Local programs to call attention to tragedy of human trafficking

Proceeds will go to HelpLine's efforts to fund a permanent women's shelter.

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Shortly after the start of the New Year, residents of the Walla Walla Valley will have an opportunity to assist the Walla Walla HelpLine Women's Shelter as it looks to acquire a permanent facility, during a series of fundraising and educational events hosted by several organizations and businesses.

With a focus on local and international human trafficking, Shelter for Freedom, which is sponsored by Walla Walla University's chapter of Amnesty International, Whitman College, Walla Walla Valley Soroptimists, Walla Walla Community College's Women's Center, the YWCA, Walla Walla Roasters and Black Tie Limos, will be held during the third weekend in January.

All nine events will be held on the campuses of Whitman College and Walla Walla University and will be open to the public. The proceeds will go directly to HelpLine.

The first event will be a lecture by WWU history professors Greg Dodds and Terrie Aamodt on the trade and commoditization of human beings. It will be at Village Hall in College Place on Jan. 14 at 7 p.m.

On Jan. 15, Shelter for Freedom will shift to Whitman College, where local poets and musicians will perform in Chism Hall at 4:30 p.m. followed by an art exhibit at Baker Faculty Center at 6 p.m. The exhibit will feature artwork donated by local artists to be auctioned on Jan. 16.

For many, like Karen Scott, an attorney and advisory board member for Artists for Human Rights, the Jan. 16 screening of the documentary film "Cargo: Innocence Lost" and following panel discussion is an especially exciting event.

"I'm hoping that we pack Cordiner Hall," said Scott, who is also a trustee for the Center for Liberty of Conscience. "Most people don't believe that slavery exists in our world, no one believes it happens today in the United States."

The director of the film, Michael Cory Davis and actress Anne Archer will be among those participating in the discussion. They, along with AFHR Executive Director Michael Wisner will also host a reception and art auction later that evening at Whitman's Baker Faculty Center. Tickets are $100 for the event, which begins at 8 p.m.

Scott was also enthusiastic about the free event on Jan. 16 at Walla Walla Valley Academy's auditorium, where Wisner will speak on the realities of modern slavery and human trafficking and what individuals can do to prevent it.

"We are hoping that people will recognize human trafficking around the world," Scott explained. "The Saturday morning program is really important because it will explain how the coffee you drink or the components in your cell phone may be enslaving someone on the other side of the world. It's also going to provide education so we know what to do in our community when we spot human trafficking, which is more than just the slave trade."

Shelter for Freedom will finish will several key events on Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. At 11 a.m. in the WWU Church, the Associated Students of Walla Walla University will host a free event that focuses on human trafficking while also honoring the late King.

Then, at 4:30 p.m. a panel discussion will be held at the Reid Campus Center Ballroom at Whitman. The final event will be the Martin Luther King Jr. March from Reid Campus Center to Downtown Walla Walla and back to Whitman College.

Scott explained how the goal to fund HelpLine has been a worthy cause to which the organizations have rallied.

"Everyone who hears about it is really excited," she said. "It's going to provide a definite shelter for women here in Walla Walla, specifically for single homeless women. Last year, when we had subfreezing weather, there were women living on the street."

For more information, call Scott at 509-200-0853, or Dodds at 509-527-2851.

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