Du Quoin students raise money to fight modern slavery

Andrea Pulice, volunteer with International Justice Mission, talks to Du Quoin High School students about human trafficking or modern slavery during an assembly Monday morning. 

Du Quoin High School was recognized as an Illinois Democracy School last year. As part of that initiative, students and staff raise funds each year to support a worthwhile cause.

This year, their focus is on human trafficking and raising money for International Justice Mission, a group that fights human trafficking, also called modern slavery, around the world.

To kick off a week of fundraising, students heard from Andrea Pulice, a volunteer with IJM.

“The first step is to raise your awareness, then we will be able to share the message and hopefully raise some money for a good cause,” Principal Matt Hickam said.

Teacher Nicole Heisner introduced the speaker. Heisner’s students read “Sold” by Patricia McCormick, a story of a girl from Nepal who is sold into prostitution.

“As you learn about human trafficking, you ask two questions: 'What’s being done about it, and what can I do?'” Heisner said.

She turned the stage over to Pulice.

“Modern slavery or human trafficking is a horrible thing that takes place in the world,” Pulice said.

Pulice started by asking students to determine if the following statements were fact of myth:

Slavery is a thing of the past (myth).

“There are more slaves today, about 40 million men, women and children, that at any other time, including all the years of the Transatlantic slave trade,” Pulice said.

Forced labor is a big money maker (true). It has an annual profit of $150 billion per year.

Forced labor doesn’t affect me (myth). It causes unfair advantage over other businesses.

There is nothing people can do (false). Pulice told the students they can use their voices to raise awareness and raise money. They can also look for and purchase fair trade products.

She explained that IJM searches out victims of modern slavery and rescues them.

“IJM will not perform a rescue until they have evidence to prosecute,” Pulice said.

She showed several short videos featuring people who had been rescued from different kinds of slavery. She told the students to use their speech, life, love and faith to help in the fight against modern slavery.

“We’re going to provide a vehicle for you to give to this organization,” Hickam said.

Teacher Shawn File explained that this week, the high school students and staff would have a penny war. Each class has a five-gallon water jug to fill with money. Pennies and paper money will give each class one point per cent. They can sabotage other teams with silver coins, which equal negative points.

“The teachers paid $10 to wear jeans all week," File said. "They have raised $225 already." 

At the end of the week, the class that has the most points will get a Dilly Bar party.

A jug for donations will be available for public donations during the sectional basketball tournament at the high school. Other activities are planned throughout the week.

Last year, students and staff raised more than $1,500 dollars for Nothing But Nets, an agency that provides mosquito nets for families in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Andrea Pulice's last name.

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Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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