On Saturday, twenty-one Vanguard students of all ages and majors served 370 guests at the Global Center for Woman and Justice’s (GCWJ) fourth annual “Priceless Luncheon to End Human Trafficking”. This event was held at the Island Hotel in Fashion Island. Guests ranged from political and organizational leaders and prominent influencers of society to survivors of human trafficking.
Volunteers entered the airy, marble-meets-carpet ambience of the tropically posh Island Hotel to discover a community of other curious helpers. There, the volunteers were assigned various tasks and collaborated with one another.
Many student volunteers said they signed-up wanting to see the bigger picture of human trafficking and the measures being taken to engage and resolve the issue. Through practical tasks and the collaborative community togetherness, volunteers were exposed to the local and global efforts to not only stop human trafficking, but to also rehabilitate survivors.
Samantha Peña, volunteer and Women Studies minor said, “Volunteering for an event like this really opens your eyes.” Peña continued on to say that, “Human trafficking is a big issue in America that people have held a blind eye to. I have seen it firsthand and how it has affected families. It’s crazy to see how needed programs are. It’s a very hidden issue.”
Sandra Morgan, director of the Global Center for Women’s and Justice said, “I think I wanted to, this year, really expand the community’s understanding of their importance in human trafficking,” Morgan commented on the volunteers saying, “I hope that the volunteers took away a sense that they are part of something bigger than themselves. It seems like a small job to take credit cards and set-up tables, but everybody’s contribution was important; being part of something really big that makes a difference.”
One guest included Barbara L. Gilliam, a consultant and coach at Compassionate Wisdom Works, a faith-based recovery organization based in Huntington Beach that seeks to bring restoration through Jesus to survivors.
Gilliam survived the sex trafficking trade in New York City in the early 1990’s. Gilliam says she wants to bring hope to people through the testimony and experience of her past. Gilliam said people have a hard time breaking free from the pressure and guilt that comes from being a victim of physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse. Gilliam said, “We don’t recognize it sometimes, but peoples’ outside does not match up from their inside. It’s letting woman and men know that there is identity in Jesus. It’s hard to forgive ourselves.”
Student volunteer Rayven Sherley shared with some of her fellow volunteers a testimony her mother, who has aided those rehabilitating from human trafficking, told to her about a young woman trapped by a man for sex and slave labor who was able to reach-out to a restaurant worker. This restaurant worker was able to take the steps in helping this woman break free from her captivity after responding to the signs given to her, Sherely said.
Other major parts of the event included a prayer and a solemn and serious introduction by the Priceless Luncheon chair and Vice President of Wells Fargo bank, Jasmine Shodja. Guest speaker, Ernie Allan, Founding Chair and Former President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploiting Children spoke on awareness and action.
A 2015 Impact Report was also given by Sandy Morgan, where she gave informative canvas bags to everyone in attendance. Her hope was that while they waited in a long grocery store line, they could strike a conversation with someone beside them about how to spot signs of a human trafficking victim and how to respond to those signs.
The GCWJ works through education, research, advocacy, and collaboration to have a voice for those who have no voice. Human trafficking is one of the larger components this Vanguard department focuses on, while helping students to gain careers in law enforcement, victim services, and non-profit leadership to protect those exploited throughout the world.
Brittney Skiles, Administrative Assistant of GCWJ said, “Leading the volunteers gave me an opportunity to empower Vanguard students to serve in the capacity to further the case of the Global Center for Woman and Justice.” Sandra Morgan also noted that, “We can’t do anything alone. We need everybody. All hands on deck. And ultimately it’s not about the event, but about what they event produces.”
The GCWJ has grown immensely over the past few years but the fight is not over. Morgan said that justice will be served as the community gains resources to educate the community to the nation and world.