Survivors of human trafficking will have a chance to receive free college education with the Beauty for Ashes Scholarship Fund led by PLNU’s Center for Justice and Reconciliation (CJR). This month, the CJR will launch a crowd-funding campaign to raise $40,000 in 40 days for the scholarship fund, which would be the first of its kind in the U.S. The campaign kicks off on Thursday, Oct. 30 at “Just Saying“–a spoken word event in PLNU’s Brown Chapel at 7 p.m.
Since 2005, the CJR has been deeply committed to working against human trafficking in San Diego, which was identified by the FBI as one of the country’s high intensity areas for child prostitution. Human trafficking, the use of fraud, force or coercion to get someone to act against their will for little or no pay, has become a major U.S. crisis involving scores of minors and teens in most U.S. cities and at many local high schools.
The center’s wide array of work to abolish human trafficking in San Diego includes conducting research, which has led to its involvement and collaboration with local and national law enforcement, child welfare services, educators, researchers and victim service agencies.
Through victim service agencies, organizations that help survivors of human trafficking, Dr. Jamie Gates, director of the CJR and professor of cultural anthropology, first learned that from L.A. to San Diego, approximately two-dozen survivors are currently ready for a 4-year college education. And that number is increasing.
“One of the top three requests consistently for people coming out of that level of oppression is to be able to rebuild their lives by obtaining an education,” said Gates. “Unfortunately for most it is completely out of their reach to find funding and financial aid to attend a university. But what better education could someone coming out of such pain receive than to be surrounded by the compassionate Christian educational environment here at PLNU?”
2009 marked the creation of Beauty for Ashes, an internship program that empowers students to bring about change and out of which came the idea for a scholarship initiative. This idea was primarily from Beauty for Ashes Lead Intern Mollie Ah Sing, CJR volunteer external relations staff Kim Berry Jones (90), and CJR Human Trafficking Congregational Liaison Michelle Meguiar Shoemaker (88). In March, it was still just an idea when Gates and Ah Sing heard a survivor speak at a conference.
“At the end, she called the church and said, ‘One of the most important things for survivors, if you want to help, is to get them to college,’” said Ah Sing. “’Help get them a college education.’ We sat back and were astonished.”
It was confirmed: the idea needed to be made into reality.
The spoken word event on Oct. 30 will be open to the public and will mark the beginning of the crowd-funding campaign to raise enough money for the Beauty for Ashes Scholarship Fund to last in perpetuity. The initial goal is to raise $40,000, roughly the annual cost of fully funding a student through PLNU. A donation page will also be set up to fund the scholarship throughout the year.
“We believe launching our fundraising efforts through a crowd-funding campaign is not only an excellent way to raise our seed money and to spread awareness of the issue, but it’s also a reminder that each one of us can be a part of making this dream a reality for survivors,” said Jones.
“God’s been opening doors, and I can only pray and hope that the financial doors will open as well,” said Gates. “This fund was the obvious next step if we’re going to be a university that gives ourselves fully to working against trafficking. We should be part of the solution in all things that we do, and our primary task is to educate and mentor students.”
The bulk of the scholarship will be for survivors of human trafficking to attend PLNU, while a smaller portion will be for students who are heading towards vocations in the abolition of human trafficking. Survivors’ information will be kept confidential by PLNU leadership and they will remain anonymous among the student population. For more information or to support the funding of this scholarship, please visit the CJR’s Abolish Human Trafficking website.