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Barlow students organize trafficking awareness event and fundraiser

OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Barlow freshman and speech champion Katie Card displays a poster for her May 16 human trafficking awareness event. Katie Card was in middle school when she read an article about young girls being forced into sexual slavery. Distressed and curious, she went to the library and checked out a stack of books on the issue.

That knowledge has pushed her into an early activism and she and another student are organizing an awareness and fundraising event on human trafficking slated for next week.

“I thought, ‘A lot of these girls are my age and that is really terrible and I could identify with it,’” she said.

The 15-year-old Barlow High School student admits that the topic may be considered a bit dark for a middle school student.

“As parents, you don’t want to see your eighth grader reading this big book on sex trafficking, it is a pretty heavy subject,” but noted her parents are very supportive of her efforts.

Card has inspired others. Mackenzie Cochran, also a Barlow freshman, is helping organize the Monday, May 16, awareness and fundraising event. “She (Card) made a speech about it in our English classroom. I hadn’t known about those statistics.”

Those statistics are sobering. According to the nonprofit Ark of Hope for Children, 600,000 to 800,000 women, children and men are bought and sold across international borders every year and exploited for forced labor or commercial sex.

The number of victims annually is two to four million people when within-borders trafficking victims are added to the estimates. About half of the victims are children. Ark estimates that 76 percent of transactions for sex with underage girls start on the internet.

Cochran has been helping Card contact businesses, and they have amassed an array of raffle prizes for the fundraiser.

Money raised at the May 16 event will be donated to OATH, or Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans. OATH also will offer education at the event.

“The most important thing is to just be aware,” Card said of trafficking. “People think ‘We’re in America, and this only happens in Third World countries across the sea.’ But Portland is a hub for it.

“If you see something (that looks suspicious), tell someone,” Card urged. “It is better to be wrong than to not say anything at all.”

Card counts English as her favorite subject in school.

“I’m an avid reader and enjoy writing, and I also love my English teacher Ms. (Rachel) Wilczewski, who is also the speech and debate coach. Speech and debate is a huge part of my life.”

The freshman won first place in the state in expository speaking and is going to speak in the national competition in June in Salt Lake City, which she calls “pretty exciting.”

Cochran is “really into science and math,” enjoys fencing and does some volunteer work unrelated to human trafficking. Cochran is interested in a career in astrophysics.

Card said she would like to pursue a career in library sciences. After all, a trip to the library had a big impact on her life.

She encourages people to get involved in the issue of human trafficking. “Don’t think you can’t do anything. We’re just freshman and we’re doing this event,” she said. “We are working to create the world we’re going to inherit.”

IF YOU GO

Want to learn more or add your financial support on the issue of human trafficking? The event is from 7:30 - 8:30 p.m. Monday, May 16, at the Olympic Gym, 23500 S.E. Stark St. The evening will include a training session that will teach you the warning signs of a possible trafficking situation. You can donate or join a raffle or participate in a silent vigil to honor the victims of human trafficking.