By Pras Gustanto, Staff Writer
A playground activity like seesawing can be more than just a fun way to pass the time — it can also act as a tool to raise awareness. That is what Seesaw Against Slavery did to educate the George Mason University student body about human trafficking.
The event, which took place last Monday, gave people the opportunity to ride a seesaw while helping to raise awareness of human trafficking by donating money, which went to aid awareness on the issue. The act of riding on the seesaw symbolizes what childhood could have been like for trafficked infants.
“We seesaw because they can’t,” said Margalit de Gosztonyi, a junior biology major.
The event brought together Christian organizations such as The Gathering and Campus Crusades for Christ in sponsoring the event to raise funds to help end human trafficking.
The U.N. defines human trafficking as “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion . . . for the purpose of exploitation.”
Sex trafficking in both its personal and commercial variations is a common form of trafficking. “[It] is simply the global form of prostitution,” author Kathleen Barry wrote.
One of the event’s leaflets shows a letter that Mary — a rescued sex worker — wrote to her mother from the Agape Restoration Center, a facility where rescued Cambodian sex-exploited children are sheltered, educated and rehabilitated to live a normal life.
“They teach me English, computer, music, Khmer,” Mary wrote. “I will study hard to look after you when I grow up.”
Mary’s Cambodian experience is not rare. HumanTrafficking.org reports that Cambodia is a popular destination for sex trafficking. Another website, Voice of America News, reported in 2009 that the rate of trafficking is soaring and that the business continues to thrive despite the efforts of authorities.
The fundraiser takes place over the course of a full 24-hour day. The first few hours have volunteers from the sponsor groups taking turns doing hourly shifts riding on the seesaws. Each sponsor volunteer puts in $25 an hour to ride the seesaws.
“We would have about 15 to 20 initial volunteers taking turns for the first 10 hours or so,” said Sarah Witze, a junior tourism and events management major who is also the community team leader for The Gathering.
This sets the general template of behavior for people who pass by who wish to donate or learn more about human trafficking. Anyone who donated money for the cause had the opportunity to ride on the seesaw.
The fundraiser’s goal was not necessarily to raise a lot of money.
“It would be enough for us to raise plenty of awareness and [get]positive feedback to consider a day a successful day,” Witze said. “We did, however, raise over $2,000 in last year’s fundraising day.”
Despite the overwhelming odds against them, the fundraisers were passionately committed to the fight against human trafficking.
“We are a Christian organization,” Witze said. “Christ is leading us to do this, besides the fact that it is morally wrong to take something that is sacred and taking it for recreation against someone’s will. I feel like this is a small thing we can do for people who have been deprived of a childhood.”