How did you spend Spring Break 2018? Although, a getaway is not a mandatory component of this week-long holiday, it appears that many take the advantage of ideal weather in states like Florida, and Hawaii, just to spend their days on the beach. I had an unconventional ‘getaway’ to Baltimore, Maryland. Through Branch Out Alternative Breaks, ten W&M students had the opportunity to learn more about the horrors of sex trafficking in the city of Baltimore, and beyond.
Sex trafficking is one dense topic, and it’s shocking to hear the underlying techniques that pimps use of manipulation, power, and control. It’s a hushed topic, that few understand, or care to fight against. Thankfully, organizations to combat this injustice do exist; the mission of SHOH is to help victims of sex-trafficking become an active part of a healthy community through education, and training while also providing support for the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of victims.
Our primary partner was Safe House of Hope (SHOH). SHOH was started with street outreach, and their mission is to help sex trafficking victims. There were four major non-profits that we volunteered with, most were shelters serving victims of domestic violence, poverty, and homelessness. While our trip had limited impact on the issue of sex trafficking itself, there are major intersections between sex trafficking, and the social injustices that we served.
The non-profits of Baltimore generally have small staff teams that are supported by student volunteers from Johns Hopkins, and Loyola University, in addition to the occasional visiting group like ourselves. While most of the work we did seemed redundant, and mindless, we all learned how to appreciate the tasks we completed in relation to how it helped the social issue at hand.
Volunteers of SHOH primarily work to distributes basic necessities to women (and men) in the streets of Baltimore most known for sex trafficking. While we didn’t fill the streets between 12am – 4am to help distribute there items, we had the opportunity to drive down the most popular road in Baltimore known for trafficking… The directors of the non-profits explained that it takes a trained eye to identify a victim, and that nothing will prepare us for what we were bound to see. They were right.
On the drive back from Baltimore to Williamsburg, we passed by my hometown. I had flashbacks of fond highschool memories, and decided to text friends who had grown distant. To my surprise, one of my friends was on her way back from an Alternative Break trip centered on conservation in Florida! Needless to say, this is a program that people across the country are getting involved in to understand social injustices that are prevalent worldwide. We are not the saviors, we are learning about social injustice, and we are the generation who will (fingers-crossed) find solutions to inequality, and discrimination. Consider joining Branch Out Alternative Breaks trip to learn more about a prevalent social injustice!