A Grand Rapids, Michigan outreach ministry called the Manasseh Project, run by Wedgwood Christian Services, has set out to inform the public that human trafficking might not be as distant as many Americans believe.
Andy Soper, Wedgwood employee and the Manasseh Project’s program coordinator, encountered a young girl who would come to change his life forever. “She looked just like a normal 13-year-old girl, but she was being sold eight to 10 times a day for sex,” said Soper. The girl to which Soper refers was brought by the police to Wedgwood Christian Services, an organization which devotes itself to fighting sexual exploitation, where Soper worked at the time. Shortly after arriving, the girl ran away from Wedgwood Christian Services and returned to her trafficker, which affected Soper greatly. “Something about her broke my heart. It’s devastating. She was all I could think about,” said Soper. “There was no turning back at that point.”
One of the biggest goals of the Manasseh Project is to prevent human trafficking from occurring in the first place. In order to make this goal a reality, Soper has set out to raise awareness regarding human trafficking at this year’s ArtPrize. There are seven sites which the Manasseh Project operates, each with a piece of art which reflects a factor of human trafficking.
For instance, one piece of art might deal with poverty while another could highlight substance abuse or a broken community. In addition to standing by each of these pieces of art and discussing with pedestrians how each piece of art deals with the issue of human trafficking, volunteers will hand out 30,000 balloons and 15,000 boxes of water, all of which will have a picture of a missing individual or suspected victim of human trafficking imprinted on its side.
Following ArtPrize, the Manasseh Project plans on putting out six weeks of additional events with the purpose of giving out information about factors leading to human trafficking and providing training on prevention and how to be helpful during its aftermath.
Soper hopes that the Manasseh Project’s ArtPrize campaign might shift Americans, and specifically West Michigan residents, from being vaguely concerned with human trafficking to fully acknowledging and dealing with the issue.
Learn more at Nathan Slauer’s Calvin College Chimes article: Organization raises human trafficking awareness through ArtPrize.