APU Community gathers to fight human trafficking and raise awareness

On Oct. 20, 2018, Traffick Free Azusa hosted their first freedom walk on the Azusa Pacific campus. The walk consisted of a walk around the Marshburn library and some words from various leader in the city of Azusa.

The event started with founders and hosts of the event, Rick Clark and Gaby Ruano welcoming everyone to the walk. Ruano explained the purpose of the event.

“[We want] to move awareness into action. Each of our speakers will give simple ways to act and how that applies to the fight against human trafficking. One does not have to be a city official, law enforcement doctor, lawyer or counselor to lead this movement. You can be a rising leader in this fight!”

Shortly after, Clark’s wife, Sue Clark came out to open the group in prayer.

One of the speakers was Amy Andrews, a survivor of over 10 years of sex trafficking which included physical abuse, mental abuse and starvation. She shared her story of being trafficked but she also shared the hope and determination she has for getting better and making a difference. She mentioned her four kids, which she considers to be God’s work and shared the fight she went through to get her life back. As she finished she left the crowd with the biggest piece of advice.

“Pay attention to those around you, because if you don’t give them that positive attention, someone else will. Use your talents to spread awareness, if you’re good at writing, write about it. If you’re good at making people laugh, then make people laugh… do what you can,” Andrews said.

Mayor Joseph Rocha came up to the microphone and also shared a few words. He moved the crowd with a story about his childhood and how he learned about sex trafficking at a young age and left the crowd with some advice.

“It takes a strong person to stand up for themselves but an even stronger person to stand up for others,” Rocha said.

During his speech, Rocha also expressed his love for the city of Azusa and the passion he has for all the people within the city which had the crowd feeling loved.

“Every child in Azusa is my child and if we save at least one child because of this walk. . . then we have done our job,” Rocha said.

After the Mayor’s speech, Detective Justin Beaver of the Azusa Police Department came to speak about the topic. Beaver is the only police officer at the department that focuses on sex traffic investigation and shared his concerns for the city. He also gave some advice to end his speech in hopes of inspiring citizens to speak up about things they see.

“See something, say something,” Rocha said.

After Andrews’ story, the walk was ready to start. Everyone was instructed to get into groups of two to three and walk around Marshburn Library seven times. As you were walking, participants had a list of questions to answer and pray about as they walked around the library, one question per lap. After the participants finished their laps, they all gathered with a group photo and ended the event.

As the event ended, many shared their reasoning for being there and why they wanted to fight against sex trafficking. Jaci Clark, a sophomore liberal studies major, said she attended because she wanted to be more involved in the fight against human trafficking.

“[This happens] just down the street from where I live. It’s too close to home to not do anything about. I feel passionate about fighting sex trafficking because I am passionate about Jesus and his message of love and freedom and traffic in rocks people of that.”

Quincey Mac Millan, a sophomore kinesiology major, also shared her motivation to attend.

“I was at the Freedom Walk because I had seen a friend post about it a lot recently and decided that it would be interesting to go to with one of my roommates. Neither of us had been to a sex trafficking event and were curious as to what it would be,” MacMillan said. “Fighting sex trafficking is important to me because I truly believe no one should ever go through it and that it is terrible in so many ways. After learning how common sex trafficking is and how much damage it causes to its victims, more than ever I want to help the fight towards ending sex trafficking.”

As everyone was exiting the event, Ruano shared some ways they can get involved in the fight against human sex trafficking:

“On Friday nights, 5p.m.-6:30p.m., Traffick Free Azusa runs a workshop at APU in the Multimedia rooms. We use this night to train the community members on the fight against human trafficking. We are also promoting Freedom Teams at our workshop! These teams are teams of two to four that share that are assigned specific responsibilities. These tasks will help with the greater movement that is Human Trafficking.”

If you would like to get involved in the fight or donate to the organization, you can find more information at https://www.worldteamfoundation.org/ . If you wish to also participate in answering these question, you can find them at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/azusawalk.