Asha for Life Community, a local non-profit organization, is working to fight human trafficking and sexual slavery. The heads of the organization spoke to Knox students Tuesday to educate them about these issues and inform them on ways to get involved in the work of the non-profit.
“Not too many people are aware of this problem,” Asha for Life President Thomas Colclasure said in his presentation. “It’s a global problem and it goes on everywhere.”
Colclasure and Harsha Mehta, the organization’s vice president, presented to a small group of Knox students on Tuesday evening in the Ferris Lounge. The majority of the presentation focused on educating attendees about modern day human trafficking and sexual slavery, which occurs in the U.S. and internationally.
“There’s more slaves now in the world than there ever has been,” Colclasure said in an interview. “We’re not aware of it as a people. We need to be aware of it because it happens in places that you don’t expect.”
Colclasure started Asha for Life in 2011 after visiting India in 2009. Following his visit, he discussed human trafficking and sexual slavery that occurs in the country with Mehta, who grew up in Mumbai, India.
Colclasure, Mehta and other members of Asha for Life travelled back to India and picked two organizations that they wanted to sponsor through their organization. They chose Apne Aap Women’s Collective and the Rescue Foundation, both of which are organizations in India that work to rescue survivors of sexual slavery and help them recover from their experiences and reintegrate back into the community.
Colclasure said that last year Asha for Life raised $20,000, three quarters of which was sent to these organizations.
The rest of the money was used for events held by Asha for Life to promote their organization and spread awareness about the issues of human trafficking and sexual slavery. According to Colclasure, all members of the organization are volunteers.
Mehta said that people often view women involved in sexual slavery as criminals, and encouraged attendees to think differently.
“That is what I want people to take home, is the message that they are more victims than criminals,” she said.
This presentation was the first event of Diversity Art Month, which will be occurring throughout April and is serving as a fundraiser for Asha for Life.
Diversity Art Month has been organized by Student Senate and encourages Knox community members to explore their identities through artistic mediums. Throughout the month a variety of events and workshops will be taking place, including an art gallery exhibition.
Colclasure encouraged students to get involved with the organization. He said that one of the best ways to support their cause is through donations, but noted that other opportunities exist for members of the Knox and Galesburg communities.
Asha for Life hosts trivia nights and has a race team that runs in local running events. Both raise money for the organization. Colclasure invited students to participate in these events if they are interested in becoming involved.
The organization also hosts regular “Dinners for Hope” where members of the community discuss the issues of human trafficking and sexual slavery. They also will be Skyping with the leaders of Apne Aap and the Rescue Foundation in the future.
“There’s opportunities for Galesburg people and Knox students to not just hear about it from us, but to interact with the women who are heading these groups,” he said.