beFree, Be Educated about Human Trafficking


Siena’s Human Trafficking Coalition beFree organization recently conducted an event titled the Red Sand Project.

Members of the organization stood outside of the University Center for nine hours over three days, talking with students, faculty, and staff about sex and labor trafficking. They also asked people to participate by filling in the sidewalk cracks with organic red sand, which highlights the idea that victims of human trafficking shouldn’t fall through the cracks in society, said Julie Barst, the organization’s faculty advisor.

“It’s a powerful message and a very visual one,” she said.

The Red Sand Project was created by Molly Gochman to, according to its website, “create opportunities for people to question, to connect and to take action against vulnerabilities that can lead to human trafficking and exploitation.”

Andrea Rumler, the president of beFree, said, “the Red Sand Project is important because it brings visibility to victims of human trafficking that go unnoticed. It ignites the spark in people’s minds to start thinking about how human trafficking impacts the victims.”

Estimates are that there are 21-36 million people enslaved worldwide. Twenty-six percent of slaves today are children under the age of 18. Slavery includes both sex slavery, as well as labor slavery.

“I think the students walked away with a sense of humility and surprise. Most students weren’t aware human trafficking was as large as a problem as it is, and that it happens so close by,” said Rumler.

According to U.S. Federal Bureau of Information Crime Reports from 2015, Ohio was ranked fifth among all states in total reported human trafficking cases, with Toledo being identified as the fourth highest ranking city in the nation for recruiting victims into the illegal trade.

“This project demonstrated beFree’s dedication and deep commitment to raising awareness and educating everyone in the Siena community about human trafficking, and I am very proud to be their faculty advisor,” said Barst.

If anyone would like more information about human trafficking, beFree is hosting a question-and-answer session with Kelly Castleberry, the director of the Lenawee County Human Trafficking Task Force. Pizza and a relaxed discussion will be provided! The event will be at 8 p.m.  Nov. 15 in the Ledwidge ballroom.

If anyone is passionate about ending human trafficking and wants to help, beFree is always looking for new members. Contact Rumler at [email protected] for more information.