Spokane Valley High School students spent their afternoon packing hundreds of toiletry bags and writing personalized notes to local human trafficking survivors, a project made possible after the small student body raised more than $1,200 for the cause in just a few days.
The fundraising project started in an English class and soon expanded to the whole school, junior Trinity Contos said. The students worked with local nonprofit Generation Alive, which encourages young people to give back to their communities.
Contos said the project was especially important to her because when she was younger, she was homeless and witnessed human trafficking activities. And sometimes, when people see evidence of trafficking, they blame the victims instead of trying to understand their circumstances, Contos said.
“Someone driving by might say, ‘Oh, they made that choice.’ But in real life, they may not have had another choice,” she said.
Contos and her classmates were among dozens of students who wrote notes to local survivors, encouraging them to be strong, resilient and hopeful about their future.
The 240 bags and notes the students made will go to Lutheran Community Services Northwest, which supports victims of sexual assault and human trafficking.
Generation Alive also educated students about human trafficking, explaining what it can look like and helping students take a survey to show how many exploited people were involved in the production of many of the things students use in their everyday life.
Jayden Macomber, 17, was surprised by how widespread exploitation and trafficking is.
“It’s just crazy. Most people think that slavery ended a long time ago, but it’s actually going on all over the world,” he said.
Macomber said he also hoped the school’s efforts might bring hope to people in the Northwest who have survived exploitation and trafficking.
Jenny Weddle, communications manager for Generation Alive, said many students were shocked by their results. One student, she said, slammed her laptop shut after taking the survey and finding out how many people in exploitative working conditions created the electronics and other products she used every day.
“There’s a cost to the American consumerism lifestyle,” she said.
Weddle said the activity wasn’t meant to shame students, but to make them aware of the circumstances of people around the world.
“It’s happening and it’s affecting you,” she said. “None of us live in a bubble.”
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.