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AU News

Protecting the Vulnerable: Anderson University Community Involved in Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts

Caroline Mason
Anderson University alumna Caroline Mason attended the Advocacy Summit in October 2023 in Washington, D.C., joining other members of International Justice Mission.

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Everyone has the right to a life free of exploitation.  

Unfortunately, there are children, women and men around the corner and across the globe being denied the most basic of human rights.  

Organizations such as International Justice Mission (IJM) seek to protect those who are targets of human traffickers, free those trapped in modern-day slavery and bring perpetrators to justice. 

According to Caroline Mason, a recent Anderson University graduate and former president of the Anderson University IJM chapter, perpetrators can force people into many forms of trafficking and forced labor. There are multiple ways traffickers lure in people,” Mason said. “The term ‘vulnerable’ is really important here because often they will go after people in impoverished areas who have nothing else, so they’re promised a job offer that ends up being deceiving, and traps them for life. If they need money and are desperate, they’re going to go after that job offer. Sometimes it’s foster youth or people who don’t have anyone else to turn to.” 

At age 16, Mason attended an eye-opening workshop on human trafficking.  

“I left that workshop with a pit in my stomach and just this feeling that now that I have this information, I can’t not do something. It really lit a fire under me, and I felt that this was something I needed to get involved with,” Mason said. “During my senior year of high school, an alum from my school, Will Lauderdale, came back and told us about his internship with IJM. That just felt like a confirmation from God of ‘this is it.’ Lo and behold, a few months later, I arrived at Anderson University, and they had just established an IJM chapter on campus. Within my first week of school, I joined the leadership team and just kept going with the chapter my whole time at AU.” 

As a student, Mason served as the vice president and a president of the Anderson University IJM chapter. IJM at AU has hosted Threads, a pop-up thrift shop that raised more than $1,500 in 2022. They have also invited speakers that include Kat Wehunt, a sex trafficking survivor who helps others rebuild their lives; and Jeff Hancock, director of church mobilization for IJM. The chapter has also brought in Switch, a Greenville-based anti-trafficking organization, to talk about human trafficking in the Upstate. Nationally, college IJM chapters, including the AU chapter, have raised more than $80,000 over this past academic year. 

Mason, who graduated from Anderson University in 2022 also worked on the staff of the Marketing and Communication Office, continues her involvement in IJM, advising and mentoring chapter leadership along with Bethany Turner, associate vice president of guest and auxiliary services at Anderson University. Mason also serves on the Justice Council, a group of young professionals who are former IJM student leaders who now mentor chapter presidents. Mason has mentored 15 student presidents over the last two years. 

In October 2023, Mason traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend IJM’s Advocacy Summit, which takes place every two years.  

“We were there specifically to learn how to lobby on Capitol Hill and we were put in groups categorized by state. Then we came up with our game plan and went to Capitol Hill and lobbied for a specific piece of legislation to protect kids from online sexual exploitation,” Mason said. 

Casey Blair is the current president of the Anderson University chapter.  

I never knew much about IJM. I was a little aware of programs and things going on to help people who are being trafficked, or in poverty or violent situations, but I didn’t know those organizations really have any connection to them,” Blair said. “At the end of my freshman year, I got an email from Caroline about positions available on the Anderson IJM team. I applied and I started as the publicity coordinator for our team.”  

“I want my team to feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves,” Blair said. “It’s not just a biweekly meeting that I have to go to… I want for everyone to feel a purpose and that they belong and that they’re doing work that does matter.” 

Ways to get involved 

Mason says, “Awareness is always the very first step. If you can’t financially give, if you don’t have the time to get involved, prayer is a massive way to get involved. Giving financially is a big one to help support organizations that are vetted and reputable and doing good work.”  

Other ways to get involved are shopping smart, according to Mason, by avoiding fast fashion in favor of ethical companies that don’t use exploitative labor practices. Search the web using keywords like “fair trade” or “ethical” or go online to Dressember, Good On You, or Fairtrade America to learn about brands that support ethical labor practices. Also, check out the Remake 2022 Accountability Report. Mason also encourages buying second hand, such as at thrift stores, or locally when Anderson’s IJM chapter has a Threads pop-up, and supporting local and national organizations that fight human trafficking. 

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