At midnight Wednesday night, some students may have been busy cramming in last minute studying. Others may have been hanging out with friends. By some miracle, a few were possibly even tucked away into their beds for the night.
For some Northwestern students, however, midnight marked the beginning of a long night spent in Ramaker participating in a national event called #Stand4Freedom to raise awareness for human trafficking.
“The point of the event is to stand ‘One day for their everyday,’” said Kelsey Doornenbal, NW’s Justice Matters Coordinator and the organizer of the event. “IJM’s (International Justice Mission’s) whole idea is to get college student involved.”
College students across the nation participating in the event are asked to take shifts during a 24-hour period standing at a table in the Ramaker Center.
They have two goals: to raise awareness and to collect signatures on a petition in support of the End Modern Slavery Initiative (EMSI). According to IJM’s website, EMSI will “enact proven anti-slavery models on a worldwide scale” by giving “U.S. resources, with matching investments by other public and private donors, to measurably reduce the prevalence of modern slavery by 50 percent in targeted populations within partner countries.”
Doornenbal first had the idea of hosting an event on campus after seeing information on IJM’s website last year.
“We ended up being first in the nation last year for the number of people standing,” Doornenbal said. “And a lot of the other schools were big state universities. It was definitely a big ‘proud mom’ moment for me.”
After last year’s event, the petition passed through the U.S. House of Representatives, though it was later rejected in the Senate.
“It was really cool to see that our voices actually make a difference,” Doornenbal said.
Many of the students who stood during the event feel similarly to Doornenbal.
“(Slavery) is people’s reality,” said Mica Graves, a student who stood at the event. “IJM’s work is awesome because it’s national and global. It’s cool to be part of a bigger mission.”
Erin Holle feels especially connected to the event after participating in another IJM activity this year called Dressember, which asks participants to wear dresses for the entire month of December to embrace “the inherent freedom and femininity of all women.”
“Doing Dressember really made me realize it’s not just 36 million randoms in slavery — they’re actual people,” Holle said. “They have families. They have lives.”
Doornenbal also expressed the importance of connecting to people’s stories.
“We think of this happening in far away places like India or Amsterdam,” Doornenbal said. “But there are three trafficking centers right in Sioux Falls. It does make a difference. If that’s your mother, sister, friend, it does.”
Doornenbal set a goal to gather 300 signatures on campus during #Stand4Freedom, which closed with a 10:30 pm worship service just before midnight rounded out the 24 hours. Students interested in signing the petition can visit ijm.org/stand to learn more information or sign online.