel said.
SES members note that human trafficking is not only a global issue, but a local issue as well — which is why they have continued to work in conjunction with the UMD SAFE Center, a local organization that provides aid for human trafficking victims, for fundraising events like their Annual UMD Fair Trade Fair.
“Maryland itself is a hotspot for human trafficking,” UMD SAFE Center deputy director Laura R. Ardito said.
Ardito listed Prince George’s, Montgomery, Baltimore, Howard, and Anne Arundel as counties “reporting high incidents of human trafficking,” although it is also believed to be prevalent throughout Maryland, she said.
Right now, the group is planning a 5K for Freedom on April 6 to help combat and raise awareness of modern day slavery.
The UMD SAFE Center provides on-site legal services, mental health therapy and job search assistance, with an English as a Second Language (ESL) program underway in partnership with the university’s school of education for local human trafficking survivors.
Since opening in May 2016, they have provided services to about 50 human trafficking survivors with the help of student assistants and interns from the university.