Sarah McDermottFriendship bracelets will go on sale during lunch periods on Valentine’s Day, but they have nothing to do with Cupid.

“Show your love in a different way,” says Sarah McDermott ’19, “not in a romantic way but in a platonic way, showing love for those who have suffered.”

Last week, Sarah and her classmates from the Viatorian Youth Congress and the Justice League helped to organize an after-school prayer service and workshop that drew more than 60 students.

DSC_0018Their topic? Educating classmates about the issue of human trafficking as a modern form of slavery, and offering them a way to help survivors.

The prayer service was timed with the World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action Against Human Trafficking, as declared by Pope Francis.

Students worked with Mrs. Cathy Abrahamian and Ms. Emily Egan, organizers also included Sergio Leudo ‘18 and Emma Perry ‘18, both Viatorian Youth Congress delegates and Trent Federighi ‘18, a core member of the Justice League.

Working to eliminate human trafficking is a core mission of the Viatorians. Consequently, delegates to last summer’s Viatorian Youth Congress learned about the issue and were encouraged to bring back what they had learned to their schools or parishes. At the same time, Justice League members take their lead from the Viatorian mission statement, which includes working for “those accounted of little importance.”

DSC_0010During the one-hour service, students showed slides and gave testimonials from a trip to the Mexican border, where deadly human trafficking occurs. They also shared statistics and even held a question and answer quiz, using the Kahoot! app.

“Some of the kids were shocked,” Sarah says. “I know it scared me when I first heard about Chicago being the epicenter of human trafficking in this country.”

She adds that the goal of the service was to make students aware of the issue described as a “crime against humanity” by Pope Francis and give them a way to help survivors.

DSC_0004“I went on the trip to the border when I was a freshman,” said Trent said, “and just seeing the ‘rape tree,’ where smugglers hung undergarments of their victims as if they were trophies, triggered my involvement. It was horrible to see.”

At the end of the service, students were able to turn their shock and grief into something positive by making the friendship bracelets. Using threads that represent the colors of human trafficking, red, green and blue, they made nearly 125 bracelets, that will be sold as a fundraiser for survivors served by the Metropolitan Family Services agency in Chicago.