Students raise funds, awareness to combat human trafficking

By selling bracelets and baked goods, two Marshall University students are beginning to raise money and awareness for combatting the problem of human trafficking in the area. 

The idea originally came to sophomore nursing major Olivia Sweeney from a theme at her church camp, where each cabin competed to raise money for missionaries around the world. 

“My cabin was raising money for missionaries in Thailand who were fighting human trafficking, but we did not end up raising any, so I came up with the idea to sell bracelets with a few of my friends from the camp,” Sweeney said. 

Sweeney, as well as sophomore elementary education major Ashley Marano, also said the idea for starting a fundraiser to combat human trafficking developed after Sweeney attended a “Night of Awareness” at her church for a human trafficking relief center in McDowell County, West Virginia called Zera House. 

Zera House provides victims of human trafficking a place to heal, according to the organization’s website.

The house also offers transitional housing for victims once they go through the program.

The organization helps survivors get jobs and adjust back into a normal life, as well.

“Zera House is helping combat a problem that we don’t think about being around here, but since it is somewhat local, I feel like people are more likely to help out,” Sweeney said. 

Sweeney got the idea for making bracelets after she learned to how to make them one summer at her church camp.

“I learned how to make bracelets at my church camp a few years ago and have been making them ever since,” Sweeney said. “They’re easy to make and something that people like to wear, so I thought that would be a good thing to do.”

In addition to bracelets, the duo are also selling baked goods made by Marano. 

The two said the ultimate goal is to raise awareness for human trafficking in the area and help Zera House in whatever way they can.

“We ultimately want to bring awareness about how big of a problem trafficking is and be able to help the victims have a chance to heal from being exploited,” Marano said. 

Julianna Everly can be contacted at [email protected]