This year, the Rotary International’s annual World Affairs Conference focused on human trafficking and its presence in Indiana.
Students, totaling 240, from six local high schools attended this conference, which was entitled “Child Slavery: I Can Help Slay the Monster,” focusing on human trafficking, or modern slavery—something that can be broken down into two categories: labor and sex.
Essentially, the conference addressed the issue of human trafficking, then provided various solutions in hope for improvement. The solutions include things such as strengthening vulnerable people, switching to fair trade items and simply learning more about the subject.
One of the main points of the presentation was the number of human trafficking hotspots in Indiana.
“It kind of makes it a little different to know how close to home it is,” Veronica Lidy, a 14-year-old Concord High School student, said.
Vic Stoltsfuz, long-time Rotarian and past Goshen College president, said, “Much of the value of what happened today is that people got a vision of how broad human trafficking is, and they can begin to spot and do something about it.”
Goshen was not the only region to hold this conference; it was also organized at seven other locations. For the specific Goshen conference, there were three different speakers: Janet Nickel, Chris Meyer and Carol Hart Metzker. Metzker, the keynote speaker, was the same for all seven locations.
“The keynote speaker was deeply touched by a victim of sex trafficking she met in India. She’s an excellent speaker, knows this stuff inside and out, and was very good at sensitizing the high school audience,” Stoltsfuz said.
The event began at 9 a.m. for the students. Jim Brenneman, president of Goshen College, welcomed them before Metzker spoke. Nickel and Meyer followed, and after lunch the students were given opportunity for discussion and reflection.
Jackie Weiler, a 17-year-old student at Northridge High School, said, “The first speaker was the best speaker. She has personal experience with the issue. I thought it was more personal and effective.”
Rotary International sponsors all of these conferences; the event is a tradition for the organization. In the past, they have dealt with topics such as bullying or climate change. Rotary works with high school teachers to find an interesting and necessary topic for each year’s conference.
Rotary International started in Chicago over 100 years ago, when businessmen wanted to converse with others like them, keeping themselves ethical. Not only do they focus on business affairs, but also the organization is very philanthropic.
In the pamphlet handed out at this recent conference, Rotary self-defined as “a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders that provides humanitarian service, encourages high ethical standards in vocations, and helps build goodwill and peace in the world.”
To learn more about Rotary International, visit www.rotary.org. To explore the topic of human trafficking, read Metzker’s book, “Facing the Monster: How One Person Can Fight Child Slavery.”