Seminar course brings donations for Austin human trafficking victims

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While some students may take for granted everyday items like deodorant and food, freshmen in a seminar course are asking for donations today with hopes of providing basic necessities to human trafficking victims in the Austin area.

School of Social Work associate professor Noel Busch-Armendariz, co-instructor of the UT seminar course “Women for Sale?”, said students organized the drive as a class assignment. Busch said she hopes the donations will help victims of human trafficking in Central Texas as well as raise campus awareness about this issue.

“Human trafficking exists in our community and in order to end it, we all need to understand it and take some action,” Busch said. “We have asked students to use their social networking mediums to advertise the drive and we have announced it on listservs, UT calendar, etc. This drive is a great opportunity for our students and community to be involved in anti-human trafficking efforts in our own community and making the difference in the lives of victims.”

Government freshman Priya Chintamaneni said donations will be given to the local branch of Refugee Services of Texas, a nonprofit social service agency with goals of providing essential living services for human trafficking refugees.

“I was in contact with our liaison at Refugee Services of Texas, who told us what donations were most needed by the victims in central Texas that she works with,” Chintamaneni said. “The victims that [they] assist, most of whom are from Central America, do not qualify for government benefits, and RST provides them with food or gift cards once a month.”

A representative of Refugee Services of Texas could not be reached for comment, but Chintamaneni said she expects a substantial turnout for the event.

“We aren’t sure what we could reasonably expect, seeing as we haven’t done this before, but I’m expecting a good turnout because we have taken care to put up flyers everywhere,” Chintamaneni said. “We are hoping to tempt with baked goods and sweets, so people can leave a small cash donation if they didn’t know about us beforehand. I hope to have a few large cases worth of donations, but let’s hope for the best.”

Chintamaneni said this course and the donation drive have opened her eyes to the issue of human trafficking in the U.S. and abroad.

Philosophy and government freshman Brooke Noble said she has been interested in this topic since high school, but the course has inspired her to pursue a career that deals with the issues discussed in the seminar course.

“I always knew that I wanted to be a lawyer, but thinking about these things has made me interested in becoming a human rights attorney or advocate,” Noble said.

Noble said this course has been so influential in her life, she would recommend a class with a similar structure to other students.

“We cover really hard and difficult material,” Noble said, “But at the end of the day, I know I am learning a lot and becoming more prepared to deal with these issues.”

Printed on Thursday, April 12, 2012 as: Students hold drive for local victims of human trafficking