SGA has raised about $20,000 for its philanthropy project, Grace Refuge Outreach Worldwide (GROW), so far this year.
“I think (GROW) really has a great purpose in the fact that it rescues children who are at risk for being sold into human trafficking,” said Hilary Murphy, SGA’s philanthropy director.
“Thailand is one of the largest sources and destinations for human trafficking, so the fact that it really makes a difference in communities where they’re rescuing children before they can even be sold and the part that they actually do ministry themselves in the different villages (is what makes it an important ministry),” Murphy said.
Faa Sumitra founded the ministry in 2009 because she had suffered abuse herself. Her long-term vision for the organization is eight homes, four for boys and four for girls, to learn farming and other job and life skills. GROW’s mission statement is “To rescue at-risk children and youth who are targets of the sex trade industry by supporting, educating and providing them with a safe place to live, grow and learn about Christ.”
GROW is hoping to raise $220,000 for a cafeteria and two new buildings, one of which is already 61 percent paid for, according to a pamphlet for the organization. Murphy said SGA hopes to raise $60,000 for the other building. That is about $20 per Cedarville student. David Butgereit, an assistant professor in Cedarville’s nursing school, has been assisting SGA to meet its goal.
“This isn’t a matter of ‘I’m going to do this someday,’” Butgereit said, “(GROW has) been doing it. They just need our resources to help them grow what they’re already doing.”
Some of the fundraisers so far for GROW have included t-shirt sales, Spirit Week, the Icarus Account concert in October sponsored by Phi Gamma Psi and the Week of Awareness. Local businesses such as Beans-N-Cream and Mom & Dad’s gave part of their proceeds to GROW during the Week of Awareness. Two students at the Week of Awareness said they were disgusted by human trafficking.
“I don’t think any girl deserves to be in the sex trafficking industry, and I can’t even imagine having to go through that myself,” said Melanie Edris, a freshman global business major.
“A human is a human,” said Andy Sackett, a freshman biology/pre-med major. “We have our rights. Slavery is a sin. It shouldn’t be forced upon anyone.”
For the next fundraiser, SGA wants to encourage Cedarville students to find other resources to give to GROW, Butgereit said. He said this would be near Christmas break.
“You’re going to spend money,” Butgereit said. “Your family is going to spend lots of money. People in your church are going to spend ridiculous amounts of money on things that are fun to give, but we don’t really need to. What I would like to do is introduce the idea of giving a gift to the GROW ministries from your family or from your church family. I think we can bring in big numbers and make a big difference if we expand into that model.”
Butgereit said human trafficking and GROW should not be looked at as a charity or as an organization but as helping a person in need.
“If I said right now, ‘My daughter needs a thousand dollars by tonight to get her out of an abusive relationship, you would get on the phone and raise $1,000,’” he said.
Murphy said that she knew about GROW because International Justice Mission, an organization of which she was a member, supported them last year. She said she learned more about GROW through Butgereit. He has been advocating against sex trafficking and sex abuse through other organizations such as Garden of Hope and the Blind Project.
Butgereit said he started helping victims of human trafficking after reading an article in Christianity Today. He decided to go to Southeast Asia one month later and met Sumitra on his second day there. Butgereit said they have become lifelong friends, and he has been on fire for the cause ever since.
“I’ve been there,” Butgereit said. “I’ve held in my arms victims of abuse. I’ve held in my arms victims who are about to be abused. God has given me a gift, a passion and a voice, and I will not be quiet.”
Jen Taggart is a freshman journalism major and copy editor for Cedars. She enjoys writing, listening to music and fueling her chocolate addiction.