IJM chapter finishing first year back on campus

Left- Louisville senior Kelsey Dudding, president of the WKU’s International Justice Mission campus chapter Right- Corbin junior Megan Cole, the chapter’s vice president “Two weeks ago, chapter members took to Centennial Mall for the 27-Hour Stand for Freedom, an event that targets relief for people who are enslaved or trafficked.” Photo submitted by Megan Cole/HERALD

Madison Martin

The nonprofit organization International Justice Mission has re-established its presence on WKU’s campus.

The Christian international organization endeavors to work within vulnerable communities plagued by problems like human trafficking, slavery and unethical working conditions. WKU’s IJM campus chapter, finishing its first full year after being revived last fall, has focused on raising more awareness of the global exploitation of those who live in poverty.

Louisville senior Kelsey Dudding, president of the chapter, said she didn’t start learning about human trafficking until she attended a Passion conference in Atlanta her freshman year.

After hearing the stories of those who had been exploited within their communities or ignored by their country’s justice system, Dudding’s perspective changed irreversibly.

“Once you know, you can’t go back … Once you know, it affects you every day,” Dudding said. “It completely wrecked me.”

WKU’s first IJM chapter was established during Dudding’s freshman year but fizzled out when the leadership team graduated.

After some friends who were interested in reviving the chapter collaborated, IJM became an official organization once more and kicked off last fall.

Dudding said the chapter focused this year on education and raising awareness. The group’s events included screening a documentary on human trafficking and fundraising through a consignment sale.

On April 12 and April 13, chapter members took to Centennial Mall for the 27-Hour Stand for Freedom, an event that targets relief for people who are enslaved or trafficked.

“It was just giving up a day for their every day,” Corbin junior Megan Cole, the chapter’s vice president, said. “It was 27 hours for the estimated 27 million people in modern-day slavery and human trafficking.”

The stand began at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning and ended at 11 a.m. the following Wednesday. Members and friends spent increments of time at the standup as they played games like corn hole and Frisbee. Onlookers could ask about the demonstration and posted signs and sign the petition for the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act.

“If [the act] were to be passed, it would unite global leaders and give them this model. It’s like an end slavery model for them to implement within their workplaces and communities,” Cole said. “Since injustices look different all over the world, [the model] could look anything like ensuring safety and health regulations or ensuring a minimum wage like a living wage … and not hiring children to work.”

After a late-evening worship session, Cole was among the final four students who remained in Centennial Mall during the dark hours before dawn. Caffeinated and sleepless, Cole said the event was a symbolic stand for those who couldn’t stand for themselves.

“We are able to laugh and joke and go home and be safe and rest and eat and be fully nourished … we can choose what we want to do,” Cole said. “That’s a right that they don’t have.”

Dudding said she has faith that next year’s members will further carry out the chapter’s goals to raise awareness and fundraise. Ultimately, she said, IJM is fighting for the underdog.

“Our actions matter and our choices matter, and just recognizing that … will change your entire perspective on life,” Dudding said. “We should fight for people and fight for the future of other people, and they matter just as much as we do.”

To support the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, you can sign the petition online at http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/action-alert/end-modern-slavery-initiative.