One came face to face with a victim of human trafficking. Another saw heartbreaking images on a television news report. Others just heard stories. But once they knew about the depth of the despair of victims of human trafficking, these Pennsylvania women could not sit back and do nothing.
Emily Fulker, a Shippensburg University sophomore who is also from Shippensburg, first heard about human trafficking in church when her Sunday school class conducted a study created by the International Justice Mission.
Lancaster native Cheryl Hershey, who will graduate from Shippensburg University this fall, said she first encountered human trafficking while working in Lithuania. Hershey discovered that many Eastern European girls are trafficked through false-front nanny agencies. When she returned to the United States, Hershey said she dived headlong into human trafficking research. “I started pursuing education and training about human trafficking, and to advocate and raise awareness about it whenever I had the opportunity,” she said.
For Mechanicsburg resident Krista Dollman, it all started with a “NBC Dateline” special. Dollman decided to dig a little deeper through a Bible study based on the book “Not for Sale,” by David Batstone, that examines modern-day slavery and the people working to put an end to it. With her friends Heather Reardon and Angela Moran, Dollman started Change Purse, an organization that raises money and awareness for anti-trafficking causes and supports faith-based safe houses. Dollman’s organization collects purses from “really anybody who will listen” and sells them at events and in an online store and sends out home party kits throughout the country so people can host their own events.
In 1999 Bethany Woodcock, while serving at a refugee camp in Eastern Europe, encountered a woman who been trafficked. That encounter lit a fire that hasn’t gone out even after more than a decade. Woodcock, along with a handful of local people, started the Lancaster Anti-Trafficking Network, a coalition of organizations that work together to raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking, primarily through its annual Freedom Weekend event, and mobilizes people to become involved in anti-trafficking activities. She also co-chairs the Lancaster County Campaign Against Sexual Exploitation of Children task force to engage elected officials and educate the public on issues related to the victimization of minors.
Her activity with those two organizations led Woodcock to quit her job and start a new organization, NIMBY — Not In My Backyard. Woodcock said. “At NIMBY, our focus is to educate people and then activate them.” The fourth, and final hat Woodcock wears in her anti-trafficking efforts is as state advocacy leader for the International Justice Mission. In that role, Woodcock raises awareness about pending legislation, primarily on the federal level.
Woodcock urges people to get involved in the effort in ways that complement their strengths. “Everybody can do something. It’s not until we care enough to do something that the problem’s going to go away,” she said.
Learn more at Tammie Gitt’s The Sentinel article: Human trafficking awareness drives action for area women.